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.
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.