100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #88 The Sweet – The Ballroom Blitz

Released : 1973

The other side of Ballroom Blitz is a song called Rock N’ Roll Disgrace, a not hugely inspiring but functional slice of belt-and-braces ephemera resembling The Who on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not exactly Hall of Fame material but that wasn’t the point; all three minutes and fifty two seconds of it were performed by The Sweet and – more importantly – written by them too.

Perceptions once established are very difficult to break down. Formed in 1968 as The Sweetshop, the quartet were originally managed by future star of Hair and 80’s sitcoms Paul Nicholas, before coming to the attention of producer Paul Wainman and later, songwriting duo Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. Distinctly unimpressed by the quartet’s own material, the latter realised that they’d found a vehicle for their own; between early 1971 and mid 1975 the partnership scored nine top ten hits, including the aptly named Blockbuster.

Marraiges of convenience between performer and Svengali had been pop’s modus operandi since the term had been coined; also in Wainman’s hyperactive stable were the likes of Mud and eventually The Bay City Rollers. But The Sweet wanted to rock and their conscious biting of the hand that fed them resulted in getting bottled off stage in Kilmarnock one evening, amongst other things.

If you’d experienced that first hand you probably wouldn’t ever want to think about it again, but instead Chinn and Chapman used it as the inspiration for The Ballroom Blitz. Whatever your musical poison the now legendarily camp roll call intro gave way to is one of glam rock’s genuine high water marks, as the puckish theatre was backed with Andy Scott’s muscular, raking guitar and a chorus that, like some of the carry out empties, left it’s mark. They knew they could do it: you just had to flip over to the other side to understand how.

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