Sweet Fanny Adams A Review by Hertz Van Rental
Like all my reviews, this is divided into 'At the time' - my
memories of the album when I first heard it, 'What I think now' and finally an attempt at
an objective view.
At the time
I never knew that this album had been released until I saw it at the front of the rack in the local record store. At the time I was 11 years old and probably younger than the new fans the band was looking for.
At the time I received £0.50 pocket money a week and the price (about £4 if I remember) seemed colossal. Imagine buying some music that cost about two month's disposable income today!
This was too much so I forgot all about the album and even to be honest, The Sweet altogether - Fans at the time may remember it seemed a long time between Teenage Rampage (which I didn't like anything like as much as the earlier singles anyway) and the Sixteens. As a side issue, I don't think long gaps between singles in '74/'75 did the band any favours commercially.
Then one summer's evening, I was listening to the radio and they announced that the new Sweet single was on next - it was the Sixteens. Instantly, I was a fan again! Having accumulated some savings one way and another since finding the album, I could even afford SFA! The next day after school, I went into town, coming back with the new single and SFA. Getting home, it took me a while to even play SFA. I found the cover naff - I thought the front looked tacky, hated the white bars on the back and thought Steve's back cover picture made him look like a prat. In any case, I had the Sixteens and the marvellous discovery of Burn on the Flame.
When I did get around to playing it, I was blown away. The first track 'Set me free' was probably the first hardish rock track I had ever heard and was amazing. 'Heartbreak Today', perhaps a little more sophisticated than the singles I was used to held up as a strong song. Next up' a Chinn/Chapman song 'No you don't'. Steve sang the lead on this, and although I remember being disappointed Brian hadn't sung it - the track rocks! Next the slightly poppy #Rebel Rouser' and 'Peppermint Twist'. Amazing!
Side two, I thought was more patchy - 'Sweet FA' got boring (I obviously wasn't ready to completely abandon the three minute single). On the other hand' Restless' was my second favourite track and stayed in my head for days, I hated 'Into the Night' and my overall favourite track 'ACDC'
Then disaster - the next weekend the family was to go for a long weekend by the sea in Norfolk. (For those who don't know it - Norfolk is in eastern England, is very flat and very much the countryside). From the comfort of nearly twenty years late, it is hard to explain the disappointment! I 'played' my favourite tracks in my head and couldn't wait to get home! (in my defence, remember I was only 11!). All in all, I think that is the time I went from liking Sweet to being a loyal fan. Most Sweet fans probably have something that made the band stand out - this however unromantic was mine.
What do I think now?
Coming back to SFA now, I still love the album. In my opinion it is the most varied and enjoyable album they produced overall. Listening to it though, I am conscious of a slight wistfulness - although objectively it doesn't matter to me if Sweet were as commercially successful as they could have been or not, I would still have liked them to have achieved more success after Chinn and Chapman. This album shows how they could master a variety of styles, the vocal talent in the band and how their own song writing could hold up. It should have been the first step in establishing them as serious musicians. How that came not to be (from my point of view) is covered in reviews of the later albums.
In terms of the tracks, I still like all of them except for 'Into the Night', which despite ifs popularity amongst Sweet fans - I can't stand and Sweet FA, which I think has the basis of a great song, but is spoilt by a 'look at me play guitar' self indulgence from Andy (his big fault in my view). I am sure that people on the boards will disagree, but remember this is my review!
SFA was a major influence on my musical development and for no other reason will always have a special place in my collection. Having said that - there are some cataclysmic tracks on the album - the three best being 'Restless, Set Me free' and ' ACDC'.
What do I think trying to be objective?
SFA is a great early '70s pop/rock album. It shows the range of talent in the band and for anyone wanting to know more about Sweet than the hit singles; it is the one I would suggest. Being strictly objective, in moving towards a harder sound, the band is probably a bit derivative in places, and I am never convinced by long Andy solos. There is no obvious single on the album 'at least on the mixes as released. I know 'Peppermint Twist' did get released in Australia, but though great fun, it is not of the quality I normally expect from Sweet singles. The lack of a couple of 'outstanding' tracks (from a commercial point of view) may be one reason that this album was relatively unsuccessful. I know the band had taken the decision to be less commercial, but perhaps they moved too quickly? On the other hand, this was a conscious decision by the band which I have to respect.
Geoff ( Hertz Van Rental).