#575: Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes

Peak Month: September-October 1974
10 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #7
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #37
YouTube: “Sugar Baby Love
Lyrics: “Sugar Baby Love

In 1973, Wayne Bickerton, then head of A&R at Polydor Records, wrote four songs in an “American 50’s type” sound with co-writer Tony Waddington. A group of session musicians and singers were gathered in a London studio and recorded a demo of these tracks. Three of the session musicians were then asked to form the beginnings of a band, and with that John Richardson, Alan Williams and Pete Arnesen were the start of The Rubettes. John got some musician friends to round out the group, with Mick Clarke, Bill Hurd and Tony Thorpe making the original group of six.

Pete Arnesen was born in Salzberg, Austria, in 1945. Alan Williams was born in 1948, 20 miles north of London in a small town in Hertfordshire. Bill Hurd was born in East London in 1947. Tony Thorpe was born in 1945 in London. John Richardson was born in Essex in 1946. Mick Clarke was born in 1946 in Grimsby, England.

The band name was born from the interest in jewel-based names like “Diamonds,” and one of Thorpe’s girlfriends owned a purplish-red colored Mini which she affectionately called “Ruby.” Their debut release was “Sugar Baby Love”, recorded in October 1973.

Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes

Of the Original Rubettes line-up only John Richardson, Alan Williams and Pete Arnesen participated in the recording of “Sugar Baby Love”. The falsetto lead vocal was performed by Paul Da Vinci (born Paul Prewer). Contractual obligations prevented Prewer from joining the band when it was formed, and he never toured with the original band. Paul Prewer was born in Essex, England, in 1951. In 1969 he recorded two singles as part of a band called 1984. From 1970 be began working as a session musician singing backing vocals for Garry Moore, Ringo Starr, David Essex and Barry Blue. Paul sang the lead on the demo for “Sugar Baby Love” which was offered to the doo-wop 50s band Showaddywaddy. But they turned it down. So, the producers offered the song to the musicians who recorded the demo. This was Paul Da Vinci (Brewer), Alan Williams, John Richardson and Pete Arnesen. With Da Vinci not able to join the band, it was Alan Williams who lip-synched the falsetto lead on Top of the Pops and other British variety shows.

“Sugar Baby Love” is a song about mistakes a guy makes while dating his girlfriend. He’s made a mistake and now she feels “blue.” The nub of the problem is expressed in his takeaway from the mistake he’s made: “People take my advice. If you love someone, don’t think twice.” It can be inferred that he was second-guessing himself while dating his ‘sugar baby love.’ A one hundred percent commitment is what is needed: “love her anyway, love her everyday.” A partial, conditional love is sure to make at least one person “blue.” After all, who wants to discover that their ‘lover’ is doubting the relationship.

“Sugar Baby Love” peaked at #1 in Great Falls (MT), #2 in Ottawa, #3 in Montreal, #5 in Lowell (MA), Biloxi (MS), and Columbus (OH), #7 in Vancouver (BC), #8 in Boston, and Cedar Rapids (IA), #10 in Indianapolis (IN), and #11 in Wichita (KS). Internationally, “Sugar Baby Love” climbed to #1 in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and West Germany, #2 in Australia, Italy, Norway and South Africa, #6 in Argentina, #25 in Canada, and #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.

After the success of “Sugar Baby Love”, Paul Da Vinci released a solo single titled “Your Baby Ain’t Your Baby Anymore”. It peaked at #19 on the UK pop chart. He appeared in a number of plays in the 1980s. Between 1990 and 1994 he sang in Trevor Payne’s touring show That’ll Be The Day. He also sang on Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of Spartacus in 1992. Later, he appeared as the narrator of the West End production of The Who’s Tommy in 1997. Da Vinci’s band opened for Fats Domino in performances at the Royal Albert Hall. Paul Da Vinci was later featured with Bill Hurd, Alan Williams and some new singers to round a new Rubettes formation from 2000 until 2006.

The Rubettes released a followup single in 1974 titled “Tonight”. It peaked at #3 in Belgium, #4 in the Netherlands and West Germany, #5 in Norway, #12 in the UK and #13 in Austria. A third single release came from their second studio album, We Can Do It. “Juke Box Jive” climbed to #1 in Belgium, #2 in the Netherlands, #3 in the UK, #4 in West Germany, and #8 in Austria. A second single from this album, “I Can Do It”, peaked in 1975 at #3 in West Germany, #5 in Belgium and the Netherlands, #6 in Switzerland, and #7 in Austria and the UK.

Later in 1975, the Rubettes released a self-titled album Rubettes. “Foe-Dee-Oh-Dee” stalled at #15 in the UK, but it cracked the Top Ten elsewhere with a peak of #6 in West Germany, #7 in Belgium and the Netherlands, and #8 in Austria. A second track from the album, the mid-tempo tune “Little Darling”, made the Top Ten in Belgium. A country-rock tune titled “You’re The Reason Why” made the Top Ten in Belgium and the Netherlands in 1976. “Under One Roof” was a song about homophobia, which climbed to #40 on the UK pop chart.

While the Rubettes left the glam-rock/50s revival sound, so too did their fan base drift away.

And in 1977, the title track from their fifth studio album, Baby I Know, was a #10 hit in the UK. This was their eighth and final Top Ten hit in any national record market.

In 1978 and 1979 the band released Sometime in Oldchurch and Still Unwinding. Neither album was commercially successful, and no hit singles came from these albums. In 1980 the Rubettes broke up. But in 1982 the band reformed with Hurd, Arnesen, Clarke, and Williams, a new singer named Alex Bines.

From 2000 onward there were two bands billed as the Rubettes. There were legal battled. But both the Rubettes featuring Alex Bones and Paul Da Vinci carried on, as did the Rubettes with John Richardson, Alan Williams and Mick Clarke. In the latter group, it was Williams who fronted the band. The Rubettes have recently performed in Creutzwald, France in November 2023, and in Ostend, Belgium, in December 2023.

December 16, 2023
Ray McGinnis

Bill Hurd – bio,” therubettesuk.com, June 3, 2016.
John Anson, “What’s On – Tony Thorpe and Friends,” Lancashire Telegraph, March 6, 2012.
Paul Da Vinci,” Wikipedia.org.
CKLG Thirty,” CKLG 730-AM, Vancouver, BC, October 4, 1974.

One response to “Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes”

  1. Tom Locke says:

    You don’t hear this song too often these days. Their attire in the video of the song was something else!

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