‘Why don’t we just write the stupidest song ever?’ How the Darkness made I Believe in a Thing Called Love

‘The crab in the music video was a reference to when you’ve taken lots of cocaine and your eyes are on stalks. We’ve always had an affinity with sea creatures – we’re from Lowestoft’

Dan Hawkins, guitarist

I can’t remember who said it but we were having a conversation along the lines of: “Why don’t we just write the stupidest song ever?” It was probably Justin, my brother, who came up with the first riff: he and Frankie were sparring with that ridiculous chorus line very early on. I came up with the bridge and the back end of the chorus and tried to put it into some sort of semblance of a song. We took that arrangement into a dingy rehearsal room a few days later. I expected us all to feel embarrassed playing it. But everyone was singing along to the chorus the second time it came around. We looked at each other and thought: “This is it. It’s staying.” I was like: “Oh fuck. It’s staying.”

The arrangement is super-tight. It’s almost signposted – you know where it’s going the moment it starts. You know what it’s all about. A lot of the best songs are like that. I spent a long time in the studio getting the perfect tempo, making sure the drums were absolutely spot-on. The crab that features in the music video meant something to the band. It was a reference to when you’ve taken lots of cocaine and your eyes are basically on stalks. It has appeared on numerous occasions throughout our career. We’ve always had an affinity with sea creatures, possibly because we’re from Lowestoft in Suffolk.

We arrived in Canada to start a tour of the Americas, months after our album Permission to Land had been released. It had gone back to No 1. We never considered ourselves a singles band, which was why that song was a problem for me in the first place. For me, the Darkness was about albums and being an incredible rock band. I wasn’t bothered about being popular.

To record it, I probably played it 200 times. And since then, I’d say the total is pushing 4,000. Every tour we did, we’d soundcheck with it as well. Three times a day, five times a week. What’s surprising is how big it is internationally. We played that song to 400,000 people at a free festival in Poland and every single one of them was going crazy and singing it back to us. We played to a full stadium supporting Lady Gaga in 2011 in São Paolo and it was the same. It’s like that wherever we go. Everything about the song pushes positivity. It just feels great to play.

Justin Hawkins, lead singer, guitarist

We didn’t labour over it. We didn’t toil and look for the ultimate riff. I was just following my fingers, really. I think we were sitting at what we used to call the Table of Truth: it was a round wooden table in the flat where Frankie [bass-player] and Dan [guitarist] lived. Things that are cartoonish and ridiculous – that’s my raison d’être. The ridiculous things that the Darkness do are tempered by Dan’s actual good taste. For me to be turned on, it’s got to have something in it that makes him go: “You can’t do that.”

I was almost on a pathological quest to put “love” in every single song. Bands were afraid to actually talk about love. But the huge songs, the ones that really get you in the heart, they’re actually talking about it and they’re using the word “love”. I’m always in love, that’s the reality. It’s one of the first and most abiding addictions of my life.

I remember when we rehearsed the song, our manager came down and just said: “That’s a hit, that is.” This was news to us. We recorded it in 2001 – the lead vocal was recorded on 11 September, the day of the 9/11 attacks. We played it with Robbie Williams at Knebworth a few summers later. It really was like: “Shit! Now we’re famous.”

My goal has always been to get every pair of hands in the air. And often that was the case. We’ve seen a lot of hands in a lot of different airspace. Every time we play it, the place kicks off and I feel relief because I can play it on autopilot. Even now, people sing it at me in the street. I’ll never have anything but abiding affection for that song.


Interviews by Ralph Jones

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