Tag Archives: Sweet

Death of a glam icon – Steve Priest: 1948-2020

Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock has sadly passed away following an illness that hospitalised him in recent months.

In a emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with:

“Then there was one!

I am in pieces right now. Steve Priest has passed away. His wife Maureen and I have kept in contact and though his health was failing I never envisaged this moment. Never. My thoughts are with his family x.

He was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. From that moment in the summer of 1970 when set off on our Musical Odyssey the world opened up and the rollercoaster ride started! He eventually followed his heart and moved to the USA. First New York then LA.

Rest in Peace brother. All my love.

Andy”

Steve Priest’s latter-day colleagues in Steve’s own US-based version of the Sweet broke the news on their Facebook page on behalf of Steve’s family:

“Dear Friends and Fans,

We have very sad news – Please see the below statement from Steve Priest’s family.”

Love,
Richie, Stevie, Mitch & Paulie…

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce at 8:25am PT today, Steve Priest, founding member of The Sweet, passed away. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle & Maggie and 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.”

Steve Priest’s death follows the deaths of vocalist Brian Connolly in 1997 and drummer Mick Tucker in 2002, leaving Andy Scott the sole surviving member of the band’s classic 70s lineup. When I interviewed Andy at the end of last year he talked about attempts to reunite the two for the band’s fiftieth anniversary but it was not to be. However, he did stress that the two kept in touch on a personal level and asked after one another’s health.

A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

When glam rock burst into the UK pop charts in the early 1970s the genre may have appeared all shiny and new and suitably outrageous but many of its lead players had been trying to make their all-important breakthrough in the previous decade. Five of the acts we look at here all released their debut singles in the mid to late 60s.

Bowie – 1964

David Bowie’s debut single ‘Liza Jane’ which was released under the name Davie Jones & the King Bees and was recorded at Decca Studios in West Hampstead in May 1964 but released on the Vocalion Pop label. Although producer Leslie Conn is credited as the composer the song is an arrangement of an old standard ‘Li’l Liza Jane’ which dates back to at least the 1910s. Bowie released two more singles the following year under the names The Manish Boys and Davy Jones & the Lower Third but his first release using the name David Bowie was his 1966 single ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ which was released as David Bowie & the Lower Third. Bowie’s next single, ‘Do Anything You Say’ released that same year was the first credited solely to David Bowie. Bowie release four more singles and a debut album prior to his first success chart success in 1969 with the single ‘Space Oddity’ which reached number five.

Bolan – 1965

Marc Bolan’s debut ‘The Wizard’ was released by Decca in 1965. “I sounded like Dylan,” Bolan later admitted in an interview. Mark Paytress in ‘Bolan – The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar’ takes up the story: “On the morning of September 14th 1965 Mike Leander, Jim Economides, Mark Pruskin and Marc Bolan congregated in Decca’s Broadhurst Gardens studios in West Hampstead. A small backing orchestra, comprising string section and pop instruments, and The Ladybirds vocal group were briefed and awaited further instructions from Leander. It was ten in the morning and everyone knew the session would be over by lunchtime.” When it failed to make its mark on the charts a couple more solo singles followed after which their was a stint in John’s Children. Bolan then enjoyed modest success in the underground acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex before shortening the name, expanding the personnel, turning up the amps and hitting glam rock superstardom.

Slade – 1966

Recording as the N’ Betweens prior to changing their name firstly to Ambrose Slade and then Slade, Noddy Holder, Jim Lea, Dave Hill and Don Powell made their debut single in 1966. ‘You Better Run’ released by Columbia was a cover of a song by US band The Young Rascalls. Ian Edmondson & Chris Selby in ‘The Slade Discography’ take up the story: “Visiting American record producer Kim Fowley saw something in them that he liked and decided to to approach them with a view to recording some music. Fowley was what was referred to in those days as a ‘freak’. This was a combination of his height and his way out American dress style and attitude. He was fond of calling his records ‘Instant Productions’. This seemed to be mainly because he didn’t waste a lot of time and money on recording.” ‘You Better Run’ sold exceptionally well in Wolverhampton but failed to sell many copies elsewhere. Several more singles and two albums would follow until the band hit the UK Top 20 with ‘Get Down and Get With It’ in 1971.

Mud – 1967

Mud released their debut single ‘Flower Power’ on CBS in 1967, a song written by the band’s guitarist Rob Davis. Several more flop singles would follow until Mud hit the charts with ‘Crazy’ six years later, after they were signed to Mickie Most’s Rak label and enjoyed the fruits of the Chinn-Chapman songwriting team. Even at this early stage in 1967, however, all four members of the classic Mud line-up are in place: Les Gray, Rob Davis, Ray Stiles and Dave Mount. The band worked the social clubs of Surrey whilst continuing with their day jobs, Les Gray recalling in an interview: “We would do anything because we wanted to work.” Before finding their glam-meets-rock n roll-revivalist niche they hit us with this wonderful bit of psychedelic kitsch silliness.

