Sweet: Sweet Fanny Adams
(Image credit: RCA)
Set Me Free
No You Don’t
Into the Night
Sweet enjoyed a varied career during the 1970s – from their perspective maybe it was a little too varied.
Until wresting their destiny from songwriters/hitmakers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the band were still known for making bubblegum 45s. Following this run of disposable pop hits, they sought credibility as long-haired, leather-clad rockers. Somehow, it sort of worked.
Sweet Fanny Adams – “We had wanted to call it Sweet Fuck-All“, guitarist Andy Scott told us in 2016 – saw them morph into a fully fledged hard rock band capable of holding their own with just about any of the era’s more credible names.
It’s amusing to wonder how many spotty teenagers brought home their copy of the Sweet Fanny Adams album, dropped the needle and were almost thrown across the room by the full force of its contents. A cornucopia of hard rock riffs, pounding drums, aggressive lyrics, Little Willy this was not.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in April 1974
- Ragged Old Flag – Johnny Cash
- Second Helping – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Big Fun – Miles Davis
- Bridge of Sighs – Robin Trower
- Standing on the Verge of Getting It On – Funkadelic
- Okie – J.J. Cale
- Exotic Birds and Fruit – Procol Harum
- Hamburger Concerto – Focus
- Houston (I’m Comin’ to See You) – Glen Campbell
- Positive Vibrations – Ten Years After
- Road Food – The Guess Who
- Secret Treaties – Blue Öyster Cult
- Unconditionally Guaranteed – Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
What they said…
“Perhaps the finest collection of glam-metal mayhem ever laid down on vinyl.” (Sounds)
“Although they were often dismissed as a fluffy singles group in their day, Sweet crafted a handful of strong albums in the mid-’70s that sported some surprisingly muscular hard rock. A fine example of this trend is Sweet Fanny Adams, which remains a solid release full of tight performances and scorching riffs. Anyone with an interest in Sweet beyond the hit singles should check this album out.” (AllMusic)
“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.” (Ultimate Classic Rock)
What you said…
Marco LG: This is a great discovery for me. For some reason I never really explored the music by Sweet, despite hearing several of their songs covered by my favourite bands. Case in point is Set Me Free, which was covered by Saxon and Heathen. The echoes of 80s heavy metal are everywhere in this album, but that doesn’t detract from enjoying Sweet Fanny Adams on his own.
To me this is a keeper, an album I will return to in years to come. I now need to listen to the rest of their discography, starting from Give Us A Wink according to what others have said. A pretty high score from me!
Steve Claggett: This album proved to me what I had thought, that Sweet were much more than a Glam Rock band…these guys could really play!
Richard Slee: The only question is why, considering their hard rock B-sides, did it take them so long to get this album out? Every track (maybe not Peppermint Twist) is classic 70s hard rock. Great songwriting and production. As good as anything Deep Purple and other more credible bands were producing at the time. Shame more people don’t give them a chance.
Jukka Tuominen: I bought this when it came out, I was 11 at the time having previously listened to their bubblegum hits as they were coming out of radio, etc. I sensed the change and really liked it – ‘Gosh, they can play’, I thought.
Russell Marks: Absolutely love this album, it’s what got me into heavy rock.
Bill Griffin: My introduction to Sweet, other than Ballroom Blitz and Fox On The Run, was via the album Give Us A Wink. I got every album after that (except the last two) but never ventured into their earlier stuff because I assumed it would be bubblegum. This album then is quite a pleasant surprise. It rocks! To be fair, I hear a lot of elements and themes that would reappear on Give Us A Wink so this almost sounds like I’ve heard it before. This is a definite addition to my record collection.
Kingsley Jayasekera: Listen to Set Me Free and you can hear the blueprint for Motley Crue.
Graham Tarry: Got this when it came out in 1974, on the same day as the Quo album! Having enjoyed all their B-sides (and the As) from Blockbuster onwards, I was hopeful for a rock album, and that, pretty much, is what I got. Interestingly no singles were released off this album in the UK (Peppermint Twist was a big hit in other countries). It contains some of their best work: Set Me Free and the title track are terrific, and the rest don’t disappoint, though AC-DC, Rebel Rouser & Peppermint Twist should have been replaced by some of their wonderful B-sides to make it even finer. Note: The CD version includes both sides of their three singles from 1973. All their subsequent albums continued this move away from bubblegum pop, Give Us A Wink and Off The Record being the best two if you want to explore further.
