Sweet (also referred to as The Sweet) were a British rock band that rose to worldwide fame in the 1970s as a prominent glam rock act, with their most prolific line-up: lead vocalist Brian Connolly, bass player Steve Priest, guitarist Andy Scott, and drummer Mick Tucker.
Sweet were formed in 1968 and achieved their first hit "Funny Funny" in 1971 after teaming up with songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and record producer Phil Wainman. During 1971 and 1972, their musical style followed a marked progression from the Archies-like bubblegum style of "Funny Funny" to a Who-influenced hard rock style supplemented by a striking use of high-pitched backing vocals.
The band achieved notable success in the UK charts, with thirteen Top 20 hits during the 1970s alone, with "Block Buster!" (1973) topping the chart, followed by three consecutive number two hits in "Hell Raiser" (1973), "The Ballroom Blitz" (1973) and "Teenage Rampage" (1974). the band turned to more Hard Rock style with their mid-career singles like 1974's Turn It Down. Their first self-written and produced single "Fox on the Run" (1975) also reached number two on the UK charts. These results were topped in West Germany and other countries on the European mainland, where the band was very popular.
The Sweet had their last Top 10 hit in 1978 with "Love Is Like Oxygen". Connolly left the group in 1979 to start a solo career and the remaining members continued as a threesome until disbanding in 1981.
Since the mid-1980s, Scott, Connolly and Priest have each played with their own versions of Sweet during different periods of time. Connolly died in 1997, and Tucker died in 2002. The two surviving members are still active in their respective versions of the band; Scott's is based in the United Kingdom and Priest's in the United States.
Sweet's origins can be traced back to British soul band Wainwright's Gentlemen. Mark Lay's history of that band states they formed around 1962 and were initially known as Unit 4. Founder members included Chris Wright (vocals), Jan Frewer (bass), with Jim Searle and Alfred Fripp on guitars. Phil Kenton joined on drums as the band changed its named to Wainwright's Gentlemen (due to there being another band known as Unit 4). They performed locally in the Hayes, Harrow and Wembley area. By 1964 the group was also playing in London, including at the Saint Germain Club in Poland Street. Frewer's father managed the band, which had acquired an impressive array of equipment and found much work in local clubs.
In January 1964 the band entered Mecca Dancing and Walls' Ice Cream national beat group contest. They won their area heat against competition which included The Detours (featuring vocalist Roger Daltrey). The band won through to the national finals held at the Lyceum, Strand on 4 May 1964. Highlights of that show, judged by Jimmy Savile were featured on BBC1, with the show hosted by Alan Freeman but the band only finished 5th overall. Chris Wright left the line-up in late 1964 and was replaced by Ian Gillan. A female vocalist named Ann Cully joined the band soon after. Mick Tucker, from Ruislip, joined on drums, replacing Phil Kenton. The band recorded a number of tracks including a cover of The Hollies' hit "Ain't That Just Like Me", which was probably recorded at Jackson Sound Studios in Rickmansworth. It was eventually released in February 2011 on a compilation CD, "Rare Mod, Volume 3" on the Acid Jazz label (AJXCD 238). The track features Gillan on vocals, Tucker on drums and, according to band bassist Jan Frewer, is thought to have been recorded in 1965. Gillan quit in May 1965 to join Episode Six, and, later, Deep Purple. Cully remained on as vocalist before departing some time later. Gillan's and Culley's eventual replacement was Scots-born vocalist Brian Connolly, who hailed more recently from Harefield. Tony Hall had joined on saxophone and when Fripp left he was replaced by Gordon Fairminer. Fairminer's position was eventually assumed by Frank Torpey (born 30 April 1947, Kilburn, North West London)- a schoolfriend of Tucker's. Torpey only lasted two or three months until mid-1967 when Robin Box took his place. Searle, regarded by many as the most talented musically, disappeared from the scene. Tucker and Connolly remained with Wainwright's Gentlemen until late 1967. Tucker was replaced in Wainwright's Gentlemen by Roger Hills. When the Gentlemen eventually broke up, Hills and Box joined White Plains and scored a big hit with "My Baby Loves Lovin'".
