|"Couldn't Get It Right"|
|Single by Climax Blues Band|
|from the album Gold Plated|
|"Varied by country - see #B-sides"|
October 1976 (UK)|
February 1977 (USA)
|Format||Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM, Single|
|Genre||Blues rock, soft rock, funk rock|
|Pete Haycock, Colin Cooper, Fred Jones, Derek Holt, John Cuffley|
Climax Blues Band|
Mike Vernon (B-sides)
"Couldn't Get It Right" is a 1976 song by the Climax Blues Band. The song was written after the band's label told them that their 1976 album Gold Plated lacked a standout track and asked them to "try and write a hit". They then wrote it, in the words of its bassist Derek Holt, "from absolutely nowhere" and it hit #10 on the UK Singles Chart. Later on that year, the song was picked up by Sire Records and the following year it made #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that year, the song was ranked #32 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1977.
The song was recorded for their eighth studio album, Gold Plated, which was named after Pete Haycock's Veleno guitar and produced by Mike Vernon. The song was specifically written and produced after the manager of the band, Miles Copeland III, demanded that the band append a radio-friendly song to the track listing. The band at the time had released eight albums and although that had translated into fame, they did not have a great impact on the charts. Copeland suggested a cover version of an Elvis Presley song; this suggestion was ignored, and instead the band came up with an original composition "from absolutely nowhere". It was simply a case of sitting in the studio, conjuring up a rhythm, appending the traditional dual vocals for which Climax Blues Band were known for, and coming up with a couple of hooks. The sudden emergence of the song irritated the producer, as he thought the band had been withholding a hit from him.
In an interview with Songfacts, Derek Holt explained that the song was "just a lucky moment in time", and that it is about being on the road in America. The chorus "kept on looking for a sign in the middle of the night" referred to searches for Holiday Inn signs, the sight of which meant that beds had been found for the night. When the band's career first started in America, they used to fly everywhere, in some cases involving up to three flights just to get to one place. Their itineraries meant that getting to any one place was difficult and involved arriving in a town, getting into a car, getting to the gig just in time to perform the sound check, performing the gig, re-entering the car and then looking for a bed. The final few years of the band's life were easier as they switched to using tour buses. This enabled them to leave the gig, enter the bus, get a bed, drive extended distances (in Holt's words, "1,000 miles or whatever") and turn up at the next gig refreshed. The saxophonist Colin Cooper sang the baritone lead on this song, with the bassist Derek Holt, guitarist Pete Haycock and drummer John Cuffley singing harmony.
While in most markets "Couldn't Get It Right" was released with "Fat Maybellene" as the B-side (although it did not appear on the album), in the United States and Canada the song was backed with album track "Sav'ry Gravy". Both tracks were produced by album producer Mike Vernon.
In an obituary for band member Pete Haycock, the Independent said that the song "transcended the clichés of the road-song genre and incorporated several of their trademarks, including the vocal harmonies of Haycock and Holt behind Cooper's lead, and Haycock's guitar being played in unison with Cooper's saxophone, to create a concise gem of a single equal to the best work of the Doobie Brothers or Ace."
The song was originally released by RCA Records in early 1976. Although the song did not make the UK Singles Chart until October 1976 it did manage to crack the top ten, entering at #47 and departing from #18 in early December 1976, having been at positions #10 and #11 the weeks before. It reached #8 in Canada and #29 in New Zealand.
Later on that year, the song was picked up by Sire Records and the following year it made #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Later that year, the song was ranked #32 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1977.
Fun Lovin' Criminals covered this on their 1999 album Mimosa. For the Mimosa tour, a short film was created which ended with this cover version. Later on that year, Climax Blues Band's Colin Cooper met the Fun Lovin' Criminals' lead singer Huey Morgan, who invited Cooper and his wife backstage for one of his cocktails. It was the record that Morgan had grown up with, as it spent its American release jamming up the New York radio stations. In addition, Stockholm Syndrome recorded it on their 2004 album Holy Happy Hour.
Episode 7 of Top Gear series 10, in which the presenters put three 1970s British cars through their paces to commemorate British Leyland's 40th anniversary, used the song when James May played it on the radio of his 1978 Leyland Princess while on his way to Cowley.
In 1987, the song gave its name to a hits package. Whilst commended for being "near-definitive", it was blasted by reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine as it omitted everything earlier than 1974, which he described as being "the closest they ever got to the blues".
The adultery website Ashley Madison did a parody of the song for one of their commercials in 2014. It was the most complained about commercial that year with the Advertising Standards Bureau in Australia.