My Legends of Pop Music – Part Fifty-Eight – Smokie

I suspect many of you will know my top three legends of pop music. We are on the countdown now to my most favourite music artists, making them my 3rd most favourite legends of pop music.

I have enjoyed every single one of their singles, purchased all their albums and seen them twice, once when Chris Norman was lead singer and once when Alana Barton took over.

I just think they create and play perfect little tunes, that you can sing and dance to.  Not pretentious, simply good musicians and singers.

The other thing, common to my top 3 legends, are that they never do a  “bad” song and all their album tracks are great, be it their own or a cover.

Courtesy of Wiki:

Smokie (originally spelt Smokey) are an English rock band from Bradford, Yorkshire. The band found success at home and abroad after teaming up with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. They have had a number of line-up changes and were still actively touring in 2018. Their most popular hit single, “Living Next Door to Alice“, peaked at No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and, in March 1977, reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as going to No. 1 on the Australian singles chart. Other hit singles include “If You Think You Know How to Love Me“, “Oh Carol“, “Lay Back in the Arms of Someone“, and “I’ll Meet You at Midnight“.

On 22 September 1975, Smokie released their second album, Changing All the Time. The first single from the new album, “If You Think You Know How to Love Me“, became a hit in many European countries, peaking at No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. They followed it with “Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me“.

Around this time, Smokey Robinson threatened to file a lawsuit, alleging that the band’s name would confuse the audience. To avoid legal action, the group changed the spelling to “Smokie”. They began their first tour as headline act, after the release of their second album.

The third LP was partly produced in the US, where Nicky Chinn had relocated. Called Midnight Café, it built on the popularity of Changing All the Time. The subsequent years yielded a string of successful singles: “Something’s Been Making Me Blue“, “Wild Wild Angels“, and “I’ll Meet You At Midnight“. Their cover of Australian band New World‘s single, “Living Next Door to Alice“, released in November 1976, reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart, followed by another hit “Lay Back in the Arms of Someone“.[2] Smokie now found themselves European superstars,[2] with sold-out tours and million-selling albums. The next two albums, 1977’s Bright Lights & Back Alleys and The Montreux Album (1978), cemented their status and were both chart successes. From Bright Lights & Back Alleys came two hit singles, the reggae influenced “It’s Your Life” and a cover of “Needles and Pins“.

At the peak of Smokie’s success in 1978, Chris Norman teamed up with Suzi Quatro and released a duet single, “Stumblin’ In” — another Chinnichap composition. Norman and Quatro were on top of the European charts for some time, and it reached the US Top 10, though only No. 41 in the UK. Smokie’s subsequent 45 was “Mexican Girl“. Composed by Norman and Spencer, the record saw the group actively distance itself from Chinnichap. Chris Norman and Pete Spencer wrote and produced the British football star Kevin Keegan‘s first single, “Head Over Heels in Love“, a No. 31 UK hit.

In 1979, the album The Other Side of the Road was released, entirely recorded in Australia. It spawned two more singles for the band, “Do to Me” and “Babe It’s Up to You“, but it became clear that their sales were declining.

Smokie took a hiatus before Solid Ground was released in 1981. The advance single was a cover of Del Shannon‘s 1963 hit, “Little Town Flirt” — but it failed to reach the UK Singles Chart.

Chris Norman and Pete Spencer wrote the song “This Time (We’ll Get It Right)” which, recorded by 1982’s England’s World Cup Squad became a No. 2 hit in the UK Singles Chart.

In 1983, band members Alan Silson, Chris Norman and Terry Uttley collaborated with Agnetha Fältskog, singing together on the track “Once Burned Twice Shy” from her first English language solo album entitled Wrap Your Arms Around Me. The band say it was on the flight to record this song in Sweden that they decided to part ways. Chris Norman began his solo career and Terry Uttley went on to play bass for several other groups including Peter Goalby and John Coghlan (ex Status Quo drummer). The band said, “It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

Though Smokie had begun work on a comeback, in 1986, Norman, by that stage enthused with the relative success of his second solo album, Some Hearts Are Diamonds, announced that he was to leave the band. He was replaced by Alan Barton, formerly of Black Lace, who had been suggested by Chris as a good replacement for the band because of his similar vocal style to Norman’s. Smokie also recruited keyboard player Martin Bullard. Spencer quit and was replaced on drums by Steve Pinnell. The new line-up released All Fired Up in 1988, which brought some attention and contained a new version of “Rock Away Your Tear Drops”, the song that had been the title track to Norman’s debut album.

