358. Sweet Sensation – Sad Sweet Dreamer (1974)

We’ve had several acts on the blog now that started out on ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks, including Middle of the Road and Paper Lace, but here was the first and only number 1 by a band who rose to fame via New Faces. This series, produced by ATV for ITV, began in 1973 with presenter Derek Hobson introducing acts who would perform for four judges. Among those, and most notorious, was the sardonic Tony Hatch, the 70s version of Simon Cowell. But one act he did take a shine to were Mancunian group Sweet Sensation.

This eight-piece were formed in 1971, consisting of lead vocalist Marcel King, Junior Daye, Vincent James and St Clair Palmer on backing vocals, plus Barry Johnson on bass, Roy Flowers on drums, Gary Shaugnessy on guitar and Leroy Smith on keyboards. Sweet Sensation were Manchester’s answer to the ‘Philly sound’, and by the time of their appearance on New Faces in 1974, this lush soul was growing ever more popular in the UK.

It’s worth noting that glam rock had been a totally white phenomenon, and now it was on the wane, soul and eventually disco were filling the gap. There were many more black acts at number 1 in 1974 then there had been for some time. And there hadn’t been a black British group at number 1 since The Equals in 1968. King was only 14 when they formed, making Sweet Sensation comparable to The Jackson Five due to his youthful falsetto. However, only King and Shaugnessy hailed from Manchester, the rest were from Kingston, Jamiaca, apart from Palmer, who was from St Kitts.

Hatch had prior number 1 success numerous times, with his wife Jackie Trent, among others, so Sweet Sensation landed on their feet when the well-connected producer took them under his wing and getting them a record deal with Pye in 1974. However, despite his patronage, debut single Snowfire tanked. They went back to the drawing board and enlisted David Parton to write Sad Sweet Dreamer, which featured Hatch and Trent on vocals too.

It’s a fair approximation of Gamble & Huff’s masterful work, and tracks by The Stylistics, but it feels a bit stiff, low budget and ‘British’ by comparison. King’s falsetto is appealing and it’s ironic to hear a teen singing about putting things down to experience, but it feels more like a song to fill a gap for a week than a deserved number 1, which was exactly what it was really. One of the least memorable chart-toppers of the year, but by no means a bad song.

Sweet Sensation had found a winning formula but it proved short-lived. However, the follow-up Purely By Coincidence reached number 11 in 1975. Sad Sweet Dreamer was a good enough impersonation of Philly soul for the US too – it reached number 14 there. But that was pretty much it for the band. King left in 1975 and was replaced by Recardo “Rikki” Patrick. Their debut album, named after their number 1, did badly, and no more singles charted. In 1977 they took part in A Song for Europe but came eighth with You’re My Sweet Sensation. Pye dropped them and they split soon after.

In 1984, King tried to begin a solo career, and released Reach for Love on Factory Records. It was produced by New Order’s Bernard Sumner, and is considered a lost electro-soul classic now. It’s a great production from Sumner, and King’s voice is beautiful. Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays apparently reckons it’s Factory’s best single, and ripped it off on Black Grape’s Get Higher in 1997.

Sadly, King didn’t become a solo star and died of a brain haemorrhage in 1995, aged only 38. His former bandmate Johnson was also on Factory via the early underground dance outfit Quando Quango. Smith died in 2009 and James in 2019.

Written by: David Parton

Producers: Tony Hatch & David Parton

Weeks at number 1: 1 (19-25 October)

Births:

Islamic terrorist Mohammad Sidique Khan – 20 October

Meanwhile…

19 October: Conservative MP Keith Joseph makes a controversial speech in Edgbaston on the cycle of deprivation that effectively rules him out of high office. He left the leadership contest to replace Edward Heath and instead became one of Margaret Thatcher’s biggest supporters.

22 October: The IRA threw a bomb into an empty dining room in London’s Brook’s club.

195. Jackie Trent (Accompaniment directed by Tony Hatch) – Where Are You Now (My Love) (1965)

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Jackie Trent is best known for her songwriting partnership with husband Tony Hatch, particularly for their theme tune to Australian soap opera Neighbours. But before that, she was also a number 1 artist. However, Where Are You Now (My Love) is one of the rarer chart-toppers of the 60s.

