Great Scott

Dave Woodhall talks about power cuts and one-way streets with the Sweet’s Andy Scott.

So there I am, ready to interview Sweet guitarist Andy Scott, one of the most iconic names from the seventies, and the lights go out. There’s a power cut. You really couldn’t get more appropriate than a blackout to remind us of the era dark days and glittering nights.

“It was just like that. Power cuts, Top of the Pops being pulled off.”

Those were the days, when the music was so loud and brash and in your face.

“That was the escapism. There was also some great comedy around at that time as well.”

You were all a reaction to some pretty sad times, like now. We just haven’t got that sort of music.

“Or comedy. But you can’t make your heroes the next generation’s heroes; they want their own. All of it from back then has stood the test of time but surely there’ll come a time when sharing the same music is not going to be the best thing. You need some diversity.”

The tour’s starting in Wrexham and finishing in Frome, from where you were brought up to close to where you live now.

“The Cheese & Grain is the local rock gig. McCartney played there before Glastonbury and the Foo Fighters did the same. A lot of people swing by and decide to do the Cheese & Grain and all the tickets go in about an hour.”

You’re also playing the Wulfrun in Wolverhampton. Isn’t the home of Slade enemy territory?

“No, I haven’t played the Wulfrun in years. The Elastic Band who I was with did a big show with Traffic headlining. We also did a gig with what was left of the Move, a three-piece with Roy Wood, Trevor Burton and Bev Bevan. They had three sets of everything, you needed a step ladder to get up to the amps. We’ve played there before with the post-Brian band then with my own line-up and the original band played the Civic Hall a few times.”

Talking of Slade, you played with Don Powell and Suzi Quatro for a time as QSP. Is that still a goer?

“Don won’t be touring again but he’s got himself back into the studio, which is good news. Suzi is up and running against, doing her duet thing with KT Tunstall. When the time was right for us to do a second album I was having cancer treatment and I had a problem with my right arm, I crushed a nerve in my neck and need an operation so I said I couldn’t do it then. Then of course when I was better Suzi was off doing other things. There might be a time for a QSP II.”

Was there much rivalry back in the day or were you all big mates together?

“The weird thing was that I’m from Wrexham, I’d seen the InBetweens (who evolved into Slade) and we both found ourselves on the same Caribbean Island. I was in the Elastic Band and they were playing in another club. Don said they were staying in a flash hotel but the club they were playing was a bit seedy, whereas we were staying in a grotty bungalow with an Vietnam vet as the gatekeeper but we were playing in a very plush club.

“We’d meet on the beach and Jim Lea told me that he liked seeing us because I’d hit off with an air hostess with her own apartment and she used to come down to the beach and bring a Coke for the lads or whatever and Jim said how good it tasted because we were all saving enough to make sure we had enough money to get home. We’d flown out there on one-way tickets. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”

One thing I did notice a few years ago is that you were very quick onto Spotify and had a lot of live material on there at one point that showed what a great live band you were.

“Yes, but not all the stuff that’s been released is the real thing. Some bootleggers were getting in there and we had to go through and get them to agree to throw stuff off that wasn’t legitimate Sweet releases. The fans might say ‘This is shit’ and I’d say ‘It’s not us’.”

The Sweet stuff I’ve heard on there was certainly great and showed there were two Sweets – the singles band then the album and live band, who were equally good but different.

“When we used to perform live we were a bit of an oxymoron. You know the single then you’d watch a band who’d play a Who medley, then Paranoid, then a Buffalo Springfield, song then right at the end we’d play Co-Co.”

You did record a single recently, Changes.

“We’ve had three singles out over the past year and Changes is the current one. It got on the desk at the BBC for their playlist. It didn’t make it but it got there. They considered it but they were so lazy that week, somebody didn’t show up so they just basically rubber-stamped the week before’s list. Lovely, isn’t it?”

You’ve said this will be your last tour.

“In Europe, yes. We can’t spend four weeks away playing twenty-odd shows anymore because that’s the way to a box and I’m not willing to put myself through that. But Britain’s a different thing. We can have twenty gigs over five weeks, the promoters might not like that because it costs more but we’ll see how it goes. If everybody comes to this tour it’ll be stupid to not at least think about doing it.”

And there’s not many overnight stays. The days of meeting other bands at Watford Gap services in the early hours have gone.

“I remember being there one night on our way back and there was Arthur Brown, Roger Daltrey, the Move. Arthur Brown’s in a van like ours, a falling apart Transit, Woody’s in an E Type and Roger’s in some big American Viper or something.

“When you look back toward the end of the seventies every band, including the Who and the Stones, we weren’t broke, but we didn’t have the money like we could have had.”

And then it was time to turn the tables and I was being asked the questions.

“Is Birmingham still a mess? Are they still digging up all the roads?”

Well, it’ll be nice when it’s finished, as we’ve been saying for about thirty years.

“We were playing the Town Hall and the only way to get in is to drive across a road you can’t drive across. We went past it and I said ‘It’s there’ and my son who was driving said ‘We can’t go down there’. I called the crew and they said the only way was is to go down a one-way street the wrong way. So there we are.”

Birmingham is missing out this time, but that’s Wolverhampton’s gain. Andy Scott’s Sweet will be playing the Wulfrun on Saturday 2nd December. There won’t be a power cut. Tickets.