Tuesday, December 14, 2010

He said 'Listen here ya punk'

The Sweet - 1974 

Sixties garage, The Who, Small Faces, Iggy Pop, Ian Dury and Dr Feelgood can all claim paternity rights to the Godfather of Punk title. True enough, each one's a conributor to the movements genetic heritage. But let's not forget the big brassy pantomime dame that is punk's glitzy older sister (or brother). Glam!

Anecdotally and historically, glitter-rock's smudged lipstick and sticky fingerprints are all over the frightwig hair and short, sharp, stomp of punk...

Sex Pistols: Rotten's Pistols auditioned was played out to Alice Cooper's I'm Eighteen. McLaren briefly managed the NY Dolls with Steve Jones bagging Sylvain's Les Paul. McLaren's original group idea was for subversive Bay City Rollers style boy band.
The Damned: toured with Bolan, and later covered the Sweet's Ballroom Blitz and borrowed Gary Glitter' Rock and Roll riff..
The Clash: Mick Jones was a Mott the Hoople avid.
Adam Ant:  make up a go-go and peacock wardrobe. Glitter Band double drums and guitar twang. Marco owns Dave Hill's Super Yob guitar
Ramones: Slade influenced (the Brothers Ramone aped Dave Hill's hair and the bands pile-driving pop).
The Undertones: Covered Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll

Factor in the Rocky Horror, Bowie, Roxy Music and Eno's louder output and the sound of the suburbs begins to take shape. For me one the greatest indicators of the punky shake-downs and bust-ups to come is The Sweet's Turn it Down.

A black leather 'n' studs pop-stomper for the angry brigade, the single kicks in with a honking two-fisted riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Pistols single with Andy scott's squeal and feedback anti-solo being the sound of the Velvet Underground. Sweet's bubbleglam angst gets graffitied with references to 'degenerates' 'creeps' and gum-chewing sneers of' 'don't gimme no lip'. But the phrase that really pays is gobbed out...'listen hear, ya punk'.

Typically, Legs McNeil's New York fanzine - Punk, debuting in 76 is recognised as the earliest use of the word 'punk' with a musical association. But here we have lipstick-brickies Sweet (banned by the Mecca dancehall circuit for their 'overtly sexual stage act'), spitting and snarling the P word two years before Punk went to print ~ and on a single banned by UK radio for being 'unsuitable for family listening'.
Now if that isn't punk, I don't know what it is..

Look out for: the inverted hippy symbol on Andy Scott's guitar sticker.
Listen out for: the throaty rumble of Steve Priest's Rickenbacker bass. A model later played by Glen Matlock, Rick Buckler and Paul Gray of The Damned and Hot Rods



The Sweet - Turn It Down

Oi! Waddya mean Andy Scott's barnet looks a bit famil'?

28 comments:

Simon said...

Gen X are another glam sounding lot, Billys solo career was pure glam really...

John Medd said...

The Sweet and Generation X were joined at the hip by ('Do the first verse and track it') Phil Wainman. Wainman brought his glam sensibilities to Gen X's early sound (don't forget there's only 3 years separating Turn It Down and Your Generation) and produced them in such a way that Idol's snarl was every bit as menacing as Brian Connolly's 'LOOK OUT!' intro to Hell Raiser. But as he only tweaked the knobs on their first couple of singles he can't be blamed for Idol's subsequent decline into Spitting Image territory.

Carl said...

I love Sweet. My sister bought a couple of their singles when i was a kid and i loved them but i was even more impressed when i turned them over and heard the self penned heavy b sides. They were caught between a rock and a hard place in many ways. The kids loved the glam / pop singles and not the the rock and rock audiences wouldn't take them seriously because of the glam. I love it all, i think they are truly under rated. Generation X too were a wonderful band who didn't have that "every thing that went before punk was shit" attitude. They sing about Bobby Dylan and The Beatles etc on Ready Steady Go , no other punks did this. Sweet were a great great hard rock band , end of !!!

Mondo said...

I've only got King Rocker (on pink) where would you recommend starting with Gen X Simon?

'Do the first verse and track it' that's niggling me, is it Need a Lot of Loving John..Connolly created the template for the blonde front man look used by Gen X and later Hanoi Rocks, Motley Crue and a ton of 80 metal bands.Although I think that can be traced back to Brian Jones to a degree.

That's it Carl Sweet suffer from being tarred with the bubblegum brush. But Sweet FA, Desolation Boulevard and Give us a Wink are all proper rockers..and Burn on the Flame what a scorcher...

steven said...

