Saturday, June 18, 2005

Guilty Pleasures: Sweet

Ah, the good ol' Sweet -- perhaps the guiltiest of guilty pleasures? (No, probably not -- that'd have to be early-period Neil Diamond, and if you haven't wept to "Shiloh," or chanted along with "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," you're a heartless bastard indeed, or lying, but I digress...) I've noted in my main Pop Kulcher site the huge importance that Sweet played in my musical development. I picked up their lp Desolation Boulevard (the US version, which included a buncha singles) at the age of 10 (circa '76), and it was the first album I owned that my parents truly and passionately hated. And that's when I realized I was really onto something with this little rock & roll hobby of mine. In any event, it's fair to say that once I hit the ripe old age of... oh, maybe 11... Sweet was already banished from my collection, as I moved beyond the Top 40 acts of the day and started delving into rock's slightly more respectable classic rock history (and, soon thereafter, shoved that all aside for punk & new wave).

But, hey, at some point you've gotta go home. And that means rediscovering my old faves (even the guilty pleasures among them). Fortunately, the Sweet back catalog was recently reissued (on German imports), giving me a chance to wade back into the muck with crystal clear sound. And while Sweet's reputation (such as it is) may be based primarily on their mid-70's glam/pop/metal heyday, for my money the most timeless work is their crappy, pre-fabricated, ridiculous but oh-so-sublime earlier bubblegum work, best captured on the (newly expanded & remastered) Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be. (There were actually some earlier singles, best captured on First Recordings 1968-1971, but these were truly terrible, predating their relationship with songsmiths Chinn/Chapman, who crafted many of their bubblegum classics.) Funny How Sweet captures their bubbleglum glory days (circa '71-'72), oodles of insanely silly but undeniably catchy tracks that will melt away the defenses of even the most jaded rock cynics. "Funny Funny," "Little Willy," "Poppa Joe," and "Wig Wam Bam" are all essential. A few others ("Co-Co," "Chop Chop") are decent enough as well, though a few songs (like the covers "Daydream" and "Reflections") truly redefine the word "inessential". The two follow-up discs, 1974's Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard (NOTE: not to be confused with the American release, the one I first picked up 30 years ago, which confusingly combined album tracks from Sweet Fanny Adams with a few subsequent singles), saw the band adopting a more glam/metal sound, writing more originals that gave them a heavier sound that lost some of the silly charm of Chinn/Chapman's tunes. Still, between these two discs you get great singles like "Fox On The Run" and "Blockbuster," crucial album tracks like "AC-DC" (the best song about losing your girlfriend to another woman you'll ever hear), not to mention "Ballroom Blitz" and "Teenage Rampage." Needless to say, these two songs are the greatest songs ever.

After that, it was all downhill. There was one more truly great song ("Action," from the otherwise crappy metal album Give Us A Wink), and one song so awful it remains a favorite to this day ("Love Is Like Oxygen"). But for those whose familiarity with classic Sweet may be limited to the lame cover of "Ballroom Blitz" in Wayne's World, it's time to delve into some of the best bad music ever produced.


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