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Monday, 25 April 2011

Bizarre One Hit Wonder: "Neanderthal Man" by Hotlegs (1970)

Seeing as I mentioned this strange single release in the Ramases review which I unearthed recently, I thought it deserved a post of it's own.
Actually, thinking about the unexpected success of the 'song', I often think about how that success led to other events.
Manchester songwriters and musicians- Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Eric Stewart had been experimenting in their combined lair known as Strawberry Studios, so named and inspired by The Beatles' chart hit, "Strawberry Fields Forever". Graham Gouldman was also a member of the in-house recording team, but was not part of this particular session.
They had been trying different ideas and techniques whilst recording drums, so they had chosen a rhythm and Lol Creme began to sing/chant some words to provide something for drummer Kevin Godley to keep in time to, seeing as this wasn't so much a track they were recording, but more to do with learning different recording techniques.

Seeing as they had quite a few people passing through their studio to either record or rehearse material, there were often people asking these young session musicians how things were shaping up and also asking what they themselves had been up to recently. One such man was the Phillips label boss Dick Leahy, who had previous contact with some of the lads from the mid 1960s, where they had all been involved in either performing or songwriting with different groups. After enquiring as to what exactly they'd been up to, they had told Leahy- "oh nothing really", but still played this drum and recording experiment. Leahy was absolutely blown away on the spot and pronounced what he heard almost straight away saying "It's a hit....I'd buy it!". Quite a strange reaction from a label boss especially on hearing something that wasn't exactly a 'pop song'!
The name Hotlegs was chosen after the nickname the studio owners had for their studio secretary Kathy Redfern, she also used to turn heads especially when she would wear short skirts or that eras fashion statement for young females- hot pants.

It would seem that Kathy was quite influential to the four musicians, as when they later found fame as 10CC, she would often provide a view to some of their later recordings and experiments. She was the one who asked them not to throw away a song called "I'm Not In Love", one of the best love songs she had ever heard, which was almost certainly heading for the bin until a more positive light was thrown it's way.  This dreamy song was penned by Eric Stewart, who when asked about what led to it's inspiration, said that although he loved his wife, to keep saying the phrase "I love you" seemed to lose it's meaning when heard so often.
After the song was refined and reshaped, Kathy was asked to add the "big boys don't cry" spoken vocal which appears in the middle of that song, a song which in hindsight, was also a big slice of technical innovation long before the advent of digital sampling and recording.
Also, strange things abound when you think how by pure chance, different events and decisions, lead on to greater things.
Strawberry Studios hosted some big names who recorded there like the Syd Lawrence Orchestra,  Neil Sedaka and Paul McCartney and it was also the place where, in April 1979, Joy Division recorded their stunning debut album.

Kathy Redfern: Inspirational secretary

The site of Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Cheshire, North-East England.

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