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Glitz, Blitz & Hitz:
The Very Best Of Sweet
featuring: Brian Connelly, Andy Scott, Steve Priest, Michael Tucker, and Phil Wainman

director: Stuart O'Donnell

92 minutes (E) 2003
Wienerworld DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The Sweet were one of the background noises to my early adolescence, coming to me long before I was interested enough in the pop sound of the 1970s to start buying seven-inch singles for myself; I didn't purchase my first circle of vinyl until the decade was in its dying months. Their more compulsive tunes became their biggest hits. Ballroom Blitz, Blockbuster, Fox On The Run and Wig Wam Bam were radio favourites; the glam rockers glistened and shimmered atop platform heels that even a child identified as ridiculous. Bowie continued, Bolan died and went to legend. Slade and Wizzard are never as far as way as next Christmas and Gary Glitter can just fuck off. But what of Sweet, was the thunder an illusion, were the songs less than memory rewards them? Did they deserve their place, the regard and our respects? Just as this DVD biography is a successful failure, Sweet were fake and real, heavy and floss, manufactured but governed by their own demon.
   Beginning out of the remnants of a 1966 group called Wainright's Gentlemen they originally took up the name Sweetshop later to be shortened to The Sweet then simply Sweet. They were Dougal-the-dog-haired lead singer Brian Connelly, guitarists Steve Priest and Andy Scott, and drummer Mick Tucker, and that was the line-up that saw them through the recording years of 1971-78, the focal period of this biography. During that time there were many singles and a not to be scoffed at number of hits. Ballroom Blitz is still incredibly rousing and is represented by a concert performance though with the studio song played over it. Blockbuster came first however and it too as a distinct pulse. The song that helped them out of an embarrassing pop rut was actually Wig Wam Bam, pop rubbish itself, which had a harder beat than previous material but fails to stand up to re-examination. Wig Wam Bam is that important link between the flimsy family frippery that launched them to success with perky embarrassments Funny Funny, Co Co and Poppa Jo. Co Co was Calypso fakery and Poppa Jo was the successful but desperate attempt to return to that bogus Caribbean sound following an interceding year of disc upon disc and chart misery. In their first two years they put out eight discs, and with the early success were thereupon beholden to the song writing team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and producer Phil Wainman, all on board at the time.
   Glitz, Blitz & Hitz: The Very Best Of Sweet is 92 minutes of interview recollections and footage. The coup by the filmmakers is that they have interviews that represent the band, the songwriters and the producer, in Andy Scott, Nicky Chinn and Phil Wainman respectively, who not only give their account but also backup the feelings and memories of each, provide supporting evidence to a definitive effect. Scott is amiable and explains composition and situations with great clarity, is a mullet you can trust who retains the hairstyle for A S Sweet, the version of the band he still tours with. Phil Wainman comes across as the lucky sod in the right place at the right time, a personable dreamer whose dreams came true, who you might be a bit dubious of were it not for no wavering or discrepancy between the Scott and Wainman recollections. Nicky Chinn again, in no way contradicts, yet in his supercilious manner becomes the spoiler. Chinn was writing songs for other bands at the time, co-managed Sweet and had placed enough teen heartthrobs and hits in the charts. Chinn was well on the road to becoming President Asshole, if his dictatorial manner is anything to go by. Chinn believes himself the reason for the success of Sweet, though it helped that the band came to him with a three-tier vocal sound, but hey, he recognised that and the serendipity of his observation of it is what counts. The great twist in this documentary is that it quietly, subtly puts him in his place. Yes, the early Chinn and Chapman songs put The Sweet in the charts, but it was appealing only to the less demanding of pop listeners. Those songs are retrospectively inane and embarrassing fare. They wanted to go heavier, were whipping up audiences live with Who covers, and Wig Wam Bam fluked them in the right direction, towards the inarguable chance on Blockbuster, that in turn paid off with a number one slot chart hit.
   Hits of the day like Hellraiser and Teenage Rampage sound routine now but enough of the apogee glam tracks should secure them a deserving place in the Hall of Fame, though in truth the memory and the sound of the band have slipped enough that they are under closer threat of becoming forgotten. The Six Teens is a great track and Action though simple does have the lyric: "I was suicidal because you were my idol." Chinn threw the band away when in a six-week absence they were lured into the studio by the record label to record a fresh version of the album track Fox On The Run. It became their biggest hit worldwide and Chinn clearly couldn't cope with that, a monster winner in which he played no part. Ballroom Blitz is the emotional, rock sound epic. The use of blasphemy ("For God's sake," is all Brian sang) on Tear It Down resulted in limited airplay for the number but "And the boys at the back said everyone attack and it turned into a ballroom blitz" was A-OK. I confess that I was unaware that Love Is Like Oxygen was a Sweet song at all and had always presumed it to come from some 10CC wannabes; it is a terrific track and pointed in a new direction for the band that was not to be as Brian Connelly's hard drinking was getting the better of him and his departure was imminent. He was the visual centre of the band though and his departure was the real end of Sweet.
   The footage has been hard culled from a variety of sources with European television stations releasing full clips of the group miming to hits on N3 and Sat 1. It is clear that the terrestrial channels in the UK were not as generous in releasing televised appearances. Perhaps the fault lay in the lack of a budget in the production of Glitz, Blitz & Hitz. Still, the hits are largely covered, even if in promo video and mimed TV appearances. It would have been nice to see the Love Is Like Oxygen appearance in full, but that did look like Top Of The Pops and may already have been an expensive concession for the minute we do get. It meets the criteria of a decent documentary of this type, the story and the hits are all there but it is still lacking. The juicier tales are avoided and why stop at the three interviews. Yes, they are representative of the eight hit years of the band but there would have been girlfriends, personnel and other glam rock exponents who could have been called in with support information. Live footage if it exists would have been welcome to prove their oft-mentioned abilities in concert. The chronological rise of the band would have been interesting set against that of the other glam rock groups, from whom they took influence and to whom they provided it. Richard O'Brien and overrated retro-now band The Darkness must draw from them musically, the Specimen took secret lessons in camp performance from Priest but was it Queen that gave them the wont to really play guitar. Chinn ridiculously bemoans the collapse of the band, egocentrically believes he could have seen them well into the next decade when in truth they had done well in band years and Connelly was gone. Wainman had a dream of Sweet becoming a stadium band and it is a fun fantasy all the more tantalising because of the distinct possibility in it.
   Connelly, who was the cousin of Mark (Taggart) McManus, finally succumbed to the drinking excesses in 1997 and Mick Tucker died in 2002. The true Sweet are definitely not coming back. This documentary does a superb job, despite the interview contributions of Chinn and Wainman, of putting the band members at the heart of their success. If only it had gone further, the obviously low budget and desperate sourcing of clips, no matter how successful in representing the A-sides, only returns them immediately into a third-rate memory.
   A good discography and meagre biographical details support the DVD package.

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