In late 1967 Connolly and Tucker formed a new band, calling themselves The Sweetshop. They recruited the bass guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Priest of a local band called The Army, who had previously played with another local band The Countdowns. Frank Torpey was recruited to play guitar from another West London band called The Tribe. The quartet made its public debut at the Pavilion in Hemel Hempstead in March 1968 and soon developed a following on the pub circuit, which led to a contract with Fontana Records. At the time, another UK band released a single under the same name Sweetshop, so the band changed the name to The Sweet. Their debut single "Slow Motion" (July 1968), produced by Phil Wainman, failed to chart and owing to its rarity now sells for several hundred pounds when auctioned. Sweet were released from the recording contract and Frank Torpey left. In his autobiography Are You Ready Steve, Priest said that Gordon Fairminer was approached to play for them when Torpey decided to leave but turned the job down as he wanted to concentrate on other interests.
New line-up and new record deal
Guitarist Mick Stewart joined in 1969. Stewart had some rock pedigree, having previously worked with The (Ealing) Redcaps and Simon Scott & The All-Nite Workers in the mid-1960s. In late 1965, that band became The Phil Wainman Set when the future Sweet producer joined on drums and the group cut some singles with Errol Dixon. In early 1966, Stewart left and later worked with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
The Sweet signed a new record contract with EMI's Parlophone label. Three bubblegum pop singles were released: "Lollipop Man" (September 1969), "All You'll Ever Get from Me" (January 1970), and a cover version of The Archies' "Get on the Line" (June 1970), all of which failed to chart. Stewart then quit, and was not replaced for some time. Connolly and Tucker had a chance meeting with their former producer Phil Wainman who knew of two aspiring songwriters, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who were looking for a group to sing over some demos they had written together. Connolly, Priest and Tucker provided backing vocals on a track called "Funny Funny" which Wainman began offering to various recording companies. The band held auditions for a replacement guitarist and settled on Welsh-born Andy Scott. He had most recently been playing with Mike McCartney in The Scaffold. As a member of The Elastic Band, he had played guitar on two singles for Decca, "Think of You Baby" and "Do Unto Others". He also appeared on the band's lone album release, Expansions on Life, and on some recordings by The Scaffold. The band rehearsed for a number of weeks before Scott made his live debut with Sweet in September, 1970 at Redcar.
Sweet initially attempted to combine various musical influences, including The Monkees and 1960s bubblegum pop groups such as The Archies, with more heavy rock-oriented groups such as The Who. The Sweet adopted the rich vocal harmony style of The Hollies, with distorted guitars and a heavy rhythm section. This fusion of pop and hard rock would remain a central trademark of Sweet's music and prefigured the hair metal of a decade later.
Sweet's initial album appearance was on the budget label Music for Pleasure as part of a compilation called Gimme Dat Ding, released in December 1970. The Sweet had one side of the record; The Pipkins (whose sole hit, "Gimme Dat Ding", gave the LP its name) had the other. The Sweet side consisted of the A- and B-sides of the band's three Parlophone singles. Andy Scott appears in the album cover shot, even though he did not play on any of the recordings.
The Sweet made their UK television debut in January 1971 on a pop show called Lift Off, performing the song "Funny Funny". A management deal was signed with a newly formed, unknown songwriting team consisting of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Phil Wainman resumed his collaboration with Sweet, as executive producer. This management deal also included a worldwide (the U.S. excepted) record contract with RCA Records (in the United States and Canada Bell Records issued the group's music until late 1973; followed by Capitol Records).
In March 1971, RCA issued "Funny Funny", written by Chinn and Chapman, which became the group's first international hit, climbing to the Top 20 on many of the world's charts. EMI reissued their 1970 single "All You'll Ever Get from Me" (May 1971) and it again failed to chart. Their next RCA release "Co-Co" (June 1971) went to number two in the U.K., their follow up single, "Alexander Graham Bell" (October 1971), only went to #33.
Sweet's first full LP album, Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be, was released in November 1971. A collection of the band's recent singles supplemented by some new Chinn/Chapman novelty tunes (including "Chop Chop" and "Tom Tom Turnaround") and pop covers (such as The Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" and The Supremes' "Reflections"), the album was not a serious contender on the charts. Their albums' failure to match the success of their singles was a problem that would plague the band throughout their career.
