By early ‘78, Hot Chocolate had been a regular order on the British charts for eight years, but were only around half way through their remarkably consistent chart tenure at home. The song ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ was a slickly produced rock edged, soul-funk gem, with one of the coolest guitar riffs ever, courtesy of Harvey Hinsley. The promo video became one of those lasting images of the late 70s pop music era, with Errol Brown, Patrick Olive and Harvey Hinsley standing tall and imposing at centre frame in the opening bars, as Hinsley blasted out the song’s core guitar riff. Brown’s distinctive vocals combined with Mickie Most’s sublime production to yield, in my view, the best song of Hot Chocolate’s career. ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ proved a winner on the charts, racing to #6 in the U.S., for once out pacing sales in Britain (#12) and Australia (#12). The title track became the third top 20 hit to feature on Hot Chocolate’s latest album, which notched up solid sales across the board (UK#30/US#31/OZ#31), and introduced a myriad of musical influences to the Hot Chocolate blend, from Bowie, to reggae, to classic Stax/Volt style soul, with Hinsley and Olive both taking a more active role in the song writing stakes.
Hot Chocolate’s next charting single was ‘I’ll Put You Together Again’, originally recorded by Pandora and the Correspondents. Hot Chocolate’s version debuted on the British charts in December ‘78 and peaked at #13 in early ‘79 (OZ#12). The track was significant because it gave Hot Chocolate the singular honour of being the only group to have featured on the British singles charts during every calendar year of the 1970s. The only other artists to have achieved such a rarefied feat were Diana Ross and Elvis Presley, placing Hot Chocolate with some very illustrious company. Though Hot Chocolate had essentially maintained a bent toward the soul/funk side of the musical spectrum, in 1979 they released the album ‘Going Through The Motions’ (OZ#97/US#112), which saw them catering to the predominant stylistic force in music at that time - disco. Dance-club oriented tracks accounted for a majority of the album, but elements of Hot Chocolate’s soulful (and thoughtful) inclinations thankfully still surfaced on the minor hits ‘Mindless Boogie’ (UK#46), which was essentially a meaningful socio-political commentary put to a disco beat, and ‘Going Through The Motions’ (UK#53/US#53). In late ‘79 another ‘best of’ compilation was released on the British market, and bolted to #3 on the charts in time for Christmas.
No doubt about it, Hot Chocolate, despite a consistent oversight from the music intelligentsia, could rightfully lay claim to being one of the most consistent performers on the British singles charts throughout the 70s, and at the turn of the decade there was every indication that their run of success would continue well into the 80s. Their next single ‘No Doubt About It’ confirmed Hot Chocolate’s status near the top of the charts, when it rocketed to #2 on the British charts (OZ#56), backed by a promo clip which was a tribute to all things extraterrestrial. The track for some reason wasn’t included on Hot Chocolate’s next album ‘Class’, which must have been abducted because it went missing from the charts. The album was a curious mix of original material, written by Errol Brown or Russ Ballard, with several covers thrown in, including Elvis Costello’s ‘Green Shirt’ and The Police’s ‘Walking On The Moon’. ‘Class’ may not have lived up to the ‘high’ end of the spectrum, as it spawned only two minor hit singles in ‘Are You Getting Enough Of What Makes You Happy’ (UK#17 - released in the U.S. as ‘Are You Getting Enough Happiness’ - #65 - in late ‘82), and ‘Love Me To Sleep’ (UK#50).
Hot Chocolate’s year to year unbroken run on the charts continued into 1981, albeit only just, with the minor hit single ‘You’ll Never Be So Strong’ (UK#52), but they soon returned to the top 10 in 1982 with the pop-dance number ‘Girl Crazy’ (UK#7/OZ#9). Hot Chocolate must have been going through a bit of a fitness phase at the time, as the promo video saw the band members taking to the streets in some kind of daggy dedication to the aerobics craze, not to mention posing with ten-speed bicycles on the back cover to the track’s source album ‘Mystery’ (UK#24/ OZ#92). There was no mystery about Hot Chocolate’s next hit ‘It Started With A Kiss’. The beautifully crafted pop-ballad proved to be another high point in the band’s achievements, peaking at #5 in Britain and #15 in Australia. The promo video featured footage from classic silent era films intercut with the band - which was a bit of a fad with early 80s music videos - it was actually a very effective style. ‘It Started With A Kiss’ puckered up and returned to the charts for Hot Chocolate in 1998 (#18). The ‘Mystery’ album unveiled one final chart hit with ‘Chances’ (UK#32/OZ#85).
1983’s ‘What Kinda Boy You’re Lookin’ For (Girl)’ rewarded Hot Chocolate with their twelfth British top ten single (#10), but the track wasn’t included on the band’s final album of original material, ‘Love Shot’. Mickie Most was at the production controls, as he had been from the very beginning, and the album yielded two more top forty hits, ‘Tears On The Telephone’ (UK#37) in late ‘83, and ‘I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)’ (UK#13) in early ‘84, though the album itself shot wide of the charts. As of 1984, Hot Chocolate had remarkably placed a single inside the British top forty during every calendar year since 1970 - neither Elvis Presley or Diana Ross managed to keep pace with that level of consistency over those fifteen years.
Over the next couple of years Hot Chocolate cooled down their activities, with just one single ‘Heartache No. 9’, released in 1986. Singer Errol Brown announced he was leaving the band the same year to pursue a solo career. His first (and only) solo hits came during 1987, with ‘Personal Touch’ (UK#25) and ‘Body Rockin’ (UK#51). The same year ‘You Sexy Thing’ returned to the British top 10 for the second time around, albeit in remixed form. The remix was lifted from the compilation ‘The Very Best Of Hot Chocolate’, which gave the band their first U.K. #1 album.
Following Brown’s departure Hot Chocolate disbanded for a time, but reformed with a new vocalist Greg Bannis to score a German hit with the Harvey Hinsley penned ‘Never Pretend’. In the twenty years since Hinsley, Connor and Olive have maintained an involvement in the Hot Chocolate brand/band name, with new recruits Steve Beast and Andy Smith joining the fray. They’ve released singles sporadically, but have continued to be a regular touring force on the British and European nostalgia circuits. In 1997 ‘You Sexy Thing’ astonishingly entered the British top 10 (#6) for the third time across three separate decades, thanks to the song featuring in the hit comedy film ‘The Full Monty’, becoming the only song to achieve the feat in the 70s, 80s and 90s - time still remains for it to make it four decades in succession with the 00s. 1997 also saw the song reach the charts in Britain and Australia for the dance-pop outfit T-Shirt.
Whilst Hot Chocolate have thus far been denied due recognition for their outstanding achievements in popular music, singer and writer Errol Brown received a much deserved M.B.E. in 2003, and the following year received the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for his exceptional contribution to the British music scene.