‘My mum made outfits for us to wear on Top of the Pops’: how the Real Thing made You to Me Are Everything

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: George Wilkes Archive/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: George Wilkes Archive/Getty Images

Ken Gold, co-writer/producer

It was early 1976 and Mick Denne and I were songwriters for hire. I really wanted to work with the Real Thing, who’d had a couple of chart entries and had toured and recorded with David Essex – who was huge at the time. I thought their singer Chris Amoo had a great voice.

I had had a couple of meetings with their manager, Tony Hall, who said to bring him anything I thought was good. We started working on You to Me Are Everything and it all happened very quickly. Mick came up with the chorus immediately and the words: “Oh, you to me are everything / The sweetest song that I could sing / Oh baby.” Once we got that, we were off to the races. The bulk was written in less than an hour – melody and words. We knew we had something really good. I remember saying to Mick: “I want to get this over to Tony as quick as I can. I’ll see if he’s in the office.”

We were in the studio – the Roundhouse in London – the very next week. Chris wanted to take the melody in his own direction. He said he was trying to put some soul into it. But sitting up there in the control room, it just wasn’t working for me and I remember getting very nervous because he was starting to get a little combative. I said: “Honestly, Chris, I’d just like to hear you sing the melody exactly as it was written.” And that’s what we did. If you can write a melody that gets into someone’s head after just one play, then you have something people can sing.

There is a hook within the hook in this song. We had the obvious hook melody and then we had: “Oh baby, oh baby.” At the end of that, there’s the coda: “So now you’ve got the best of me / Come on and take the rest of me / Oh baby.” It was a neat little bow at the end of the chorus that tied it into its first part.

I think the song’s longevity has to do with the sentiment in the lyrics: it’s definitely something people latch on to. People often wonder what was going on in our lives when we wrote it. There really was nothing – I’d got married in September 1975 and Mick was unattached. The truth is we were trying to grab a good lyric that made sense and rhymed. I heard it again on the radio recently and I got goosebumps, the same way as I had decades before. It makes me proud on a metaphysical level. I can feel it within me. It feels amazing.

Chris Amoo, lead singer of the Real Thing

I was in Soho, London, when Ken Gold walked into our manager’s office with a reel-to-reel recording machine and a song he had recorded as a demo. I remember thinking that it was really good – it reminded me of Johnny Bristol’s Hang on in There Baby. Tony knew that he was listening to a potential hit.

Related: The Real Thing: soundtrack to the Toxteth riots

The recording was done in a week. I got a white label made, an acetate – these were records that companies would send out to clubs to get the orders going in the shops. I took it to a place in Liverpool where I used to go, my local hangout. The DJ put it on and the floor filled up – with a song that nobody knew. At that moment, we knew we were on the button. Soon I’d walk around and every radio would be playing it.

I was in London when Tony phoned me on a Tuesday morning at 9am and said: “Congratulations you’ve come into the charts at number 56 and you’ve got Top of the Pops tomorrow.” I phoned home and told my mum, who was a dressmaker, what material and style I wanted and she made four outfits for each band member that night. The other guys got the train down from Liverpool the next morning and brought the costumes with them. Mine fitted like a glove. The next month was a great ride as the track went from No 56 to 22 to 5 to 1.

It changed everything. We went from being four black guys from Toxteth, making a living as best we could, to having financial security. There are lots of No 1s that are OK but people forget them – with You to Me Are Everything, the next generation feel the same about it as the previous one. That’s the difference between a classic and a hit. Classics are for ever.

The Real Thing play Rewind South, Henley-on-Thames, 19-21 August; then touring.