Several releases followed over the next years including Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1989, seven weeks at No. 1 in Norway;  However, Smokie made a surprise return to the UK Singles Chart in 1995, with a duet with the northern comedian Roy Chubby Brown. The re-worked re-release of “Living Next Door To Alice (Who the F**k is Alice)” reached No. 3 in the UK. The band had noticed that, whilst touring in Ireland, whenever they sang the main line “For 24 years/I’ve been living next door to Alice” the audience would shout “Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?”

Shortly after the song was recorded Smokie’s tour bus careered off the road during a hailstorm in Germany. Barton, badly injured, died after five days in intensive care. The rest of the band and Brown agreed to donate their royalties from the song to Barton’s first wife.

Terry Uttley died on 16 December 2021, at the age of 70. At the time of his death, he was the last remaining original member who was still active with the band

With a changed line-up, they continue to tour.


The first hit I remember is this:
Smokie – If You Think You Know How to Love Me (East Berlin 26.05.1976), Chris Norman on lead vocals, superb song.  I do like the ones you can singalong to.

They followed that up with this:
Smokie – Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me Released in 1975.  This version from (Bratislava 1.05.1983)

Smokie – Something’s Been Making Me Blue (ITN Supersonic 10.01.1976)

Smokie – Intro + I’ll Meet You At Midnight – Live – 1994.  Big hit in 1976.  Alan Barton on lead this time.

Smokie – Lay Back In the Arms Of Someone (ZDF Disco 25.06.1977)

Smokie – It’s Your Life • ToTP 1977

Smokie – Needles And Pins – Live – 1992 – Great cover version, loved the original by The Searchers.

Smokie – For a Few Dollars More (BBC Top of the Pops 19.01.1978)

Smokie – Oh Carol – Live – 1992 – Big hit in 1978.

Cheating a bIt here, but I found this on-line a few years ago and is a permanent feature on my playlist.  Sounds even better when recorded in 2018 that the original from 1978:

Chris Norman – Mexican Girl (One Acoustic Evening) 2018

Smokie – Take Good Care of My Baby (BBC Top of the Pops 24.04.1988) – Simply a great pop tune, first recorded by Bobby Vee (Bobby Vinton), subsequently recorded by several others, including The Beetles!

Smokie – Run To Me – A sad one, but great with good company.

Smokie – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Live – 1992 – Alan Barton on lead vocals, great tune.

I have no doubt this will get posted a few times tonight.  Bit cringeworthy watching Chubby Brown on stage singing the word “bleep”, so this is from an un-edited concert:
Smokie – Who The “F…” Is Alice?  I think they could never perform this on stage without the audience chanting!

One of my all time favourites is this one:

Smokie – Wild Wild Angels – Live – 1992 – RIP Alan Barton

Singalong, enjoy and be happy!

Links to previous Legend articles:

1-Buddy Holly 2-Elvis Presley 3-Everly brothers 4-Cliff Richard 5-Joe Brown
6-Gerry and the Pacemakers 7-Roy Orbison 8-The Seekers 9-The Hollies 10-The Rolling Stones
11-Beach Boys 12-The Monkees 13-Rod Stewart 14-T-Rex 15-Slade
16-10CC 17-Pussycat 18-The Kinks 19-Blondie 20-Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music
21-David Bowie 22-Meatloaf 23-The Temptations 24-Dusty Springfield 25-Fleetwood Mac
26-Gilbert O’Sullivan 27-The Four Tops 28-Chas ‘n’ Dave 29-Diana Ross and The Supremes 30-Status Quo
31-Jim Reeves 32-The Small Faces 33-The Doobie Brothers 34-Manfred Mann 35-Creedence Clearwater Revival
36-Otis Redding 37-Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons 38-Squeeze 39-Duran Duran 40-Dire Straits
41-Chuck Berry 42-Thin Lizzy 43-ABBA 44-Carole King 45-Queen
46-Rod Stewart 47-Madness 48-Showaddywaddy 49-Pet Shop Boys 50-The Moody Blues
51-The Rat Pack 52-Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 53-Kevin (Bloody) Wilson 54-ZZ Top 55-Amy Macdonald
56-Eurythmics 57-Darts

Featured image: “File:Chris Norman detail.jpg” by Michael Panse from Erfurt, Germany is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

© Phil the ex test manager 2022