Twenty-one years ago today, Brian Connolly passed away. The Scottish lead singer was best known for his tenure in the British glam rock group, Sweet (also known as The Sweet and Sweetshop). The marking of his passing prompts a retrospective of what was effective about Sweet’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll.
Sweet and glam rock
The evolution of Sweet shows the range of glam rock. Some might argue that when rock music stops being campy, it is no longer glam rock. Along the same vein, there are still others who would posit that outfits make the glam rock band. There is truth to all of these partial definitions. Sweet had, at least at first, the outfits, the hair, and the attitude.
The band had a different sound in the beginning than they did later in the 1970s. While they continued to make songs that were fun, there is a clear evolution of style from 1971’s “Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be,” which some fans and critics have likened to the lighter sound of The Archies, to the more hard-rock oriented “Mother Earth” from 1979’s “Cut Above the Rest.” In between, there are also rockers such as “Little Willy” and “Love Is Like Oxygen” (from the early and late 1970s respectively) demonstrate that Sweet defied what some might think of as the stereotype of glam rock bands.
There is a bit of flash associated with glam rock bands. Glam bands were known for brightly colored, tight clothing, sometimes outlandish hair, and for boots with stars or other means of sparkle.
Still, what is important here is the music. For some audiences, the rapid-fire lyrics, unadorned rock sound, including the classic, bouncing drum beat associated with “Ballroom Blitz” has little to do with the sugary stereotype associated with glam rock.
And, the range of Sweet goes beyond “Ballroom Blitz,” too. “Love is Like Oxygen,” is another radio-friendly song by Sweet, and even with its high-pitch male registers in harmony, the in-your-face guitar assault makes the song anything but saccharine.
After Connolly, Sweet endures
Sweet essentially broke up in 1981 when Connolly left to pursue other projects. By the mid-1980s, two different forms of Sweet were touring with either bassist Steve Priest or guitarist Andy Scott. This arrangement continues.
Unfortunately, Connolly wasn’t the only member of the glam rock band to pass away. Drummer Mick Tucker died in 2002. The story of Sweet is not unlike that of a number of rock bands who began several decades ago. However, Sweet is unusual because the band seemed to at times exemplify, then defy, the definitions of glam rock. The group’s best is cataloged in a greatest hits disc that was released in 1993. There are other compilations of the band’s work, but that one contains some of the most wide-ranging songs. Actually, interested audiences cannot go wrong with any Sweet collection. The British quartet was, and in some ways, still is, one of the most interesting bands in rock ‘n’ roll history.