Glam Rock was a great pre-runner to Punk.

23 Daves said...

The Sweet are just a marvellous band, really, and one I only got around to revisiting relatively recently. So much of their material still sounds raw and energising - if you listen to The Sweet and this week's current crop of rock newcomers, The Sweet normally have the edge. The self-penned "Fox On The Run" remains one of my favourites.

I had a Danish flatmate once who told me that the band were "as respected as Queen" in his homeland, and he asked me why that didn't seem to be the case in the UK. I didn't have a sensible answer. Still don't.

Mondo said...

I'm with you all the way Dave - may sound strange, but for me they're almost like a glam/seventies Small Faces but only remembered for their bubblegum 'Sha La La La Lee' type output..

If you haven't yet Give Us a Wink is the one to go for first..and this is a must have, loads of out-takes and alt.takes including diff' versh of Fox. It also includes Live For Today from '76 with these lines, which supports my proto punk stance..

Live for today - don't need your politician
Live for today - don't want no inquisition
Live for today - you gotta throw the rules away


And listen out for the sneaky effing and jeffing at 1:28 here

Simon said...

Gen X; the first album is great, lots of melodic punk pop, some almost Hendrix guitars and in Kiss Me Deadly a gorgeous Dylan/Springsteen/Mott The Hoople thing that is one of the best songs I think early punk threw up. Valley Of The Dolls, the second album is heading off into more glam territory actually, with the title track owing more than a little to Jean Jeanie. Get the CD versh for their brilliant cover of Shaking All Over.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piley said...

Always been a big fan. Saw Brian's Sweet quite a few times in the 80's... a bit tragic, but glad i saw him perform, even though he was a shadow of the man you show here.

Love ALL there stuff, hard rock and soft centres alike. Much like one of our other faves The Damned, always overlooked and under-rated.

Mondo said...

I'm off this Thursday and Friday Simon, I'll nip to my local record shop and grab. Love the sound of both ta for the tip..

I was with you for two of 'em P, Brentwood and Purfleet (a no-show though). And you're right, underdogs all....

60s - Small Faces
70s - Sweet
80 - The Damned

And The Damned were big fans of Small Faces and Sweet, Sweet were favourites of The Who (true). It's like doing the loop

Have you heard John Medd's Bri-Conn story?

John Medd said...

I thought you'd have latched on to them long ago Mondo - the third album deployed a couple of guest guitarists, including Steve Jones. If you dive in with the 3 disc anthology you'll get all the studio output and a Japanese live gig from circa '79. I met Tony James at The Marquee just prior to the release of Kiss Me Deadly and he couldn't wait to take it on the road. When they did, it was a much stripped down affair with Idol playing rhythm guitar on most numbers (he wrote the music and Tony James wrote the lyrics) - there's a BBC recording of a 1981 'In Concert' from, I think, Hatfield Poly.

Furtheron said...

Funny Sweet themselves went heavy - my brother bought Sweet Fanny Adams and that was really an introduction that led us to Purple, Sabbath etc. Andy Scott used an 335 as he'd seen Blackmore with one once - despite the Strat being more the purple instrument.

The peace sign - reminds me of Alvin Lee's much battered/moded 335 he used in Ten Years After. That very guitar is now at the BME exhibition at The O2 in Greenwich.

Furtheron said...

Now I'm into reminising...

Windy City from OFF THE RECORD - terrific track

Mondo said...

Dunno why John - I've just had something of a blind spot for them. But the anthology sounds the perfect hopping on point. That songwriting setup has got a twang of the Manic's about it...

Those heavy-end influences go full-blown on Give Us a Wink F-Ron. Funk It Up's another great track from Off The Record although my original CD had clearly been ripped from vinyl - you could hear the crackles. BME is brilliant I was completley boggled by all the goodies. Including the Super Yob guitar donated by Marco Pirroni...

See what you mean about Alvin's guitar, although Andy Scott's sticker is) is almost anti-Woodstock (yet more punk overtones)

Carl said...

Windy City now ya talkin' , thats a belter of a a song, great riff !!!!. Gen X are ace you will love them Mondo, i'm really shocked you are not into them. Night Of THe Cadillacs is a real corker. On the live disc your mate mentions you can hear them play Free and Zep covers , great stuff

Ishouldbeworking said...

Bri Conn story please, John! PLEASE!!

John Medd said...

