By Keith Sharp
The Sweet bassist Steve Priest passed away Thursday, June 4th leaving the four-member British glam band which chalked up 20 hit singles during the 1970s with just one surviving member, guitarist Andy Scott.
Priest, age 72, who had recently been touring with his own Los Angeles-based version of The Sweet, died of unspecified causes although he had been battling a number of health issues for the past few months. His band had been booked to play at Manitoulin Island’s Rock The Rock festival August 14-15 (since postponed to Aug 13-14 2021).
“I am in pieces right now,” announced surviving guitarist Andy Scott, who fronts his own London-based version of the band. “Steve was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. Rest in peace brother.”
Priest’s death follows lead vocalist Brian Connolly who died from liver failure in 1997 and drummer Mick Tucker who passed away after battling leukemia in 2002.
Having hooked up with the proficient songwriting team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman in the early 1970s, The Sweet spawned hit singles like “Wigwam Bam”, “Little Willie” “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz”. The Sweet were at the forefront of a British Glam movement which also featured Slade, Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter, Mud and Roy Wood’s “The Move” who successfully followed in the footsteps of David Bowie and Marc Bolan’s T-Rex in establishing a new musical trend.
Yet although Chinn and Chapman launched a virtual music publishing hit factory with a string of hits for The Sweet, Quatro and Mud, the band tired of their bubblegum image and broke ranks to record their third album `Desolation Boulevard’ in 1974, penning their own material featuring the major U.S hit “Fox On The Run”
Going It alone, The Sweet enjoyed further success with “Action” off their follow up “Give Us A Wink” 1976 release but although “Love Is Like Oxygen” off their 1978 release “Level Headed” proved they could be more musically progressive, Connolly’s personal problems forced him out of the band in 1979 (The Sweet initially soldiering on as a three-piece with Scott and Priest splitting the vocals) before the band initially folded in 1981. Priest went on to publish his autobiography “Are You Ready Steve” in 1994 and with the rebirth of classic rock (“Fox On The Run” was featured in the hit movie Guardians Of The Galaxy #2) both Priest and Tucker found audiences with their dual revamps of the band.
Suffice to say, this writer was a big fan of the band. I was attracted to their glam rock sound, and pop-rock stylings and when I visited England in 1974, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Slade and Gary Glitter totally dominated the British music press. It was a big thrill for me to engage in a phone interview with Priest when I launched Music Express in 1976 and the band was in Toronto, plugging their `Give Us A Wink ‘album on Capitol Records.
Sadly, I never did get to see the band play live but tracks like Fox On The Run and Ballroom Blitz will always remain staples on classic rock radio.