Initial success and rise to fame
February 1972 saw the release of "Poppa Joe", which reached at number 1 in Finland, peaked at number 11 in the UK Singles Chart. The next two singles of that year, "Little Willy" and "Wig-Wam Bam", both reached No. 4 in the UK, and "Little Willy" peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 after a re-issue in 1973, thus becoming the group's biggest American hit. Although "Wig-Wam Bam" remained largely true to the style of Sweet's previous recordings, the vocals and guitars had a harder, more rock-oriented sound, largely because it was the first Sweet single on which only members of Sweet played. In January 1973 "Block Buster!" became Sweet's first single to reach number 1 on the UK chart, remaining there for five consecutive weeks. After their next single "Hell Raiser" was released in May and reached number 2 in the U.K., Sweet's U.S. label released the group's first American album The Sweet in July 1973.
To promote their singles, Sweet made numerous appearances on U.K. and European TV shows such as Top of the Pops and Supersonic. In one performance of "Block Buster!" on Top of the Pops, Priest aroused complaints after he appeared wearing a German uniform and displaying a swastika armband. The band also capitalised on the glam rock explosion, rivaling Gary Glitter, T. Rex, Queen, Slade, and Wizzard for outrageous stage clothing.
Despite Sweet's success, the relationship with their management was becoming increasingly tense. While they had developed a large fan-base among teenagers, Sweet were not happy with their 'bubblegum' image. Sweet began to compose their own heavy-rock songs on the B-sides of their singles to contrast with the bubblegum A-sides which were composed by Chinn and Chapman. During this time, Sweet's live performances consisted of B-sides, album tracks, and various medleys of rock and roll classics; they avoided older 'novelty' hits like "Funny Funny" and "Poppa Joe". A 1973 performance at the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall in Kilmarnock ended in Sweet being bottled off stage; the disorder was attributed by some (including Steve Priest) to Sweet's lipstick and eye-shadow look, and by others to the audience being unfamiliar with the concert set (the 1999 CD release Live at the Rainbow 1973 documents a live show from this period). The incident would be immortalised in the hit "The Ballroom Blitz" (September 1973). In the meantime, Sweet's chart success continued, showing particular strength in England, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Australia. At the end of 1973, the band's name evolved from "The Sweet" to "Sweet". The change would be reflected in all of their releases from 1974 onward.
Forming a new image
By 1974, Sweet had grown tired of the management team of Chinn and Chapman, who wrote the group's major hits and cultivated the band's glam rock image. The group and producer Phil Wainman recorded the album Sweet Fanny Adams, which was released in April 1974. Sweet's technical proficiency was demonstrated for the first time on self-penned hard rock tracks such as "Sweet F.A." and "Set Me Free". Sweet also adopted a more conventional hard rock sound and appearance. Sweet Fanny Adams also featured compressed high-pitched backing vocal harmonies, which was a trend that continued on all of Sweet's albums.
During sessions for the album Brian Connolly was injured in a fight in Staines High Street. His throat was badly injured and his ability to sing severely limited. Priest and Scott filled in on lead vocals on some tracks ("No You Don't", "Into The Night" and "Restless") and Connolly, under treatment from a Harley Street specialist, managed to complete the album. The band did not publicise the incident and told the press that subsequent cancelled shows were due to Connolly having a throat infection.
No previous singles appeared on the album, and none were released except in Japan and Australia, where "Peppermint Twist/Rebel Rouser" gained a #1 chart position. Sweet Fanny Adams would be Sweet's only non-compilation release to break the UK Albums Chart Top 40.
Sweet were invited by Pete Townshend to support The Who, who were playing at Charlton Athletic's football ground, The Valley in June 1974. However, Connolly's badly bruised throat kept them from fulfilling the role. Sweet had frequently cited The Who as being one of their main influences and played a medley of their tracks in their live set for many years.
Their third album, Desolation Boulevard, was released later in 1974, six months after Sweet Fanny Adams. Produced by Mike Chapman, the album was recorded in a mere six days and featured a rawer "live" sound. The first single from the LP, the heavy-melodic "The Six Teens" (July 1974), was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and still part of the amazing unbroken string of #1's in Denmark. However, the subsequent single release, "Turn It Down" (November 1974), reached only number 41 on the U.K. chart and #2 in Denmark. "Turn It Down" received minimal airplay on UK radio and was banned by some radio stations because of certain lyrical content - "God-awful sound" and "For God's sakes, turn it down" - which were deemed "unsuitable for family listening."