I used to worship Bri Conn. Full on worship. He was my idol. To the point that between 1972 and 1974 there wasn't a square inch of my bedroom wall that wasn't taken up with Popswop and Music Star (and Jackie, truth be known) pictures, posters and pullouts of Brian, (RU Ready) Steve, Mick and Andy. I even dreamt about them - one I always remember was where I was sat on a luxurious sofa stage right at one of their gigs and enjoyed the concert from, quite literally, the best seat(s) in the house. But, alas, I never saw them as a four-piece - though I did see them in '81 at Rock City with Scott, Priest, Tucker promoting the Identity Crisis album.

Fat forward a few years and I've had tix to see BC's Sweet on at leat 10 occasions only for my idol to be a (drunk) no show. Sometimes the gigs got cancelled with only minutes before show time, others where his very embarrassed backing band just did 'the hits' without him.

But Nottingham 1990 was different. Half an hour before they were due on stage a friend of mine had spotted him in the club. Game on! Coming back from the gents I sussed what I thought could only be the door to a cupboard or a dressing room and... Bingo: I turned the handle and there was Bri Conn donning his stage wear. I blubbered something about being a fan from the old days (and told him how, only earlier that week, I'd just received in the post a Japanese import CD of Give Us A Wink that had set me back 30 Bar) when he took one look at his watch, then one look at me and said: 'Fuck off son, I'm on in 5 minutes.'

They say you should never meet your heroes. Well, say what you like, but being told to Fuck Off by Brian Connolly is a badge of honour I wear with pride every day.

Just to finish this little tale - 20 minutes into said Nottingham gig and I'm watching the show from (although not a sofa) stage right on a balcony and I'm living the dream; but then I look down and, after only five songs, my hero is sat on the stage directly beneath me being given oxygen via a machine. I didn't remember that from my '74 dream.

Carl said...

Happy to be told to fuck off by your hero ?. You must have thick skin mate. What a c**t he was to say that to a fan ! especially as far as he'd fallen. I'd have twatted the old bastard lol.

Mondo said...

That's got to be Comment of 2010 John. Brilliant! And even more evidence that Sweet are THE proto punk band..banned gigs, singles, Live for Today lyrics (see link in comms above) and that attitude..

PS What McLaren was to the Pistols,
Chinn and Chapman were to the Sweeties

Furtheron said...

I'm with Mondo - comment of 2010 award goes to Mr Medd (get your acceptance speech ready!)

So at last my "guilty pleasure" of liking Sweet FA, Give Us A Wink and Off The Record is out! I feel a new man :-)

Oh - in researching yesterday I found a live CD by Steve Priests USA version of the band from last year Live In America (http://ow.ly/3q3wA) worth listening to even if Steve is the only semblance of the original band

Ishouldbeworking said...

Brian Connolly's decline was long, slow and pretty ghastly. I'd imagine by the point you met him, there wasn't much useful neural functioning going on - I'm surprised he could articulate as much as he did. And I take it the on-stage medical intervention wasn't a prop for 'Love is Like Oxygen'?

What a memory to (sort of) cherish...

Mondo said...

I also caught 3 Sweet shows in the 80s. The first was at Crocs (pics here), he was a sorry state and the Brian Jones amped-glam had almost run to Pooh Bear with blonde bangs.

The second at Brentwood where he announced 'this one's be a guy called ZZ Top' and like the old drinking problem gag - missed his mouth with a drink, spilling it down his front.

The last was a no-show and where I caught matey from the Rubettes shouting, purple faced into a phone ' I don't care just shove him in a cab and get him here' ..

Carl said...

Chin and Chapman wrote many of Sweet's hits. The same can not be said of Mclaren !!!!.

Mondo said...

PS does anyone know which Sweet TOTP appearance it was where Brian broke the mic stand over his knee - I remember thinking it was the most outrageous thing I'd ever seen aged 8-ish

Ishouldbeworking said...

"Matey from the Rubettes?" You mean him with the lips?? I need to know more!

Mondo said...

'Lips' are you thinking of Dave Barfe singer of 'Showadd'? Rubettes bloke we saw at a double bill with Sweet at Purfleet Tavern, which I think Rubettes had set up, but Brian bailed.. I always got him confused with the frontman from Pilot

spencer kurash said...

I think the song where BC broke the mic stand was Teenage Rampage. I'm 47 now and The Sweet (latterly Sweet) were my first favourite band. Sweet Fanny Adams was the first album I bought and up until around 1975 would regularly rush to the record shop with my 50p and paying around 3p on the bus to buy the new single on the day I thought it came out, often disappointed to find out that the release had been put back a week (to maximise advance sales). Whatever happened to Victor (as in RCA victor) Ah the classic orange label and the Green and White paper sleeve (takes out onion...)