ANDY SCOTT (SWEET): “DAVID COVERDALE Said That If I Was Ever Looking For A Singer To Give Him A Call”

SWEET (Live at The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., December 12, 2019)
Photo: Mick Burgess

They may have made their name with Glam Rock classics such as Ballroom Blitz, Hellraiser and Teenage Rampage but there was much more to the music of SWEET than their Pop hits. Flip over the singles and listen to the self-penned B-sides and the album cuts on the likes of Desolation Boulevard and Give Us A Wink showed a band that rocked as hard as any of their peers. Mick Burgess called up guitarist, ANDY SCOTT, to chat about their upcoming UK tour and the reintroduction of some of their heavier material into the set as well as Sweet’s connections with Deep Purple and the recent addition of Lee Small of Lionheart and Paul Manzi from Cats In Space to the line-up.

At the end of the month you start a 16 date UK tour. Are you looking forward to it?

We’ve been building this UK tour over the last 5 or 6 years. We started off doing a handful in places like the Picturedrome in Holmfirth and promoters started putting an extra gig or two in and the shows were doing really well. This time they came to us to put on 16 shows so things are really starting to grow for us again.

You made your live debut with Sweet in the North East at Redcar in 1970. Do you remember much about that?

The band I was in before Sweet, The Elastic Band, used to play the Redcar Jazz Club regularly. We were a support band for bands like Yes, Jethro Tull and quite a few others. Roger, the guy who ran it liked us. When I started Sweet, I gave him a call and he said that he wouldn’t put us on in the Jazz Club but would put us in the Ballroom or whatever it was. He put us on in there and our support act was called The Government with one David Coverdale as their lead singer. He said to me after the show that if I was ever looking for a singer to give him a call. I really liked him and really liked his bravado but his voice would never have sat at the front of Sweet.

Obviously, you’ll play the hits that everyone loves but do you dig a little deeper into your back catalogue to play a few album tracks too?

I think with Pete Lincoln in the band we headed down the more commercial route and he said if it was a hit, we should be doing it and he was absolutely right. The segment in the show that we did on acoustic guitars was Pete’s forte but I think we’re going to go back to back to the harder edged songs, like Set Me Free and Turn It Down, with a little bit of tongue in cheek in there for this tour as well as the hits.

Did it frustrate you that you headed down that route rather than concentrating on the more Rock orientated side or were happy for the success it brought?

We all went into this with our eyes wide open at the beginning with Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman as songwriters and Phil Wainman as producer. It was Phil’s baby at first as he brought it all together. When I hear people complain about it, I just can’t go along with it as we all knew what we were getting into. I think at the time in 1970, we were Deep Purple in sheep’s clothing, standing there like Buck’s Fizz, it was a little bit frustrating from that point of view but our frustration was let out on the B-sides.

Talking of Deep Purple. Your paths seemed to cross over the years. Do you still see any of the guys in Purple these days?

Brian Connolly actually replaced Ian Gillan in a pre-Deep Purple band called Wainwrights’ Gentleman in 1967. Ian went to Episode Six with Roger Glover and my bands The Silverstones and then the Elastic Band, supported Episode Six and I got to know Ian and Roger very well. I still see them around now.

You’ve influenced a huge amount of Rock bands over the years with bands such as Kiss, Mötley Crüe and The Wildhearts all citing you as a major influence. Can you see and hear your influence in those bands?

I can certainly see the influence on Mötley Crüe. When I was in Sweden, the guys from Europe played me one of their songs and it sounded exactly like Hellraiser, I think it was Kickstart My Heart and we went to see them in Stockholm that night. The Europe guys said it took them back to their childhood when they went to see the Sweet. The other thing is, Mötley Crüe’s advert said “Wanted Brian Connolly lookalike” and they ended up with Vince Neil in the band.

One of your trademarks as a band was the tight four-part vocal harmonies. Did you set out with the intention creating that sound or did it happen more by accident or trial and error?

I joined the band a year and a half into their career in 1970 and they were looking a little dejected at that point as their record deal was coming to an end. When I joined the first thing I noticed was that they were all great singers so I added a fourth voice to their three-part harmonies and we could reproduce those harmonies live too. All the influences we had were pretty similar such as Vanilla Fudge, a Heavy Rock band with great harmonies and we also loved the West Coast stuff like Buffalo Springfield and Three Dog Night. We also loved The Who and they also had great harmonies in their early days so it was all there in the mix. We wanted to make the vocals the main feature like the early Beach Boys. All those influences were all taken on board and there weren’t many of us around doing that and then Queen came along.

At the height of your success you released 5 albums in four years. Was the pressure to constantly record and tour year on year a heavy burden on you?