Brian Carr: On the rare occasions when a Club album is unavailable on Apple Music or Spotify in the US, I don’t listen as much. I’m really glad I made an exception here – Sweet Fanny Adams absolutely rocks!
I’ve liked the Sweet tunes I’ve previously heard okay, but have never fallen in love with their swirly vocal harmonies. Heartbreak Today and Peppermint Twist contain those, but the rockers grabbed me instantly. Set Me Free, No You Don’t and Sweet FA caught me by complete surprise. An absolute travesty that this album was never released in the States and is still unavailable streaming.
Warren Bubb: Sweet always threatened to make a hard rock album and they did with Sweet Fanny Adams. Simply it’s a great 70s rock album that more people should have listened to without prejudice at the time.
Michael Møller Nielsen: Great album, but their best album by far is Give Us A Wink.
Jonathan Novajosky: A pretty fun and energetic album. I hadn’t heard any of these songs until today and I came away pretty impressed. Never blown away, but nonetheless impressed. Heartbreak Today is a classic, steady guitar-driven standout track that’s pretty catchy. Actually, most of these songs are (although Peppermint Twist is a bit too catchy and doesn’t really fit in here). In To The Night is probably my other favorite on the album–love the high background vocals, which sort of remind me of Uriah Heep. Fanny Adams keeps things simple and focused on fun, melodic rock. I can respect that.
Robert Dunn: I was around eight when I saw Sweet perform Ballroom Blitz, Blockbuster and Hellraiser on TV and I can honestly say it changed my life. I was too young for rock heavyweights and not that interested in pop music at all, but Sweet grabbed me and have never really let go. Their Chinnichap songs were more accessible than Slade and they were totally OTT with their outfits (or so I thought until I saw footage of Rick James in concert) so that was me hooked. I have a friend’s vinyl copy of this album, she loaned it to me in 1983 so I really should get it back to her.
Anyway, from the opening onslaught of Set Me Free all the way through the pop of Rebel Rouser and Peppermint Twist, to the sublime Sweet FA and Restless, Sweet’s ability to marry terrible lyrics to great melodies, interesting song structures and great guitar and drum work, make this one of my all time favourite albums. There are a couple of tracks I can live without, but overall this album gives great pleasure, and brings back happy memories, every time I listen to it. And if anyone is brave enough, try singing Hellraiser on your own at a karaoke bar. No wonder Brian Connolly and Steve Priest shared vocal duties on that one.
Ray Liddard: One of the finest albums of the era. Sweet were much misunderstood at the time but I’m glad to say they are now widely acknowledged for their heavier output and for their influence on so many bands that emerged onto the rock scene in later years. There are so many great tracks on this album but Set Me Free and Sweet F.A. are outstanding – both featuring superb guitar solos from Andy Scott. Every home should own this album.
Mike Knoop: Right away, Sweet Fanny Adams ticks several boxes for me: 1) Punchy power pop from the golden age of glam 2) The best vocal harmonies this side of Queen 3) Same with the falsetto courtesy of the late Steve Priest 4) Three lead singers taking a turn at the mic like, you guessed it, Queen. Add the backstory of the band daring to bite the bubblegum-stained hand that feeds, and you have a fun album, yet one with something to prove.
Original side one opener, barnstormer Set Me Free, has my favorite so-dumb-it’s-brilliant lyrical couplet of the album: ‘Call me a saint/That’s what I ain’t.’ The even more ferocious and otherwise terrific Sweet F.A. is the dubious winner of the so-dumb-it’s-awful lyrical couplet: ‘And if she don’t spread/I’m gonna bust her head.’ Ugh, somewhere Brian Johnson is blushing.
Fortunately, the last two minutes of Sweet F.A. offers a lyric-less and orgiastic squall of squealing guitars and thundering rhythms to cleanse the palate. In fact several of the songs end with fun musical codas, from the jazzy bop of Heartbreak Today to the massive rhythm flex at the end of No You Don’t to the guitar orchestra that closes out Into The Night.
Rebel Rouser sounds exactly like a song Chapman and Chinn would write – except they didn’t, while they did actually write proto-punk snotrocker, No You Don’t, which sounds like nothing they’d done with Sweet before. Maybe the band and Chinnichap were cribbing off each other.
