Each month in “The Story Behind,” I’ll explore the history of a well-known Top 40 hit based on interviews I’ve conducted with individuals who performed some of the most familiar pop hits of the 1960s and ’70s. This month, I’ll look at the Foundations’ “Baby, Now that I’ve Found You.”
For an English group, the Foundations were surprisingly soul-based and Motown-like, especially considering that the majority of the most popular British groups during the late 1960s had an edgier rock sound. The group’s multi-national and multi-racial makeup also contributed to their uniqueness, and in addition to lead singer Clem Curtis, who was from Trinidad, there were two Jamaicans, a Dominican, and a mix of Brits. This diverse group made up the Foundations, and in 1967, they started off playing the club circuit in London.
The group eventually came to the attention of Tony Macaulay, the producer and songwriter, who had not yet become the hot property he would be in the 1970s after writing a string of top hits such as the 5th Dimension’s “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up on Us Baby,” Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” and many others.
But Macaulay was a rising star, and he was asked to work with the up-and-coming Foundations. When Macaulay originally heard the group he thought they were terrible, but because he had a hangover, he believed maybe it was more his head than his ears that didn’t like their sound. Reluctantly, Macaulay agreed to write for the group.
According to frontman Curtis, “At first there were two songs offered to us, ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’ and ‘Let the Heartaches Begin.’ We chose ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’ because I didn’t think I could sing ‘Let the Heartaches Begin’ as well. ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’ just seemed to be a much better song for me, so we went with it.”
It was a good choice, and though initial sales were sluggish, eventually the record took off, benefitting from the English soul boom and interest in the Motown sound. Consequently, “Baby” raced to #11 in the US and #1 on the UK charts, although Curtis admits that while he liked the song, “I really had no idea it would be such a success.” (Interestingly enough, the song the group refused, “Let the Heartaches Begin,” would also hit #1 in England, but for Long John Baldry.)
As the first British band with a major soul hit, the Foundations were big, and they quickly cut an album and released a follow-up single, “Back on My Feet Again,” which made #18 in the UK but unfortunately didn’t break the Top 50 in the US.
But things weren’t going well within the group. Macaulay, who, despite the success of their first single, admittedly didn’t like the group any better now that he didn’t have a hangover, was trying to push their output in favor of a more pop-oriented sound, and Curtis was opposed to that. Even though the Foundations were just getting started, Curtis was having doubts about whether or not he had a future with the group.
As a result, Curtis said he came to the conclusion that maybe he needed to go out on his own. Encouragement came from an unlikely source: American singer Sammy Davis Jr. “Sammy recommended that I come to the United States because he felt I would be a draw there” and because he believed Curtis had the potential to be a huge solo act. Curtis decided it was time, but “just as I was about to leave the group,” Macaulay told them he had written another song he wanted them to record.
It wasn’t enough to make Curtis stay, however, but even as he left he sensed the song might be another big one. “It’s true I had nothing to do with the song at the time, and then I realized I really liked it,” he said. That song was “Build Me Up, Buttercup.”
It’s rare that a group with several hit records can flourish after the departure of their lead singer, but somehow, the Foundations managed. A new singer, Colin Young, sang lead on “Buttercup,” and it went to #2 in the UK and to #3 in the US in 1969, and the Foundations were back on top once again. Their next single was another Macaulay-penned song, “In the Bad, Bad Old Days,” which was a UK Top 10 hit, but inexplicably it went only to #51 in the US.
After that, Macaulay finally parted ways with the group and the Foundations started recording songs by other writers, but the magic was gone. Eventually, the group broke up, but in the years since then, both “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “Build Me Up, Buttercup” have become classics. Curtis said “’Baby, Now that I’ve Found You’ is still a crowd pleaser, a song that is fun to do,” and one he performed “because everyone in my age group and young people like hearing it too.”
Although Curtis sang on only one of the group’s two biggest hits in the US, he left a lasting legacy. “I’ve sung these songs all over the world, and those recordings have brought me a lot of happiness over the years.”
Note: As been the case far too often as of late, the individual I interviewed for this column recently passed away. Clem Curtis died in March 2017.