Just over a year ago I had a dream that I had written a book about The Sweet. When I woke up I was more than a little disappointed to release I hadn’t written any such book. But with the idea still fresh in my mind I decided to fire off an email to the publishers Sonicbond to see if they were interested in me writing one. Amazingly they came back and said yes.
Starting work last summer, writing and researching ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ very much became my lockdown project during the latter part of 2020 and the early part of 2021. I finished it back in February, delivered the manuscript and my mind, which had been so utterly pre-occupied with all things Sweet for several months, pretty much moved on to other things. In recent weeks, however, it’s all started to become very real again. There were proofs to read, images and the cover blurb to check through and so on. And although, it’s not in the shops until July 30th I took delivery of some advance copies this week!
I also did an interview for the excellent Glam-themed fanzine Wired Up – talking about how I came to write the book, how I first became obsessed with The Sweet as a teenager in the early 80s trawling through second-hand albums in Preston’s Action Records – as well as a little bit on what readers can expect from the book. You can find out more about the Wired Up fanzine here.
I’ve dedicated the book to my dad. I know he would have enjoyed reading it.
You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here
I obviously talk a great deal about my love of music in Darren’s Music Blog but I thought it might be an idea to give readers a quick tour of my actual CD collection.
Although I was a keen purchaser of vinyl in my mid to late teens during the first part of the 1980s, frequent house moves in my late teens and early 20s meant that the format was becoming a bit cumbersome. By the time the 1990s came along I was glad to embrace the CD and gradually began building up a collection. From just a handful of CDs thirty years ago it’s now grown to what it is today. They are not all new. Many have come from charity shops and second-hand record shops and record fairs. I’ve had a couple of bulk acquisitions, including when my father, a passionate life-long rock fan, unexpectedly died back in 2007.
The filing system
For many years I just used to keep my CDs in alphabetical order. When I had merely a couple of hundred it was the easiest way of finding what I wanted. But as my collection grew I found I spent more and more time browsing to decide what I fancied putting on. I rearranged everything into a rough and ready series of genres. Given my varied musical tastes this is particularly handy as it means I can browse through the shelves according to my mood, depending on whether I’m in a folk mood or a heavy metal mood or whatever.
A walk through the sections
From left to right the subdivisions for each genre (and there’s no particular reason for them being in this order) are as follows:
Folk and acoustic – lots of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span plus numerous others artists spanning the late 50s folk revival and skiffle boom to the present day. The more mellow acoustic end of the singer-songwriter/Americana genre is also included here. It’s mainly all about me being able to browse according to mood so I certainly don’t get hung up on what constitutes ‘folk’.
Heavy metal – pretty self-explanatory and includes everything from AC/DC to Black Sabbath to Motorhead, plus a growing collection of ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ releases. Again, I don’t get hung up on precise definitions: if it’s loud with plenty of guitar solos I know I’ll find it in here.
50s rock and roll and traditional blues – from Chuck Berry to Little Richard and from B.B. King to Muddy Waters they are all kept together here. A nicely growing part of my collection and some great charity shop finds.
General rock and miscellaneous – this is basically my ‘everything else’ section for stuff that hasn’t been put into a special category of its own. It includes the likes of the Beach Boys, Santana and Status Quo along with anything from a genre that hasn’t got its own section. I’ve not got a reggae collection but do have a handful of CDs by the great Bob Marley. They go in here, along with Sandy Shaw and Dusty Springfield.
Prog – from the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd to Barclay James Harvest and Yes, it’s all in here.
Punk and New Wave – back in the day I never really bought much in the way of punk or new wave artists but over time and through lots of great charity shop purchases I’ve built up a nice little collection including Blondie, the Clash, the Stranglers et al.
We now head down the hallway and into the spare room where I’ve recently set up another set of matching second-hand Ikea shelving units. They are far from full at the moment so some of them are just used for DVD’s, notepads, and bits of pieces of home-office life until my collection grows. The first two units are full though and contains the following:
Brit-pop and Indie – Blur, James, the Las, Supergrass et al are all in here. I bought a handful of these CDs when they originally came out. I was an enthusiastic Supergrass fan from the get-go – but many I’ve been able to buy for next to nothing from charity shops as all the 40-somethings dispense with their CD collections and switch to digital or vinyl or whatever else the cool people buy these days.
Glam rock – anyone who has had more than a glance at this blog will be aware of my passion for all things glam. It’s not really my era. I was only six when the Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’ and Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ came out but by my early teens I was absolutely hooked, courtesy of Slade’s early 80s revival and many second-hand discoveries at Preston’s Action Records. As well as Slade and Sweet there’s the Glitter Band, Hello, Mud, T. Rex et al all filed here.
Frequently asked questions
Where do you get your shelves from? The first few I bought brand new from Ikea. All the subsequent ones have been picked up second-hand to match. It’s as easy to buy second-hand Ikea CD shelves for next to nothing these days as it is to buy CDs.
How do you file your CDs within each genre? Alphabetically by artist surname or band name and in original release date order for each artist with any compilations at the end. However, I do also make use of a bit of pragmatic grouping if an artist who is mainly involved with a band also releases a solo album. Mick Jagger’s She’s The Boss is under ‘R’ for the Rolling Stones, for example, not ‘J’ for Jagger.
Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam iconsThe Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. I’m therefore very pleased to be announcing the publication of my first book due out this summer: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’.
It’s published by the excellent Sonicbond Publishing who’ve been running the On Track series, where they look at a band’s entire recorded output track by track, and more recently the Decades series, where they look at a band’s history and development through a key decade. I’d already reviewed a couple of Sonicbond publications (on Fairport Convention and Hawkwind) when I had a dream that I’d just written my own book about The Sweet. With the dream still fresh in my head the following morning I thought it might actually be an idea to see if this could perhaps be turned into reality.
I emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond that morning with the synopsis that was formulated in the dream still in my head to see if they were interested. Happily, he came back and said that they were and a contract soon followed. It became my lockdown project starting last summer and after several months of feverish writing, researching and listening I completed it at the end of February.
It’s now available to pre-order direct from the publishers via Burning Shed here
From the Amazon synopsis you hopefully get a taste of what’s in store:
The Sweet’s look, sound and attitude became an instantly recognisable hallmark of the early 1970s glam rock era. But the band did not start the 1970s as a glam band and certainly didn’t finish as one. This book charts the band’s journey through the decade that made them a household name, from their initial rise as purveyors of manufactured, bubblegum pop to their metamorphosis into harder-edged glam rock icons. The Sweet in the 1970s takes a look at both their successes and their struggles in their quest to be recognised as a more serious rock act in the latter part of the decade, once the sparkle of glam and glitter had begun to pale. The decade saw them score fifteen UK Top 40 singles, release seven studio albums and tour several continents. Unlike many bands of the era personnel changes were few. The Sweet begin the 1970s with the arrival of new guitarist, Andy Scott, and end the decade with the departure of frontman, Brian Connolly, and an ultimately ill-fated attempt to continue as a three-piece. This book is an unashamed celebration of the music of the Sweet and charts the lasting impact they had on many of the bands than followed them.
And of the author, Amazon has this to say:
After acquiring a second-hand copy of Sweet’s Give Us A Wink album from Action Records in Preston as a teenager in the early 1980s, Darren Johnson has been a dedicated fan of the band ever since. A former politician, he has written for a number of UK national newspapers but after stepping away from politics, he has been able to devote more time to his first love: music. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex, UK