Making his debut this week, bassist Tim Catz of Massachusetts heavy rock magnates Roadsaw brings you his brand new column, “70 RPMs,” and takes a special look at Sweet‘s 1975 opus, Desolation Boulevard. Enjoy:
Tim Catz’ 70 RPMs
This month’s record: Sweet – Desolation Boulevard
By 1974, the four fancy lads in The Sweet had grown tired of the bubble gum glam pop that had made them famous. Under the wing (and contract) of writing /producing duo Nicky Chinn and Michael Chapman, the band had already struck gold with hits like “Little Willy” and “Wig Wham Bam.” Despite their teeny-bopper success, or perhaps because of it, the group felt they needed to move toward a harder, heavier sound like many of their peers had already done.
The result was Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard. Released in the US in 1975, it was an instant hit and widely regarded as the band’s best work. But distancing themselves from their sugary past proved more difficult than simply dropping the “The” from their name. Contractually Chinn/Chapman were still on board and ended up controlling side one of the record (which would yield a bona fide hit with “Ballroom Blitz”). “No You Don’t” and “I Wanna Be Committed” are classic Sweet, even if they lacked some of the toughness the band desired.
But on side two, Sweet assumed full control and gave it their all. It kicks off with “Sweet F.A.” a juggernaut that showcased the band’s incredible and previously under-appreciated musicianship. Propelled by Mick Turner‘s frantic drumming and Andy Scott‘s wild lead guitar lines, the song also introduced some new studio finesse in the form of deep multi-tracked vocal harmonies from singer Brian Connolly and bassist Steve Priest. Though probably nicked from fellow Brits Queen and ELO, Sweet‘s new sound helped create what would become their biggest hit ever.
Starting with the unmistakable sound of a bubbling synthesizer, “Fox on the Run” smashed open with three huge power chords and straight up the charts worldwide. With its long echoing, “I……..” intro and muscular back beat, “Fox” silenced critics and thrilled fans. The song was a smash and became the anthem of every longhaired pimple-popping boy struggling through puberty in the summer of ‘75. And from then on, little sparkly-eyed feather-haired girls would forever be lovingly known as ever-elusive “foxes.”
Producer/songwriter Michael Chapman would go on to produce Blondie‘s Parallel Lines and by changing the beat of one of their songs from slow reggae to disco, gave them their first number one hit: “Heart of Glass.”
Sweet‘s last single to chart in the US was 1978’s “Love is Like Oxygen.” Singer Brian Connolly would leave the band the following year. Both he and bassist Steve Priest are now dead, making a much-desired Sweet reunion impossible.