The U.S. version of Desolation Boulevard was different from the U.K. version and included several songs from Sweet Fanny Adams in addition to the "Ballroom Blitz" and "Fox on the Run" singles. Side One of the album contained all Chapman-Chinn penned songs, while Side Two featured songs written and produced by Sweet.
Writing and producing their own material
In 1975 Sweet went back into the studio to re-arrange and record a more pop-oriented version of the track "Fox on the Run". Sweet's first self-written and produced single, "Fox on the Run" was released worldwide in March 1975 and became their biggest selling hit, reaching number one in Germany, Denmark, and South Africa, number two in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and the Netherlands, and number three in Austria and Switzerland. In Australia it not only made it to the top of the single charts, it also became the biggest selling single of that year. In North America the song was released in the fall and reached number two in Canada and number five in the U.S.
The following single release, "Action" (July 1975), peaked at number 15 in the UK. Now confident in their own songwriting and production abilities, Sweet spent the latter half of 1975 in Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, where they recorded the Give Us A Wink album with German sound engineer Reinhold Mack, who later recorded with Electric Light Orchestra and co-produced Queen. The new album release was held over until 1976 so as not to stifle the chart success Desolation Boulevard was enjoying in North America, peaking at number 25 in the US and number 5 in Canada.
The Sweet Singles Album and Strung Up
In 1975 RCA released a compilation album in Australia and New Zealand entitled The Sweet Singles Album to coincide with Sweet's concert tour in those countries. The album featured singles recordings, including the singles "Ballroom Blitz", "Teenage Rampage", "Block Buster" and "Hell Raiser". With Give Us a Wink being held for release in 1976, RCA issued a double album in Europe, Strung Up in November, which contained one live disc, recorded in London in December 1973, and one disc compiling previously released single tracks (plus a new song by Chinn and Chapman – "I Wanna Be Committed"). At the end of the year, Andy Scott released his first solo single, "Lady Starlight" b/w "Where D'Ya Go". Tucker played drums on both tracks.
Decline in popularity
January 1976 saw the release of the single "The Lies In Your Eyes", which made the Top 10 in Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia, but only reached No. 35 on the U.K. charts. Sweet's first album to be fully produced and written by themselves, Give Us A Wink, was released in March 1976. A third single from the album, "4th Of July", was issued in Australia.
By this time, Sweet strove to build on their growing popularity in America with a schedule of more than fifty headline concert dates. Even though Give Us A Wink's release was imminent, the band's set essentially promoted the US version of Desolation Boulevard plus the new single "Action". During an appearance at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in California on 24 March, Sweet played "All Right Now" with Ritchie Blackmore as a tribute to mark the death of Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, who was to have supported Sweet with his band Back Street Crawler. Following the end of the US tour, the band went on to Scandinavia and Germany. The band also spent a week at The Who's Rampart Studio in Battersea demoing material for a new album before abandoning that project and playing eight dates in Japan.
Between October 1976 and January 1977, Sweet wrote and recorded new material at Kingsway Recorders and Audio International London studios for their next album. An advance single from the album, "Lost Angels", was only a hit in Germany, Austria and Sweden. A new album, Off the Record, was released in April. The next single from the album, "Fever of Love", represented the band heading in a somewhat more Europop hard rock direction, once again charting in Germany, Austria and Sweden, while reaching number 10 in South Africa. On this album, Sweet again worked with Give Us A Wink engineer Louis Austin, who would later engineer Def Leppard's On Through The Night 1980 début album.
Level Headed and a change in style
Sweet left RCA in 1977 and signed a new deal with Polydor though it would not come into force until later in the year. Sweet's manager David Walker, from Handle Artists, negotiated the move which was reputed to be worth around £750,000 British pounds sterling. In North American markets, Capitol issued Sweet's albums since 1974 and would continue to do so through 1980.
The first Polydor album, Level Headed (1978), found Sweet experimenting by combining rock and classical sounds "a-la clavesin", an approach similar to Electric Light Orchestra, and featured the single "Love Is Like Oxygen". Largely recorded at Château d'Hérouville near Paris, France and Clearwell Castle in the Forest Of Dean UK, the album represented a new musical direction with its Led Zeppelin influenced rock style, interspersed with ballads accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra. The ballad, "Lettres D'Amour", featured a duet between Connolly and emerging singer Stevie Lange (who would emerge as lead singer with the group Night in 1979).
With the addition of session and touring musicians keyboardist Gary Moberley and guitarist Nico Ramsden, Sweet undertook a short European and Scandinavian tour followed by a single British concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 24 February 1978. However, "Love Is Like Oxygen" (January 1978) was their last U.K., U.S. and German Top 10 hit. Scott was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for co-composing the song. One more single from the album, "California Nights" (May 1978), featuring Steve Priest as the lead vocalist, peaked at number 23 on the German charts.
Departure of Brian Connolly
Between March and May 1978 Sweet extensively toured the US, as a support act for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. The tour included a disastrous date in Birmingham, Alabama, at which visiting Capitol Records executives in the audience saw Brian Connolly give a drunken and incoherent performance that terminated early in the set with his collapse on stage, leaving the rest of the group to play on without him. The band returned briefly to England before resuming the second leg of their US tour in late May supporting Seger and other acts, including Foghat and Alice Cooper, finishing the US tour in early July 1978. Brian's alcoholism was steadily becoming a greater issue.
In late October, Sweet arrived at The Town House studio in Shepherds Bush, London to write and record new material for their next album, Cut Above the Rest. As a last-ditch effort, the group organised for Connolly's long-time friend and fellow founding member, Mick Tucker, to go into the studio without Andy Scott as producer. A number of tracks were recorded featuring Connolly on vocals. However, these efforts were deemed unsatisfactory, and some of the contributions were then erased from the ensuing album.
On 23 February 1979, Brian Connolly's departure from Sweet was announced by manager David Walker. Publicly, Connolly was said to be pursuing a solo career with an interest in recording country rock.
Three piece Sweet
Sweet continued as a trio with Steve Priest and Andy Scott handling lead vocals, with Mick Tucker continuing on drums. Guest keyboard player Gary Moberley continued to augment the group on stage. Guitarist Ray McRiner joined their touring line-up in 1979, with a small tour with Journey in the eastern United States and Cheap Trick in Texas to support Cut Above The Rest. McRiner would also contribute the songs "Too Much Talking" and the single "Give The Lady Some Respect" to the next Sweet album, Waters Edge. In the US, Waters Edge was titled Sweet VI. It featured the singles "Sixties Man" and "Give The Lady Some Respect".
One more studio album, Identity Crisis, was recorded during 1980-81 but was only released in West Germany and Mexico. Sweet undertook a short tour of the UK and performed their last live show at Glasgow University on 20 March 1981. Steve Priest then returned to the United States, where he had been living since late 1979. Shortly after his return to the US, Steve Priest remarried ending any hopes of a return to the UK. When Polydor released Identity Crisis in 1982, the original Sweet had been disbanded for almost a year.
Re-formed versions (1984-present)
Sweet/Andy Scott's Sweet (1985-present)
In 1984, Brian Connolly formed a new version of the Sweet without original members. The following year, during 1985, Andy Scott and Mick Tucker formed a different line-up. Now there were two Sweet bands. Scott and Tucker re-formed Sweet with Paul Mario Day (ex-Iron Maiden, More, Wildfire) on lead vocals, Phil Lanzon (ex-Grand Prix) on keyboards and Mal McNulty on bass.
Tucker departed after a show in Lochau, Austria on 5 May 1991 in acrimonious circumstances linked to his failing health. He later was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Two drummers, Andy Holger and Bobby Andersen, provided short-term relief before German Bodo Schopf (ex-McAuley Schenker Group) took over. They recorded an album during this period, simply titled A. Before the band embarked on the supporting tour, Bodo left and the drum stool was filled by Bruce Bisland (ex-Weapon, Wildfire, Praying Mantis). Scott changed the band's name to 'Andy Scott's Sweet' after Tucker's departure, but truncated it to simply 'The Sweet' once again after Tucker's death in 2002.
Mal McNulty, now lead vocalist, departed in 1994, though he would return briefly that year to fill in for Jeff Brown on bass (as he would again in 1995 as lead singer for a few dates while Rocky Newton subbed on bass). Sweet's former keyboard men Gary Moberley and Ian Gibbons also did fill-in jaunts with the group that year, as did Chris Goulstone. Chad Brown (ex-Lionheart; no relation to Jeff) was the new front man. Glitz Blitz and Hitz, a new studio album of re-recorded Sweet hits, was released.
In 1996, Mann left and Gibbons came back for a short time before Steve Grant (ex-The Animals) became the permanent keyboardist. When Chad Brown quit in 1998, Jeff Brown assumed lead vocals and bass duties. After this, the band was stable again for the next five years.
The mid-2000s would bring further shake-ups and rotations. Tony O'Hora (ex-Onslaught, Praying Mantis) replaced Brown as lead vocalist. Ian Gibbons came back for a third stint as fill-in keyboardist in June 2005 for a gig in the Faroe Islands. O'Hora decided to split in late 2005. Singers Mark Thompson Smith (ex-Praying Mantis) in November 2005 and Tony Mills (ex-Shy) in early 2006 came and went. Grant jumped from keyboards to lead vocals, and even bass as needed, on dates when the group had no singer (Phil Lanzon, then Steve Mann, temporarily returned on keys when Grant was the frontman). Jo Burt was temporary bass player in October and November 2005.
The group finally landed a new permanent frontman when Peter Lincoln (ex-Sailor) arrived in July 2006. The line-up consisted of Scott, Bisland, Grant, and Lincoln.
Scott produced the Suzi Quatro album, Back to the Drive, released in February 2006. March 2006 saw the U.S. release of his band's album, Sweetlife.
In 2007 the group played in Germany, Belgium, Austria and Italy. In May of that year, the band played in Porto Alegre and Curitiba, Brazil, their first and only South American shows. The tour was called 'Sweet Fanny Adams Tour'.
The band toured again in March 2008 under the name 'Sweet Fanny Adams Revisited Tour'. In May and June, Scott's Sweet were part of the "Glitz Blitz & 70s Hitz" tour of the UK alongside The Rubettes and Showaddywaddy.
In March and April 2010, Scott was absent from a couple of gigs due to ill health, and Martin Mickels stood in. Scott revealed later that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and was treated at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. After a course of treatment and rest, he was back to full touring fitness. In 2010 the band played at venues in Europe, and back at Bilston in October.
In March 2011 there was a short tour of Australia, Regal Theatre - Perth, Bunbury Entertainment Centre and Clipsal 500, Adelaide with the Doobie Brothers.
In March 2012, the band released a new album New York Connection. Recorded in England, it comprised 11 cover versions, including the 2011 single "Join Together", and one revamped original recording; the 1972 B-side "New York Connection". On the eve of their March 2012 "Join Together" tour of Australia, the band undertook an acoustic performance of three tracks, "New York Groove-Empire State of Mind", "Blockbuster" and "Peppermint Twist", in front of a live audience at ABC Radio Studios in East Perth. Shows in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney featured tracks from the new album for the first time.
New Sweet/Brian Connolly's Sweet (1984-1997)
From early 1984 onwards, despite recurring ill health, Connolly toured the UK and Europe with his band, now under the name of The New Sweet. His most successful concerts were in West Germany every year, before and after Germany's reunification.
During 1987, Connolly would meet up again with Frank Torpey. Torpey later explained in interviews that Connolly was trying to get a German recording deal. The two got on very well and Torpey subsequently invited Connolly to go into the recording studio with him, as an informal project. After much trepidation, Connolly turned up and the track "Sharontina" was recorded. This recording would not be released until 1998, appearing on Frank Torpey's album Sweeter.
By July 1990, plans were made for Connolly and his band to tour Australia in November. During the long flight to Australia, Connolly's health had suffered and he was hospitalised in Adelaide Hospital, allegedly for dehydration and related problems. The rest of the band played a show in Adelaide without him. After being released from the hospital, Connolly joined the other band members in Melbourne for a gig at the Pier Hotel, in Frankston. After several other shows, including one at the Dingley Powerhouse, Connolly and his band played a final date at Melbourne's Greek Theatre. It was felt that Connolly's health was sufficient reason for the tour not to be extended, and some of the planned dates were abandoned. Connolly went back to England and his band appeared on The Bob Downe Christmas show on 18 December 1990.
During the early 1990s Connolly played the European "oldies" circuit and occasional outdoor festivals in Europe with his band. On 22 March 1992, a heavy duty tape recorder was stolen from the band's van whilst at a gig in the Bristol Hippodrome with Mud. It contained demos of four new songs, totaling about 20 mixes.