The Sweet – 1968

The Sweet’s debut single ‘Slow Motion’, a song written by Wolverhampton pianist Dave Watkins, was released in July 1968 on Fontana. Set to be released under their original name The Sweetshop the band’s name was hurriedly shortened when they discovered another band had been using the same name. At the time of their debut three quarters of the band’s classic line-up, Brian Connolly, Steve Priest and Mick Tucker are already in place. Guitarist Andy Scott would join two years later in 1970. Produced by Phil Wainman, who would go on to produce the band’s hit singles during the glam era, ‘Slow Motion’ is a long way away from Blockbuster! and Ballroom Blitz but at the same time not a million miles away from the string of bubblegum hits (Funny Funny, Co-Co, Poppa Joe et al) that the band had before hitting their stride with a rocked-up glam sound.

Related posts:

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

From AC/DC to ABBA: five classic glam rock singles by non-glam bands

Lost In Space: interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Interview with Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour

 

2019 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

I wish everyone a happy New Year and give my special thanks to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2019. Looking back over the year, here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2019. A bit of a 70s theme going on here as we look at icons of glam rock, heavy rock, folk rock and punk rock…

1. Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

The sixth annual classic rock weekend at Butlins including Eric Bell, Scarlet Rebels (pictured above), Geordie and Oliver-Dawson Saxon. Full review here

2. Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

If this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Full review here

3. News: All change at The Sweet

With little creative input from me I simply endeavoured to keep fans rapidly updated on changes in the band by publishing the band’s official statement. Full post here

4. Six recently revived rock bands that are turning out to be dynamite

Focusing on Atomic Rooster, Lindisfarne, Geordie, Satan’s Empire, Rock Goddess and Towers of London. Full post here

5. Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary, Ashford 13/4/19

Lining up alongside Maddy Prior are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices. Full review here

6. Live review: Slade at Concorde 2, Brighton 21/9/19

Dave Hill is, of course, Dave Hill. Eccentrically-dressed as ever: a diminutive figure bouncing all over the stage, delivering the familiar solos and holding the whole thing together. Full review here

7. Interview with Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour

The new line-up, the winter tour, the split in the early 80s, keeping in touch with Steve Priest and Rock Against Cancer I was delighted to have a long chat with Andy. Full interview here

8. Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Full review here

9. Steeleye Span at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 21/11/19

A second trip to see Steeleye Span this year and a second review that seemed to rack up the hits. Full review here

10. Live review: Glen Matlock headlines Hastings Fat Tuesday 5/3/19

A bona fide rock ‘n’ roll icon. Performing in the pub. Free entry. On a Tuesday night. It can only be Hastings Fat Tuesday. Full review here

Here’s to 2020!

Best wishes

Darren

 

 

 

Live review: Sweet at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 21/12/19

My last gig of the year and my first time seeing the Sweet with their all-new line-up. I’d seen the previous line-up (Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora) many times but when I interviewed Andy Scott recently he was positively brimming about how much the new line-up rocked. Lincoln and O’Hara are gone, replaced by Paul Manzi (ex Cats in Space) on lead vocals and Lee Small on bass – and, assisting temporarily, Sweet alumni and ex MSG man Steve Mann on keyboards/rhythm guitar.

Scott promised that as well as the glam singles this new line-up would certainly be delving into the hard rock side of the band’s persona. The Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard albums are duly raided for tracks like ‘Burn On The Flame’, ‘AC/DC’, ‘Sweet FA’ and ‘Set Me Free’ and acoustic versions of the band’s early bubblegum singles are abandoned.

Impressions: the new-look band are definitely fired up, the band rock hard (whether delivering the glam singles or the classic album tracks) while still maintaining those exquisite harmony vocals that are such an essential element of the overall sound. On top of that it has to be stressed that Manzi is just an incredible, incredible front-man. Unlike the previous line-up the vocalist does not have an instrument in his hands and uses every single minute of the gig to zip all over the stage and engage the audience in the most direct way possible.

It’s also very satisfying to see the Sweet boys filling out this considerable venue, too. We might be besides the sea and it might be late December but this is not some Christmas package tour in some rundown venue squeezed in between the tribute acts and the panto but rather a high-octane rock show in the prestigious (and packed out) Grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion.

