Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Although Sweet were largely known for their Glam Rock image and several teenage anthem top 40 singles, they also released several albums throughout a 10 year career. At their peak in the 1970s, Sweet had sold 50 million records worldwide. The extent of Sweet's domination of the charts in Europe resulted in eight number 1 singles in Germany with pop orientated tunes as "Co Co", "Little Willy", and "Wig Wam Bam". Sweet's success continued with more rock orientated tunes such as "Blockbuster", "Hellraiser", "Ballroom Blitz", "Teenage Rampage", and "Fox On The Run". Worldwide, Sweet achieved 16 consecutive top 40 hit singles during 1971-1978.
The classic Sweet line-up consisted of vocalist Brian Connolly, drummer Mick Tucker, bassist Steve Priest, and guitarist Andy Scott. Sweet are perhaps best remembered for their glam stage clothing - glitter, platform boots, chain mail shirts, and makeup - practically defining the camp extreme of the glam rock look. Scott would later say it only happened because they needed an excuse to meet Top of the Pops dancers Pan's People and reasoned that going to the make-up room was a good method of doing so.
Sweet's origins go back to 1965, with U.K. soul band Wainwright's Gentlemen, which included drummer Mick Tucker and vocalist Ian Gillan. Gillan quit in May 1965 to join Episode Six, and later, Deep Purple. Gillan's replacement was vocalist Brian Connolly. Tucker and Connolly remained with the band until 1968.
In 1968, Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker left Wainwright's Gentlemen to form another band. They recruited a bass guitarist/lead vocalist named Steve Priest, from a local band called "The Countdowns". Along with a guitarist named Gordon Fairminer, the band was called "Sweetshop". Gordon Fairminer's stay was brief and he was replaced by Frank Torpy. It didn't take long for Sweetshop to develop a following on the pub circuit, and as a result were signed to the Fontana Label. At the time another U.K. band released a single under the same name "Sweetshop", hence the band finally shortened the name to "Sweet". Sweet's debut single was titled "Slow Motion", which failed to chart. Sweet were released from their contract, and Frank Torpy decided to leave the band.
In 1969, a new guitarist named Mick Stewart joined the group. Sweet signed a new record contract with EMI's Parlophone Label. Three more bubblegum pop singles were released, "Lollipop Man", "All You'll Ever Get From Me", and Archies cover, "Get on The Line", which all failed to chart. Stewart then quit and was replaced by ex-Elastic Band guitarist Andy Scott.
With the new line-up now in place, a management deal was secured with a newly formed and unknown song writing team consisting of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Phil Wainman was the executive producer. This management deal also included a worldwide (except USA) record contract with RCA.
Sweet initially attempted to combined various musical influences, including 1960s bubblegum pop groups such as the Archies and the Monkees, with more rock orientated groups such as The Who. This fusion of pop and hard rock would remain a central trademark of Sweet's music.
In March 1971, Sweet's "Funny Funny" single became their first international hit, climbing to number 1. on many of the world's charts. "Co Co" was the next single issued, which outsold "Funny Funny". The next single, "Alexander Graham Bell" was only a minor hit. Sweet's first LP, titled Funny How Sweet Coco Can Be was released towards the end of 1971 but failed to chart. As the LP faded into obscurity, Sweet found themselves being labelled by music critics as nothing more than a top 40 singles band.
In September 1972, "Wig Wam Bam" was released. Although this single remained largely true to the style of Sweet's previous hits, the vocals and guitars were stronger and more more rock orientated than on the group's previous singles. It was in many ways, a transition single, paving the way as it did for the change of musical emphasis that came with "Blockbuster", Sweet's first single of 1973 which quickly reached number 1.
As the group's popularity grew, Sweet put in a heavy schedule of U.K. and European TV promotional appearances, including numerous Top Of The Pops and Supersonic slots. Sweet soon picked up a large teenage audience. The band also capitalised on the Glam explosion, rivalling Gary Glitter, T. Rex, Queen, Wizzard, and Slade for outrageous stage clothing.
By mid 1974, Sweet had grown tired of the artistic control Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman exerted over their career, hence the group decided to record without the duo. The resulting album, Sweet Fanny Adams, was Sweet's their first top 40 chart album, which also demonstrated a heavy rock band of considerable talent. Sweet also dropped their Glam image in favour of a more conventional hard rock appearance. In reponse to music critics, Sweet concentrated on proving their musical talents on self-written hard rock/pop album tracks.
The Sweet Fanny Adams album also featured compressed high-pitched backing vocal harmonies, which was a trend that continued on all of Sweet's albums. Indeed, Sweet, and fellow U.K. band Queen, were both recognised as one of the main exponents of high-pitched harmonies during the 1970s.
