YOU’LL certainly know their songs, you’ll probably have heard of the band and you may even be able to name some of its members.

But it’s unlikely you’ll know the full story behind the rise of The Real Thing.

However, a new documentary about the pioneering UK soul band – titled ‘Everything’ – is about to put that right as they mark 50 years in the business.

The film charts the band’s ascent from its roots in Liverpool through to mainstream chart success – with hits like You To Me Are Everything, Can’t Get By Without You and Can You Feel The Force? – right up to the present day.

And North-East film fans are in for a treat when founder members Chris Amoo and Dave Smith appear on stage with director Simon Sheridan at Darlington Film Club to answer questions about their lives and careers, following a screening of the documentary.

Chris’s association with The Real Thing stretches back to when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy in Toxteth, Liverpool.

“Dave and I were at school when we started the band,” he says.

“We were listening to all the Motown and soul records around at the time – we used to sing along to them in our living room. We just kept singing along, learning how to harmonise.”

They hooked up with experienced club singer Kenny Davis and Ray Lake, after which the band started to get “more serious” and their sound started to develop.

Their professional careers really took off after appearing on – and winning – TV talent show Opportunity Knocks.

But despite credibility and respect among their peers, a hit record eluded them. That all changed in 1976 when they became the first all-black British band to have a number one. And what a song – You To Me Are Everything, which has gone on to be one of the most played songs in UK music history.

“It changed our lives,” says Chris. “Every single artist, no matter who you are, dreams of getting a number one – nobody will tell you any different.

“When you pick up a guitar or play the drums or start to write a song, that’s what you dream of – and we realised our dream.”

Describing the song as “a classic", he adds: “Most songs are great for the moment and then get forgotten. Songs like You To Me Are Everything and Can’t Get By Without You stand the test of time and go across the generations.”

The Northern Echo:

Chris Amoo and Dave Smith, founder members of The Real Thing

More hits followed, but Chris says his proudest achievement is the landmark song Children of the Ghetto, written with his late brother and former band member Eddie Amoo.

The song, about the rundown Toxteth neighbourhood where they grew up, has a real social message. “We are the lyrics,” says Chris in the documentary of the track which has gone on to be covered by many international artists including Mary J Blige, Philip Bailey and Courtney Pine.

“Where we grew up had a great bearing on our whole careers and where we are now,” says Chris. “We’re very proud of where we were born and brought up.

“A lot of the material that we went on to write was inspired by that – I think that’s true for everybody in the business.

“Children of the Ghetto was very inspired by where we were born and brought up – which we are very very proud of.”

After decades of playing and touring, the band was approached at a gig three years ago by filmmaker and Real Thing fan Simon Sheridan.

“He asked us if we’d mind if he did this documentary, says Chris. “We didn’t really take it seriously at first, but when Simon started coming up with all this footage, really good archive stuff, we realised it was a serious project.

“We agreed to it on the terms that it wasn’t just a pop documentary – it had to be an in-depth true account of our career from when we started, right up until now.”

Chris describes the film as “a history of the trials and tribulations of the band”, which has included tragedies like the death of Ray Lake, disagreements with record companies and mistakes they have made.

“It’s got some highly amusing parts as well,” Chris is quick to add. “People will have no idea about a lot of the stuff that’s in the film. There’s a hell of a lot of old archive footage of the band before we had hits – things that we’d forgotten about and there were a lot of things we discovered about ourselves.

“It’s fantastic, it really is. It’s quite an amazing documentary.”

And The Real Thing’s story is not yet finished. To celebrate the bands 50th anniversary next year, a new Best Of album is being released as well as a previously-unreleased track ‘Someone Oughta Write a Song (About You Baby)’.

The Northern Echo:

Someone Oughta Write a Song (About You Baby) is The Real Thing's new single

Chris says he loves what he does and it’s that which keeps him going.

“The pride is not so much in being the first to do anything or being the longest running – the pride is just in making it in the first place, he says.

“We were just four guys from the ghetto in Liverpool and we made it - that’s the pride.”

Chris is no stranger to Darlington.

He is also a dog breeder and judge at shows, including Crufts, and has had success at Darlington Dog Show – one of the biggest in the country – with his Afghan Hounds.

The Northern Echo:

Chris Amoo, appearing at Darlington Dog Show in the 1980s

Chris will be taking questions from the audience on any aspect of his life and career when he appears at Darlington Film Club next month.

* Everything, the Real Thing documentary and live Q&A is hosted by Darlington Film Club at The Forum Music Centre, Borough Road, on Sunday, January 19 from 5pm. Tickets are £15, more details on the Darlington Film Club Facebook page.