Of course, we get all the big hits as well: ‘Hellraiser’. The Six Teens’, Wig Wam Bam’, ‘Fox On the Run’ et al and the band encored with some exceptionally energetic delivery of ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’. The band have proved, beyond doubt, that there’s plenty of life left in the Sweet yet – and, as Andy Scott tells the audience this new version of the band is just in its infancy. We want Sweet!

Set-list:

Action
New York Groove
Hell Raiser
Burn on the Flame
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist
AC/DC
Turn It Down
Sweet F.A.
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam
Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox on the Run
Blockbuster
The Ballroom Blitz

Sweet Bexhill pic

http://www.thesweet.com/

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

Interview with Sweet’s Andy Scott

This is a longer full-length version of an interview piece that was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

Ahead of their gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on December 21st Darren Johnson talks to the Sweet’s Andy Scott who, along with Brian Connolly, Mick Tucker and Steve Priest, was part of the classic 1970s line-up and continues the band to this day.

DJ: The Sweet are well-known for their glam rock singles but there was always a hard rock albums side to the band’s persona as well. Will both of those elements be represented on this current tour?

AS: Yes – more so on this tour than the last one. We’ve had a slight revamp of the band. This revised line-up is certainly more akin to that. A couple of younger guys who are, shall we say, keeping us on our toes again. I would never, ever recommend changing two members of a band. I remember reading an interview with Mick Fleetwood who I got to know in the 70s just before they went to LA and he was saying they were going out there not knowing where the future lay. And he even said to me let’s see what happens. Then I saw what had gone on about two years later and heard, basically, they were looking for a replacement for Peter Green and they’ve got Christine McVie back in the band. They just haven’t got a guitar player who can sing. And it came with the two of them. Stevie Nicks as well (as Lindsey Buckingham). And just look at the way that burst open. So, in my head, I’m thinking Pete Lincoln left to pursue this outfit he’d been using shall we say as a back-up tool to Sweet with two other lead singers from other bands . And all of a sudden that’s taking off and I could see what’s on the horizon. There’s going to have to be a choice made here. And I knew which way he’d probably go because he’d been playing bass and singing with us. And he’s now doing this – because he’s a terrific guitar player and he’s now with a team of people where they’re all in at the starting point. And I thought – well we’re going to have to replace him. Now luckily we had Paul Manzi on the back-burner because he had depped – he’d come in and done a couple of gigs for us so he was an obvious choice.

And then Tony O’Hora at the end of August the bombshell was, “I’m leaving.” And Bruce (Bisland – Sweet’s drummer) and I, who’ve known him for years, were like – oh God, not again. Because we’d had this with him a couple of times, only this time I said there’s only so much you can cry wolf – you know. So I said – I’ll accept it but you’re gonna have to tell me what’s going on. And he didn’t. And then we were doing a couple of gigs in Poland and the Czech Republic and he just walked. So we ended up doing a couple of gigs with my guitar tech on bass and we managed to get Steve Mann who’d been playing with Michael Schenker to come out and finish the dates with us. It was a revelation to see Paul Manzi standing there with no guitar in his hand as a lead singer so the first thing I had to do when I got back – there was was one person on my list of people to call and that was Lee Small. I rang him and he jumped at the chance and so we now have Lee and Paul in the band. And on a temporary basis – but it could become permanent – we have Steve Mann back in the band as the second guitar/keyboard player. And it’s really, really gelling. And now we’ve done three shows in Denmark, one or two in Germany and four in England. We’ve only done nine gigs and my son who’s my sound engineer – I have to take his word because the sound he gets out is always remarkable – he said ‘It’s the best it’s been, Dad’.

Clearly, the line-up change has given the band a new energy but has it led to a change in the set-list, too?

Yes. The driving force for the acoustic part of the set last time we toured was basically me and Pete. And we felt like we ought to go for a bit more like it used to be in the 70s when we did a festival set. You’d get down to the nitty gritty. You play a couple of the heavier rock tunes that people want to hear so that’s what’s happening. It’s a work-in-progress. There will be a new Sweet album next year and we’ll see where we go from there.

And you’re coming to Bexhill on the 21st December which is the last night of the tour. Is that last night of a tour always a bit special or a bit of a relief – or both?

Well it depends who’s around – but I usually try and get some of my mates and anyone who wants to come to the gig and sing a bit or play or whatever. You just never know what happens on a night like this.

The other surviving member of the classic 70s line-up Steve Priest has his own version of the Sweet in America. I believe you tried to get him to join you on stage for the band’s 50th anniversary last year?