Peppermint Twist reminds me of KISS’s gender-flipped cover, Then She Kissed Me. Yes, I know it’s lowest common denominator pap, but, c’mon man, it’s fun! The album closes with the even hokier AC-DC, cashing in on glam’s fascination with androgyny and bisexuality.
All in all, a fun record. It’s always a thrill for me to hear a band that was big in the UK but, for whatever reason, never made it bigger in the U.S. Anyone for pub rock next?
John Davidson: Having grown up with the pop rock highlights of Sweet blaring from the (mono) but colour TV via Top Of The Pops it was something of a surprise to find out that Sweet F. A. actually properly rocks. I mean people had told me that there was more to Sweet than Ballroom Blitz and eyeliner, but I didn’t really believe them.
So listening to the opening three on F.A. I found myself nodding along to ‘proper’ melodic hard rock of the type I had enjoyed in the mid to late 70s from Queen, Judas Priest, UFO and Blue Oyster Cult.
We then get a couple of reminders of the pop stylings of earlier singles:
Rebel Rouser is pure glam rock pop, while Peppermint Twist is more reminiscent of Showaddywaddy than Sweet.
The next three tracks are back to melodic hard rock – Sweet FA in particular impresses with its instrumental section, but the riff on Restless is pretty nifty and when they sing Too late now it sounds like an early take on Van Halen. Into The Night is pure RockaRolla period Judas Priest before the final song returns us to power pop but not in a bad way.
The lyrics are crushingly bad at times and pretty crass to modern ears, but the harmonies are fantastic and the three singers complement each other well.
So overall this album rocks harder than I expected with some excellent drumming and bass playing alongside very competent rock guitar work. It’s a pity they will forever be remembered for Ballroom Blitz, Blockbuster and Fox On The Run… there was much more to them than those songs suggest.
Uli Hassinger: I have to admit that I only knew the earlier bubblegum glitter-rock hits which I now know that the band was not responsible for. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Ballroom Blitz is still a 70s icon to me. But this record is more serious, has more balls and harder and straighter rock. You can feel the effort to emancipate them from their dependency and do their own stuff. The opener Set Me Free is the burner of the album. You can tell where the influences of the early Mötley Crue came from. The rest is solid 70s rock. Like earlier mentioned there were similarities to the early Queen in No You Don’t. On Sweet F.A. you can hear, that Scott is a decent guitar player. The album is pure 70s. Good I don’t have a DVD, because I can’t stand their style and wardrobe. Same with the hairmetal bands. But the music was convincing so I directly ordered Desolation Boulevard and Give Us A Wink. Thanks for introducing it to me.
Hai Kixmiller: Sweet was a great band whose music was very central in developing my taste in music. Their music has more hooks than a firehouse coat and hat rack. I wore out many a record needles listening to my 45s of Sweet’s Fox On The Run, Bay City Rollers’ Saturday Night and Leif Garrett’s I Was Made For Dancing. Stop laughing… you know you dug that song back then!
Sweet sort of reminds me of Slade in that I like their music better when others re-record them. Like Krokus’s version of Ballroom Blitz, Pat Benatar’s version of No You Don’t, or Def Leppard’s version of Hell Raiser. Sweet also cost me an arm when I swore positively, absolutely, that Love Is Like Oxygen was E.L.O. One would have thought that I’d learned my lesson after losing my leg when I swore positively, absolutely that Catch The Wind was Bob Dylan and not Donovan. Oh, well…such are the perils of know it alls…but I digress. Sweet ROCKS! Whether it’s the “soft” bubblegum stuff or the classic Hard Rock stuff, whether you’re partying or cruising in the car, or just need some background noise, Sweet rock n’ roll is the tasty treat that always put a smile on your face, a tap in your feet, and snap in your fingers.
Carl Black: When The Sweet came out the bag, I rolled my eyes I guessed how many beers I’d have to sink to get me through it. I shouldn’t have worried. This is a good hard rock record. Yes, a few handclaps and do-wop type melodies, but in every song there is a hard rock riff running through it. My ears were especially drawn to the opening and title track. These songs would give AC/DC, Kiss and, dare I say it, early Judas Priest a run for their hard rock money. A bit like Slade, hidden, heavy depths but we get brainwashed with Top Of The Pops conditioning that neglects the material on albums such as these. I’m far from converted but would open to listening to more non-chart tracks.