A second album was released during 1974, called Desolation Boulevard. One of the tracks off this album was a cover of The Who's "My Generation". Sweet received public praise from The Who's guitarist, Pete Townshend. Sweet also frequently cited The Who as being one of their main influences. At Townshend's invitation, Sweet were invited to support The Who at Charlton Athletics' Football Ground. Unfortunately, in June of 1974 Brian Connnolly was attacked prior to the group going on as support, hence had to take time out from singing as his throat was badly bruised.
In 1975, RCA released an album titled, The Sweet Singles Album, which was only released in Australia and New Zealand. This LP featured hard rock B side single recordings, including the hit singles, "Ballroom Blitz", "Teenage Rampage", "Blockbuster", and "Hell Raiser".
In 1975, Sweet's first self-written and produced single, "Fox on the Run", was released worldwide and instantly became their biggest selling hit, going to number 1 on many of the world's charts.
During 1976, Sweet attempted to gain popularity in America by promoting their Give Us A Wink album with a heavy schedule of over 50 concert dates. During one appearance, Sweet played "All Right Now" with Ritchie Blackmore in a tribute to mark the death of Free guitarist Paul Kossoff.
The 1976 and 1977 years featured Sweet as an album orientated heavy metal pop act. Albums such as Give Us a Wink, and Off the Record, were undoubtedly Sweet's heaviest studio albums.
Sweet split from RCA in late 1977. The first album for new label Polydor, Level Headed, found Sweet experimenting by combining rock and classical music, which was an approach not dissimilar to U.K. band ELO. Sweet undertook a successful British tour in early 1978. "Love is Like Oxygen" was their last U.K. top 10 hit in 1978.
In February 1979, Brian Connolly left the band under acrimonious circumstances and neither he nor the band fully recovered. Brian was particularly suffering from the effects of substantial alcohol intake. Brian also suffered cardiac arrests at the height of his excess.
Before Brian Connolly announced his departure in February 1979, his vocals were erased from the recorded material for the ensuing Cut Above The Rest album and Sweet continued on as a trio, with Scott and Priest now both handling lead vocals. Keyboard player Gary Moberley completed the four-piece line-up. Three studio albums were recorded between 1979 and 1982. Sweet finally disbanded in 1982.
In 1988, Connolly, Scott, Priest, and Tucker, briefly re-formed to record music for the first time in seven years. Some re-worked studio versions of "Action", and "Ballroom Blitz" were recorded in Los Angeles.
In 1990, all four members were again re-united. This time for the promotion of a video release titled "Sweet's Ballroom Blitz". This UK release, which contained UK television performances from the 1970s, including current-day interviews, was released at Tower Records, London.
Brian Connolly died from liver failure in 1997 having been content in his final years to appear in retrospective documentaries to demonstrate the damage he had inflicted upon himself. Mick Tucker died in 2002 from leukaemia at the age of 54.
Sweet's two remaining members are still active in the music industry. Andy Scott currently continues to tour under Andy Scott's Sweet. Steve Priest is now a Los Angeles session musician and recording engineer.
- Gimme Dat Ding (one side only), 1971
- Funny How Sweet Coco Can Be, 1971
- The Sweet's Biggest hits, 1972
- Sweet Fanny Adams, 1974
- Desolation Boulevard, 1974
- The Sweet Singles Album, 1975 (released in Australia/NZ)
- Strung Up (Double Album), 1975
- Give Us A Wink, 1976
- Off The Record, 1977
- Level Headed, 1978
- Cut Above The Rest, 1979
- Water's Edge, 1980
- Identity Crisis, 1982
- 1971 "Funny Funny" #13 UK
- 1971 "Co-Co" #2 UK
- 1971 "Alexander Graham Bell" #31 UK
- 1972 "Poppa Joe" #10 UK
- 1972 "Little Willy" #4 UK; #3 US (1973 release)
- 1972 "Wig-Wam Bam" #4 UK
- 1973 "Blockbuster" #1 UK
- 1973 "Hell Raiser" #2 UK
- 1973 "The Ballroom Blitz" #2 UK; #5 US (1975 release)
- 1974 "Teenage Rampage" #2 UK
- 1974 "The Sixteens" #9 UK
- 1974 "Turn it Down" #41 UK
- 1974 "Peppermint Twist" #1 Australia
- 1975 "Fox on the Run" #2 UK; #5 US (1976 release)
- 1975 "Action" #15 UK; #20 US (1976 release)
- 1976 "The Lies in Your Eyes" #35 UK; #5 Germany
- 1976 "Lost Angels" #13 Germany
- 1977 "Fever of Love" #9 Germany
- 1977 "Stairway To The Stars" #15 Germany
- 1978 "Love is Like Oxygen" #9 UK; #8 US; #10 Germany
- 1978 "California Nights" #23 Germany
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