Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Sweet Bye And Bye

While attending the Colorado Avalanche hockey game last month, the music meister at the Pepsi Center in Denver played an old favorite of mine during the pregame warm-ups, "Fox On The Run" by Sweet, and it sounded, well, sweet!  I haven't done a band salute for a while, so here's an overdue tribute to one of the more underrated bands of the '70s.

Sweet [L-R in photo: guitarist Andy Scott, bassist Steve Priest, vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker] only had five Top 40 hits in America, but there is much more to this band than "Fox", "Ballroom Blitz" and "Love Is Like Oxygen".  Before they cracked the Top 40 here in 1973 with "Little Willy", they'd already been quite the sensation on the glam scene across the big pond in England, with hits like "Funny Funny" and "Co-Co", the latter of which hit #2 in the British charts.  Sounding like a cross between The Monkees, Cheap Trick and The Who, "Little Willy" broke the band in the States, and over the next five years, they toured here and scored huge hits with "Blitz", "Fox" and 1978's "Love Is Like Oxygen".

Sadly, "Oxygen" was the beginning of the end for the band, as singer Brian Connolly became more and more unreliable as he sank into drug and alcohol abuse.  In fact, he recorded his vocals for the verses on "Oxygen" separately from the rest of the band, as Scott and Priest sang the choruses in another studio in another place.  Connolly succumbed to liver failure in February, 1997 at age 51.  Drummer Mick Tucker died of leukemia almost five years to the day later on Valentine's Day, 2002 at age 54.  BTW, there is an excellent documentary DVD on the band available on Netflix which features some great old footage from the '70s.

One of the funniest song parodies this side of Weird Al Yankovic you'll ever hear was done in the '80s by the Alterna-Rock band The Dead Milkmen during the intro of their "Bottomless Pit", lampooning "Ballroom Blitz":  "Are you ready Dave? (Uh-huh.), Malory? (O.K.), Joe? (Oh, I don't know...), Well alright fellas... Let's GOOOOOO!!!"

My All-Time Sweet Top 10:
10) "California Nights" (1978)  Sweet's last sniff of the Hot 100.  Ironically, singer Lesley Gore's last hit in 1967 was also titled "California Nights".
9) "Wig Wam Bam" (1972)  Not about hairpieces, but about the Glam scene that was very prevalent at the time.  I believe there's also a band out there now called Wig Wam Bam.
8) "Little Willy" (1973)  The band was still on Bell Recordshome of the Partridge Family and Tony Orlando & Dawnwhen this one came out.  They later hooked up with Capitol Records and became major playas.
7) "The Six Teens" (1974) Big hit over yonder that never really registered over here.  Not a bad song, either.
6) "Block Buster" (1973)  Glam Rock at its finest.  Best song ever featuring a siren apart from "Firehouse" by Kiss, REO Speedwagon's "Ridin' The Storm Out", R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me" and Bloodrock's "D.O.A."...
5) "Love Is Like Oxygen" (1978)  Sweet meets Foreigner!  This song was a most welcome respite from all the Disco folderol of the time.
4) "Teenage Rampage" (1974)  Another Glam Rock anthem reminiscent of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" that urges the listener to "get yourself a constitution..."  Was very disappointed to hear this tune backing a Chevy truck commercial on TV a couple years ago.
3) "Action" (1975)  Quite possibly Sweet's heaviest tune, and a nice amalgam of synthesizer and guitar.  Song was later successfully covered by erstwhile Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens and his Atomic Playboys in 1989.
2) "Fox On The Run" (1975)  Another nice synth/guitar combo, and one of Connolly's best vocal performances.  Later covered by Girlschool in the mid-'80s.
1) "Ballroom Blitz" (1975)  Resistance is futile here.  Sweet's most famous songbassist Steve Priest provides the comic relief with lines like "she'll kill you with a wink of her eye!" while Connolly screams his orgasmic "OHHHHH YEAAAHHHH!!!"  I heartily concur...


dr sardonicus said...

Anyone who can come up with a Sweet Top 10 is going above and beyond the call of duty. I thought Desolation Boulevard was a decent album, although I can't remember hearing it in its entirety while sober. Never could stand "Love Is Like Oxygen".

Brian Holland said...

What can I say? I'm here to serve! As a child of the '70s, I can't help but love bands like Sweet... 'Desolation Blvd.' is one of the cooler album titles of all-time, too...