Sweet: The British Glam Band That Also Blitzed America

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Although they were officially called The Sweet, the band known in America primarily for its top 10 1970s singles “Little Willy,” “The Ballroom Blitz,” “Fox on the Run” and “Love is Like Oxygen” was usually referred to simply as Sweet. And the British quartet had already made a lot of history by the time Americans first heard them.

Those four hits, in fact, didn’t come close to matching the band’s overall popularity at home, where Sweet logged an impressive 10 top 10 singles during that decade, the first of which, “Co-Co,” arrived in mid-1971, a couple of years before the band’s ascent in the U.S.

They’d worked hard to get to the top: Their first hit in England was “Funny, Funny,” preceding “Co-Co” earlier in 1971 and landing at #13. All of the members of the classic lineup—lead vocalist Brian Connolly, bassist Steve Priest, guitarist Andy Scott and drummer Mick Tucker—had been performing professionally since the mid-’60s, with Sweet themselves forming in 1968, originally as the Sweetshop.

But it wasn’t until the advent of the glam sound and look that the four found their true niche; along with artists like David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and T. Rex, Sweet was prototypically glam, just what English teens were looking for. And they had collaborators with proven success working behind the scenes: Most of the group’s early singles were written by the songwriting team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, and produced by Phil Wainman. which proved a perfect match for the quartet’s power pop approach.

“Little Willy” was released in the U.S. in September 1972 and ranked as one of 1973’s biggest hits. It was followed by”Blockbuster,” which became the band’s first U.K. #1 but inexplicably stalled at #73 in America. Sweet toured extensively, however, and continued to chart in the U.S. with Chinn and Chapman compositions. “The Ballroom Blitz” and “Fox on the Run” (the band’s first self-penned single), both released in 1975, peaked at #5 in America, but by that time the group had begun to change its style to a more mainstream hard-rock format.

Fans were increasingly attracted to the heavier rock songs written by the group, which mostly appeared on the B-sides of their singles, and the struggle for creative control ultimately led to a split with Chinn and Chapman.

There was one last Sweet hit in America in 1978, “Love is Like Oxygen,” but the group proved to be a phenomenon of the ’70s, and with the departure of Connolly at the end of the decade, they began to splinter, the others calling it quits in 1981. Scott, Connolly and Priest each led their own versions of Sweet at various times.

Priest published his autobiography, Are You Ready Steve?, in 1994. The book’s title was taken from the opening of Sweet’s “The Ballroom Blitz,” in which Connolly introduces the song by checking in with the band members.

The 2021 lineup of Sweet released a new song, “System of the Slaves”

Scott is the only surviving member as of mid-2024: Connolly died in 1997, Tucker in 2002 and Priest in 2020. Their recordings are available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

8 Comments so far

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  1. Jerome
    #1 Jerome 5 June, 2020, 02:30

    Fox On The Run was not written by Chinn/Chapman but was the first single and hit written completely by the band and credited to all four!!

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  2. John Rose
    #2 John Rose 5 June, 2020, 05:56

    This one hurts. They all hurt but Steve Priest has been part of my life for so long. For the record, while he sang plenty of backups, he also sang lead on a number of songs. He also sings/talks the wild spoken parts in the verses of Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz as well as the “fox is on the run” line in the chorus of Fox on the Run. For the record Ballroom Blitz is a Chinnichap song while Fox on the Run was the first hit credited to Scott-Priest-Connolly-Tucker.

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  3. mick62
    #3 mick62 7 June, 2021, 16:37

    One of the very best rock bands that you will ever hear!

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  4. Boudica
    #4 Boudica 9 June, 2022, 15:03

    The info on the band after Steve’s passing is complete bull. They’re defying Steve’s wishes by carrying on using the Sweet name, and his L.A. based family is letting them. It’s ghoulish and disgusting.

    Reply this comment
  5. Da Mick
    #5 Da Mick 5 June, 2023, 10:26

    The Sweet was an incredible band that went through a number of exciting phases over the course of their career, and, for me, all of them were interesting and fun. But as was the case for a number of UK and Euro bands, except for their few US hits, they never really developed an American audience, which was a huge loss to American music fans. Nevertheless, their story is one of longevity marked by the tragic demise of their charismatic lead singer, which really put an end to an era of some of the best rock and pop music ever heard. Their drummer was adored by many. Their guitar player was incredibly versatile. And Steve Priest was the kind of talent and personality that helped to take great bands over the top with fans. Steve is greatly missed, but so have The Sweet, for a long time now. Get their compilation CD. It’s a great listen through all their many varied years.

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  6. Mick
    #6 Mick 5 June, 2024, 10:10

    The heavier they played, the better they were.

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