A GUEST POSTING by MIDDLE-AGED MAN
In the early 1970’s I was nine/ten years old and ‘too young’ to have my own radio and so was basically reliant upon one source for music – the glorious wonder that was Top of the Pops, it is almost impossible to believe today that if you wanted to listen and see ‘pop music’ this was really the only option.
And for once my timing was perfect as it was the glam rock era. I am a believer in the James Bond theory, in the same way that the best James Bond is the first one you see at the pictures, the first type of music you experienced on Top of the Pops remains with you forever. And at that young age I was reading comics/magazines such as Shoot and Cor!!, so had no idea of which bands were writing their own songs, were ‘acceptable’ my only judgement was based upon the song and appearance on Top of the Pops.
The standout band for me was The Sweet, they looked great, especially Brian Connolly in his silver jumpsuit and blond hair, and the songs were instant, by the time the second chorus arrived I was already singing along never having heard the song before.
Glam rock was really about the singles and that’s why this ICA is made entirely of singles all bar one released in a 4-year period between 1971 and 1975 and incredibly half of them never appeared on an album at the time of release and only appeared on later compilation albums.
The Sweet formed in 1968 with members having all been in previous groups and it was only in 1971 that they had their first hit having teamed up with songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and record producer Phil Wainman. At first they only recorded the vocals on the ‘a’ side of their singles, before moving on to play and sing on the songs. I have only included songs that they play and sing on, simply because I believe they are better.
1. Blockbuster (Chart position no. 1)
At first I was going to sequence the songs in date order, but changed my mind as in keeping with the glam rock era the first track on side 1 should always be the biggest hit and this surprisingly is their only number 1 and probably their best by a short head. It is also well known as having the same riff as Jean Genie by David Bowie, both released in the same month, Jan 1973 on the same label.
2. Wig-Wam Bam ( Chart position no. 4)
The first single to feature the playing of the band and a noticeable step-up with much harder playing, especially Andy Scott’s guitar. It also featured Steve Priest’s ‘camp’ vocal line which became a trademark element.
3. Alexander Graham Bell (Chart position no. 33)
Incredibly, this only reached number 33 in the UK chart and is the lowest placing of any of the songs on this ICA. Has a stomping beat which is quite ‘Sladeish’ but the Connolly’s vocal ensure that is the only similarity.
4. Hell Raiser (Chart position no. 2)
The follow-up single to Blockbuster and is obviously from the same band but without Blockbuster’s distinctive riff.
5. The Six Teens ( Chart position no. 9)
To close side 1 a slightly slower more downbeat track, with more time changes and variation in the instrumentation but is still very much Glam Rock.
1. Teenage Rampage ( Chart position no.2)
Opens with the crowd chanting ‘We want Sweet’ suggesting we were listening to a live recording, It made being a teenager seem exciting from my pre-teen perspective although for the band who were all older it may have seemed a little uncomfortable.
2. Ballroom Blitz (Chart position no. 2)
After Blockbuster probably their best known single, opens with a band roll call/ name check before exploding into life. The Sweet didn’t go for low key starts/intros, it was straight into the song.
3. Fox On the Run (Chart position no. 2)
The first single to be written by the band and it proved to be a successful as their previous Chinn/Chapman singles reaching number 2 in the charts.
4. Love is Like Oxygen ( Chart position no. 9)
The last of their singles to make the charts in 1978, by this stage my tastes had moved on to ‘new wave’, but listening to it now it still packs a punch although in a slightly ‘Queenish’ way.
5. Action (Chart position no. 15)
Another self written song, that reflects their move away from Glam to Rock but as the lyrics say ‘Everyone needs a main attraction’ and for a crucial 2-year period The Sweet were mine.
I hope you enjoy this a much as I have putting it together, I can feel a Chinn/Chapman ICA coming next.