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Love Hurts – Nazareth

Became a massive hit in Norway where it spent an amazing 60 weeks in the Top 10!

Love Hurts – Nazareth

Mooncrest MOON 37 (UK) / A&M 1671 (USA) / Mountain NAZ 1* (UK 1977)

Recorded at Escape Studios, Kent, UK

Released December 1974

Writer Boudleaux Bryant

Producer Manny Charlton

USA #8   2/76    UK #15   10/77*

* As lead track of ‘Hot Tracks’ EP 1977

Formed in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1968, Nazareth took their name from the opening line of The Band’s contemporary hit ‘The Weight’ (“I pulled into Nazareth”) and were a rock quartet consisting of Dan McCafferty (vocals), Manuel ‘Manny’ Charlton (guitar), Pete Agnew (bass) and Darrell Sweet (drums). Hardly a Premier League band – they never made a ‘classic’ album and most of their major hits were cover versions – they fall into the First Division of rock, their main legacy being their cover of ‘Love Hurts’, perhaps the first major ‘power-ballad’ hit, and a hit more by accident than design. Nazareth’s eponymous first album was released in 1971 and while they gradually built a solid live reputation, they didn’t score a hit until their third album Razamanaz, in 1973, which gave them two self-composed UK Top 10 hits, ‘Broken Down Angel’ and ‘Bad Bad Boy’. From a straight rock band, they became ‘heavier’ as time went by, though the remainder of their major hits would be covers rather than originals, most of their original material apparently lacking hit potential. (Nazareth’s albums usually consisted of 90% originals and a pair of covers – with the exception of Razamanaz, it was the covers that tended to be hits)

From the next album Loud ‘N’ Proud came a surprise hit with an intelligent, driving and unlikely reconstruction of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’ (from her classic 1971 album Blue), in this author’s opinion, the group’s finest moment. Nazareth’s second album Exercises was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, later to have a highly successful production seat with Queen, while Razzamanaz, Loud ‘N’ Proud and the band’s fifth album Rampant (1974) were produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. Following this, Dan McCafferty took over production duties, and before the next album was recorded (and perhaps because Rampant had produced no significant hits) the band decided to knock off a quick cover of ‘Love Hurts’. Apparently the recording was made for less than £300 at a small residential studio on a farm in the Kent countryside. According to studio engineer Tony Taverner, the basic track to ‘Love Hurts’ was thrown together while they were messing around in the studio after a refreshing trip to the local pub! McCafferty says, “That bloody song has been about and around us for years. We used to play it in pubs when we were all much younger. We’d do it fooling around in the dressing rooms as a warm-up. Then we heard Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons do it. We tried it in the studio and it worked.” As McCafferty points out, ‘Love Hurts’ was of course no new song when Nazareth recorded it in 1974, but they do seem to have made the definitive version, quite by chance.

First recorded by the Everly Brothers in Nashville on July 13th 1960 (and composed by Boudleaux Bryant, who together with his wife Felice wrote numerous Everly’s hits), ‘Love Hurts’ appeared on their December 1960 album A Date With The Everly Brothers but perhaps became better known as the B-side of Roy Orbison’s 1961 hit ‘Running Scared’. Orbison’s version doesn’t really do justice to the song, a mid-tempo ballad that doesn’t really go anywhere and lacks his usual passion – he’d presumably saved that for the stunning bolero-structured A-side. Both were recorded at the same February 27th 1961 session in Nashville. Other covers have been made by Don McLean, Rod Stewart, Jennifer Warnes, Paul Young, Pat Boone (on his unusual album In A Metal Mood), Kim Carnes and Sinead O’Connor, not forgetting Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris whose version appeared on Parson’s posthumous 1974 album Grievous Angel and was the immediate inspiration for Nazareth’s cover.

Released in the UK as a single in December 1974, ‘Love Hurts’ made no impact whatsoever – however, in mainland Europe and Scandinavia it was quite a different story. ‘Love Hurts’ became a massive hit, particularly in Norway where it entered the charts in February 1975, climbed to Number 1 in June, spent 14 weeks at the top and an amazing 60 weeks in the Norwegian Top 10! This success ultimately filtered across to America where the song hit the charts in January 1976, rising to Number 8 and becoming their only US Top 40 hit. Since it wasn’t a UK hit at the time, ‘Love Hurts’, recorded as a one-off single, didn’t appear on the UK version of Nazareth’s next album, Hair Of the Dog (1975), however it was added to the American version. Shortly after Hair Of The Dog was released in April 1975, the band recorded another one-off single which became a hit – a cover of the Tomorrow 1967 psych-classic ‘My White Bicycle’. This was perhaps recorded in anticipation of a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection which came out in Britain later in 1975 – a re-sequenced version of this was released in America as Hot Tracks in 1976.

It’s something of a mystery that ‘Love Hurts’ didn’t chart in the UK when first released, though it did finally make the UK Top 20 as the lead track of the ‘Hot Tracks’ EP in 1977. Perhaps because the song had become so popular in Europe, Jim Capaldi was able to score a UK Number 4 in November 1975 with a decidedly poppy version while Cher also scored a small hit with it in 1991. Cher has actually recorded the song twice, the first time on her album Stars in 1975, produced by Jimmy Webb. Nazareth’s recording, however, remains the definitive international hit version – it also reached Number 1 in Canada, South Africa and Holland and is actually the only version of the song that has charted in America. Following this mid-1970s success, Nazareth’s popularity in Britain and America waned somewhat (at least from a chart perspective) though they remained a hugely popular act in Europe and Scandinavia and scored a major European hit in 1982 with the group-composed power-ballad ‘Dream On’.

A version of ‘Love Hurts’ with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra was also small hit for the band in Germany in 1992. In 1999, original drummer Darrell Sweet died of a heart attack while the group were on tour in America. Bassist Pete Agnew’s son Lee has since taken over as drummer. Nazareth, in various forms, but always with Dan McCafferty up front continued to tour and record until the singer was forced to retire from touring due to bad health in 2013 – his place taken by Scottish vocalist Linton Osborne. As of 2014 the only remaining original member was bassist Pete Agnew, though their latest album release, Rock’n’Roll Telephone (June 2014), features lead vocals by McCafferty while their main market now appears to be Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (As of January 2015 the band was somewhat in limbo, cancelling several shows after Osborne was struck by a virus and announced his departure from the band) But good news folks! Former Krokus vocalist Carl Sentance signed up in the Spring of 2015 and the band continues to tour. Regarding recent activities, an early 2017 post on the band’s Facebook page reveals: ‘As you all know, we finished 2016 touring in Russia’s Far East where the temperature was -28C (on a good day!) So just for a change, we started 2017 playing on the deck of a cruise ship in the Caribbean where the temperature was +28C.’

Copyright © 2017 SongStories/Tony Burton

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