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The Sweet's current line-up: from left, Bruce Bisland (drums, vocals), Lee Small (bass, vocals), Paul Manzi (lead vocals) and Andy Scott (lead guitar), vocals).

The Sweet: current line-up, from left, Bruce Bisland (drums, vocals), Lee Small (bass, vocals), Paul Manzi (lead vocals) and Andy Scott (lead guitar, vocals).

Sweet thoughts from Andy Scott ahead of Bexhill gig

Ahead of their gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on 21 December, Darren Johnson talks to the Sweet’s Andy Scott who, along with Brian Connolly, Mick Tucker and Steve Priest, was part of the classic 1970s line-up and continues with the band to this day.

The Sweet are well-known for their glam rock singles but there was always a hard rock albums side to the band’s persona as well. Will both of those elements be represented on this current tour?

Yes – more so on this tour than the last one. We’ve had a slight revamp of the band. This revised line-up is certainly more akin to that. A couple of younger guys who are, shall we say, keeping us on our toes again. I would never, ever recommend changing two members of a band.

I remember reading an interview with Mick Fleetwood, who I got to know in the 70s just before they went to LA, and he was saying they were going out there not knowing where the future lay. And he even said to me, let’s see what happens. Then I saw what had gone on about two years later and heard, basically, they were looking for a replacement for Peter Green and they’ve got Christine McVie back in the band. They just haven’t got a guitar player who can sing. And it came with the two of them. Stevie Nicks as well (as Lindsey Buckingham). And just look at the way that burst open.

So, in my head, I’m thinking Pete Lincoln left to pursue this outfit he’d been using, shall we say, as a back-up tool to Sweet, with two other lead singers from other bands. And all of a sudden that’s taking off and I could see what’s on the horizon. There’s going to have to be a choice made here. And I knew which way he’d probably go because he’d been playing bass and singing with us. And he’s now doing this – because he’s a terrific guitar player and he’s now with a team of people where they’re all in at the starting point. And I thought – well we’re going to have to replace him. Now luckily we had Paul Manzi on the back-burner because he had depped – he’d come in and done a couple of gigs for us, so he was an obvious choice.

And then Tony O’Hora, at the end of August the bombshell was, “I’m leaving.” And Bruce [Bisland – Sweet’s drummer] and I, who’ve known him for years, were like – Oh God, not again. Because we’d had this with him a couple of times, only this time I said there’s only so much you can cry wolf – you know. So I said – I’ll accept it but you’re gonna have to tell me what’s going on. And he didn’t.

And then we were doing a couple of gigs in Poland and the Czech Republic and he just walked. So we ended up doing a couple of gigs with my guitar tech on bass and we managed to get Steve Mann who’d been playing with Michael Schenker to come out and finish the dates with us.

It was a revelation to see Paul Manzi standing there with no guitar in his hand as a lead singer, so the first thing I had to do when I got back – there was was one person on my list of people to call and that was Lee Small. I rang him and he jumped at the chance and so we now have Lee and Paul in the band. And on a temporary basis – but it could become permanent – we have Steve Mann back in the band as the second guitar/keyboard player. And it’s really, really gelling. And now we’ve done three shows in Denmark, one or two in Germany and four in England. We’ve only done nine gigs and my son who’s my sound engineer – I have to take his word because the sound he gets out is always remarkable – he said, “It’s the best it’s been, Dad”.

Clearly, the line-up change has given the band a new energy but has it led to a change in the set-list, too?

Yes. The driving force for the acoustic part of the set last time we toured was basically me and Pete. And we felt like we ought to go for a bit more, like it used to be in the 70s when we did a festival set. You’d get down to the nitty gritty. You play a couple of the heavier rock tunes that people want to hear, so that’s what’s happening. It’s a work-in-progress. There will be a new Sweet album next year and we’ll see where we go from there.

And you’re coming to Bexhill on 21 December which is the last night of the tour. Is that last night of a tour always a bit special or a bit of a relief – or both?

Well it depends who’s around – but I usually try and get some of my mates and anyone who wants to come to the gig and sing a bit or play or whatever. You just never know what happens on a night like this.

The other surviving member of the classic 70s line-up, Steve Priest, has his own version of the Sweet in America. I believe you tried to get him to join you on stage for the band’s 50th anniversary last year?

I mean look – we can all be angry young men and even grumpy old men. I just don’t like the idea that you can’t mellow in later life. I just don’t know what gets into Steve once in a while. We have contact – every time that I go over to LA, which I do on holiday these days because we don’t do anything in America – he has changed the dynamic of that.

He doesn’t do a lot either – but, having spoken to a couple of friends of mine who are promoters and stuff in America, I said I don’t want to come back there unless it’s as organised as the gigs we do in Europe. And it seems you need specialist help over there. The country is so big you’re not going to end up using your own equipment. Friends of mine in Uriah Heep still go out there and Mick [Box] says you’ve got to get a different head on.

So you’re in touch with Steve Priest but no chance of you performing together?

Well, I think the moment has passed. At the end of 2017 I remember I wished him a Merry Christmas and I then said, if something’s going to happen it’s going to be next year isn’t it? You know, the 50th anniversary of the inception of the band. And then I never heard anything. Then I got a message from him at the beginning of 2018 saying, “We are getting involved with a new agent who thinks it might be a good idea if you and I did something.”

And my answer to him was, Sod your agent, what do you think about it? If you fancy doing it then we’ve got a starting point but to just do it because your agent says, “You should do this, Steve” is coming at it from the wrong angle, I think. I could see where that was going. I would say yes, let’s do something, but all of a sudden all the rules and regulations come out.

And really, if we’re going to do stuff like this, if he’s coming to Europe we have a collaboration and he does it the European way. And I go out to America and I do it the American way – as long as somebody looks after me. But there has to be some kind of continuity within the band as well. And one of the funniest things was a friend of mine from Germany who contacted him said, “Would you be willing to come and do a festival?” And the first thing he said was, “As long as I can bring my guitar player.” And so we laughed about that. And that never went anywhere.

So now I’d much rather be in touch with him saying “Hello, how are you? How are the knees?” you know. And him saying “How are you? How’s your health?”

Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (writers of many of the hit singles for Sweet) obviously left a huge, huge impact on the band and left you with a slew of songs that people will always link to Sweet. Do you keep in touch with either of them?

Well, yeah, I’m in touch with Mike because Mike is still a little bit of a mentor for Suzi [Quatro] and whenever I’ve been in the producer’s chair I talk to Mike about various things. He’s written songs that were on Back To The Drive which was one of her albums. And I’m hoping, because we’ve got a new album coming out, that Mike and I might sit down together. A few years ago he was angling, “Well that could have been a Sweet single.” And we might be able to revamp or maybe write a song together.

There’s a man who’s mellowed a little bit and kind of enjoying life again. And I’ve heard he’s back in the UK so, you know, all is possible. I’ve not fallen out with anybody. Life’s too short!

sweet-poster-350You’ve had a couple of major scares with prostrate cancer and you’ve been open about that and done a lot for awareness through Rock Against Cancer. How are things health-wise these days?

Pretty good. In fact, I’m due another PSA test so I’d better get that organised, hadn’t I? And the other thing is, Rock Against Cancer will be coming back next year. It’s coming back on 12 and 13 September in the same venue in Wiltshire at All Cannings near Devizes. So it’ll be Rock Against Cancer 8. And it might well be the last one. We’re looking at the moment to see who can come back from previous years and making a real bonanza of a gig, you know.

 

The Sweet play Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 21 December at 7pm. Tickets cost £27 and are available online.

Posted 16:31 Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019 In: Music & Sound

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