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Strung Up reflections

Sweet looked like the result of a wild night in a drunken record company brainstorming session that posed the rhetorical question: “Where can we find a visually stunning group that will resonate with young girls, rock as boldly as Slade, play as heavy as Deep Purple’s live ‘Speed King’ on the ‘Encores’ disc of ‘Made In Japan,’ flaunt a range of hair colors like Josie & The Pussycats, and sell millions of records?”

Existing prior to signing with RCA in 1970, Sweet underwent an image and sound overhaul for maximum teenage appeal, propelling them to international superstardom with a string of successful singles over a year and a half. Impatiently, they decided to veer off the expected path and became a runaway train on hot rails, surprising everyone.

While Sweet produced many perfect singles, they never quite achieved a perfect album, though “Sweet Fanny Adams,” “Desolation Boulevard” (with different tracks in UK and US versions), and the half-live/half-studio “Strung Up” came close. Despite being a singles-oriented band struggling with the LP format, these albums, especially the live half of “Strung Up,” captured the peak of their artistic success. During their six years on RCA, Sweet averaged three singles per year, and the period from “Little Willy” in 1972 to “Fox On The Run” in 1975 marked their wildest run.

Sweet’s longevity is perplexing, defying the usual fate of teen idol bands that fade after a few hits. They continued pushing boundaries, evolving rapidly from pop to hard rock, influencing both metal and punk. Their songs, with pop-perfect arrangements from the Chinn-Chapman songwriting team, showcased musicianship, vocal harmonies, and tight execution that added a bad attitude and killer drive.

The cover of “Strung Up” defiantly depicted Sweet controlling their destiny, emphasizing newfound independence after “Fox On The Run” became a U.S. chart-topping single. The live portion, recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in 1973, showcased Sweet’s raw and energetic performance, with Brian Connolly’s banshee-like vocals, Andy Scott’s blazing guitar, Steve Priest’s flamboyant bass, and Mick Tucker’s precise drumming.

Side one of “Strung Up” was a full-throttle rock’n’roll experience, perhaps the best album side by Sweet. It was a sonic assault, reminiscent of Slade playing Deep Purple, exuding energy and a bad-boy attitude. The live rendition of “Hellraiser” and “Fox On The Run” exemplified Sweet’s ability to captivate the audience with their unapologetic rock.

Side two featured a studio/live hybrid, with “Done Me Wrong Alright” showcasing Andy Scott’s guitar prowess. The album continued with the acoustic “You’re Not Wrong For Lovin’ Me,” a barnstorming cover of “The Man With The Golden Arm,” and the anthemic “Ballroom Blitz.”

Side three presented studio tracks, including the rebellious “Action” and the iconic “Fox On The Run.” The latter showcased Sweet’s ability to craft catchy, triumphant anthems. “Set Me Free,” a galloping rocker, and “Miss Demeanour” preceded the monumental “Ballroom Blitz.”

The final side featured more studio tracks, including the defiant “Burn On The Flame,” the melodic yet heavy “Solid Gold Brass,” and the Spectorian anthem “The Six Teens.” The album concluded with “I Wanna Be Committed” and the stomping “Block Buster.”

Despite Sweet’s later decline after parting ways with Chinn-Chapman, their heyday marked a unique contribution to rock’n’roll. Their blend of glam, hard rock, and pop, coupled with rebellious attitudes, left an indelible mark on the era, embodying the essence of “fun” in rock.

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