I can remember very precisely the moment that I first heard this next number one, playing on our car radio when I was about fourteen. I remember it so specifically because when the DJ announced that he was about to play The Equals, my mum thought he had said The Eagles.
Baby Come Back, by The Equals (their 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th July 1968
She then spent a very confused three minutes wondering why she had never heard this Eagles’ song before, and how she had managed to miss out on the band’s short-lived reggae phase. My mum can be quite dramatic when confused. Anyway… This is definitely not The Eagles. It’s The Equals, with ‘Baby Come Back.’ And we do welcome reggae to the top of the British singles charts!
Except, is this really reggae? Or is it rock? Reggae-rock? Or am I just assuming it’s some kind of reggae because it’s sung with a Jamaican-sounding accent? The opening, cut-glass riff is very rock, while the bouncy rhythm is – to my ears at least – quite reggae. Ding-ding-dinding-dung-ding! It’s a great intro, and it’s probably the best thing about the entire record.
Not that it’s a bad song other than that. It’s simple enough – a song in which a man implores a woman to not leave him. Come back baby don’t you leave me, Baby baby please don’t go… he sings. Come back, I said baby come back… goes the chorus. It all sounds very heartfelt until you listen carefully to the second verse, and notice that he admits to flirting around behind her back.
The Equals were a London-based band cut from the same interracial cloth as The Foundations. They had two white and three black members, the foremost of which was one Eddy Grant! I knew of him as an eighties star – he’ll feature again on the countdown in around fourteen years – but had no idea he was around in the sixties, until today. And he doesn’t have a Jamaican accent, as I suggested above – he’s originally from Guyana, in South America.
This is a fun record, one that bounces along and stays buried in your head for a while after. I like the asides as the band build towards each chorus – Hey! (Alright!) – and the free-styling towards the end, especially when one member shouts out Rude Boy! It might have stood out as even more new and refreshing, had the chart-toppers of 1968 not already been so bloody strange…
The Equals had been releasing singles since 1966 – ‘Baby Come Back’ had been released once already and done nothing. They would have a couple more Top 10s following this; but ‘Baby Come Back’ was their biggest hit by far. Not only will we meet Eddy Grant again in this countdown, but this song will top the charts again in a very different-sounding nineties version. Much more for another day, then.
I really struggled to find the original recording of this disc. YouTube has it – I think – and you can listen to it below. Spotify has every re-recording under the sun but not, as far as I’m aware, the original. Which is of no concern to anyone but me, as it has spoiled the perfection of my UK #1s Blog Playlist…
Follow my playlist below, with (almost) all the original versions of the 252 #1s encountered so far: