The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Sweet – Funny Funny

I RECENTLY READ A DISCUSSION ON an online forum on the subject of music that one had previously ignored that later became in vogue with one’s musical tastes. I think many of us can label ourselves in that happy band, enjoying groups, artists and songs that we’d once have turned our noses up at but now evoke pleasant feelings and maybe a little nostalgia.

Such a band for me were seventies pop group, Sweet, who had a string of successes in that decade yet were taken non-too-seriously by ‘serious’ rock aficionados. Of course artists can’t always have things their own way and whilst the members of Sweet always espoused to being a much ‘heavier’ group as the term went at the time, they nevertheless ploughed a furrow of attaining chart hit after hit in what was considered a ‘bubblegum’ style.

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Brian Connolly – Sweet

Sweet’s style of music was ably directed by the band’s management team and ace pop producers, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. The band were certainly at the forefront of ‘Glam Rock’ too with the attendant pros and cons contained in that.  That the band were clearly decent musicians capable of producing strong songs and a good gig experience meant little and at the time, appeared to offer them some frustration in their career together.

I guess for me, when Brian Connolly and the band were in their pomp, ripping the best-selling singles charts apart, though being fairly young and in my school days I would never have admitted to ‘liking’ them, rather espousing weightier bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Faces and so on. Nowadays however, when I listen back to some of those no-no seventies band such as Sweet and their ilk, I can honestly say that their sound brings nothing but pleasant memories and enjoyment of some masterful three-minute pop songs – a much maligned art form I believe.

Flicking through a few collections of sixties and seventies classic 45s online I came across a collection of Sweet’s greatest hits and fed a few through my headphones. The hits kept on coming and all sounded as fresh as a daisy, well-produced, well-performed good old-fashioned catchy pop songs that stick in your head as you silently hum them to yourself for hours afterwards. A stand-out was Funny Funny which sounded of rich quality and heavily evocative of the time. It also had a great hook with a chorus that was eminently singable.

Sweet’s singer, Brian Connolly was an interesting character and often referred to as Scottish actor Mark McManus’s brother or half-brother. The young, fostered Brian from Glasgow was apparently however not directly related. Rather, theTaggart actor was the nephew of the singer’s foster father. Brian left Scotland at the age of twelve to move to Middlesex and sang in a variety of bands. He soon found success fronting Sweet on their initial hit Funny Funny. At the peak of the band’s popularity and with an invitation to support The Who in their legendary Charlton Football Stadium gig of 1974, Brian however suffered a horrific beating when leaving a nightclub. After receiving several kicks to the throat he and the band were unable to play Charlton with Brian sustaining injuries that left him without a voice for some time and a permanent loss of part of his vocal range.

In due course, the singer’s relationship with his fellow band members soured and this was exacerbated by Brian’s growing problem with alcohol abuse. In later years, the band fell foul of the Inland Revenue with Brian having to sell his home. Multiple heart attacks and paralysis had already occurred, connected to Brian’s alcohol consumption, before finally quitting drinking in 1985.

A final heart attack in 1997 saw Brian hospitalised. He discharged himself to no avail as just a week later he sadly died of renal and liver failure at the age of just fifty-one. The once pretty-boy singer, adored by a legion of teenaged girl fans, was no more.

The band leave the legacy of a stream of popular and much-covered hits which were a signature of the era in which they were produced. A fun time.

June 5, 2013 - Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I. Miss. Brian coolly. Very. Much. I. Loved. Him. I also. Loved. The. Sweet. I. Can’t. Believe. That. He’s. Gone. And. Mick tucker. Missed. The n. Of. Conolly. how. Did. Mick. Get. So. I’ll. I’m. Shocked. He. Looked. well before. I. Miss. Them. plus. I. Wanted. to. Meet them. Also. I. Grew. Up. With. Them. Brian. Was. My.

    Comment by liz | March 26, 2014

  2. Lovely article, Sweet were a huge part of my childhood and practically all of my school mates, you were either Sweet or Slade back then,(I was actually involved in the Slade wars!!) Now as a musician myself I can only wonder at the amazing vocal ability of Sweet and all the musicianship in general was pretty magnificent, Ballroom blitz has to be one of the greatest rockers of all time, They were also something else live!! what a band , summer days long gone , fighting over a band , god bless 73.

    Comment by peter | June 20, 2015

  3. Many thanks for the interesting comments and kind words, Peter. I completely agree with you about Sweet and their abilities. I find their songs very memorable these days and they paint a great image of an enjoyable era in pop music. In my school it was rather a Slade-T. Rex ‘war’ and I was definitely on the latter’s side!

    Comment by Stuart | June 20, 2015


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