Roland Bearne: Apart from occasionally murdering Blockbuster at karaoke, Sweet always felt like the band your mate’s older sister would listen to! Well, knock me down with a feather, this album rocks. It sounds great and is big, bombastic fist in the air fun. I’ve heard Set Me Free before but had no idea it was Sweet! That they have three great singers is a fantastic weapon in the arsenal and as mentioned before, give a link to Queen. There are moments (Restless) where one gets a sense of the pizzazz that informed Van Halen. This was an absolutely joyous surprise and exactly why this page is so blooming good! Only reason it didn’t get a cheshire-cat grinning 10 is Peppermint Twist. Definitely one for Top Of The Pops!
Gary Claydon: Early 70s and, being around 13 years old, any musical credibility was hard won but easily blown to pieces, so you had to be careful when it came to some of the scenes around at the time, particularly glam. You were pretty safe with the avant-garde end of the spectrum with the likes of Roxy Music and Bowie. Bolan you could get away with as he retained an air of cool, and Slade backed up their glammed-up boot boy image by being a stompingly good rock’n’roll band, so they were fine. But you had to be extra careful at the bubblegum end of glam.
The likes of Mud, The Rubettes et al were not for the serious young rock fan. And The Sweet? I should Co-Co. They were a novelty act weren’t they? Hell, they didn’t even play their own instruments if the rumours were true. But then they unleashed a string of highly enjoyable glam rock singles on an unsuspecting world, starting with Blockbuster. This was Wham-Bam Glam and suddenly it was ok to like The Sweet. But there was more. The flip sides of those singles revealed bona fide, top notch hard rock songs which cast The Sweet in an entirely different light. And it was those B-sides that made me go out and buy Sweet Fanny Adams.
At this point I’ll just say that, this week, I broke my own rule about the album up for review. I usually only listen to the record in question in its original guise but on this occasion I’m going for the extended edition from 2005 which adds Blockbuster, Hell Raiser and Ballroom Blitz plus their three very decent B-sides to the track list. That’s partly because this turns what was a good album into a very good album and also because it gives me chance to say that Ballroom Blitz is one of the finest singles to ever grace the popular music charts. It encapsulated everything that was good about that string of Chinny-Chap hits – fun, hooky, glam rock. And, you could sing along using your own lyrics. For me & and my mates this meant substituting the title lyric with the line ‘Big Fat Tits’. Juvenile? Absolutely (we were 13!) and distinctly non-PC but I’d bet good money you’re singing those lyrics in your head right now!
Anyway, enough of that nonsense. SFA opens with a thundering Mick Tucker drum salvo that introduces Set Me Free and the lead off track leaves you in no doubt that this is a serious hard rock album. Listening now there is a distinct feel of Iron Maiden about some of the mid-section guitar runs. Elsewhere on SFA there are hints of Queen, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper and Judas Priest – the excellent Burning would not have been out of place on any of Priest’s 70s albums. There is still a bit of sugar coating in places, Rebel Rouser is a sub par Hell Raiser but still fun, while the throwaway Peppermint Twist harks back to their early, bubblegum hits. They don’t detract from the rest of the album though, the thumping No You Don’t and the title track being particular highlights.
It used to be difficult to convince people that The Sweet were a serious hard rock proposition but I reckon time has been kind to them. They never lost their way of using melody and making the most of some, frankly, ropey lyrics. Sweet’s best album? Maybe not, the later Give Us A Wink finds the band at their heaviest and, arguably, contains some of their most ‘mature’ song writing but make no mistake, Sweet Fanny Adams is a fine rock album which, especially with the addition of those three singles, still retains one of the band’s important elements – a sense of fun. Bands are often derided for moving in a more commercial direction. ‘Selling Out’ is regarded as a cardinal sin by many. Well, Sweet did the exact opposite, abandoning a successful pop career to play the type of music they wanted to. Even when the hits dried up, they stuck to their chosen path and, for that, they deserve a lot of credit
Alex Hayes: A great record that will blow your socks off if your only prior experience with Sweet is something along the lines of Wig Wam Bam. Sweet released both this album and Desolation Boulevard in the same year, 1974. Their transformation from a teeny-bopper ‘bubblegum’ singles act into a seriously hard rocking album orientated one was complete. Highly recommended.
Final Score: 8.08⁄10 (100 votes cast, with a total score of 808)
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Louder – Sweet: Sweet Fanny Adams – Album Of The Week Club review
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September 16, 2020