Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Sweet - BBC Sessions (1969-1974)

I recently got a request from someone commenting at my YouTube account, asking for BBC sessions from the British glam rock band the Sweet. So here's what I came up with.

Being an American, I'm not that familiar with the Sweet. They were much more popular in Britain, in the 1970s. Nowadays, it seems they're mainly remembered for three big hits: "Ballroom Blitz," "Fox on the Run," and "Love Is like Oxygen." Unfortunately, none of those are here. They were such big hits that they were performed on the British TV show "Top of the Pops," but like most performances on that show, they were lip-synced. 

The Sweet has a somewhat controversial reputation. Most of their hits were written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote so many hits for many musical acts in the 1970s that they were commonly called "Chinnichap." These songs typically were in a poppy "bubblegum" style. But the Sweet were really a harder rocking band at heart. They grew increasingly proficient with their own songs for B-sides and album tracks, and eventually parted with Chinnichap around 1974 and still had some success.

Here's their Wikipedia entry, if you want to know more:

The Sweet - Wikipedia

The songs here show the conflict the band was having between the successful poppy hits and the harder rocking stuff they preferred. With these BBC sessions, they could let it all hang out more than TV appearances where they only played their hits. So there are some B-sides, as well as cover versions that they generally didn't put on their albums. One can especially see the influence of the Who. They played two songs associated with the Who in full ("I Can't Explain" and "Summertime Blues") as well as a medley of many Who songs. They also did covers by the Doors ("Love Me Two Times"), the Move ("I Can Hear the Grass Grow"), Jimmy Reed ("Baby, What You Want Me to Do"), the Beatles ("Paperback Writer"), Little Richard ("Lucille"), and Jerry Lee Lewis ("Great Balls of Fire"). Out of all those, I believe only the last three were done on their albums at the time.

Most, but not all, of these have been officially released. In 2017, a box set was released called "Sensational Sweet." That included most of their BBC recordings. Most of the songs here are from that. However, some BBC sessions were missed (tracks 13, 16, and 17). Furthermore, I found a few other performances from British TV shows that weren't lip-synced, so I decided to include those too. "Teenage Rampage" is from a show called "Crackerjack." Tracks 21 and 22 are from the show "45." Tracks 23 and 24 are from the show "The Geordie Show." 

I made some edits to improve the sound. I was surprised that there weren't tons of songs with BBC DJs talking over the music. Then I realized the people who made the box set cut out those parts of songs. That's why many of these fade out at the end, usually quite quickly. I'm guessing some other songs weren't included at all because too much talking ruined the songs. If anyone has the complete versions, let me know. I can do my usual thing of using programs like UVR5 to remove the talking, a technology that wasn't available when the box set was released in 2017. 

As it is, I did that for two songs. "Alexander Graham Bell" is a rare case of a BBC session song that wasn't included on the box set, so I removed the talking on that one. And "The Six Teens" is from a TV show, but the emcee talked over the beginning of it, so I removed that too.

This isn't an ideal introduction to the Sweet, since it's missing many of their biggest hits, including the three biggest I mentioned above, as well as five others that made the Top Five in Britain. But it does show more of their hard rocking side, and it includes six cover versions they never put on album at the time.

By the way, there's one song on the BBC portion of the box set that I considered so terrible that I left it off entirely. That's "The Lollipop Man," which they performed for the BBC in 1969. It's a really embarrassing bubblegum pop song that wasn't even good at being bubblegum, completely failing to make the charts. This album is stronger without it.

This album is rather long, at an hour and 13 minutes long. If I had a few more songs worth including, I could have split it into two albums. Instead, I'm keeping it as one long one.

01 Time (Sweet)
02 The Juicer (Sweet)
03 All You'll Ever Get from Me (Sweet)
04 Love Me Two Times (Sweet)
05 I Can't Explain (Sweet)
06 Paperback Writer (Sweet)
07 I Can Hear the Grass Grow (Sweet)
08 Baby, What You Want Me to Do (Sweet)
09 The Who Medley (Sweet)
10 Summertime Blues (Sweet)
11 Done Me Wrong All Right (Sweet)
12 Mr. Businessman (Sweet)
13 Alexander Graham Bell [Edit] (Sweet)
14 Santa Monica Sunshine (Sweet)
15 Chop Chop (Sweet)
16 Little Willie (Sweet)
17 Man from Mecca (Sweet)
18 Lucille - Great Balls of Fire (Sweet)
19 Need a Lot of Lovin' (Sweet)
20 Teenage Rampage (Sweet)
21 You're Not Wrong for Loving Me - Lady Starlight (Sweet)
22 The Six Teens [Edit] (Sweet)
23 Solid Gold Brass (Sweet)
24 Turn It Down (Sweet)

The cover photo comes from an appearance on the "Top of the Pops" TV show in June 1971. The band name at the top was taken from one of their albums.


  1. Thank you for this and the rest of the music that you present here - I love it. On the subject of 'The Sweet' - the band that got me into music in about 1973, I really do think that your perspective (although hugely valid) as an American is rather at odds with mine as a Brit. Personally, I love "The Lollipop Man", but also it did make me chuckle that your list of three hits didn't include "Blockbuster". I appreciate that this is due to the two sides of the Atlantic being involved, but over here, "Blockbuster" was by far their biggest hit, and the one that the man in the street remembers.

    1. I looked up what you said about Block Buster, and you're right. It was their biggest hit in Britain, going to Number One. Whereas in the US it only made number 73 on the charts.

      But as for Lollipop Man, that song truly pains me to even think about. Here are the actual exact lyrics for the first verse and chorus. A five year old could have written them in the time it took to write them (note the lack of rhyming):

      You go to the girl's school
      And I go to the boy's school
      Both separated by a lollipop man
      I must cross the street to
      Get around to meet you
      Therefore I have to pass a lollipop man
      Lollipop man, there's a lollipop man
      Who stands in the middle of the street
      (Ain't he sweet)
      There's a lollipop man, yeah a lollipop man
      Hey, good golly there's a lollipop man

      That makes bubblegum hits like "Yummy Yummy" and "Sugar Sugar" seem like Shakespeare in comparison!

  2. Thanks! I was lucky to see Sweet open for Cheap Trick in 1979!

  3. Nice to hear the heavier side of Sweet.