40 Years Ago: Sweet Release ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’
After their 1971 debut album failed to chart, 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,’ which would be a massive hit worldwide, though it would take on a different shape by the time it — or more to the point, its songs — was released in the United States.
The roots of 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 changed their name to simply Sweet, and their fortunes began to change as well.
“‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ is generally regarded among 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 band 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 one Brian Connolly.
‘Heartbreak Today’ is a great riff-rocker that chugs along in, what might be called a traditional glam-styled stomp. The signature vocal stylings — the layered harmonies and 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 the LP. The song was, like many of the Sweet’s hits, written by the dynamic duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who were as crucial to the U.K. glam sound and style as any given band, contributing songs and production to the likes of 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.’
‘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 and 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, Sweet forge full steam ahead for over six minutes on this hard rocking gem. Mick Tucker, certainly one of the best drummers of the era that 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 the album.
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 covered, note-perfect, by Joan Jett on her 2006 album ‘Sinner.’
The album was never released in America, but half of the songs would be matched up with various singles, including the classics ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Fox On The Run,’ to make up the U.S. version of ‘Desolation Boulevard, thus making it a different animal from the British ‘Desolation Boulevard.’ Anyway you slice it, Sweet made some tremendous records and this is one of their very best.