I mean look – we can all be angry young men and even grumpy old men. I just don’t like the idea that you can’t mellow in later life. I just don’t know what gets into Steve once in a while. We have contact – every time that I go over to LA, which I do on holiday these days because we don’t do anything in America – he has changed the dynamic of that. He doesn’t do a lot either – but having spoken to a couple of friends of mine who are promoters and stuff in America I said I don’t want to come back there unless it’s as organised as the gigs we do in Europe. And it seems you need specialist help over there. The country is so big you’re not going to end up using your own equipment. Friends of mine in Uriah Heep still go out there and Mick (Box) says you’ve got to get a different head on.

So you’re in touch with Steve Priest but no chance of you performing together?

Well I think the moment has passed. At the end of 2017 I remember I wished him a Merry Christmas and I then said if something’s going to happen it’s going to be next year isn’t it? You know, the fiftieth anniversary of the inception of the band. And then I never heard anything. Then I got a message from him at the beginning of 2018 saying “We are getting involved with a new agent who thinks it might be a good idea if you and I did something.” And my answer to him was sod your agent what do you think about it? If you fancy doing it then we’ve got a starting point but to just do it because your agent says “you should do this, Steve” is coming at it from the wrong angle, I think. I could see where that was going. I would say yes let’s do something but all of a sudden all the rules and regulations come out. And really, if we’re going to do stuff like this, if he’s coming to Europe we have a collaboration and he does it the European way. And I go out to America and I do it the American way – as long as somebody looks after me. But there has to be some kind of continuity within the band as well. And one of the funniest things was a friend of mine from Germany who contacted him said “Would you be willing to come and do a festival?” And the first thing he said was “As long as I can bring my guitar player.” And so we laughed about that. And that never went anywhere. So now I’d much rather be in touch with him saying “Hello, how are you? How are the knees?” you know. And him saying “How are you? How’s your health?”

Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (writers of many of the hit singles for Sweet) obviously left a huge, huge impact on the band and left you with a slew of songs that people will always link to Sweet. Do you keep in touch with either of them?

Well yeah, I’m in touch with Mike because Mike is still a little bit of a mentor for Suzi (Quatro) and whenever I’ve been in the producer’s chair I talk to Mike about various things. He’s written songs that were on Back To The Drive which was one of her albums. And I’m hoping, because we’ve got a new album that’s coming out, that Mike and I might sit down together. A few years ago he was angling, “Well that could have been a Sweet single.” And we might be able to revamp or maybe write a song together. There’s a man who’s mellowed a little bit and kind of enjoying life again. And I’ve heard he’s back in the UK so, you know, all is possible. I’ve not fallen out with anybody. Life’s too short!

I always thought that Sweet missed a major opportunity for a come-back ion the early to mid 80s? Slade were back in the charts again. Queen were huge. Glam metal was taking off the States but it was the one time in the past 50 years that Sweet were AWOL?

Well you can look at it from all sides. Timing was absolutely everything. We’d reached a point in 81/82 where Steve was now living in America. He didn’t want to be in England. He didn’t want to come back. He feels, so somebody’s told me – I haven’t read all of his book he never sent me a copy – but it’s in there. I remember Mick Tucker saying to me “I don’t know where he got half of his stuff from.” but I said “Look it’s his personal view, Mick. You’ve got to let everybody have that.” It’s almost as if he’s forced to come back to England to record the last album in a studio in West London and he was put up in a hotel that was like a student hostel in Chelsea. And I thought well he stayed with me a little bit of the time and, yes, he was in that hotel for a while because, you know, it was easier and Mick had his problems with his first marriage. And it was a time when, I guess because we were still living our lives in England – this is the way he probably views it, at weekends we would take some time for ourselves and he would be left to his own devices. And any normal guy would be out having dinner with some mates you hadn’t seen for years but I guess he got the feeling that he was just being abandoned. So from that point of view, when the tour finished at the end of 81 – I think it was Glasgow University – we never heard from Steve for ages. He came back to England and it was that next year when Mick had a tragedy. His first wife died. It was a misadventure where she died in the bath. I think she had a glass of wine and was on some medication and he got back to the house and found her there. Well you wouldn’t wish that on anybody, would you? And so he didn’t want to do anything. And I was still out there – producing and writing and playing on other people’s records. And I managed to get a solo deal – first of all with Virgin then it turned out to be Statik. The guy from Virgin had left to form his own label. So for a couple of years – 83/84 – I was releasing some solo singles. And then in 85 – well at the end of 84 – I bumped into our old agent and he was looking after us in 81. And he said, “Oh I’ve got a bone to pick with you. I keep getting loads of enquiries. Are you still working with the Sweet? I didn’t know where you were.” And it just so happened that his office was literally up the Harrow Road from where I was living in Maida Vale.

Then you did the Live at the Marquee album?

