How I wrote ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ by The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins
Inspired by his dad’s love of cars, The Darkness frontman hit the overdrive button to launch his rock band’s career
When The Darkness arrived in 2003 it was as if a huge rock monster had been dragged from the depths of the ocean floor to remind us all that music should be bombastic, bold and bring a smile to your face. Their debut album, Permission To Land, was packed with virtuoso guitar riffs and the vocal gymnastics of jumpsuited frontman Justin Hawkins. An instant star, his charisma was somehow matched by the melody which underpinned their tunes.
I Believe In A Thing Called Love epitomised everything that The Darkness stood for. A joyful marriage of ridiculousness and memorable music, it was glam rock turned up to 11, with Hawkins’ falsetto reaching glass-shattering highs. That it was pipped to the top spot by Black Eyed Peas’ Where Is The Love is one of the great injustices of those times, while also providing the perfect example of just how different the Lowestoft four-piece were to the rest of the musical landscape at that time.
Here, Hawkins tells us a later more about the birth of this beast of a song…
“We were at Dan [Hawkins] and Frankie’s [Poullain] flat in Primrose Hill and were about to go out to the pub, exasperated after hours and hours of trying to write something good, and I just came out with the riff. I had no idea what I was going to do after that and just followed my fingers around the frets. It was such a preposterous riff that it made everyone in the room laugh. Once we got playing it I just sang along to it and the verse was there.
“The very first thing that I said when I opened my mouth was all that steering wheel stuff. I was thinking about an old car that my dad had restored which had an overdrive button that made it go a little bit faster or put more fuel into it. It wasn’t supposed to be about guitar distortion, it was more a button on the dashboard of love. It was one for the petrol heads. Then I really enjoyed pairing ‘feelings’ with ‘feel,’ I just thought that was a really fun way of saying it.
“We got to that point and I remember Dan came up with the pre-choruses and then the chorus was another riff that I came up with, not caring really. It’s not the kind of riff that you can write if you’re trying to write a riff, you just feel it out and allow the dandelion seeds of the song to fall on your face. One false move and it flies away again.
“I remember singing the chorus and Dan saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes I can, watch this,’ and carried on singing it until it became a really memorable chorus. Dan is really good at adding little bits and connecting stuff to make it all gel together but really it wasn’t a song that we tried to write, it wrote itself…
Interview: Duncan Haskell