The seventies was the era of Glam Rock… satin and sequins and platform boots that, seriously, must have been hell to wear let alone wear while you strut around a stage, with a guitar slung around your shoulder. In those days, we loved the likes of Slade, T-Rex and the band that arguably put the ‘glam’ into ‘Glam Rock’, The Sweet. It was the classic line-up of Brian Connolly on lead vocals, Andy Scott on guitar, Steve Priest on bass and Mick Tucker on drums who gave us a string of hits in the seventies, including ‘Fox on the Run’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Teenage Rampage’ and their biggest selling single worldwide, ‘Love is Like Oxygen’.The reformed Sweet is currently touring Australia and I had the privilege of talking to guitarist and long time member, Andy Scott recently about the tour and just what Australian audiences can expect. Their last Australian tour of this size was in 2004. “But,” as Andy points out, “We have been here two or three times since then. We played the Clipsal (car racing event in Adelaide) about three years ago with the Doobie Bros and the reformed Angels and we were due to do a tour about five years ago but the majority of it got cancelled but the people in Perth and Adelaide and Melbourne kept it together so we did something like eight shows in two weeks. That was another humdinger of a tour. We weighed it up between tours of Europe and Japan. But we’ve sat back now and waited for the right kind of tour to come up.”
So, what exactly is the right kind of tour and what can we expect from Sweet at these shows?
“You’re certainly not going to get a Las Vegas cabaret type of thing,” Andy assures me. “You’re going to be encouraged to get involved and jump up and down and see four guys end up in a pretty sweaty state at the end of it.”
We rather like that kind of thing here in Australia, I tell him.
“Well, you started this,” he points out, alluding to the fact that it was in fact due to the persistent demands of Australian audiences that the band is once again performing the hits that made them a household name in the seventies.
I guess we did, didn’t we?
“You did,” he agrees. “We’re going to be playing for close to two hours and there will be a real mixed bag. We had an album out two years ago called ‘NYC ‘(New York Connection). We’ll be playing a bit from that. We’ll also be venturing into a couple of the heavy rock albums; some stuff from ‘Sweet Fanny Adams‘ and obviously on this particular tour, there will be every hit all the way back to 1970.”
While Sweet will be playing all the hits in their show and most of the material you hear at a Sweet concert will no doubt be familiar, the guys have also been working on some new material as well. “I can’t really tell you much about it,” says Andy. “Because they’re not developed enough. We have one song that I’ve written called ‘Still Got the Rock’ which will be part of a new studio album. We were hoping that it might have been more developed or we might be further down the line with it this year but it looks like it’s going to be next year.”
Andy admits that it has been a bit of a rocky road for the band, which has been around since the summer of ’68, although Andy joined in the summer of 1970. “From what I can gather,” he explains, “That first year and a half when they were together, they got signed by a couple of songwriters to EMI and Brian’s voice certainly was used like a ‘demo-ing’ facility and then on the odd occasion, The Sweet would be used as a kind of vehicle for a song. And if one of those had been a hit, then Sweet might not have been around today. It might have been like one of those bands from the very late sixties that had just one hit, like Edison Lighthouse. So, to have that sort of cooling off period at the beginning of 1970 was one of the best things that could have happened. The guitar player left and the three guys who were left: Brian, Steve and Mick were wondering what to do. Record producer Phil Wainman who knew Brian, had connected with songwriters Chinn and Chapman. He picked up on one of their songs and he said ‘I know the voice for that. That will be great. Brian can sing this.’ Next thing, they did a demo in the summer and he decided that The Sweet would be a brilliant vehicle for these songs. Then they needed a guitar player. I stepped in and, as they say, the rest is history. That lasted for virtually ten years. The sad fact is that, towards the end of the seventies, having done everything that we’d done, travelling around the world, even having hits in America, we found ourselves with a slight problem with Brian and his alcohol consumption. Eventually, in the late seventies we toured as a three piece but that was never quite the same. In the mid eighties, Mick and I reformed and we were hoping that Steve would come back but he didn’t. One of the first places we came back to was Australia and in ’85 and ’86 we did two huge tours here known as the Bar Room Blitz tours and that band kind of picked up musically where the original band left off. It was more of a heavy metal band than a rock band. And in fact when we first reformed, we were doing so much album material and not many of the singles and halfway around Australia we kept getting requests for certain songs and we said ‘We don’t play that any more.’ and we suddenly started to realise that we actually wanted to and so we started to rehearse at sound checks. And by the end of that first tour in ’85, we were doing quite a few of the hits again and it was quite remarkable how a heavy rock audience was reacting to songs like ‘Blockbuster’ and in the end, it was absolutely the right move.”
The band has seen many line-up changes since then but Andy is very happy with the current line-up of Pete Lincoln (lead vocals/bass), Bruce Bisland (drums/vocals), Andy Scott (guitar/vocals) and Tony O’Hora (guitar/keyboards/vocals). “This is probably the closest to the original band line-up sound wise and vocally that we’ve ever had,” he tells me. “I think, in a metamorphosis kind of a way, it’s like we’ve evolved but we’re almost back where we started and I’ve never been happier.”
Sadly, though, Tony’s wife is battling breast cancer and, just days before the band was due to fly out of the U.K, Tony announced that he would not be joining Sweet on the Australian leg of this tour. He will be staying home to support his wife through a very difficult time right now. Andy is behind his friend and colleague 100%. “Any one of us would make the same decision. When someone you love so intently is going through a difficult time, the last thing you want is to not be there for them. Any one of us would do the same thing.” Tony will be replaced by Paul Manzi on this leg of the tour. And Rock Club 40 would like to take this opportunity to send our warmest wishes to Tony and his wife at this time..
The band has also been through its fair share of tragedy and turmoil but Andy seems determined to keep the dream alive.“Yes,” he agrees but admits that there have been moments.“When ‘Love is Like Oxygen’came out, we had probably the biggest comeback album in America and here we are with a major problem where our singer is falling all over the stage and it’s almost at a point where you start to think ‘I really don’t want to be doing this.’ I remember having a long discussion with Brian but, as you know, if you don’t fix it yourself, nobody else is going to fix it for you. You have to know that you want to do it and I remember having that discussion with Brian and he said ‘Yeah, I’m going to sort it,’ and he never did.Then, in the eighties, I was working in production on other people’s records and my own career but none of it was anything like The Sweet and when the opportunity came to go back on the road, that’s when it all came together for me and what else would I do? Nothing fulfils the same way as this. It’s a full time job and it’s better than working! I don’t treat it as if it’s work. It’s part of my life. It’s what it’s always been. I know it’s difficult to be in a situation where you’re playing the same kind of songs most nights. I mean, I probably now realise why Van Morrison doesn’t do ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ any more when he performs and that he’s a little bit off the wall because he wants to expand and not do the same things but I’ve got a very good friend who works for Paul McCartney and Paul McCartney goes on stage for two and a half or three hours every night, playing very similar songs and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!” he laughs.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2014 Sharyn Hamey. All Rights Reserved
For full details of Sweet’s Australian Tour, click here