Heavy and catchy and glam rock from Sweet
Let’s step into the vault today for an album from my childhood that I feel has aged well: Sweet’s 1974 release, “Desolation Boulevard.” If Americans remember anything about these guys, it is probably either “Fox on the Run” or ‘Ballroom Blitz,’ both of which were first released on this album and both of which reached #5 in the U.S. You might even remember ‘Love Is Like Oxygen” from “Level Headed” in 1978.
Early in their career, Sweet (or ‘The Sweet’ in the U.K.) had a bubblegum pop sound because that’s the way their label wanted it. Listen to ‘Little Willie,’ for example. The band, though, considered The Who to be a major influence and insisted on releasing harder and harder B-sides. By 1974, their glam rock sound had grown some rough edges while still retaining the radio-friendly pop that would propel some of their songs up the charts all over Europe.
The U.S. and U.K. versions of this album are very different. 6 songs on the U.K. version don’t appear on the U.S. version and 7 from the U.S. version weren’t on the U.K. release. This was done because Sweet’s previous album, “Sweet Fanny Adams,” was not released in the U.S. and several great tracks from that album were put on the U.S. release of “Desolation Boulevard.” On the downside, U.S. audiences didn’t get to hear a lot of cool music from Sweet. On the upside, our “Desolation Boulevard” is a much stronger, more concentrated album.
- Ballroom Blitz – This song commemorates an experience they had at a show in 1973. Their sound had been evolving as a band. Fans would come to the shows expecting to hear the light pop they knew from the radio, but got much harder rock songs they didn’t know. At this particular show, the crowd turned ugly.
- The Sixteens – This was a big hit for Sweet in the U.K. and I can see why. It’s a catchy hook with evocative lyrics and powerful, layered vocals.
- No You Don’t – The production around the vocal work on this track is great. I like the echo put on the whined verses and the richly layered harmony vocals on the chorus. The drum work on this track is great too.
- A.C.D.C – I would expect this kind of slightly raunchy song from…well, AC/DC. I love the lead vocal performance on this song.
- Sweet F.A. – This is a classic early metal guitar riff. You can tell a lot of the guys who created the hair metal bands of the 80s listened to music like this in the 70s. Listen to the great percussion and bass work during the chorus, but watch out for the crazy and chaotic guitar solo that takes up the last minute of the song. This video on YouTube contains “Sweet F.A.” and “Into the Night”
- Fox on the Run – This is the most pop-oriented, glam sounding track on the album. It was never my favorite, but it was the biggest hit from this release so I’m including it here.
- Set Me Free – There is solid guitar work all over this album, but you really notice it on the intro to this song as he bounces through the power chords and settles into a crunchy vamp.
- Into the Night – I love this song. The laid back percussion creates a perfect groove and the rich vocals are a great counterpoint to the dirty guitar.
- Solid Gold Brass – Sweet gives us a nice blend of heavy glam rock and sweet pop on this one. The video is great, too. Watch the crowd dancing. They look like the Peanuts kids.
I have listened to albums Sweet released before and after “Desolation Boulevard,” but none were as good from end to end. The band saw some line-up changes but eventually broke up in 1981. Not to worry, though. 3 of Sweet’s members formed their own bands and all of them were called Sweet. Reportedly, 2 of them are still active, so you haven’t missed your chance to see them live.
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