Known for their global hit “You Sexy Thing,” British pop band Hot Chocolate started out in 1969, formed by Errol Brown, in Brixton, southwest London. Formed in 1969, their first record was their reggae cover of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” In 1970, songwriter/producer Mickie Most started to build them to be one of the UK’s biggest artists, with their first single “Love Is Life” peaking at #6 on the charts there. Brown and band mate Tony Wilson’s songwriting grew more strong and confident, which led to more hits such as “I Believe (In Love),” “Brother Louie,” and “Emma.” With the arrival of disco in the 1970s, Hot Chocolate was even hotter, issuing big chart singles such as “You Sexy Thing” (which went to the US Hot 100 in 1975) and their only #1 hit “So You Win Again.” Despite lukewarm critical reception, Hot Chocolate continued to be active, even when disco faded into the early 1980s, churning out a few more big hits such as “No Doubt About It,” “Girl Crazy,” “It Started With A Kiss,” and “What Kinda Boy You Looking For (Girl).” They disbanded in 1986 with Brown pursuing a solo career; Hot Chocolate was re-formed in 1992, with an altogether fresh lineup now led by new singer Greg Bannis. They experienced a resurgence of popularity with more contemporary artists like PJ Harvey and Urge Overkill covering Hot Chocolate hits, and most particularly through the 1997 sleeper hit The Full Monty.
Formation and early years
Hot Chocolate was originally known as the Hot Chocolate Band. Hailing from London’s Brixton area, the interracial group was formed in 1969. It initially consisted of lead singer Errol Brown, bassist Tony Wilson, guitarist Harvey Hinsley, drummer Tony Connor, bassist/percussionist Patrick Olive and keyboardist Larry Ferguson. They were first signed to the Beatles’ Apple Corps, in virtue of their reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” which Lennon himself liked. Unfortunately, the Beatles were on the verge of splitting up, and soon their link with Apple came to an end.
Producer Mickie Most (who handled the records of The Animals, Donovan, and Lulu to name a few) came to Hot Chocolate in 1970. Errol and Wilson became the group’s primary songwriters.
Homegrown and international hits
Under the direction of Most, Hot Chocolate began to garner one hit after another, especially in their home country. The following homegrown smashes include “Love Is Life” (#6 UK), “I Believe (in Love)” (#8 UK), “Brother Louie” (#7 UK), and “Emma” (#8 US, #3 UK), which also became Hot Chocolate’s first transatlantic hit. All of the hit singles were penned by Brown and Wilson, and were released on RAK label.
When disco arrived in the mid-1970s, it was in that era where Hot Chocolate became most successful. They tweaked their production a notch higher, and the songwriting of Brown and Wilson grew more confident. It was in that period where Hot Chocolate scored their signature hit “You Sexy Thing” in 1975. It reached its peak position at #3 on the US Hot 100, as well as #6 on the US R&B singles chart and #2 on the UK chart. Other hit singles include “Disco Queen” (#28 US, #11 UK), “Don’t Stop It Now” (#42 US, #11 UK), and “Every 1’s a Winner” (#6 US, #7 US R&B, #12 UK). “So You Win Again” was the only song in this list not written by the Brown/Wilson team (it was penned by Russ Ballard).
Although critically Hot Chocolate was generally slammed or neglected, this didn’t prevent the group from being commercially successful for the time being. In the 1980s, Hot Chocolate still managed to garner more hits (mostly UK) such as “No Doubt About It,” “Are You Getting Enough of What Makes You Happy,” “Girl Crazy,” “It Started with a Kiss,” “What Kinda Boy You Looking for (Girl),” “I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)” and the Ben Liebrand remix of “You Sexy Thing” (which peaked at #10 in the UK chart).
Renewed interest in the band
The band managed to be still visible into the 1990s, thanks to a renewed interest in them. Recent generation of artists such as PJ Harvey, Urge Overkill and The Sisters of Mercy covered Hot Chocolate songs. The critically-acclaimed hit comedy film The Full Monty featured “You Sexy Thing” as one of the soundtracks. Thanks to movie, “You Sexy Thing” re-appeared on the UK chart once more, reaching to #6 in 1997. After being critically ignored during their heyday, Hot Chocolate now achieved respect and credibility.
“You Sexy Thing” has the rare achievement of being their only single to reach the UK Top Ten in three straight decades.
Since 1992 Hot Chocolate has continued to perform live in the UK and in many European countries, with a newer lineup and lead singer as well in the person of Greg Bannis.