In 1973, Sweet were the subject of a documentary All That Glitters for BBC Schools series Scene. Being intended for “educational purposes,” the program had to pose a relevant topic for debate among its teenage audience—in this case, “Is the music business really that glamorous?” Over a period of two to three days, Scene followed the band members Brian Connolly (vocals), Steve Priest (bass/coals), Andy Scott (guitar) and Mick Tucker (drums) as they rehearsed for a Top of the Pops appearance (which led to an outcry over Priest’s Nazi outfit) and their (now hailed as “legendary”) Christmas show at London’s Rainbow Theater.
It had certainly been a good year for the band—probably their best: three hit singles (“Blockbuster,” “Hellraiser,” “Ballroom Blitz”) adding to their chart-topping back catalog and tipping their record sales to 14 million sold; sell-out gigs the length and breadth of the UK; and plans to record their first proper studio album—for which they would write most of the material and play all of the instruments. Yes, it had been a long hard graft, and it wasn’t always glamorous, but it seemed as if things could and should only get better.
But fame is fickle and pop careers are measured by the durability of three-minute songs. Sweet’s pop hits had been penned by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who had originally cast the band as sub-Archies bubblegum pop supplying them with such jolly toe-tappers as “Co-Co,” “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam.” However, Sweet were always rockers and had a desire to write and play their own songs. As if signalling their gradual move away from Chinn and Chapman, the band dropped the definite article from their name—changing from The Sweet to Sweet.
Sweet’s audience were still mainly teenyboppers who liked their playground pop and the pretty boy make-up, though there were always some (including music journalist Paul Morley) who preferred the band’s self-penned hard-rocking B-sides. When Sweet started concentrating on their own kind of heavy glam music with the albums Sweet Fanny Adams (1974) and Desolation Boulevard (1975), they lost a chunk of their fan base who were now swooning over the Bay City Rollers while a younger generation were about to replace glam with punk.
Yet the music Sweet produced influenced artists such as Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Joan Jett and Poison.
Though half the band is sadly now dead (Connolly died in 1997, Tucker in 2002) the world is divided between Andy Scott’s Sweet, which covers Europe and Australia, and Steve Priest’s Sweet, which takes in the US, Canada and South America.