As the festive season approaches, one of the live party stalwarts is back, Andy Scott reliving The Sweet’s glory days and happy to talk to glam fan MALCOLM WYATT
Can it really be half a century since the pre-glam incarnation of The Sweet threw their first chord shapes, and 45 years since ’Blockbuster’ saw the band in their pomp top the UK charts?
What’s more, it’s been 55 years since guitarist Andy Scott’s first gig, in hometown Wrexham’s St Peter’s Hall with The Rasjaks, November 1963.
But he has stronger memories of New Year’s Eve that year.
“Little did they know we were so inexperienced we hardly had enough material, just half a dozen instrumentals, half a dozen vocal songs. Barely enough for 45 minutes, let alone four hours.
“When we got there, the mic wouldn’t work and we ended up playing the instrumentals twice.
“During a break this guy came up as we were about to launch into the same songs a third time, saying, ‘How much you getting paid?’ We told him £1.50 or £2. He said, ‘If I give you a quid, will you not play anymore?’”
He was ‘barely 15’ then, but within three years was supporting The Jimi Hendrix Experience in Manchester in January ‘67.
“We’d do this gig at the CIS building, above a Burton’s, New Century Hall. A soul night every Thursday. Hendrix was just having a hit with ‘Hey Joe’. The week before they had The Drifters and before that The Four Tops.
“Then Hendrix comes on, almost kills half the audience stone-dead.
“I’m in absolute raptures, thinking, ‘This is fantastic!’ But the hall half-emptied.
“The singer and I decided there and then our band, the Silver Stones, were no more, long live whatever band we’re going to form.”
Andy’s Sweet debut, after formative spells in The Elastic Band and The Scaffold – also including Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McCartney (stage name Mike McGear) and Roger McGough – was in Redcar in September 1970.
“With The Elastic Band in the late ‘60s, we bumped into Sweet on the road. We were doing a BBC session live in some coastal resort and they came along with one of their early singles.
“They had a couple that got played a lot on the radio. Then my band’s lead singer left to join The Love Affair, so my brother and I joined a band down in London, and within six months I was in Sweet.
“I was living in Shepherd’s Bush, and they chose a rehearsal room a couple of hundred yards from where I was living (for auditions), and (Sweet producer) Mike Chapman recognised me.
“I asked if I could go in next, in case somebody sees me, rather than cause friction (with my band). There was a Marshall stack, and I didn’t realise it was full on. I certainly woke up the room.
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“(Drummer) Mick (Tucker)’s comment was, ‘Mm … you’re in,’ pleased to see a bloke who didn’t mind hearing his guitar feed back.”
All these years on, Andy’s out with his latest Sweet line-up, as bass player Steve Priest is with his own, celebrating an outfit synonymous with glam-rock that managed 10 memorable top-10s from 1971 to 1978.
He’s lived in Wiltshire since leaving London in 1991, ‘where the Ridgeway and the Vale of Pewsey join’, but right now his attentions are again focused on his best-known band.
It’s been 40 years since troubled vocalist Brian Connolly quit the band, and 21 years since he died, way too young, the same going for Mick Tucker, in 2002 from leukemia.
“As you get older what you thought when you were 30 changes.
“All of a sudden survival instincts kick in. I had a couple of hell-raisers in the band who aren’t here anymore, and that probably says enough.”
Now, aged 69, have you slowed down? You’ve had your own health battles, not least kicking prostate cancer into touch.
“I was about to turn 60 and was invited to play on stage with Spinal Tap, alongside Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) and Keith Emerson, another no longer bloody with us. So sad.
“We were playing bass on ‘Big Bottom’. Our next foray was a festival in Malta. That was cancelled but we decided to go anyway. It was swelteringly hot, and I’d been suffering deep stomach pains.
“I went to see a specialist I knew, who took loads of tests.
“A week later I found myself in front of a cancer specialist. They found my prostate had a tumour. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t be here now.”
How important do you think the glam rock label was to Sweet?
“People don’t realise how short-lived that era was. Marc Bolan towards the end of ’71 – that’s where it kind of started – when he decided to stand up off his little cushion and go electric.
“Then there was the outrageous sparkly stuff, which only The Tiller Girls on Sunday Night at the London Palladium looked like.
Also, David Jones – Bowie – tried lots of things those first couple of years, and in 1969 had that fantastic hit, ‘Space Oddity’, and before that him and Marc had been in a band.
“Then he did that album, Hunky Dory, and that was never off my turntable. All of a sudden, Sweet, in our second year, ’72, when ‘Little Willie’ and the tongue-in-cheek stuff was being released, that’s when we started getting involved with the dressing-up box.”
The Sweet’s December 2018 dates include visits to Blackburn King George’s Hall Windsor Suite (Saturday, December 8) and Warrington Parr Hall (Friday, December 21). Tickets for both shows are £23 advance, from 08444 780 898 or https://www.thegigcartel.com/ Artists-profiles/The-Sweet.html