Exactly. I managed to get Mick out of retirement. Steve was even at least saying the right things but Mick said ‘He’s not coming back’ so luckily I rehearsed a bass player. The guy who ended up in Sweet actually Mal McNulty. We were using him to rehearse and I said he may not be coming and he said “you’re a mate of mine. I love this”. And, of course, we went to Australia with Mal and the rest is history. We had Paul Mario Day as singer and Phil Lanzon who’s now with Uriah Heep on keyboards.

And with changes of personnel the band has continued to this day.

Yeah. We’ve had a few people come and go but when you look back over thirty-odd, almost forty years of reformation when you say you’ve had six singers hat doesn’t sound too bad really does it?

Other bands have gone through far more haven’t they. Probably Sabbath have gone through far more.

[Laughs]. Well they had a little concept going didn’t they? A new lead singer for nearly every tour.

You’ve had a couple of major scares with prostrate cancer and you’ve been open about that and done a lot for awareness through Rock Against Cancer. How are things health-wise these days?

Pretty good. In fact, I’m due another PSA test so I’d better get that organised hadn’t I? And the other thing is Rock Against Cancer will be coming back next year. It’s coming back on the 12th and 13th of September in the same venue in Wiltshire at All Cannings near Devizes. So it’ll be Rock Against Cancer 8. And it might well be the last one. We’re looking at the moment to see who can come back from previous years and making a real bonanza of a gig you know.

The Sweet play Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 21st December 2019.

Tickets: https://www.dlwp.com/event/the-sweet/

sweet-poster-may-2019

Related posts:

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

 

 

News: All change at The Sweet

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, Tony O’Hora, has left The Sweet. In a statement put out by the band on social media the musician is said to have left for “personal family reasons”. Led by Andy Scott, one of the two surviving members of the classic-era foursome, the band’s line-up had been stable for a  good number of years and attracted many favourable reviews for the sheer professionalism and quality of their live shows. However, lead singer/bass-player, Pete Lincoln, left earlier in the year and is now followed by O’Hora. Old Sweet hand, Steve Mann, is stepping in once again to assist the band on their remaining 2019 dates. Lee Small comes in as a permanent member playing bass.

The band’s full statement is reproduced here:

“Tony has left Sweet. A month ago Tony handed in his notice to quit Sweet citing personal family reasons. We were unsure how to deal with his request as it had happened previously. This time however it was serious and though difficult, we have had to make changes to move forward. We respect his decision and wish him well for the future. So with the future in mind I can now reveal how the band will look going forwards to 2020. Let me start by saying that having to replace two members in quick succession is not something I would recommend to anyone but it gives one great satisfaction when it comes together. Steve Mann will be rejoining Sweet for all dates in November and December including the “Still Got the Rock Tour UK”. Our last show in Kelbra in September featured Steve and it was brilliant to have him on stage with us again. Our “newbie” is Lee Small. He will play bass and add another brilliant voice to the band. To say I am very pleased is an understatement. Paul Manzi will now be the Frontman, lead vocals and occasional guitar. Anyone who saw us perform at Kelbra will have seen him in full flow. So there it is – Sweet – looking forward to the future and seeing you at one of the 34 shows in November and December. Not forgetting our Australian fraternity and our upcoming appearance on Rock the Boat 2019 departing Sydney 19th October.”

I’ll be catching the band on their 2019 UK winter tour – watch this space for a review.

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Tony O’Hora (right) with Andy Scott (left)

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott
Sweet 50th anniversary concert in Berlin
Sweet in London and Bilston 2017
The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

Book review: ‘Look Wot They Dun! – The ultimate guide to UK glam rock on TV in the 70s’ by Peter Checksfield

Rather than another biography giving an overview of the various glam acts of the 1970s ‘Look Wot They Dun’ is basically an encyclopedic directory that methodically lists all the TV appearances of numerous bands associated with the glam era throughout the 70s. Fifty different acts are covered in all, with the appearances for each in turn listed chronologically.

As much as I am fascinated by this era and as much as I will always love bands like Sweet and Slade and T. Rex, I must admit when I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure whether there would be enough in it to sustain my interest across a whopping 286 pages. However, I soon began to get engrossed, reading some of the fascinating little snippets and insights that accompany many of the entries. In one of his earliest TV appearances, Elton John, for example, is wearing “a horrible outfit of faded blue jeans, a long-sleeved orange T-shirt and a sleeveless striped cardigan” prior to the emergence of the flamboyantly-dressed larger-than-life character of later appearances. The Sweet’s Andy Scott had a run of appearances on Opportunity Knocks in late 1966 in an outfit called The Silverstone Set, we learn, several years before finding fame with the glam rockers. And Mud’s first TV appearance, back in 1968, is on the Basil Brush Show while David Essex’s first appears some two years earlier on the Five O’clock Club.

