Everything: The Real Thing Story



RIDDLE me this, pop pickers: why is it so hard to remember your mobile phone number, yet at the same time know every word to the song You To Me Are Everything?

Even on a body’s last day on this planet, should someone call the words, “I would take the stars out of the sky for you,” the response, “Stop the rain from falling if you asked me to”, would bubble up from deep within.

It is the mark of a great pop song to linger so long in the memory, and the track featured prominently at the start of this affectionate look at the band who made it a No 1 hit.

Everyone of a certain vintage may know their famous number back to front, but how many are aware the four lads who sang it made pop cultural history?

Simon Sheridan’s film opened with the caption “England, summer 1976”, although I seem to recall even Scotland enjoyed that year’s record-breaking long hot summer.

The Real Thing’s single, the song of that summer, topped the charts for three weeks, with the band becoming the first all-black British band to have a No 1 hit.

Until that point it had been a steady slog up the foothills of pop, with band founders Chris Amoo and Dave Smith being joined by Chris’s brother Eddy and Ray Lake. They won Opportunity Knocks, which gave them a chance to meet Hughie Green, but not much else.

“He was actually a very amiable person,” recalled Chris Amoo, “until you crossed him.”

Their real break came when David Essex, one of many faces from yesteryear who popped up in the documentary as talking heads, invited them to do backing vocals on his tour.

Later, they would accompany Essex to apartheid South Africa to play Sun City in 1983, a move that Eddy Amoo, who died in 2018 before the documentary’s release, acknowledged was the lowest point in his career.

You To Me came along after several flops. Written by Ken Gold and Michael Denne, it remains one of the top 10 most requested songs at weddings. There would be other hits, but this was the one that changed their lives. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the four guys who came not from America, as was assumed, but Liverpool.

Sheridan’s large cast of commentators put the band’s fame in the context of the grim 1970s, the days of Love Thy Neighbour and The Black And White Minstrel Show on TV. Each band member had their own experiences of racism, which continued after they became famous. Whenever they went out in the nice cars their hits had bought them, the police would invariably pull them over. “Your face doesn’t fit,” said one copper. Some in the press dubbed them “the black Beatles”.

As with many bands, not everyone made it all the way. Ray Lake, the product of children’s homes of the time, was a beautiful singer and a deeply troubled soul who sought release in drink and drugs.

The years rolled on, and The Real Thing moved on to music that was more “real” to them. An album, 4 From 8 (the postcode for Toxteth is Liverpool 8) was a critical hit but the band’s mainly teenage, mostly white, fans turned away. The album has recently enjoyed a renaissance, with one track, Children Of The Ghetto, becoming something of an anthem.

All told it was a fascinating story, albeit one that could have easily been captured in an hour rather than 90 minutes (too many talking heads, too little editing).

The tale of a song that captures a time and a place forever.