Trent was born Yvonne Burgess in Chesterton, a mining village near Newcastle-Under-Lyme on 6 September 1940. Her parents loved music and she quickly got the bug too, and she made her first TV appearance when she won a talent show at the age of 11. Soon, she was performing at working men’s clubs and with big bands, and became known as ‘the Vera Lynn of the Potteries’. She took the name Jackie Trent at the age of 14. After leaving school she moved to London to find fame, and it was there she first met Hatch.

He had left National Service in 1959 and become a producer and recording artist for Top Rank Records, and one of his singles was his own cover of Russ Conway’s Side Saddle. In 1961, now with Pye Records, it was his suggestion that Petula Clark record Sailor, which became her first number 1 in 1961. Occasionally writing under pseudonyms, he wrote The Searchers’ Sugar and Spice as Fred Nightingale.

By the time he and Trent first crossed paths, he had become known for composing television themes, his most famous at that point being for ITV soap opera Crossroads in 1964. He was asked to write a song to feature in the Granada drama It’s Dark Outside, a spin-off of The Odd Man. Cast names included Keith Barron, later to be known as a hapless holidaymaker having an affair in the sitcom Duty Free, and Anthony Ainley, who was The Master on Doctor Who during the 80s.

Trent had been recording since 1962, but only recently joined Pye. Hatch chose to team up with her, and they came up with Where Are You Now (My Love). The song was quickly arranged and recorded in December 1964, with music by Hatch and lyrics by Trent. It wasn’t originally intended as a single, but its appearance on It’s Dark Outside went down so well, viewers began contacting TV listings magazine TV Times (a magazine I used to work on, fact fans) for more information. Soon enough it went to number 1.

Where Are You Now (My Love) has since disappeared into obscurity, and it certainly doesn’t compare to the many classic number 1 singles of the period. It’s a fairly good attempt at a Bacharach and David ballad though, and very much of its time. You could easily imagine Petula Clark performing it, or other female stars of the period such as Shirley Bassey or Cilla Black. I haven’t seen the footage it was used on, but I picture a rainy, moody scene, with the lead actress searching for her lover. It’s serviceable enough, but I guess you had to be there at the time to truly enjoy it.

The songwriters’ friendship quickly blossomed into a romance, but Hatch was already married. In 1966 they wrote Petula Clark’s hit I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, which was inspired by their affair. Soon after they went public, and they wed a year later.

Hatch and Trent continued to write hits for many stars including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Des O’Connor and Scott Walker, but despite continuing to record on her own, Trent couldn’t repeat her number 1 success. They did however top the Australian charts together with The Two of Us, and went on tour together there as Mr and Mrs Music.

Into the 70s, Trent and Hatch moved into musical theatre. 1972 saw Trent’s favourite football team Stoke City reach the Football League Cup final, and to commemorate their achievement, they wrote We’ll Be With You. Performed by the team and supporters, it is still played at the club to this day, helped by the fact that Stoke defeated Chelsea 2-1 to win the trophy. While a judge on New Faces, Hatch produced a number 1 for Sweet Sensation in 1974, and it’s rumoured that Trent joined him on backing vocals on Sad Sweet Dreamer.

The couple relocated to Australia in the 80s, and were asked to provide a theme tune to a new soap opera called Ramsay Street. Trent and Hatch agreed to have a go, but weren’t sure about the title due to its similarity to Coronation Street. They worked on a song called Neighbours instead, and within 24 hours they had written it, called Barry Crocker in to sing it, and left it with the show’s producers, who loved it so much, they changed the title to match the song.

Trent and Hatch had two children together, but the relationship dissolved and they separated in 1995 before divorcing in 2002. She remarried three years later, and moved to Menorca, Spain with new husband Colin Gregory. She had been working on her autobiography when she died on 21 March 2015 after a long illness, aged 74.

Written by: Tony Hatch & Jackie Trent

Producer: Tony Hatch

Weeks at number 1: 1 (20-26 May)

Deaths:

Aircraft designer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland – 21 May