Legal problems were going on in the background over the use of the Sweet name between Connolly and Andy Scott. Both parties agreed to distinguish their group's names to help promoters and fans. The New Sweet became Brian Connolly's Sweet and Andy Scott's version became Andy Scott's Sweet.
In 1994 Connolly and his band played in Dubai. He appeared at the Galleria Theatre, Hyatt Regency. He also performed in Bahrain.
By this time Connolly had healed the differences with Steve Priest and Mick Tucker, and was invited to the wedding of Priest's eldest daughter, Lisa. At the private function, for which Priest specially flew back to England, Priest and Connolly performed together.
In 1995, Connolly released a new album entitled Let's Go. Also that year, his partner Jean, whom he had met a few years earlier, gave birth to a son. Also in 1995, Connolly performed in Switzerland.
On 2 November 1996, British TV Network Channel 4 aired a programme "Don't Leave Me This Way", which examined Connolly's time as a pop star with The Sweet, the subsequent decline in the band's popularity, and its impact on Connolly and the other band members. The show revealed Connolly's ill health but also that he was continuing with his concert dates at Butlins. Connolly and his band had appeared at Butlins a number of times on tour during the early 1990s.
Connolly's final concert was at the Bristol Hippodrome on 5 December 1996, with Slade II and John Rossall's Glitter Band Experience.
Steve Priest's Sweet (2008-present)
In January 2008, Steve Priest assembled his own version of The Sweet in Los Angeles. He enlisted fellow Brit Stuart Smith, classically-trained former axeman for the bands Sidewinder and Heaven & Earth, on guitar. L.A. native Richie Onori, Smith's band-mate in Heaven & Earth, was brought in on drums. The keyboard spot was manned by ex-Crow and World Classic Rockers alumni Stevie Stewart. Front-man and vocalist Joe Retta was brought in to round out the line-up.
After an initial appearance on L.A. rock station 95.5 KLOS's popular Mark & Brian radio program, the "Are You Ready Steve?" tour kicked off at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood on 12 June 2008. The band spent the next several months playing festivals and gigs throughout the U.S. and Canada, including, among others: Moondance Jam in Walker, MN; headlining at the Rock 'n' Resort Festival in North Lawrence, OH (near Canal Fulton); London, Ontario's Rock The Park; another headlining gig at Peterborough's Festival of Lights; the Common Ground Festival in Lansing, MI; and a benefit concert for victims of California's wildfires at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA.
In January 2009, The Sweet not only presented at the concert industry's Pollstar Awards, but also played a short set at the Nokia Theatre where the event was held, marking the first time in the ceremony's history that a band performed at the show. In addition to local gigs at the House of Blues on L.A.'s Sunset Strip and Universal's Citywalk, 2009 saw the band return to Canada for sold-out shows at the Mae Wilson Theater and Casino Regina, as well as the Nakusp Music Festival and Rockin' the Fields in Minnedosa, Manitoba. U.S. festivals have included Minnesota's Halfway Jam, Rockin' the Rivers in Montana (with Pat Travers and Peter Frampton), and two late-summer shows at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
The new band recorded a cover version of the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," which was included on Cleopatra Records' "Abbey Road," a Fab Four tribute CD that was released on 24 March 2009.
A preview of the band's new CD "Live in America," which was recorded live at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon, California on 30 August 2008, was featured on KLOS's "Front Row" program on 12 April 2009. The CD, which was first sold at shows and via the band's on-line store, was released worldwide in an exclusive deal with Amazon.com on 21 July 2009. The release has garnered favourable reviews from The Rock n Roll Report, Classic Rock Revisited and Hard Rock Haven, among others.
In April 2010, the band released its first single on iTunes: an updated, hard rock version of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." Performances on the 2010 summer tour included The Wildflower! Festival in Richardson, TX; Las Vegas, Nevada's Fremont Street Experience; Rock N' America in Oklahoma City, OK; Summer Jam in Des Moines, IA; Jack FM's Fifth Show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Los Angeles; an appearance at the Hard Rock Hotel in Biloxi, MO; and the inaugural edition of the Thunder Mountain Rock Festival in Sawyer, ND.
