The Sweet (or simply Sweet) enjoyed a varied career during the 1970s – from their perspective maybe it was a little too varied. Following a run of disposable pop hits, they sought but never quite achieved credibility as long-haired, leather-clad rockers. As albums such as Sweet Fanny Adams, Desolation Boulevard, Give Us A Wink (with its cocky declaration: ‘Queen are a bunch of winkers’) and Off The Record would prove, the four-piece could hold more than their own amid the Deep Purples, Led Zeppelins, Uriah Heeps, Bowies and, yes, even Queens of this world. And later, following the dismissal of frontman Brian Connolly, as a trio Sweet continued to make great music. Alas, few are aware of this fact. And besides the songs presented here there are also delightful lighter moments such as You’re Not Wrong For Lovin’ Me and Lady Starlight.
If the singles are all you know, their catalogue is a joy to explore.
10) Love Is Like Oxygen, 1978
The band’s last top 10 hit was pulled from Level Headed, an adventurous final album to be made with Brian Connolly whose larynx would never quite recover from a vicious attack outside an Uxbridge nightclub. With the usual high pitched vocals toned down through necessity, the song’s highly contagious chorus was rammed home via a delicious melange of luxuriant keys and thrusting guitar.
9) Need A Lot Of Lovin’, 1973
In the background resentment began to build as The Sweet’s run of Chinn and Chapman-originated hits grew ever longer. Eventually they would cut those strings, but in the meantime the band took solace with a succession of tough, punchy self-originated B-sides. This one was the flip of Blockbuster!, but the likes of Burning, Rock & Roll Disgrace, Someone Else Will and Own Up (Take A Look At Yourself) could all have made this list.
8) Windy City, 1977
The daylight between Sweet’s earlier MOR hits such as Funny Funny and Co Co and this beast from Off The Record couldn’t be any more marked. Andy Scott turns his amp up to 11 for its centrepiece, a riff so large it has its own postcode, while Connolly snarls: ‘Your dad’s in the slam/Your mama’s a whore/No one understands you couldn’t help being poor’. This is primal stuff.
7) The Six Teens, 1974
For all of the stick they took, Chinn and Chapman did their best to accommodate the band’s growth, and Sweet were well suited to this superbly arranged hit. Retaining bassist Steve Priest’s camp vocal interjections, it told the tale of six teenagers – Julie and Johnny, Suzie and Davey and, teasingly, Bobby and Billie – to a more mature instrumental backdrop. It really came to life onstage.
6) Sweet FA, 1974
It’s amusing to wonder how many spotty teenagers brought home their copy of the Sweet Fanny Adams album, dropped the needle and were almost thrown across the room by the full force of its contents (your correspondent figures among this total). A cornucopia of hard rock riffs, pounding drums, aggressive lyrics (‘Well, it’s Friday night/And I need a fight/If she don’t spread/I’m gonna bust her head’), Little Willy this was not.
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5) Fox On The Run, 1975
The roots of Sweet’s independence can be traced back to this chest-beating yet deeply melodic ode to groupies, their first self-penned and self-produced hit (the song’s original version was recorded in more base form by ChinniChap for the domestic edition of the album Desolation Boulevard). Here it’s more accessible and polished, its use of multi-part vocals – ‘You looked alright before, Or, OR, ORRRRRR!’ particularly impressive.
4) Action, 1975
It’s a self-contained nugget of pop-rock superiority that you seek? Then look no further than Action, a song that Def Leppard realised they couldn’t improve, and simply covered. From its sneering lyrics – a venomous put-down to the critics that still refused to take them seriously – to the riff, chorus, harmonies and the all-important injected sound of a cash register, this is just about flawless.
3) Burn On The Flame, 1974
The undisputed greatest self-penned B-side in the entire Sweet catalogue, Burn On The Flame was every bit as good as its reverse, The Six Teens. Once again it’s possible to imagine innocent fans flipping the A-side over and spitting their Sugar Puffs across the table, though for all the immense power of its guitar riff, the song is quite magnificently put together.
2) Set Me Free, 1974
Later covered by Saxon, Vince Neil and thrash metallers Heathen, Andy Scott’s masterpiece got Sweet Fanny Adams, an album that the band had seriously wanted to call Sweet Fuck All, off to a blitzkrieg, take-no-prisoners start. The guitarist, who continues to lead Sweet onwards, recently told Classic Rock that he’d “love” to undertake a full-blown hard rock tour. We can only pray.
1) The Ballroom Blitz, 1973
Mike Chapman was inspired to write The Ballroom Blitz after seeing Connolly and Scott dragged offstage at the Glasgow Apollo by scissor-wielding female fans in 1973 during the height of the group’s transition from pop star cuties to bugglegum rockers. Though it didn’t quite didn’t reach Number One the song achieved immortality via Wayne’s World and Suicide Squad thanks to its über-famous intro of: “Are you ready, Steve?” “Uh-Huh”…