555. ‘I Got You Babe’, by UB40 with Chrissie Hynde

Every time a reggae chart-topper comes along, I feel duty bound to mention how writing this blog has taught me to finally enjoy the genre… ‘Israelites’, ‘Double Barrel’, ‘Uptown Top Ranking’… All Jamaican gold.

I Got You Babe, by UB40 (their 2nd of three #1s) with Chrissie Hynde (her 1st of two solo #1s)

1 week, from 25th August – 1st September 1985

Sadly, though, the reggae run ends here with this Sonny & Cher cover. I can’t get into this one. It’s very slow and sloping, as most reggae hits are, and that’s fine. We all need to chill out sometimes. But the relaxed pace rubs up against some very jagged edges. The gunshot drums are jarring, for example, as are the synths that dial out the same, repetitive riff.

They say we’re young and we don’t know, Won’t find out until we grow… Interestingly, the original was sitting at #1 exactly twenty years before this version made it. And it’s actually quite surprising how much Chrissie Hynde sounds like Cher. They do have quite similar, deepish voices; but it took them singing the same song for me to realise it. Hynde’s vocals are, for me, the best bit of this record.

UB40 keep the false ending from the original here, but that just reinforces how dull their interpretation is. The I got you babes… that take us through to the end feel unnecessary. The video is similarly underwhelming. It’s a live version of the song, in which the band and their guest singer go from a soundcheck to a showstopping performance, complete with fireworks and cheering fans. It’s not bad, but you do wonder what about this made it a big hit…

Something I also mentioned in my post on Sister Sledge’s ‘Frankie’, which was another retro hit (though a pastiche rather than a straight cover), comes to mind here: I think it would sound better if they hadn’t made it sound so up to date. It’s the modern touches – the synths and the drums – that stick out. And yes, that’s my anti-eighties bias coming out for the umpteenth time, but I can’t help myself!

We last heard from Chrissie Hynde on ‘Brass in Pocket’, this decade’s very first chart-topper. UB40 made #1 a few years afterwards with ‘Red Red Wine’. Both acts have one further #1 to come, but both will have to wait until the nineties are in full swing. Meanwhile, up next we have another all-star duet cover of a sixties classic (and I mean all-star.) But I’m not sure I’ll be calling that one ‘underwhelming’. We’ll see…


201. ‘I Got You Babe’, by Sonny & Cher

In which we meet a guy called Sonny and a gal called Cher. One of whom would go on to become a Republican politician; one of whom wouldn’t. I wonder which one it’ll be…?

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I Got You Babe, by Sonny & Cher (her 1st of four #1s)

2 weeks, from 26th August – 9th September 1965

Before all of that, their debut single. And what a way to get your careers started – with an international chart-topper. A song that’s still well known to this day. Ubiquitous, even. They say we’re young, And we don’t know, Won’t find out until we grow… Y’all know the rest. But, having listened to it several times now, I’m realising that it’s a very difficult record to define. Is it pop? Is it folk? Is it country? Is there a whiff of Phil Spector-esque Wall of Sound in there?

It’s a dense, textured record – lots of bells and tambourines and other slightly unusual sounding instruments that you don’t normally get in a pop song, chiming in along with a slightly droney rhythm. It’s Baroque pop – pop that incorporates classical elements. The Beach Boys, The Walker Brothers and The Beatles were all beginning to experiment with harpsichords and strings. Neither of which feature on ‘I Got You Babe’, though I think you can hear a French horn or two.

It’s a grown-up sounding pop record. A feature of 1965 so far through chart-toppers from The Righteous Brothers, Georgie Fame and so on, a further step away from simple Beat-pop. Except… lyrically, ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ is ultra-simple. They say our love won’t pay the rent, Before it’s earned our money’s all been spent… etc. etc. Culminating in Sonny’s lines in the bridge: I’ve got flowers, In the spring, I’ve got you, To wear my ring… It’s cutesy cutesy and a little hippy dippy. And the ending, where they list all the things that they have one another for – I’ve got you, To hold me tight… and so on, is a bit much.


I have to admit, this has never been a song that I’ve loved. And writing this post hasn’t changed my mind. It’s too cute, too twee. Two teenagers in love, regardless of what the world thinks. Musically, yes, it’s another step forward but the lyrics are eighth-grade Valentine’s card level. And to call them teenagers isn’t strictly correct – Cher was nineteen when this hit the top, whereas Sonny was thirty…

What of Cher? There’s little going on here to suggest that she’s going to become one of the biggest female stars of the late twentieth century. She doesn’t even really sound like Cher yet. No autotune, maybe… The voice does come through in certain lines, though – rey-unt and spey-unt for example. She sounds a bit hesitant, a little shy, though she does deliver her lines in the bridge magnificently – You’re always aro-o-o-ound… and by the end she’s belting it out.

By the time we hear from her next, Cher will be stratospherically famous. But that won’t be for a while. A cover version of ‘I Got You Babe’, by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde, will top the charts before Cher appears there again. Meanwhile, Sonny Bono is the one who will go on to become the Republican politician (give yourself a round of applause if you guessed that right) before dying tragically in a skiing accident in 1998. They divorced as early as 1975, which kind of undermines the message of their only chart-topper together. ‘I Got You (Until We Split Up In a Decade) Babe’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.