Indeed, although the book is presented in catalogue format and lacks an explicit overarching narrative there are, nevertheless, obvious patterns that begin to emerge across a significant number of bands. First we see tentative appearances on scratchy black and white shows during the 60s beat boom (Marc Bolan and David Bowie/Jones on Ready Steady Go, the aforementioned Andy Scott on Opportunity Knocks etc.) Then we fast-forward a few years and see those same people bedecked in glitter and glam hamming it up on Top Of The Pops in the period 1971-1973. Then by around 1974 we mostly see the glam bands to start putting away the bacofoil and the glitter and opting for a more conventional rock star jeans-and-leather jacket or cool-white-suit look. Then, finally, in many of the cases we see the number of entries for TV appearances steadily declining as the second half of the seventies draws to a close.

Though I would have welcomed a bit more by way of narrative thread, the book nevertheless provides a fascinating insight into how one of the most visual musical genres of the twentieth century projected itself on to our TV screens. And as an invaluable reference tool I’m sure ‘Look Wot They Dun’ will be something I’ll be going back to again and again.

Published: February 2019

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Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

This was the sixth annual Giants of Rock weekend hosted by Butlins in Minehead – and my fifth. Here’s a small selection of bands that stood out for me this time, as well as one that I’m afraid just didn’t do it for me at all.

Worth seeing

Sometimes you want to see an artist, at least just the once, for the small part they played in rock ‘n’ roll history. For me, original Thin Lizzy guitarist, Eric Bell, was one of those names who fitted into that category. It meant missing the much-praised ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ band Ethyrfield on the other main stage, sadly, (but I made up for this by buying Ethyrfield’s CD from the merch stand later). Eric Bell gave us a run-through of rock ‘n’ roll and blues standards. It’s a little ragged in places but we’re soon into a rendition of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ – a slightly different arrangement of the old folk song compared to Lizzy’s version that many of are used to but Bell’s unique guitar sound is unmistakable and this is basically what I came in to hear. Ironically, the drum-kit of Bell’s former band-mate, Brian Downey, sits unused behind Bell’s band because Downey’s own take on Thin Lizzy’s heritage, in the form of his Live & Dangerous tribute, was the next act. Anyone hoping for some form of cross-fertilisation between these two performances, however, would have been disappointed. There are no guest jam spots or even any acknowledgement that the two bands are in the same building on the same stage on the same evening. Compared to the revived Thin Lizzy of a few years ago (which ended up morphing into Black Star Riders) this is more faithful copy of classic-era Lizzy in conventional tribute act format. But Brian Downey has more than earned the right to perform and celebrate these songs as many times as he likes and the band get a good reception.

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Eric Bell http://www.eric-bell.com/

Ones to watch

Now performing under their new identity (but still down in the programme as VOiD due to them still using their old name when they were originally booked last year) Scarlet Rebels emerged as one of the stars of the introducing stage this year. “Unfortunately, there are about a million bands called Void and no-one could ever find us,” lead singer, Wayne Doyle, tells the crowd. I had caught these guys doing a support slot a year ago and what has not changed is their brand of classy, melodic hard rock which immediately impressed me first time around. Lead guitarist, Chris Jones, is an absolute live-wire on stage, injecting wave after wave of energy into the crowd with his soloing, while front-man, Doyle, has a great voice that’s just perfect for modern-day classic rock. Let’s hope any identity issues that the band suffered under their previous moniker are now firmly behind them and that Scarlet Rebels get the recognition they deserve. As one of the triumvirate of introducing stage winners over the three days they’ll be back at Butlins on one of the main stages next year. Thoroughly well deserved.

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Scarlet Rebels http://www.scarletrebels.com/

Surprise of the weekend

Playing only their second gig in 35 years (the first being at Skegness Butlins the week before) the newly-revived Geordie are one of the biggest surprises of the weekend. The band had a handful of hits in the mid 70s but are now best-known as the band that launched Brian Johnson’s career prior to him being tracked down by AC/DC in 1980. Original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Powerful, foghorn very Johnson-esque vocals from Wright with a very well-rehearsed band behind him served to breathe new life into some long-neglected songs. It was great to hear the likes of ‘Can You Do It’, ‘Don’t Do That’ and ‘All Because of You’ getting a live airing after all these years. I’ve seen numerous band revivals at weekends like this, sometimes on some really rather tenuous ground. I therefore approached this with a mixture of curiosity and cynicism but they massively, massively exceeded expectations. A real surprise. I was half-hoping that Geordie would encore with a cover of Back In Black or Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution as a cheeky little nod to the part they unwittingly played in rock ‘n’ roll history – but it wasn’t to be (Geordie – if you are reading this you should absolutely do it!). The job of delving into AC/DC’s back catalogue was instead left to the next act, Chris Slade’s Timeline when the current (and former) AC/DC drummer ran through a selection of classic songs from his various bands. For sheer impact and confounding expectations, however, the afternoon very much belonged to Geordie.

