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Biography

  • Years Active

    1973 – present (46 years)

  • Founded In

    London, England, United Kingdom

  • Members

    • Alan Williams (1974 – present)
    • John Richardson
    • Mick Clarke (1973 – present)

The Rubettes were a Pop band from England assembled in 1973 by the songwriting team of Wayne Bickerton, the then head of A&R at Polydor Records, and his co-writer, Tony Waddington after their doo-wop and 1950s American pop-influenced songs had been rejected by a number of existing acts. The band emerged at the tail end of the glam rock movement, wearing trademark white suits and cloth caps on stage.

The line-up of the band was Alan Williams (born 22 December 1948); Tony Thorpe (born 20 July 1947); Bill Hurd (born 11 August 1948); Mick Clarke (born 10 August 1946), and John Richardson (born 3 May 1948). The Rubettes’ first (and biggest hit) was “Sugar Baby Love” (released in 1974) which was a UK no. 1 and going on to sell around eight million copies worldwide. The distinctive falsetto lead vocal to “Sugar Baby Love” was however performed by Paul Da Vinci (real name: Paul Prewer) who left the group after a few weeks to be replaced by Williams.

The Rubettes went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-seventies such as “Juke Box Jive” and “I Can Do It”, mostly written by the Bickerton-Waddington song-writing team. Their final hit was the ‘country rock’ styled ballad - “Baby I Know” - which reached no. 10 in the UK in 1977.

The Rubettes’ first and biggest hit was "Sugar Baby Love" (1974) which was a UK number one, going on to sell around 500,000 copies in the UK and a reported global sale of three million copies. Two million copies being sold in France alone, an achievement matched by no other British group. With more three songs, "Sugar Baby Love" was recorded for Polydor in October 1973 at Landsdown Studios in Holland Park, London by some session musicians featuring the distinctive falsetto lead vocal by Paul Da Vinci (real name: Paul Prewer), but then he didn't seize the opportunity to actually become a member of the band put together by John Richardson and went for solo work. To be The Rubettes' debut single, "Sugar Baby Love" was their only UK #1 and sole U.S. Top 40 entry. In November 1974 NME music magazine reported that The Rubettes, The Glitter Band and Mud were among the UK bands who had roles in a new film titled Never Too Young To Rock.

The Rubettes went on to have a number of other hits across Europe during the mid 1970s such as "Tonight", "Juke Box Jive" and "I Can Do It" sung by Alan Williams, mostly written by the Bickerton-Waddington songwriting team. The Rubettes success encouraged Bickerton and Waddington to set up State Records, so that ten months after the release of "Sugar Baby Love", the fourth Rubettes single "I Can Do It" was on State (catalogue reference STAT 1).

None charted in the States, though, and the band evolved glammy nostalgia into more serious territory. "Under One Roof" (1976) a sensitive portrayal of a gay man disowned and later murdered by his father; along with Rod Stewart's "The Killing of Georgie", was one of very few songs tackling the difficult topic of homophobia. Their most successful self composed hit was the country rock styled ballad "Baby I Know", which reached number 10 in the UK and Germany in 1977. They played as a quintet since early 1975 and always as a quartet since mid 1976 (Bill Hurd became an out-off-staff member). After Thorpe's departure in 1979, The Rubettes fell silent in the face of dwindling success and soon had disbanded.

But the band continued releasing records into the 1980s, then re-grouped in 1983 in order to exploit the German market for 1970s nostalgia.

In 1994, the group's profile was raised by the inclusion of "Sugar Baby Love" in the hit movie, Muriel's Wedding. This song was also featured in the 2005 Neil Jordan film, Breakfast on Pluto soundtrack.

In 2002, the group hit the headlines once more when, following an acrimonius split and legal action, the Rubettes became the latest in a long line of bands (including Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys and Spandau Ballet) who ended up in the courts in a dispute over ownership of the band's name. The court ruled that both Williams and Hurd could tour as the Rubettes, as long as it was clear which member was fronting the band. Originals John Richardson and Mick Clarke, along with ex-Kinks keyboardist Mark Haley, feature with Alan Williams in his band; while Hurd is the only member of his group connected with the original line up.

All was well until 2005 when Williams and Hurd were back in court following an appearance by Hurd's band on the German television station ZDF, with Williams claiming Hurd had breached the terms of the original agreement. On 2 February 2006, a High Court judge found that Hurd and Williams had both been guilty of breaching the 2002 agreement. Costs of the trial were however awarded to Williams in view of the severity of Hurd's breaches. Hurd appealed against this decision, but on 3 November 2006 the Appeal Court in London ruled against him, awarding the costs of the appeal to Williams. Hurd has since gone bankrupt.

On 28 March 2008 "Sugar Baby Love" was declared to be the most successful oldie of all time by the German television station RTL.

In May and June 2008, The Rubettes were part of the 'Glitz Blitz & 70s Hitz' tour of the UK alongside Sweet and Showaddywaddy.

On June 19 2009, Bill Hurd's Rubettes played at the East Kilbride ArtBurst Festival.

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