On December 15, Michael Burgess of Metal Express Radio conducted an interview with original member Andy Scott (guitar and vocals) of one of the most legendary, influential and enduring names in the history of rock music, SWEET, at The Sage in Gateshead (Newcastle), England. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
SWEET released a new studio album — their first since "Sweetlife" — last April.
With worldwide album sales of more than 55 million copies, SWEET have notched 34 No. 1 smashes across the globe as part of a run of timeless hits that includes "Blockbuster!", "Hell Raiser", "The Ballroom Blitz", "The Six Teens", "Action", "Fox On The Run" and "Love Is Like Oxygen". Seen on "Top Of The Pops" on what felt like a weekly basis throughout the 1970s, their über-harmonious, multi-tracked guitar work and layered production was to provide inspiration to other acts such as QUEEN, the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA and, in later decades, DEF LEPPARD, MÖTLEY CRÜE and THE DARKNESS.
"New York Connection" was recorded by original member Andy Scott (guitar and vocals) and his current lineup of Pete Lincoln (lead vocals and bass guitar), Tony O'Hora (guitar, keyboards and vocals) and Bruce Bisland (drums and vocals), the new album is a selection of material originally penned by other artists awarded the band's instantly recognizable thumb-print. So it's a boring covers album, then? Well, no. Not really. This time there's a bit of a twist.
Besides some fairly inevitable selections — Andy Scott, who handles lead vocals on this version of "Sweet Jane" has long declared his admiration of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND — SWEET have not only tried their hands at some unexpected choices such as "All Moving Faster" by the New Jersey punk band ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN and THE BLACK KEYS' "Gold On The Ceiling", but where appropriate, they have also mashed in riffs, drum beats or vocal lines from some of their own classic songs. "It's a case of buy one, get one free!" laughs Andy Scott.
Thus their interpretation of "It's All Moving Faster" interpolates the guitar line to SWEET's own "Burn On The Flame", while "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the RAMONES is teamed up with a snippet of "The Ballroom Blitz". Several other examples of this phenomenon abound on the record — see whether you can spot them all! — though the most obvious example is the fusion of the Russ Ballard chestnut "New York Groove" (previously covered by both HELLO and former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley) with Jay-Z's "Empire State Of Mind". Astonishingly, it works.
"When people hear that one in particular, often they have a solitary word: 'Wow!'" smiles Andy Scott proudly.
However, the equally convincingly rocked-up inclusion of "You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)", a U.K. chart-topper for DEAD OR ALIVE in 1985, perhaps begs the question of how seriously "New York Connection" is intended to be taken.
"It's all meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek," acknowledges Scott. "The whole point of doing something like this was to enjoy it. We had a stab at 'You Spin Me Right Round' as a bit of a wind-up, but it came together so well and sounded so right that it was very hard to turn our backs on. We definitely gave it the SWEET stamp."
If a central thread unites much of the material on "New York Connection", it's that of songs by New York-based artists, songwriters or material that name-checks the Big Apple in its title. "Obviously, some don't fulfill that criteria, but most of them do," explains Scott.
Covered many, many times through the years, "On Broadway" is perhaps best known as a hit for both THE DRIFTERS and George Benson. The band likes to think it fits the album's overall concept by having been recorded by THE FOXBORO HOT TUBS, a side-project of the American punks GREEN DAY. For these purposes the song concerned has been cross-pollinated with SWEET's 1977 chart hit "Love Is Like Oxygen". Reveals Scott: "That one almost didn't make it onto the album as nobody except me could imagine how a hard rock riff could possibly be merged with a pop-soul song. But I think we managed it."
The project was born when Scott's son Damian started messing around with a looped sample that was later integrated into a version of the song that closes the album, namely THE WHO's 1972 standard "Join Together". This was fitting as back in the 1970s the latter's guitarist, Pete Townshend, had gone out on a limb as an important backer of SWEET's crossover from the pop singles market to a harder-edged, more album-based direction. Fans will know that they had also recorded a version of "My Generation" on their 1970s album "Desolation Boulevard".
When SWEET elected to perform "Join Together" on the German TV special "Fernsehgarten" and realized that it fitted their own style so well they began looking around for other tunes to cover. Gradually the project took on a life of its own.
The complete track listing for "New York Connection" is as follows:
01. New York Groove (written by Russ Ballard)
02. Gold On The Ceilings (THE BLACK KEYS)
03. It's All Moving Faster (ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN)
04. New York Connection (originally the B-side of SWEET's "Wig Wam Bam")
05. Shapes Of Things (THE YARDBIRDS)
06. You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record) (DEAD OR ALIVE)
07. Because The Night (BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, also recorded by the PATTI SMITH GROUP) (Lead vocal: Tony O'Hora)
08. Sweet Jan (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND) (Lead vocal: Andy Scott)
09. Blitzkrieg Bop (RAMONES) (Lead vocal: Bruce Bisland)
10. Broadway (written by a team including Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller)
11. Join Together (THE WHO)