Every UK Number One Song: Band Of Gold

payne“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne was number one on 19th September 1970 and stayed there for six weeks only

A very 70s sounding song which although very up beat is also tinged with sadness.


“Band of Gold” is a popular song written by former Motown producers, Holland–Dozier–Holland (under the pseudonym of Edythe Wayne) and Ron Dunbar. It was a major hit when first recorded by Freda Payne in 1970 for the Invictus label, owned by H-D-H. The song has been covered by numerous artists, notably competing 1986 versions by contrasting pop divas Belinda Carlisle and Bonnie Tyler, and a 2007 version by Kimberley Locke.

The legendary songwriting team of Holland–Dozier–Holland used the name Edythe Wayne because of a lawsuit they had with Motown. Ron Dunbar was a staff employee and producer for Invictus. According to Freda Payne, Dunbar actually contributed to the song. When they first offered the song to Freda Payne, she balked at the idea of recording it, finding the material more appropriate for a teenager or very young woman. Payne reluctantly gave in after much persuasion by Dunbar.  Almost immediately following its release, the Payne record became an instant pop smash, reaching number three in the US and number one on the UK singles chart and remaining there for six weeks in September 1970, giving Payne her first gold record.

After Holland/Dozier/Holland left Motown in 1967, they were still in contact with Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers. When Holland/Dozier/Holland started their own recording company, with the intention of self-producing the songs they wrote, they asked the Funk Brothers to play on those songs.

Golden World/Motown session singers Pamela Wilson, Joyce Vincent Wilson, and Telma Hopkins provided the background vocals on the record. Joyce and Telma would later go on to form the group Tony Orlando & Dawn. Also singing in the background is Freda Payne’s sister and future member of the Supremes, Scherrie Payne, who was also signed to Invictus at the time as a member of the Glass House group.

The distinctive electric sitar part is played by New York studio musician Vinnie Bell. Lead guitar on the track is by Ray Parker, Jr.

In 2004, Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” was voted number 391 in Rolling Stone magazine’s listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song tells a story which is open to a number of interpretations – based on the lyrics in the most commonly heard version of the song, which is the seven-inch single, the story is of a recently married woman whose husband is incapable of loving her (even though he tried), resulting in the couple sleeping in separate rooms on their honeymoon, to her dismay. It would appear that the marriage ended in the husband’s abandoning his bride, leaving her with no more than the ‘band of gold’ of the title(and the dreams she invested in it). Controversial allusions to the husband either being impotent or gay have been suggested as the cause of the breakdown of the relationship. Steve Huey’s article on Allmusic.com deciphers the song as being about the man being impotent – “being unable to perform”.

An earlier studio recorded version of the song includes some lyrics which were cut from the seven-inch single, which reveal the story as somewhat different. The couple were young, the girl was either a virgin or sexually inexperienced. She was still living at home (“You took me from the shelter of my mother”), the boy was her first boyfriend (“I had never known or loved any other”), and the relationship was probably unconsummated (“and love me like you tried before”.) The couple rush into marriage and the relationship crashes on the wedding night, when the woman rejects her groom’s advance (“And the night I turned you away” – an allusion that she was frigid), emotionally wounding him, resulting in him leaving her. After the hurt she had caused, they spend their wedding night in separate rooms. She then expresses her regret at her mistake (“And the dream of what love could be, if you were still here with me”).

According to Ron Dunbar, when interviewed in the documentary Band of Gold – The Invictus Story, he encouraged Payne to learn the lyrics to the song despite her reluctance, Payne saying “this makes no sense to me.” Dunbar told her, “you don’t have to like it, just sing it!” Dunbar continues, “I dubbed that tune 25, maybe 30 times just to get enough parts of it that we could edit to get the song.”

Dunbar continued, “They said this song is a smash in the gay community. And I said, gay community? They said, yeah man, it’s a smash. And I says, why is it that? And they said, well it’s what the lyrics are saying. She said the guy couldn’t make love to her so they figured he had to be gay! And I said oh no! And I remembered when they said that to me and I listened back to the song and there was a part in there… because I remembered when we were editing that tune, it was too long, so we had to cut a section out of the tune so the section we cut out of the song really brought the whole song [story] together.”

The lyrics which Dunbar cut in the final edit which he was referring to were made to reduce the length of the single from three minutes 43 seconds down to the final two minutes 53 seconds. These were taken from the first verse – “And the memories of our wedding day, and the night I turned you away” – these were effectively substituted with, “And the memories of what love could be, if you were still here with me”; and a larger bridge – “Each night, I lie awake and I tell myself, the vows we made gave you the right, to have a love each night.” – which is repeated again later in the song, cutting 18 seconds twice over from the song. With further refinements in the arrangements, including a heavier, richer bassline, and a different vocal take, a further 14 seconds were shaved off the final released seven-inch single”


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