The Sweet

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.

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“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).

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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.

Alvin Stardust

Bernard William Jewry was born, in September of 1942, in London. While he was still a child, his family moved north to live in Nottinghamshire.

Bernard was a roadie with the group, Shane Fenton and The Fentones, and when Shane Fenton (nee John Theakstone) died, as the result of having rheumatic fever as a child, he was invited to become the new Shane Fenton.

The combination had four relatively minor hits covering a period of twelve months from October of 1961. The last of these, “Cindy’s Birthday”, was also the largest, ascending to No.19 on the singles chart in Britain. It was actually a cover of Johnny Crawford’s recording that had risen to No.8 in America, just a few months earlier. Johnny played Mark McCain in the highly popular television series, ‘The Rifleman’. In the series, his father, Lucas McCain, was portrayed by Chuck Connors; back in what truly was the golden age of television.

Once Shane Felton and The Feltones had disbanded, little was heard of Bernard. That is, until the early 1970s when he re-emerged having acquired the persona, Alvin Stardust, in the era of glam rock.

Alvin’s first single, “My Coo-Ca-Choo”, entered the British chart in November of 1973 and, in spite of peaking at No.2, was to spend some five months there.

Nineteen seventy-four was to be Alvin’s most successful year. He took “Jealous Mind” to No.1, “Red Dress” to No.7, “You You You” to No.6, and “Tell Me Why” to No.16.

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Alvin’s only real achievement, in 1975, was to have “Good Love Can Never Die” reach No.11. Thereafter, a hiatus of some six years ensued before “Pretend” rose to No.4. The song had been a hit for Nat ‘King’ Cole, in 1953, and Gerry and The Pacemakers, in 1965.

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Three more years passed before “I Feel Like Buddy Holly” (No.7) established him as an extant recording artist, yet again.

In late 1984, “I Won’t Run Away” followed, reaching its zenith, at No.7, in early 1985.

In Australia, Alvin’s “My Coo-Ca-Choo”, was virtually his only hit, having risen to No.2, as it had in Great Britain. To my knowledge, he remains an unknown to the vast majority of Americans.

Slade

The ‘N Betweens formed in 1966, and managed to earn a living by performing live. It was not until the group met Chas Chandler, a producer of records, that it was advised to change its name and write its own material.

From 1969 until 1991, Slade, England’s most successful glam-rock band of the 1970s, was comprised of vocalist, Noddy Holder; leading guitarist, Dave Hill; drummer, Don Powell and bass guitarist, Jim Lea. Noddy and Jim were the band’s principal songwriters and it was they who penned all six of Slade’s singles that were to top the British charts.

These singles were: “Coz I Luv You” (in 1971), “Take Me Bak ‘Ome” (1972), “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” (1972), “Cum On Feel The Noize” (1973), “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” (1973) and “Merry Xmas Everybody” (1973). Teachers, and the BBC, were highly displeased by the style of spelling employed by the group in the naming of its songs.

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In addition to these six singles, Slade posted ten Top 10 hits between 1972 and 1984. These were: “Look Wot You Dun” (1972), “Gudbuy T’Jane” (1972), “My Friend Stan” (1973), “Everyday” (1974), “Bangin’ Man” (1974), “Far Far Away” (1974), “Thanks For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam)” (1975), “We’ll Bring The House Down” (1981), “My Oh My” (1983) and “Run Run Away” (1984).

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Releases from Slade entered the charts thirty-nine times, in total. Twenty-three of these entered the Top Thirty.

Although Slade failed to really impact upon the American charts — “Run Run Away” did peak at No.20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 — its style of music and its performance when on stage did influence a number of American bands, most notably Kiss.

In the mid-1980s the American outfit, Quiet Riot, had hits when it released covers of “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. In 1996, Oasis also covered “Cum On Feel The Noize”.

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