On 11 November 2010 it was announced that in May 2011 "Steve Priest's Sweet" had been booked to perform at a handful of European dates, but the gigs ultimately had to be cancelled in late January 2011 after it was learned that one of the promoters was a suspected swindler wanted by British law enforcement officials. As of February 2011, fans who purchased pre-sale tickets were still in the process of working through the administrative channels with PayPal and various banks and credit card issuers in order to try to reclaim their funds.
As far as it goes, the band toured South America along with Journey during March 2011.
The band and their European fans then also got re-united quicker than thought, when the band got booked by a befriended female Belgian promoter. Two east German gigs, 27 and 28 May 2011, so in Borna and in Schwarzenberg Steve Priest's Sweet hit the European grounds. After more than 30 years, Steve Priest got a warm welcome back in Europe.
As of 12 August 2012, Stuart Smith resigned from the guitar post in order to dedicate more time to his "Heaven & Earth" project.
Beginning with the band's October 2012 appearance at the Festival Internacional Chihuahua in Mexico, Los Angeles-based guitarist Ricky Z. has teamed up with Steve Priest and company for their live performances. In February 2013, this lineup returned to Casino Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Tour dates are currently in the works for summer 2013, including Riverfest in Watertown, WI, the St. Clair, MI Riverfest, several additional dates in Canada, and a reprise of their appearances at both Moondance Jam in Walker, MN and Rockin' the Rivers in Three Forks, MT. Some rare appearances on the U.S. east coast are slated, including a performance with David Johansen of the New York Dolls at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ.
Brief reunions and the deaths of Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker
Steve Priest was asked to join Tucker and Scott for the 1985 Australian tour, but declined at the last moment.
Mike Chapman contacted Connolly, Priest, Scott, and Tucker in 1988, offering to finance a recording session in Los Angeles. As he remembers: "I met them at the airport and Andy and Mick came off the plane. I said, 'Where's Brian?' They said, 'Oh, he's coming.' All the people had come off the plane by now. Then this little old man hobbled towards us. He was shaking, and had a ghostly white face. I thought, 'Oh, Jesus Christ.' It was horrifying." Reworked studio versions of "Action" and "The Ballroom Blitz" were recorded, but it became clear that Connolly's voice and physical health had made Sweet's original member comeback too difficult to promote commercially. Consequently, the reunion attempt was aborted.
In 1990 this line-up was again reunited for the promotion of a music documentary entitled Sweet's Ballroom Blitz. This UK video release, which contained UK television performances from the 1970s and current-day interviews, was released at Tower Records, London. Sweet were interviewed by Power Hour, Super Channel, and talked about a reunion.
Brian Connolly died at the age of 51 on 9 February 1997 from liver failure and repeated heart attacks, attributed to his 1970s and early 1980s chronic alcoholism. Mick Tucker subsequently died on 14 February 2002 from leukaemia, aged 54.
Today, two versions of The Sweet are still active with original members: "Andy Scott's Sweet", who frequently tour across Europe as Sweet and makes occasional sojourns to other markets including regular visits to Australia, and "Steve Priest's Sweet" who tour the US and Canada.
On 28 April 2009, Shout! Factory released a two-disc, career-spanning greatest hits album called Action: The Sweet Anthology. It received a coveted four-star (out of five) rating in Rolling Stone.
In an October 2012 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Axl Rose, lead singer of Guns N' Roses, referenced Sweet as one of his favorite bands growing up along with fellow British band Queen.
Brian Connolly Band/New Sweet/Brian Connolly's Sweet
Andy Scott's Sweet
Steve Priest's Sweet
- Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be (1971)
- The Sweet (first album released in North America) (1973)
- Sweet Fanny Adams (1974)
- Desolation Boulevard (1974)
- Give Us a Wink (1976)
- Off the Record (1977)
- Level Headed (1978)
- Cut Above the Rest (1979)
- Waters Edge (tilted Sweet VI with a different cover in the U.S.) (1980)
- Identity Crisis (1982)
Ain't That Just Like Me- The Unsung Story of Wainwright's Gentlemen, Mark Lay (2011, Scribe, ISBN 5800072530987)
- thesweet.com Andy Scott's The Sweet official site
- thesweetband.com Steve Priest's Sweet website
- thesweet.com/hsh – Official Sweet Fansite
- thesweetweb.com – Andy Scott's Sweet (fansite)
- andyscott.info Andy Scott's personal website
- The Sweet discography at Discogs
- Sweet at AllMusic
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Image from Discogs