Some really interesting facts in this article that I just wasn`t aware of. I like it when I get surprised reading all of these older articles.
Sweet in search of respect
A revealing interview with drummer Mick Tucker by Pete Makowski
WARNING – do not ignore this page.
On seeing the name Sweet, of course, you may have decided that SOUNDS has finally sold out or you may quietly be reaching into the nearest waste paper bin. But wait – the idea of interviewing those glittering veterans of “Top Of The Pops” and “Crackerjack” isn`t as ridiculous as it sounds.
“They reek of hype”, you may say – and you`d be right. They did, and they`re the first to admit it. But `did` is the operative word. Recently, they`ve split from their management and decided to put their destiny into their own hands – so you can expect a few more rough edges from now on.
The band were clustered in their office, listening to a tape of a gig. “Listen”, says Mick Tucker listening to his drum solo, “here comes the Sandy Nelson bit – he could get that sound thirteen years ago.” Hmmm, they know their music. Then their new single “Teenage Rampage”, which is pretty much in the vein of their previous efforts, but rougher and raunchier.
They play on it too; which is more than they did on their first few.
Says Mick: “The backing track was done by session people and we put down the vocals. It sold well and Phil (Wainman their producer) obviously wanted to repeat this as it was his first chart success and session people were put on the next single.
“We were sick, but we were controlled, what could we do? We wanted a hit record. Anyway they said you`ll be able to play on the next single, but they got guys on the backing track. In the end we said, `if we don`t play on the next record you can all fuck off, there won`t be a Sweet, we`ll disband and re-form again.`
“In the end they said we could do all the playing and the ones we played on (from `Wigwam Bam`) were the best ones and the most successful.”
You`ll remember how “Blockbuster” came soon after “Jean Genie” both having that same E, A riff (which incidently sounds identical to the Yardbirds` “I`m A Man”). Mick explained that “Blockbuster” was written much earlier but they felt their fans weren`t ready for it at that time.
The band were quite experienced before Sweet was formed, especially Andy Scott who was in Scaffold`s backing group, Mayfield`s Mule and The Elastic Band to name a few. Mick joined a band which boasted Ian Gillan on vocals. Steve Priest, the bass player, has had quite a colourful career including sessions with Joe Meek – a name associated with the Tornados.
I asked Mick why the band haven`t done many live gigs as that`s where they won their praise from the press. “We did a few but they were so badly organised, ballrooms and things like that, Niki (Chin) and Mike (Chapman) were ostensibly our managers. But they`re songwriters not managers, they don`t know anything about touring.
“So we looked around and came up with another management company who were efficient but they were the wrong scene for us. They wanted too much money, they wanted just too much of the cake. So it was a case of having a dog and barking yourselves.
“So we had to do the thing ourselves. We wanted to get a stage act together. There was no catalyst, so we had to get in and do it ourselves.”
It must have been strange for a band who were so dependant on their management to be suddenly given this freedom. “Yeh”, Mick said with a sigh of relief, “we all sat down, I remember the feeling, I never felt so free in all my life, coz it was all down to us. We weren`t tied we had a nice little record deal on the side the rest was up to us.
“We sat down and decided how to spend our money. We got the best road crew, thirteen of them, and an IESPA system (which is used by ELP and Beck, Bogert and Appice). I mean what do you need a manager for? The only setbacks were on the administration side and we`ve got an agency to get the gigs.”
In the last interview I read the band were talking about an album about the history of rock and roll they were going to release with a spectacular stage act planned to tie in with it.
“It took a long time to get together, it didn`t really come off. There was a couple of albums out like `Rigor Mortis` and another one and that was basically the same thing so we scrapped the idea.”
What about the new album? “The new album is most of our stuff, to us it`s our first album,” Mick explained. “The albums that we did in the past, well we haven`t done any really. The first one was shit, it was a pop album, all right taken at its face value. And then there was a compilation album on RCA `Sweet`s Biggest Hits` we disagree but that`s another story.”
Will they be writing all their own material? “Chin and Chapman encouraged our writing, they will still be writing our singles until we get a successful album. There has to be a time when Chin and Chapman won`t be writing our songs any more.
“At the moment the band`s going through a `fuck everybody we don`t care` phase. I suppose it`s from repression in the past.
“There isn`t any respect for us, it`s not hip to dig the Sweet.”
But how do the band expect to command any respect when they haven`t proved their virtuosity? Mick agreed but added, “If there wasn`t any talent in the band and we didn`t like playing we`d probably go `nice one Niki, nice one Ron` carry on writing for us and we`ll do anything you say.
Other plans in the pipeline include Mick`s venture to record a solo drum album and the further development of Mick and Andy`s production management. They already have a band under their wing.
“I found the band and Andy wrote the song. They`re good, like a West coast band, which is a breath of fresh air as far as I`m concerned. Nice rocking, harmony like Steely Dan, obviously the musicianship isn`t as good.”
I asked Mick what he thought of Sweet`s new single? “The flames there, it`s a monster, it`s not my personal favourite but it`s a good single. One thing that surprised me was the fact that the band are enjoying a mammoth success in the States, where they are regarded in the same slot as Deep Purple and other high class rockers?
“The first hit was Little Willy” said Mick obviously happy to talk about it. “On radio play alone it sold two million copies. We then released an album featuring all our B-sides and the reviews were really good, like `nice heavy rock band` which is amazing.
“I know with the act we`ve got when we go over we`ll kill them. I don`t mean that in a conceited way, I`m glad to say it`s what we want.” Their new album is coming out to coincide with their March tour. “God willing,” said Mick, “we have no problems with singles as we make the money for RCA, it`s a shame but whose going to give any new unestablished band forty thousand singles?
“Over the past six months that we`ve taken over management we`ve spent money and worked our balls off. We`ve got to shake off the stigma of our early hits. Nobody will respect the band till that happens.”
I asked Mick if the band were going to bury the past and pave a new road? “We`re going to stop doing TV shows. Programmes we did in the early days like `Lift Off` gave our first TV slot so we were in their debt so we went back.”
It seems logical that a band of good musicians who have been trussed up like turkey and sold to the highest bidder would revolt against it if they had any respect for their craft.
You can only take so much and this was probably Sweet`s predicament highlighting the fact that they were still in the age of the big star maker. No one apart from them knows how much they were manipulated but the fact is they do now want to make music.
We can`t judge them until they`ve displayed their goods but then again we can`t condemn them. They feel that they are stuck in the middle but feel that it`s also worthwhile: “We`re all good musicians but we could never get it together. We had to own up in the end, we`ll still have hit records. We want people to come and see the Sweet and that`s what it`s all about.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Bryan Ferry, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Paul Butterfield, Nazareth, Tim Hardin, Average White Band, Cozy Powell, Robin Dransfield, Andy Roberts.
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