I think it was part and parcel of the business and we did an album and a tour. That’s how it was. In 1974 we did two albums, Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard. In 1976 we did Give Us A Wink, which is our Heavy Metal album that we did in Germany. We were off the leash for the first time without Chinn and Chapman and we wrote that one all ourselves with Mack engineering. I think we felt like the teachers had left the school and we were unleashed. We put out a lot of albums and toured constantly over a short period of time but we took it all in our stride.

Brian and Mick are sadly no longer with us. How much do you miss them as musicians and band mates and as friends?

There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t laugh out loud at some of the things me and Mick used to get up to. Everybody thinks that me and Brian had a feud but that’s not true. He knew that I wanted to keep the standards of the band high and when he was going through his alcoholism at the end of the ’70’s I was the only one who could stand there and say that he was an alcoholic and either he leaves or the band splits up. Nobody could win in that situation unless he changed. We tried it for a year and it didn’t happen. We always stayed in touch though and he even came along to a couple of our gigs and got on stage with us and did a couple of songs at the end. The possibilities were always there but you can’t repair something that’s so far broken.

You’ve remained the one constant in Sweet over the years and the line-up has changed a fair bit over the years. You currently feature Paul Manzi from Cats In Space on vocals, Lee Small (Lionheart) and Bruce Bisland from Statetrooper/Praying Mantis/Weapon who has been with you for nearly 25 years now, on drums. How did Paul and Lee end up in Sweet?

Paul Manzi is a really good fit. He came on a tour with us long before Cats In Space were formed about 8 years ago when he stood in for Tony O’Hora. Paul has been around us for quite some time and almost joined in 2005 when Pete originally joined us. Lee Small is a great singer in his own right and I think Tony has done us a favour leaving which has allowed us to bring Lee into the band. I honestly believe we are at the point where we have the best line-up that we’ve had in a long time.

Why did Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hara who’d been with you for a few years move on?

Pete Lincoln, who is one of your locals, was our frontman for a while and we’re still really good mates. He’s doing rather well at the moment with his new venture The Frontmen and he was heading out on tour with about 50 odd dates before he was going to join us for our May tour. We both agreed that it wasn’t going to work and that we’d need a full-time replacement. It was all very amicable and we wish him all the best. That’s when we brought in Paul Manzi from Cats In Space. We also have Steve Mann from Michael Schenker Group on keyboards and guitar. He’s more of a floating member as he’s in high demand at the moment.

Steve Priest has his own version of Sweet touring the States. Is the door open for him for you to work together in some form in the future or do you move forward with your current line up?

I am still in touch with Steve. He sends me emails from time to time and we have a bit of a laugh but he’s been over in L.A for a long time and I’m here in the UK. I had sent him a message at the end of 2017 saying that 2018 was our 50th anniversary and I never got a response in time. I’d then made my plans for 2018 and at the beginning of the year he said that his new agent thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea if we tried to do something together but my attitude was, sod your agent, what do you think about it? I didn’t really get much response after that but I think if it was going to happen it would have been last year. Next year it’s 50 years of hits and that’s what I think we’ll call the next tour as late 1970 was when it kicked off proper for us. We had a decent line up and we had the songs of Chinn and Chapman and by the end of 1970 we’d had a hit in Belgium and Holland and in January we had a hit in the UK and the ball was rolling. When I look back at that first TV appearance in Holland, the clothes that we were wearing were unbelievable. There was a clothing company called Mr Freedom in London and I think somebody did a deal with them for coloured clothing. We looked like Billy and Johnny from Hale and Pace. Those pictures keep showing up everywhere.

It’s been quite some time since your last studio album of original songs. Do you think there may be one last album left in you?

We will be doing a new album next year for Sony. They’ve asked us to delve back into the catalogue and see if there’s a couple of songs we want to bring up to date. We’ll also look for a couple of covers and then add our own new material. I quite like that idea. I think maybe an album full of brand-new songs might not catch the attention but if there’s a reworked version of Love Is Like Oxygen and an old Stephen Stills Buffalo Springfield song with added harmonies then you might just have something unique and different. I’m also going to call in a couple of favours and get a couple of mates in like Joe Elliott to contribute too. It should be a great album.

Your tour ends on 21st December at Bexhill. Is that you done for the year or do you still have time to squeeze another show in before 2020?

That’s our last show this year. I’ve got something on next year where I’m onstage as the host and introduce bands and they’ll do interviews with me including Uriah Heep, Nazareth and Wishbone Ash. It’s called Music and Stories and at the moment that’ll be in Germany but there are promoters interested in the UK and they also want Sweet involved too. Of course, there’s the new album coming out too that’ll probably be out towards the end of 2020.

Sweet’s UK tour starts on 28th at the Cheese and Grain in Frome see thesweet.com for more information.

About Mick Burgess 1032 Articles
Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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