https://www.facebook.com/GeordieFanpage/

Old favourites

Sweet delivered a blistering set and hopefully gained a few more “oh, I just thought they were just a pop band I didn’t realise they were such a great rock band” converts in the process. However, I’ve written about this band many, many times before and readers of Darren’s music blog will be left in no doubt at all of my affection for all things Sweet. Instead, I’m going to give a mention to Oliver/Dawson Saxon. After they had both walked away from Biff Byford’s Saxon, guitarist, Graham Oliver, and bass player, Steve Dawson, got together and formed their own version of the band. Now I’m not saying Oliver Dawson Saxon are better than the actual continuing Saxon – but they are certainly more fun. With his on-stage patter, lead singer Brian Shaughnessy is more Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club than Hallo Wembleyyyy  and cuts a hilarious and quite bonkers stage presence but he is an absolute dynamo of a vocalist. When it comes to belting out all those old Saxon classics there is always so much energy from this band and Minehead 2019 was no exception. There are no pretensions to be anything else with this performance. It’s just good old-fashioned New Wave Of British Heavy Metal played exactly the way it should be. The perfect party band to end the night with on a weekend like this. Oliver/Dawson Saxon we salute you.

http://www.odsrock.co.uk/

And one that just wasn’t for me

Paul Manzi had quite a busy weekend. He did an excellent job filling in as a temporary member of Sweet on the Saturday night due to Pete Lincoln’s absence and then he was back on the Sunday night fronting Cats In Space. There’s another Sweet connection, too, because former Sweet bass player, Jeff Brown, now carries out that very same role for Cats In Space. Like Sweet, harmony vocals and hook-laden melodies are in integral part of the band’s sound. Rather than the British glam rock era of the early 70s, however, this band very much take their cues from the American AOR/ power pop era of the early 80s, when albums were as shiny, polished and lavishly-produced as an episode of Dynasty. Unfortunately, as with that TV series it’s a genre of rock that simply leaves me cold. It’s clear that Cats In Space love what they are doing and they execute it with total professionalism. I really wanted to like them but three songs in I realise it’s never going to be. If the previous night was Sweet this, for me, was saccharine. I up and leave for the other stage. Raw, raunchy down to earth blues rock from guitar maestro, Rob Tognoni was the perfect antidote to what I’d just walked away from – and someone I look forward to seeing more of.

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Rob Tognoni https://www.robtognoni.com/

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

Live review: Sweet – fiftieth anniversary concert at Spandau Citadel, Berlin 9/6/18

From a small trickle (The Stones, The Beach Boys et al) fiftieth anniversaries are now coming thick and fast in the rock world. 1968 was the year The Sweet were formed so this year it’s their turn and a special celebratory outdoor gig in Berlin.

Guitarist Andy Scott didn’t join until 1970 but, save for a short period in the early 80s when the band was on hiatus, Scott has been consistently touring and flying the Sweet flag for the past five decades. Germany, where Sweet have enjoyed a strong and dependable following over the years seems as good a place as any to host it and fans have flocked from all over Europe, including quite a sizeable contingent from the UK. Indeed most of us from the British contingent are still sitting at the back leisurely quaffing beer when the opening bars of ‘The Stripper’ blast from the PA system. An unexpectedly early start to the gig, we hurriedly race to the stage area to make sure we don’t miss anything.

The band rip into ‘Hellraiser’ but, lest anyone think this is just going to be a standard greatest hits set, we soon get some nice surprises. ‘Turn It Down’ never a big hit in the UK but the heaviest and the rawest of the Chinn-Chapman singles gets a welcome airing, as does ‘Defender’ the band’s most recent single, a sing-along slice of melodic hard rock released in 2015.

Former Sweet guitarist Steve Mann, who was with the band for seven years in the early 90s but was also a key figure in the NWOBHM metal scene in the 80s, is welcomed on stage to guest with the band for much of the gig. And before too long Krokus’s Marc Storace is also introduced to the crowd. Performing ‘American Woman’ and Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ this is a nice touch, demonstrating how much Sweet in the early 70s helped lay the the foundations for the generation of rock bands that came afterwards. Another guest is German metal vocalist Doro, who delivers a fantastic version of ‘All We Are’ and proves a perfect fit for the Sweet. Harmony vocals, always an intrinsic part of the Sweet sound, are boosted on stage tonight by the additional presence of some of the Rock Meets Classic touring band.

