Unlike its British glam-rock counterpart, Slade, The Sweet was able to make significant inroads on the American charts. However, this was by no means the extent of the group’s popularity.
Whereas mainstream music in the United States had mellowed in the early 1970s, with country rock from bands such as The Eagles much in vogue, in Britain, music remained influenced by the rock of the 1960s.
Later groups of this ilk, such as Kiss, took inspiration from bands like The Sweet and Slade.
In 1968 vocalist, Brian Connolly, joined the group, Wainwright’s Gentlemen, as the replacement for Ian Gillan, who was destined to join Deep Purple. Drummer, Mick Tucker, was already within its membership. The Sweet evolved quite rapidly from that point, with the pair being joined by Steve Priest, on bass, and guitarist, Andy Scott.
The quartet wisely availed itself of the services of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, a duo that was to compose success after success for recording artists, in Britain, throughout the 1970s and ’80s. Mike Chapman had actually moved to London from Brisbane, Australia in search of success. Initially, The Sweet’s releases were based upon the American bubblegum sound of the late 1960s (I refer you to my post on the 1910 Fruitgum Co.), flavoured by the sounds of the Caribbean.
Nineteen seventy-one saw The Sweet issue its initial album, ‘How Funny Sweet Co-Co Can Be’. “Funny Funny” and “Co-Co” were taken off it and both entered the British charts as singles; peaking at No.13 and No.2 respectively.
“Poppa Joe” (No.11), “Little Willy” (No.4) and “Wig Wam Bam” (No.4) did likewise in the following year. It was to be “Little Willy” (No.3, in 1973) that really took the group to prominence in the United States.
In fact, 1973 was to mark the pinnacle of The Sweet’s career! “Blockbuster” became the band’s only No.1, in its homeland, while “Hell Raiser” and “Ballroom Blitz” both ascended to No.2. Meanwhile, the group’s singles entered the Australian charts for the first time: “Wig Wam Bam” (No.6), “Blockbuster” (No.11) and “Ballroom Blitz” (No.8).
It was to take two years for “Ballroom Blitz” to cross the Atlantic, however, when it did, “Fox On The Run” followed suit and entered the Top Five, too.
Nineteen seventy-four witnessed two further major hits, in Britain: “Teenage Rampage” (No.2) and “The Six Teens” (No.9); while, in Australia, for some obscure reason the group’s cover of Joey Dee and The Starliters’ chart-topping “Peppermint Twist”, from 1961, took off and peaked at No.2, remaining in the Top Forty for twenty-one weeks.
In Britain, in 1975, The Sweet’s most notable successes were the self-penned “Fox On The Run” (N0.2) and “Action” (No.15); while, in Australia, they were “Fox On The Run” (No.1), “Action” (No.5), and, in 1976, “Lies In Your Eyes” peaked at No. 11.
Brian Connolly’s heavy drinking was beginning to weigh upon the band and British clubs began to ban The Sweet due to its behaviour on stage. The quartet had also parted company from the songwriting duo, which had really been the foundation to its level of success.
In 1978, The Sweet released the album, ‘Level Headed’, and from it came the band’s last single to enter the Top Ten: “Love Is Like Oxygen” (Britain, No.9; U.S., No.8; Australia, No.6).
Brian Connolly, a Scot, left the band, in 1979, to pursue a career as a solo artist. His liver failed him, in February of 1997, at the age of fifty-one. Mick Tucker departed in 1991, due to ill health, and died in February of 2002, from leukaemia, at the age of fifty-four.
“Ballroom Blitz” can be found on my list of favourite recordings, which is located in the suggested playlists.