Everything – The Real Thing Story review: legends of black British pop

This unadventurous documentary nevertheless takes the time to uncover the foundations of a landmark in UK pop culture: the first UK number one by a black British vocal group, in the midst of the summer of punk.

Sam Davies

Everything – The Real Thing Story (2019)

Simon Sheridan’s Everything: The Real Thing Story, starts with a nice contrast: 1976’s scorching summer of punk, through which floats The Real Thing’s You to Me Are Everything, a perfectly crafted piece of bubblegum soul. In among the well-worn clichés about punks, heatwaves and jubilees, argues Sheridan, we’ve lost the fact that that summer saw the first number-one hit by a black British vocal group. From there it jumps back to the quartet’s roots in Liverpool, and The Chants, a short-lived doowop group with influential fans in The Beatles, who even backed them at the Cavern Club.

The Real Thing took shape gradually in the early 1970s around the core of the Amoo brothers, Eddy and Chris. Huge pop success led to a mild identity crisis, and The Real Thing made their second album, 4 from 8, a tougher, socially conscious concept album in the mode of Marvin Gaye or Billy Paul, baffling sections of their pop fanbase. Flitting between trying to repeat the success of You to Me and wanting to move on from it decisively, The Real Thing found their career steadily ebbing away until the mid-1980s, when the vogue for remixing saw their biggest singles resurrected in virtually the same sequence – but this time with shoulder pads.

Sheridan’s approach to documentary form is entirely conventional (talking heads, band interviews, archive clips) to the point of anonymity. But taking You to Me as the tip of an iceberg, he does a diligent job of surveying what’s of interest under the surface, and gives the problems of race and integration in particular their due.


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