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A visibly moved Scott makes dedications to the original band members who are no longer with us, Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker, but amidst the plethora of special guests one person is notable by his absence. Apparently, attempts were made to get Steve Priest along but to no avail. Whatever has gone on between the two in the past it would have been nice to see the two surviving members of the classic 70s era of the band reunite on stage for the band’s fiftieth but it was not to be. None of this prevented this from being a very, very special gig, however. The band unleash powerful versions of some of their more hard-rocking album classics ‘Windy City’, ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘AC/DC’ – proving to any doubters that there was always far more to this band than just the glam hits.

Acoustic versions of ‘Lady Starlight’ and ‘Lost Angels’ follow, along with a medley of the band’s earliest bubblegum hits. Then, after an energetic workout from long-time drummer Bruce Bisland, it’s time to whip the crowd up with some of the glam-era smashes like ‘Teenage Rampage’ and ‘Wig Wam Bam’, not to mention a majestic ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and a fabulously rocking ‘Fox On The Run’, the band’s first self-composed mega-hit.

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There is an electric atmosphere in the huge outdoor courtyard of the historic Spandau Citadel (not the place where Rudolph Hess was sent to prison by the way, which was demolished after his death to prevent it becoming some sort of weird neo-Nazi shrine). Andy Scott and his band-mates (Bruce Bisland, Tony O’Hora and Pete Lincoln) are clearly moved by the reaction they get tonight and there’s soon thunderous cries for an encore. The band oblige, returning to blast out ‘Action’, Blockbuster’ and, finally, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ the latter with Marc Storace and Doro returning to the stage once more to share vocals with the band.

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Sweet (and their special guests) truly give fans a night to remember in Berlin. What a fantastic way to celebrate 50 years of this iconic band.

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http://www.thesweet.com/

Related posts:

Sweet at London and Bilston 2017
Sweet with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Sweet at Bilston 2016
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Sweet at Bilston 2014
The riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

The top ten posts of 2017 on Darren’s music blog

Wishing you a happy New Year and thanks to everyone who has visited Darren’s music blog during 2017. Here are the top ten most popular posts from the year, with the highest number of visits:

1. The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences: actually written in late 2016 but consistently the most popular post throughout the year. Here I trace the origin of that famous riff – back through the glam era, the Yardbirds and those blues masters. Full post here.

2. Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium: “From the moment they first walk on stage to play ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the last climatic strains of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ the whole show is pretty much a celebration of that unforgettable and seemingly unrepeatable debut album.” Full review here.

3. Giants of Rock weekend at Minehead: Excellent performances from Troy Redfern, Focus, Bernie Torme, Bernie Marsden, Oliver-Dawson Saxon, The Pretty Things and Killit captured here. Here’s to Giants of Rock 2018. Full review here.

4. In praise of the CD: It was only a few years ago that people were finding it hilarious that I was clinging obstinately to the CD rather than embracing digital formats. Now, with the renaissance of vinyl, some still regard me as a Luddite dinosaur for not embracing the switch back to the 12 inch. Here I gave seven reasons why the CD is king for me. Full article here.

5. For One Night Only – Slade’s Jim Lea in Bilston: “We had been warned not to expect a live performance. But he certainly gave us one, and not some gentle, reflective, soul-searching, acoustic reinterpretation but a full-on, amped-up, raucous rock performance that so perfectly captured the spirit of Slade.” Full review here.

6. Sweet in London & Bilston: “This is a small venue with a tiny stage and it was absolutely rammed but the atmosphere was electric. It was evident that the band were also getting a huge buzz from playing to such a responsive audience, too.” Full review here.

7. The changing demographics behind charity shop CDs: another piece exploring my CD obsession. Here I talk through my observations hunting down charity shop bargains. Full review here.

8. Hastings Fat Tuesday 2017: my preview piece ahead of Hastings’ annual Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) celebrations with many, many dozens of gigs across the town was shared widely. Full article here.

9. Holy Holy perform Ziggy Stardust at Shepherd’s Bush Empire: “Holy Holy shows a way forward as to how we can continue to enjoy some of the greatest music of the twentieth century well into the twenty-first. A genuinely and truly impressive gig.” Full review here.

10. W.A.S.P. at White Rock Theatre, Hastings: “The Crimson Idol tells the story of a boy Jonathan and explores themes of estrangement, drugs, fame, money and suicide. It has become something of a cult heavy metal album and, twenty-five years since it was originally released, Lawless and his band are touring it in full.” Full review here.

Thanks for visiting Darren’s music blog everyone. Thanks also to publications like Get Ready Rock, the Hastings Independent, The Stinger, fRoots Magazine, Bright Young Folk and the Hastings Online Time for running many of my reviews and articles.

Here’s to 2018!

Darren