Trackback Thursday: Blockbuster & Burning by The Sweet

So this is where it all began really. At the age of eight… buying my first ‘proper’ record from the local electrical store. That our little suburb over the river from Liverpool had such a place seems fanciful enough these days… but what is feels so amazing now is that by buying a number one single was somehow a direct route into all sorts of great music.

Look I know that probably every generation has it… but the music in the charts today! My youngest son is exactly the same age as when I bought ‘Blockbuster’, for him it’s all about algorithms, Spotify and You Tube which seem to keep him in a hall of sonic mirrors; and with the local radio station playing the same half dozen records all day every day… there seems little escape for him… unless he starts appreciating “Dad’s trash music taste” that is.

Back in my day (I’m trying to keep this as ironic as I can) there was a great deal more eclecticism about. I’m not saying that there wasn’t the same banalities… in the early 70s mainstream popular entertainment in Britain was essentially still in the music hall… but it was possible to hear more new sounds, albeit in limited ways. The algorithms were more concrete and ways to circumvent them were equally less diffuse.

Looking back The Sweet proved to be one of the best ways to do this. Blockbuster was one of a string of massive pop hits that they had in the early ’70s under the guidance of songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mick Chapman. In reality though The Sweet were not a pop band as their B-sides and album tracks proved. For every ‘Blockbuster’ there was also a ‘Need A Lot of Lovin’, the b-side, which over the years became the more played side on my turntable. But actually it was the b-side of the next single ‘Hell Raiser’ which really sealed the deal…

I think listening to ‘Burning’ as a very young boy was a very seminal experience for me, and listening to it now, around forty five years later, I am struck by how fresh it still sounds. This track just rocks… arriving unannounced on the back of a hit record… a musical gateway drug into so much more.

As the ’70s progressed we moved house to the East side of Hull (and believe me there is fuck all on the East side of Hull) and for that first full year, 1976, my main recollection was cycling along old railway lines during that famously hot summer with a tape recorder in my saddle bag blasting out Sweet albums… and looking back it just feels so idyllic. Terrific tracks like ‘Miss Demeanor’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘Sweet FA’ and ‘Rebel Rouser’, together with super covers of ‘The Man With The Golden Arm’ and ‘My Generation’… just me, my bike and my music!.

Then even as that great summer finished and began to turn into 1977, when my head marvellously turned to punk, those albums kept coming out for peripatetic plays… sitting happily alongside the Pistols, Stranglers and Damned.. evolution, not revolution as far as The Sweet were concerned.

I remain proud that The Sweet were my first band, that ‘Blockbuster’ was my first proper record; and amazed that such a band could exist… those days, I fear, have gone.



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