Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rock bands

OK, so it's been a while. I've been working, I've been tutoring maths, I've been writing my thesis and my dad died. :-(

But today, seven months after Dad it's time for an update.

If I was to appear on Rockwiz and they asked me my first concert I would answer: "An up an coming rock band in the mid 70's: AC/DC, Hobart, City Hall". And the audience would go "oooohhhh". I didn't know it at the time, but the, really, THE world's greatest rock band played in Hobart when I was 12. Mum was happy to let me go and take my 10 year old brother with me. It was loud, it was brilliant and the long version of Baby Please Don't Go blew me away. But Phill Rudd wasn't my drumming idol. He was close, but my idol was from England.

In your early teens you find a band that become your favourite band of all time. Your idols. And if you're musically inclined (to the rock instruments) you pick a rock instrument. Mine was drums. And my idol was Mick Tucker from The Sweet.

I started following Sweet after they released Ballroom Blitz and them promptly went and paid $6 for the album Sweet Fanny Adams. At first I was disappointed, not many hits on it and it was heavy. But then I grew to love it. And now, if I had to do the Desert Island Disc thing, Sweet Fanny Adams would be the album I would take.

Sweet had an interesting start. Bubblegum pop and cheesy songs. But in their heart there was decent hard rock. As good as you can get. And that's what I fell in love with. After Sweet Fanny Adams I bought Sweet's Greatest Hits and was so disappointed. Awful stuff that I couldn't appreciate (as a 13 year old) but it obviously worked for the crowds a number of years before.

The album Sweet Fanny Adams is, looking back, iconic. The drumming, the guitar and the vocals just soar. So many bands have built from it - even if they didn't know it. The Sweet were pioneers of the time - but we never knew it.

Time moved on and in 1986 (with me and my wife with a newborn son), Sweet toured Hobart. Brian Connolly and Steve Priest were not with the band, but Mick Tucker and Andy Scott was. To be honest, at the time, Mick was all I cared about. I was a budding drummer and Mick was here in town. So I bought my ticket. It cost $13.80.

I had listened to every Sweet album and so all my fingers were crossed that they would do "Man With the Golden Arm" - which contains an 8 minute drum solo.

They open with Hell Raiser - the traditional opening - and yes, they performed Man With the Golden Arm.

Now I would never pretend to be able to play that solo, but I know every note. And Mick played that solo, beat for beat it was perfect. On the live album, made many years before, someone shouts out "C'mon Mick" at a key point in the solo. I made sure that I shouted that out at that exact point. Mick and Sweet performed beautifully. I was so happy.

I hung around afterwards, and Mick and Andy came out. Andy was grumpy about the sound (I think) but Mick appeared quietly at the back. I went up to him and asked for his autograph. He signed my ticket. He was quietly spoken and didn't say much. Even so, that was my idol moment.

I took my film SLR camera to the concert and took a number of shots during the performance. Many didn't work but I got a few beauties. Mick threw his broken stick into the audience during the show and I noticed a girl had it. I offered her $10 (worth about $100 in 2012 AUD) and she turned me down. As a second prize I noticed Andy had dropped a pick on the stage. I grabbed it. It was mine.

In 2002, 16 year later, it popped up on a drumming newsgroup that Mick had died of cancer. He was only 55. I was quietly gutted. No one locally knew who he was or how good he was. But I did.

Fast forward to 2012. Twentyu six years after that concert.

Sweet are touring Australia and coming to Hobart. Only Andy Scott remains and the rest have been replaced.

Of course I was skeptical, but I had to buy a ticket.

Well, what a surprise. The band can still PLAY! The replacements can certainly sing high and have that Sweet sound. Andy can still play guitar and Bruce Bisland, Mick's replacement, has just nailed his sound. It was such a pleasant surprise. And the lead singer and bass player/keyboardist can also sing brilliantly. "Just like girls" - quoting Andy from the concert.

After sitting through hit song after hit song, it was just bliss. Even those awful early bubblegum pop hits, which they compressed into a medly, sounded good.

My mild disappointment was that Man With the Golden Arm wasn't played - but I forgive them for that. It was, after all, Mick's song.

My greatest surprise was when the launched into Love is Like Oxygen, and I was looking forward to a nice long guitar solo by Andy. Nope. They break into Fanfare for the Common Man, by Emerson Lake and Palmer. It was brilliant.

So they hold out to the end to play Ballroom Blitz - the one Sweet song I can actually play on drums - and then the show was over.

However, unlike young rockers, they go out front, sign albums, sell merchandise and have a chat. So I joined the queue - right at the end - and chat with them all. I complimented Bruce on his playing - I have so much respect for guy to sit in Mick's seat. And then I met Andy.

I showed my 1986 ticket, signed by Mick, and said "you were too grumpy to sign mine back then" - and he laughed! He asked if he'd like me to sign it now - I said "Yes please!".

We had photos with them and left with their three items: A new studio album, a live album and a a photo book (which they all signed) - all for $35.

The amount was good value, but I hadn't prepared for what I had got. I chucked on the live album on the way home in the car. It was nine of their key songs played live - just like we had heard them. Now that was brilliant. Nothing like reliving a concert you have just been to. I wish more bands would do that.

The studio album I was more cautious of. I left it for a few days. Then I put it on. I had run out of podcasts to listen to. What a surprise! They hadn't recorded new songs, they had recorded covers!

Now it's not often you hear a top quality band record covers on a whole album. That's what us plebs do in pubs. But it is GREAT.

The vocals are superb, the drums are brilliant, the engineering is great, and the song choice is just fantastic. Not what you'd expect either. The soaring Sweet vocals along with the solid muscianship behind it, along with songs by The Ramones, The Who and others . I cannot recommend it enough.

It's called "Sweet - New York Connection"

If you read this, Andy, Bruce, Pete or Tony, thanks for coming to Hobart. My day was absolutely made.

And if you're not Andy, Bruce, Pete and Tony - then check out the album!