How the Sweet Finally Broke Out With ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’
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After their 1971 debut album failed to chart, the Sweet managed to pull off an impressive run of 11 U.K. Top 40 hits in a row. By April 1974, the stage was set for their second album. Sweet Fanny Adams became a massive hit worldwide, though the album would take on a different shape by the time it — or more to the point, the songs — arrived in the U.S.
The roots of the Sweet date back to the post-Beatles Beat boom, with a variety of Mod-based bands like the Troop and Wainwright’s Gentlemen. A few years later, in 1968, the Sweetshop was formed. Heavy on the bubblegum side of things, they released a couple of singles that went nowhere. By 1971, they shortened their name to the Sweet, and the band’s fortunes began to change as well.
“Sweet Fanny Adams is generally regarded among the Sweet cognoscenti as the first ‘real’ album,” guitarist Andy Scott said in the liner notes to the 2004 remastered CD. “In the grand scheme of things, this is the band at its finest — full of energy, humor and social statement of the era.”
The album kicks off with the roof-raising “Set Me Free” which displays the power and punch the Sweet had. Yes, they had an incredible knack for glittery bubblegum singles like “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam,” but at their core, they were a hard-rocking band. “Set Me Free” makes that very clear. Powerhouse drumming by Mick Tucker, the thumping bass of Steve Priest, and the razor-sharp guitars of Andy Scott made for glam gold, with the cherry on top the being the dynamic vocals of Brian Connolly.
“Heartbreak Today” is a great riff rocker that chugs along in what might be called a traditional glam-styled stomp. The Sweet’s signature vocal stylings — featuring layered harmonies and a theatrical delivery that Queen would soon adopt — are proudly on display here. “No You Don’t” is another powerhouse rocker. The plaintive vocal is awash with thundering drums and heavy guitars to make it one of many highlights on Sweet Fanny Adams.
“No You Don’t” was, like many of the the Sweet’s hits, written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. The duo was as crucial to the U.K. glam sound and style as any given band, contributing songs and production to the likes of the Sweet, Mud, and Suzi Quatro among others. (“No You Don’t” was later covered by Pat Benatar on her debut album, In the Heat of the Night.)
Watch the Sweet Perform ‘Sweet F.A.’
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“Rebel Rouser” is one in a long line of ultra-catchy ravers that, surprisingly, was never released as a single. It takes its title from a Duane Eddy song, and cops a riff from Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else” while adding a nice dose of glitter to it. A cover of the Joey Dee & the Starlighters’ 1961 hit “Peppermint Twist” rounds out side one and makes perfect sense in the context, as they rock it up Sweet-style. So much of the U.K. glam style was tied up in the sounds of early rock ‘n’ roll.
Side two announces itself with the powerful quasi-title song, “Sweet F.A.,” which, as originally coined, stands for “Fanny Adams,” but the modern connotation is “f— all.” Taking off with almost Led Zeppelin-styled riffing, the Sweet forge full steam ahead for more than six minutes on this hard rocking gem. Mick Tucker, certainly one of the best drummers of the era and one who never got his due, shines here.
“Restless” is a slinky groover that evokes aspects of Marc Bolan while maintaining their own identity. “Into the Night” is a somewhat generic, heavy-riff rocker, and possibly the album’s weakest moment as the song lacks the sharp personality of the rest of Sweet Fanny Adams.
Things rebound quickly with the album closer, “AC-DC.” Another Chinn & Chapman song, this one tells the tale of a man’s frustration with his very popular bisexual girlfriend. “AC-DC, she got some other woman as well as me,” sings Connolly. The song was later covered by Joan Jett on her 2006 album Sinner.
Unfortunately, Sweet Fanny Adams was never released in the U.S. Half of its songs were eventually matched up with various singles, including the Sweet classics “Ballroom Blitz” and “Fox on the Run,” to make up the U.S. version of Desolation Boulevard. This cobbled-together project is not to be confused with the U.K. edition, but that’s another story.
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