I’ll tell you this, folks: the mid-seventies was the era of The Intro (note the caps). Remember back in the pre-rock days, when almost every #1 started with a ridiculous swirl of strings and a clash of cymbals? Well, these days, disco and soul have taken the same technique and turned it into something much catchier, much cooler.
Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love), by The Stylistics (their 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 10th – 31st August 1975
I had it in my mind that this would be a glossy, sultry ballad. Not a bit of it. It is sweeping, grandiose, and a complete and utter foot-tapper. A hip-shaker. A shoulder-shimmyer. A few months ago the top of the charts were very disco-soul heavy, as Barry White, Carl Douglas and The Tymes followed one another to the summit. It’s been a more eclectic start to the year, but The Stylistics finally have us back on the dancefloor.
I can’t give you anything, But my love, But my love…. It’s a simple enough premise: the singer can’t afford much at all – no diamonds, no pearls, no chauffeured limousines. But my devotion I will give, All my love just to you girl… For as long as I live… All the while the horns parp, almost taking the role of a second lead-singer, and the strings go wild in the background. It’s completely OTT, but completely wonderful – a song that has complete confidence in where it is going from the very first note.
It’s always a sign of a good song if you find yourself singing along before the first listen has ended. That’s what happened with me here. The lead singer, Russell Thompkins Jr., has an excellent falsetto, especially when he extends the final ‘I’ in the title to an ‘I-I’. It’s tiny details like that which make a good record great.
The Stylistics were a five-piece vocal group from – you guessed it – Philadelphia. They were regulars in the Top 10 both before and after their sole UK #1 single. And I was probably right to expect a ballad here, as most of their other hits were much slower and sultrier. On ‘Can’t Give You Anything’, though, they let loose and scored their biggest British hit. A lesson for us all! They were recording albums up until the nineties, and are still touring and performing to this day, with a couple of line-up changes (including Thompkins Jr., who left in 2000). Anyway, a song like this doesn’t need me to waffle on about it. Press play below and let the music speak for itself. The soul train is up and running once more…
Listen to every #1 thus far, here: