However, Renee and Renato’s surprise hit, which topped the charts 40 years ago, sold a million and saw its stars gain fans and meet Michael Jackson.
Parodied around the world for years, singer Hilary, Renee, didn’t even want to be named on the single at the time.
Today she laughs at the amazing success of the song, its impact on the love lives of so many people and how she starred alongside 5ft 5in Italian waiter Renato Pagliari, who was from the West Midlands.
Hilary also reveals that she was initially paid only £100 and recalls that she didn’t even appear in the made-to-collect video.
Then, at 22, she ended up touring the world for three years with Renato, but she joked that the allure of sex, drugs and rock and roll was a world away from her travels.
Hilary revealed: “At the time, Save Your Love was thought to be cheesy and even I didn’t want to be a part of it.
“I’m blown away by how many people remember it 40 years later. It’s even gained a bit of a cult status, where people feel like it wasn’t that bad.”
“Now it is fashionable not to dislike anymore. I’m glad she touched people’s hearts, even though it wasn’t my thing.
“I’m prouder now in retrospect than at the time it happened.
“You don’t get to choose how your 15 minutes of fame comes. I’ve still had a Christmas number one, and very few great artists have.”
The song sold over a million, but was soon parodied and mocked on TV shows like Kenny Everett. “I wasn’t offended at all,” Hilary says. “I took that as the highest compliment. It’s lovely when something is considered so significant that it’s worth parodying.”
Recalling how her life changed, Hilary, now 62, said the couple traveled the world and even crossed paths with Michael Jackson. But they were far from the stereotypical rock stars.
She said: “I spent a lot more time at Stringfellows before and after my hit. But we weren’t sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
“We worked with Freddie Starr on a show in Jersey and I remember customs checking all the performers’ bags.
“But they said ‘it’s Renee and Renato, let them go’. No one ever looked at us. I was only 22, at least you could think I’m guilty of something!”
he was soon parodied and mocked on TV shows
About the song, she continued, “People took it to heart, fans wrote letters, drew pictures and cards saying how much it meant to them. It’s lovely stuff. That’s why I won’t be misleading about the song.”
“Just because it’s not my kind of song doesn’t mean it doesn’t have meaning to people. It’s nice to think that we touched people’s hearts one day, one week, or 40 years later.”
Young singer Hilary was on a mission to be in the next Bananarama, in the rising girl group The Cover Girls, when she accepted a session gig for Renato on their ballad. Label boss Johnny Edward replaced Hilary with a blonde model in the video shoot.
“There was a big mystery about who the real Renee was and a PR frenzy. Once they found out my name, the press camped out at my house. That helped push the record along, as did Terry Wogan who always played it.
“It became imperative that they not see me, and we carried through with that until I made my debut in January with Renee on the Live At Her Majesty television show.”
Hilary signed an international sales royalty contract and toured with Renato, who had previously risen to fame on the ITV talent show New Faces in 1975.
And no matter where they went, they all asked the same question.
“They asked us all the time if we were a couple. I was 22 years old and he was 42, married with two children, and I’m not rude to Renato, but would it be the fantasy of a 22-year-old girl? We had a ball, but he saw me as a child. Women fell at Renato’s feet, believe me, but they were between 30 and 40 years old. His behavior was always exemplary.”
Even today, its success looms over her, she said, revealing: “About 10 months ago I was watching EastEnders and Save Your Love was playing in the background. I can’t believe anyone thought of using it in today’s scenes. It shows up in the most places.” strangers and it takes me by surprise.
Hilary eventually married a concert lighting designer, had a son, and then retired from show business, now raising guide dogs in Warwickshire.
She said: “By 1985 we had done three years on the road and to be honest I’m a home bird. I never saw my flat.”
“Renato was always going to continue, but I felt like the act had run its course and I was happy to call it quits. We had a ball, but I had to go out and spread my wings, I needed to be stupid with my teammates.”
Renato, who enjoyed three more decades of touring, died in 2009 at the age of 69, after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor.
Hilary said: “My time with him will always bring back fond memories.”
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