Thursday, June 25, 2015

Stiff Records: Hooked on Love

As I said during our first post chronicling Stiff Records, the label’s biggest hit in the US was Ian Gomm’s 1979 classic “Hold On” that I featured several years ago as a “one hit wonder.” While Gomm was signed to Stiff/Epic in North America, Stiff was not his UK record label – that was Albion Records who was distributed in the UK by Arista. In a number of other countries, Gomm appeared on Arista’s sister label Ariola and on Victor in Japan.

Although not released as a single in the UK on Albion, it was Gomm’s second US single and follow-up to “Hold On.” Additionally, it was the second cut on his first US album “Gomm with the Wind.”    

Billboard in November 1979 gave a glowing review of the single by stating, “Bright uptempo rocker reinforced by driving percussion and crisp horn flourishes make this an excellent followup [sic] to ‘Hold On.’ Clean harmonies and modulations in the arrangement underscore the hook.” Unfortunately, Billboard’s comments fell on deaf ears and “Hooked on Love” failed to make it into the Hot 100 or even the “Bubbling Under” category.

Billboard mentions the song’s modulations – and there are two. The tune starts in the key of “C” and modulates to “D.” Just before the fade, it modulates again to “E.” This is a great little song with a swing beat, but alas the modulations were not enough to carry this tune. Again with CBS doing the promotion as this was a Stiff-Epic release, they may have had other Epic and Portrait artists that they were pushing harder at the time. So goes the music business.

Brinsley Schwarz Original

Americans who had the opportunity to hear Gomm’s recording of “Hooked on Love” were first exposed to this song in 1979. Gomm’s former band, Brinsley Schwarz, recorded the song first in 1973. “Hooked on Love” appeared as the lead track on the band’s LP “Please Don’t Ever Change.”

It also shared the B-side of the single “Country Girl” with “Surrender to the Rhythm” that was released in 1978. Unfortunately, United Artists decided not to release either the album or the single in the United States – probably due to their lack of a following here. The 1978 release of the single might have been in response to Brinsley Schwarz members Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm’s solo careers that were just starting.

I attempted to find a studio version of the original, but couldn’t. We will have to settle for a very nice live rendition by Brinsley Schwarz that was from the “Old Grey Whistle Test” presumably in 1973 or ‘74. Their version was slightly slower, had only one modulation from “C” to “D” and has a bridge that is missing from Gomm’s solo version.

In addition, there are no “horn flourishes,” but rather some nice Hammond B3 work by Bob Andrews. Note, Nick Lowe is present on bass – another Stiff artist in the UK, but alas he was signed to Columbia in the US and we will not be featuring his music this week. Pity – maybe some other time.

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