Glitz, blitz and 70s hitz

Oct 2015 Glitz, blitz and 70s hitz

A few sixties – and even eighties – packages are doing the rounds these days, but apparently not many from the seventies.

However, that omission is being corrected as the latest ‘Glitz, Blitz and 70s Hitz tour is set for November and December. This is the fourth of the tours, which celebrate the ‘Glam’ rock era. Previous tours were in 1999, 2003 and 2005.

This time, the line-up is The Sweet, who have been on two previous Glitz tours, The Rubettes, who have featured in every tour, and Mud 2 – making their debut.

Mud 2 is the former backing band of Mud singer the late Les Gray. Mud themselves had no less than 14 Top 20 hits in the UK, including a trio of chart-toppers.

Les died in 2004, but the band have carried on and has continued his musical legacy by performing the original band’s many hits, such as ‘Tiger Feet’, ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Dyna-Mite’, ‘The Cat Crept In’ and ‘Lonely This Christmas’.

The Rubettes, who burst onto the scene in 1974 with ‘Sugar Baby Love’, and kept the momentum going with bits like ‘Tonight’, ‘Juke Box Jive’, ‘I Can Do It’ and ‘You’re The Reason Why’ can still boast three original members in lead singer and guitarist Alan Williams, bassist and former The Tremeloes’ Mick Clarke and drummer John Richardson.

“It’s quite nice to be touring the UK again.” Alan said. “I think we last toured Britain about five years ago. We’ve mainly been touring mainland Europe, as the music of the 70s is still very big there, while it seemed to dry up in the UK.”

One of the reasons for the lack of 70s tours is that there aren’t many of the bands still around.

“I’ve got the dubious distinction of being one of the few lead singers of the 70s still in a band.”

Alan, ever the optimist, is looking forward to playing in Britain again.

“It’s great. I particularly like doing the theatres as we play so many festivals generally.”

And the band has a new keyboard player in Steve Etherington.

“Yes, we’ve been after Steve for a while but he’s so good he was never available. But he’s fitted in well and he’s a great singer and multi-instrumentalist.”

“Our previous keyboard player, Mark Haley, had been with us for 15 years and he lived in France. He wanted to spend more time at home with his family.”

Due to time constraints, The Rubettes will have to play a smaller set than usual.

“Yes, unfortunately we’ll only be doing 30 to 40 minutes in the first half and we usually play about 90.”

But all is not lost.

“No, we’ll get all the hits in and a couple of extras and probably that thing we all do with the drums that people like to see.”

When the band first appeared on Top of the Pops, they made an instant impact because of the distinctive caps they wore.

“Oh yes, I make sure that we wear them for ‘Sugar Baby Love’ for the image – I like to leave with a lasting image – it’s part of the show.”

Of all the hits, Alan does have a particular favourite – in fact two!

“I’m really proud of ‘Tonight’, our second hit. I think it’s the epitome of a ‘pop’ song. I also like ‘Foe Dee O Dee’, even though the lyrics leave a lot to be desired – in fact they were voted in the Top Ten of pop’s worst lyrics.”

One outstanding memory was how the band got on Top of the Pops for the first time.

“Sugar Baby Love’ had been out for a while and was just ‘bubbling under’ as they say, and Sparks were due to appear on the show, but due to the Musicians Union, they weren’t able to take part, and they asked us. So we owe Sparks our success. Dear old Musicians Union – bless ‘em.”

Alan says he is planning to continue performing.

“I originally planned to retire 15 years ago, but the phone kept ringing, I’m pretty fit and still enjoy it, so, while the audiences still want us, we’ll continue. There’s not much on telly these days, so come and see the show.”

Headlining is Sweet, who transformed from a ‘bubblegum’ band (‘Poppa Joe’, ‘Little Willy’), to a bona fide rock band. Massive chart success came their way with ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Teenage Rampage, Action’ (covered by Def Leppard) and ‘Love is Like Oxygen’, but this may be the last time we see them on UK stages.

Andy Scott became Sweet’s guitarist in 1970 and is still with the band today, with Pete Lincoln (ex-Sailor), Bruce Bisland and Tony O’Hara.

“For Sweet to be going back out on tour in the UK for what will probably be the last time is a real thrill. For us, performing is at the very heart of what we do, and though fashions change, our songs have lasted through five decades – it’s almost as if time has stood still when we’re on stage.”

Andy explained the reason why this may be the last time.

“As I get older, I don’t want to do four nights in a row doing two hours a night. What we need to do is a little bit less and do bigger places. In Europe, bands like us get between three and five thousand a night in the audience.”

Andy joined the band in 1970.

“The possibility of some success made me join the band. I’d been in a myriad of bands, but to join Sweet was an oddball thing.Their minds were in The Who/Deep Purple/Led Zepp mould of wanting to make music, but the record company had other ideas. We ended up writing our B-sides, which were much heavier and more reflective of how we wanted to be.”

The difference in audiences between the UK and Europe is one which Andy has thought about a lot.

“We had 34 No.1s worldwide, and in Germany, we had nine chart toppers. Bands like T Rex, Roxy Music and David Bowie were cool and chic in England, but not us.

“However, Europe embraces us, and bands like Slade and Smokie, which is why we spend so much time there. We fill huge arenas in Europe. It could, and should, happen in England, but it seems to be all eighties and sixties.”

As they are headlining the current tour, Sweet will get the lion’s share of the time on stage.

“We’ll get about an hour plus encores. That means we’ll play mainly the hits, but we’re not sure about the early ones as we want to be more ‘rock’ on this tour.

“We’ll also have a new single out by then so we hope to play that as well.”

One of the highlights of the show is during ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ when the band segues into Emerson Lake and Palmer’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’.

“That came about when Phil Lanzon (Uriah Heep) was with us and was playing around in the studio. He started to play ‘Fanfare’ and we thought it sounded great.”

The bands were in the premier league of 70s pop, having 41 chart hits between them, which included 25 Top 10s and five No.1s. A better line-up would be hard to imagine.

The Glitz, Blitz and 70’s Hitz tour, starring Sweet, The Rubettes and Mud 2 tours the UK from November 10 to December 13.
Martin Hutchinson