Ahead of their show at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe we chatted to Chris Amoo of The Real Thing (originally published in Grapevine Magazine’s July issue)
I have a confession to make Chris, you and I are of a similar age and when I was disco-ing back in the day I always thought that The Real Thing were an American band.
Yeah – you wouldn’t be alone in thinking we were an American band. We used to get that a lot, a lot of people though we were American until they heard us talking. I suppose its because accents don’t really come across when you are singing our type of music. If you listen to The Beatles sing, you can tell they are from Liverpool, because they sing with that accent – it was Mersey pop, all of the bands around us back then sang, basically the way they talk.
So how come you ended up going down the soul route?
Because we are black, that s what we grew up on black music. We grew up in Liverpool 8, a black district.
Was Britain ready for soul in the seventies?
No. They became more ready when Motown broke, but it was still very much hit and miss. Soul really started to come into its own, I would say, early seventies with bands like The Temptations, The Four Tops, The O’Jays and bands like that. That’s when it started to generate its own fan base.
You went from The Sophisticated Soul Brothers to Vocal Perfection to The Real Thing – you were on Opportunity Knocks, Top of the Pops… it must have been a crazy time?
It was great, we were very young. Anything like that was a great buzz for us, we were only kids. Sophisticated Soul Brothers was our first name, the Vocal Perfection, which we weren’t – we soon got rid of that! When we won Opportunity Knocks, it was when we met our manager Tony Hall, we actually went on Opportunity Knocks as Vocal Perfection and came off it as The Real Thing.
Nowadays that sort of branding change would be unheard of, wouldn’t it?
It didn’t matter back then because basically we weren’t anything anyway, so it didn’t mater how many name changes you had – the name that mattered was the name that was on the record when it was a hit.
And what was it like when you got that first hit?
Unbelievable, as you can imagine. It was a dream come true. We’d been goin’ a few years before that so that we were building up to that but we never thought… look, most people in our business do not get a sniff of a hit record, thats what you got to realise. They might be great musicians, and there are great singers that never come anywhere close – that’s how luck that we were. And we are still lucky now.
Luck involves a couple of things, first of all having the right song, but you can even have the right song with the wrong manager or the wrong company. I think “Can’t get by without You” was released a couple of years before we actually recorded the song when it went straight to number two!
Fast forward to today, sadly you lost your brother Eddie last year, but you decided to carry on as The Real Thing.
We did, we just decided that we’d rather keep the original Real Thing rather than bring somebody else in and changing the sound. And it has gone really well as a result of that. I think people appreciate that all that is really missing is a voice and a lovely, popular person obviously. But if you bring somebody else in it becomes something else.
The tour list at the moment consists of over forty gigs between now and December – thats gotta be crazy?
Yes! But we have always been a working band, that’s how we started, that’s how we’ve always been right the way through everything. I think being a working band is what makes you. Number one you learn how to perform, number two nothing can phase you audience wise ’cause you are used to that number three your voice improves over the years. As you continue to do something, you hone your craft, your voice develops a tone, it gets stronger.
Tell us about the show, what can the audience expect?
They will get a mixture of our hits, some new original songs and one or two classics in there. They will be able to get up and dance and sing along and sit down to listen to songs lie “Children of the Ghetto” and things like that. And generally just have a nice evening.
You are a dog breeder – Afghans and Irish Wolfhounds I believe, and you have reached the dizzy heights of being a Crufts judge. Are there any similarities between the dog show world and the music world?
Absolutely none! Totally different worlds altogether, which is why we enjoy it so much really.
We forget, don’t we, that people in the music industry, who entertain us on our nights off also need their down time because for you, entertainment is a job, and you need a break too.
You definitely do, especially in the music business, because there is stress, it is difficult at times. So you need that break to get away, it’s a strange business but we love it.
Remaining dates for The Real Thing in our region:
- Sun 21st July – Felixstowe, Spa Pavilion
- Fri 11 Oct – Gt Yarmouth, Vauxhall Holiday Park
- Fri 25 Oct – Peterborough, East of England Showground