Session vocalist Tina Charles was no stranger to music by the time she partnered with Martin Jay in 5000 Volts, in 1975, to score the international hit "I'm on Fire." Charles and Jay already had some time together under their belts in the little-remembered band Northern Lights, while she also released a string of unsuccessful singles for CBS during 1969-1970: "Nothing in the World," "In the Middle of the Day," "Good to Be Alive," and "Bo-Bo's Party." Another early outfit, Wild Honey, cut a brace of 45s for Gordon Mills' MAM label during 1971-1972. Solo again by 1974, Charles signed with Bell and released "One Broken Heart for Sale," while also working as a vocalist for the Top of the Pops series of hit cover albums; she appears on around a dozen volumes in the redoubtable series, recorded between 1973-1975.
In 1975, Charles reunited with her old Northern Lights partner Martin Jay as Airbus. When their debut single "Bye Love" was flipped by their UK imprint Philips (who also christened them the more electrifying 5000 Volts), the B-side "I'm on Fire" became a major worldwide hit. More importantly, it brought her to the attention of the singularly named, and fast-rising disco producer Biddu.
Having already struck disco gold with Carl Douglas' massive hit, "Kung Fu Fighting," Biddu approached Charles and had her cut the solo single "You Set My Heart on Fire." Released on CBS (her permanent home through the 1970s), the single didn't do anything in the charts; undeterred, they promptly rebounded with the monumental disco anthem "I Love to Love (But My Baby Just Loves to Dance)." Reaching number one on the UK singles charts in February 1976, the track also emerged a minor hit in the US, where it fared better in the discos than in the mainstream slipstream. With Biddu working magically behind the scenes, Charles brought yet another single, "Love Me Like a Lover," into the U.K. charts that year. Backed by a band that included future Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, Charles released her first LP that summer. Dance Lady Dance brought a further two singles into the Top Ten at the end of 1976, the number six hit "Dance Little Lady Dance" and the number four smash "Dr Love." In total, Charles spent a remarkable 42 weeks on the UK chart in 1976 alone.
The following year was just as fruitful -- she recorded two more LPs, Rendezvous and Heart 'N Soul, and three of her singles were chart smashes: "Rendezvous"; a medley of "Love Bug" and the oldie "Sweets for My Sweet" hit in 1977; but the most notable was the following year's cover of fellow-Biddu stablemate Jimmy James' hit "I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me." Charles' star, though, appeared to be on the decline as disco gave way to a different kind of hedonism all together. Despite continuing to release singles during 1978, she began sinking from sight. A 1980 LP, Just One Smile, also failed to make any mark whatsoever. Charles returned to the British charts just one more time, with a 1986 remix of "I Love to Love." ~ Amy Hanson
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