This was exciting times for The Sweet, out on tour, proving themselves as a hard rock band without the songwriting help of Chinn and Chapman in the future. They proved they could write the hits themselves with the song “Fox on The Run” from the album “Desolation Boulevard” released in November 1974.
Have a nice read, and I`m sorry for the accompanying concert photo – it looked like that in the paper, so it wasn`t me shaking my camera when I took it.
Announcement: it is now cool to say `I dig the Sweet` in mixed company
Rehabilitation by Max Bell
Rock snobbery. That`s what it is. A prevailing attitude that anything commercially successful in terms of the charts must therefore be top-twenty hype, not suitable for those who really Know About Good Music and best left to moronic boppers who actually get off on dancing and contrived, simplistic music.
Take a look at those charts and you`ll find plenty of evidence to back up such a view, the sort of records that it isn`t Cool To Like. Admittedly separating the wheat from the chaff is superficially quite easy – but just how bad is the output of bands such as Showaddywaddy, The Rubettes, First Class and The Sweet?
In fact all these groups, and probably a few more, make records which sound great on the radio and occasionally transcend the awesome and stultifying spell that Robin Nash, Blackbum and co. manage to weave in order to trivialise everything to their own special brand of bunkum.
And occasionally a classic example of the genre emerges which rightfully assumes an elevated status. Sometimes one offs having nothing to do with formula also grab the spotlight, like “MacArthur Park” or “Riders On The Storm”, but these are exceptions not norms. Excellent forty-fives are there for the listening to now, and holding the view that everything contemporary is necessarily rubbish will prove far more detrimental to rock and roll than maintaining more tolerant critical standards less clouded by blind prejudice.
In the past I`ve probably been as guilty as anyone when it comes to sneering at chart-orientated groups. I wasn`t exactly delighted at being asked to cover Sweet in Copenhagen but having done so I`m convinced that Sweet, and others like them, fill a need as relevant as that supposedly provided by artists like Rick Wakeman or ELP.
Inside the Brondby Hall are five thousand people who already have their opinion firmly entrenched and altogether they`ve paid close on thirty thousand pounds to have it reinforced.
Sweet mix their hits liberally with tracks from “Sweet F.A.” and “Desolation Boulevard” and the audience enjoys it all. It`s one thing to singalong with “Hellraiser” and “Blockbuster”, quite another to enjoy cuts like “Restless” or “Set Me Free” that indicate Sweet really do rock as hard as anyone. Mick Tucker`s drum battle against a double-screening of himself and Andy Scott`s guitar work throughout have more in common with the Spiders From Mars than The Bay City Rollers.
And that`s a fact.
Sweet`s slick presentation, volume and choice of material may not allow one to extend the comparison too far but really they`re every bit as enjoyable as, say, Slade, Queen – and a host of other bands who exist in that rarified atmosphere where their work is Taken Seriously.
When I spoke to Mick Tucker after the gig it was made abundantly clear to me that Sweet feel they are most of the way to justifying their musical existence in an arena where everyone is working towards a similar end. Sometime back they were a much despised band, accused of being just another synthetic Chinn and Chapman product. There`s some truth in that, particularly as their last two London shows (The Rainbow and Imperial College) were both unqualified disasters (owing to P.A. breakdowns which indicated a marked lack of professionalism on someone`s part).
It was therefore natural to assume that the band were inept, safe in a studio but unable to reproduce the most undemanding proof of live ability. Yet since then – with the publicised support of respected old-timers like Pete Townshend and even John Peel – the band are overcoming various barriers.
“I think we`ve achieved it in Europe, though in England there`s still a stigma that dates back to our stereotyped image of four years ago,” says Tucker. “People find it impossible to accept we have some talent even while the albums have brought that talent to the fore.
“In terms of measured success we`ve been accepted on the continent. It`s coming round now but we don`t shout `we want respect` anymore. You don`t get that until you actually lay your balls on the line and prove it.”
The factor of such a diverse age range at their concerts resulting in the presence of so many younger people, is some cause for frustration but, according to Tucker, it`s acceptable: “They are very familiar with the albums, whereas in England the act went over the kids` heads. I think our audience will change when we`ve done something in America because the English are so cynical. We`re beginning to get encouraging feedback now. John Peel had a competition playing one of our B-sides asking who it was and the answers ranged from Gracie Fields to Led Zeppelin.
“We deliberately played colleges on our last tour to bring the act to an older audience although obviously we can`t stop younger kids from coming. And we missed out by not doing Charlton when Pete asked us.”
Last year`s break with the consistently reliable Chinn-Chapman team hasn`t done Sweet any harm – if the success of “Fox On The Run” is anything to go by. Tucker sees the change as inevitable and beneficial:
“We`d been striving for our own material as our demands got greater, particularly when they became involved with other acts. When we needed a new single they weren`t around so we went in and did it ourselves, that was it. They knew there`d be a split eventually.
“See, their strength is limited, it doesn`t lie in albums, and we were getting dead lazy relying on them. Now it`s just easier if we do it and we get a truer reflection of our sound. Before, Brian (Connolly) would be under the direction of Mike Chapman and the sound wasn`t always ours. On album we told him to do what got him off and as you can see, live it`s much rougher, less clean-sounding.”
This independence is reflected in a playing competence that most people wouldn`t to witness at a Sweet concert. Their past record may have worked against them once but they no longer shout the odds:
“We`re adequate. We`d rather let people assess our talent from coming to see us – though I suppose we are pretty good. Lots of press wrote us off, turned their backs.
“We do want to drop the singles tag because it holds you to ransom. You`re only as good as your next record.”
Surely a predicament arises here in that you`ve built a reputation on singles and yet you also want to make the transition to something more adventurous. What`s wrong with making commercial records anyhow?
“Well we did get channelled and we got fed up. But I`m not ashamed of what we used to do. In fact, I`m positive it lengthened our lifespan.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Steely Dan, Al Green, Pete Atkin and Clive James, Joe Walsh, Frank Zappa, David Allan Coe, Carla Bley, Syl Johnson, The Pink Fairies.
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