Sweet were the quintessential '70s glam rock band,
bringing the androgynous looks and crunchy guitar pop of Queen and T. Rex to the masses.
Though never huge in America, Sweet was immensely popular in Britain, and is credited with
influencing many '80s pop-metal bands (like Poison) and '90s power pop groups.
The roots of Sweet extend back to 1966, when vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Michael Thomas Tucker played together in the amateur band Wainwright's Gentlemen. Within a few years, they quit the Gentlemen and formed their own band, Sweetshop, with guitarist Frank Torpey and bassist Steve Priest. By 1970 Sweetshop had shortened its name to Sweet, and Torpey was replaced by Andrew Scott; the quartet signed to RCA Records, which paired them with the songwriting duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, known for penning bubblegum pop ditties. Sure enough, the Sweet scored their first hit the following year with Chinn and Chapman's "Funny Funny," quickly followed by "Little Willy," "Poppa Joe," "Wig-Wam Bam" and "Co-Co" -- all sappy pop tunes.
The group demanded harder rock numbers, and Chinn and Chapman responded with 1973's "Blockbuster," which, true to its name, hit No. 1 in the U.K. Their next few singles singles -- "Hell Raiser," "Ballroom Blitz," "The Six Teens" and "Teenage Rampage" -- all reached the U.K. Top 10, with "Ballroom Blitz" becoming a delayed U.S. Top 10 hit in mid-1975.
Determined to take control over their music, Sweet fired Chinn and Chapman in 1974 and began writing their own songs, making their songwriting debut on 1974's Sweet Fanny Adams LP, which debuted in the U.K. Top 30. The harder-rocking follow-up album Desolation Boulevard spawned their biggest self-written hit yet, "Fox on the Run," which reached No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 10 in the U.S. Their subsequent albums were less singles-oriented and more cohesive, and maintained the glam-rock edge that their fluffy early material lacked; as a result, their fan base shifted from fickle young teens to an older, cult audience.
Gary Moberley joined the Sweet in 1978. During the late '70s frontman Brian Connolly left the band . The revamped group was not as popular as in the past, and finally called it quits in 1982. Throughout the '80s, however, there were assorted Sweet reunions involving various original and new members of the band, the most notable being a 1986 reunion with ex-More vocalist Mario Day fronting the group.
In 1992 there was renewed interest in Sweet when "Ballroom Blitz" appeared on the hit Wayne's World soundtrack and new power pop bands like Material Issue publicly cited Sweet as an influence; unfortunately, frontman Brian Connolly was suffering from a degenerative muscular disorder and his version of Sweet, Brian Connolly's Sweet, only lasted a few years before he was permanently disabled. Connolly finally passed away from liver failure in 1997, but Sweet guitarist Andy Scott continues on with Andy Scott's Sweet, a popular attraction at municipal events and British resorts.
The nucleus of the Sweet came together in 1966, when drummer
Mick Tucker (b. 17 July 1947, Harlesden, London, England, d. 14 February 2002, Welwyn
Garden City, Hertfordshire, England.) and vocalist Brian Connolly (b. 5 October 1945,
Hamilton, Scotland, d. 10 February 1997). These two played together in Wainwright's
Gentlemen, a small-time club circuit band whose repertoire comprised a mixture of Motown,
R&B and psychedelia. The pair broke away to form Sweetshop, later shortened to just
Sweet, with Steve Priest (b. 23 February 1950, Hayes, Middlesex) on bass and Frank Torpey
on guitar. After releasing four unsuccessful singles on Fontana Records and EMI Records,
Torpey was replaced by Andy Scott (b. 30 June 1951, Wrexham, Wales) and the new line-up
signed to RCA Records. The band were introduced to the writing partnership of Chinn And
Chapman, who were to provide the band with a string of hit singles. Their initial success
was down to bubblegum pop anthems such as "Funny, Funny", "Co-Co",
"Poppa Joe" and "Little Willy". However, the band were writing their
own hard-rock numbers on the b-sides of these hits. This resulted in Chinn/Chapman coming
up with heavier pop-rock numbers, most notably the powerful "Blockbuster", which
reached number 1 in the UK at the beginning of 1973. The group's determinedly effete,
glam-rock image was reinforced by a succession of Top 10 hits, including "Hell
Raiser", "Ballroom Blitz", "Teenage Rampage" and "The Six
Sweet decided to take greater control of their own destiny in 1974 and recorded the album Sweet Fanny Adams without the assistance of Chinn and Chapman. The album charted at number 27, but disappeared again after just two weeks. The work marked a significant departure from their commercially-minded singles on which they had built their reputation. "Set Me Free", "Restless" and "Sweet F.A." epitomized their no-frills hard-rock style. Desolation Boulevard included the self-penned "Fox On The Run' which was to hit number 2 in the UK singles chart. This gave the band confidence and renewed RCA's faith in the band as a commercial proposition. However, as Sweet became more of an albums band, the hit singles began to dry up, with 1978"s "Love Is Like Oxygen" being their last Top 10 hit. Following a move to Polydor Records, they cut four albums with each release making less impact than its predecessor. Their brand of melodic rock, infused with infectious hooks and brutal riffs, now failed to satisfy both the teenybopper and the more mature rock fan.
Since 1982, various incarnations of the band have appeared from time to time, with any number from one to three of the original members in the line-up. In 1989, they recorded a live album at London's Marquee Club, with Paul Mario Day (ex-More) handling the vocals. Brian Connolly suffered from a muscular disorder, and experienced numerous heart attacks. His grim situation was warmed in 1992 with the incredible success of the film Ballroom Blitz and the subsequent renewed interest in the Sweet, but he died in 1997. Tucker died from leukaemia five years later.