By late 1975, the Sweet
were no more the power in pop land that they had once seemed to be. It was nine months since they broke away from songwriters Nicky Chinn
and Mike Chapman
, with whom they'd enjoyed almost unfettered success -- since that time, only "Fox on the Run" had suggested that the Sweet's own songwriting prowess was even vaguely capable of competing with the masters, and two further singles ("Action" and "The Lies in Your Eyes") had emerged as the band's worst performing efforts since their very earliest days. Time, then, to dig into the vault and see what could be done to salvage the situation -- time, then, for Strung Up
, a double album comprised of three-year-old live material plus a mishmash of old and new studio work. The concert recordings are the revelation. For all their reputation as mere purveyors of whatever their puppet masters offered them, the Sweet had developed into one of the most exciting live bands on the mid-'70s U.K. circuit, as sonically dynamic as they were visually alluring. Not for nothing had the band's sexually charged stage show been banned from one of the country's leading ballroom chains; not for nothing did Ritchie Blackmore
join them on-stage in California one night. No matter how far their crown slipped in chart terms, in concert the Sweet would never let you down and, though the Strung Up
tapes dated back to 1973 and a phenomenal show at the London Rainbow, they had not dated in the slightest. The studio cuts are less alluring, concentrating in the main on the self-composed B-sides that the band had long insisted upon, a few recent singles ("The Six Teens," "Fox on the Run," and "Action"), and a couple of songs laid down during the sessions for the band's last studio LP, Desolation Boulevard
. In modern terms, it's the kind of compilation that would form the basis for a tremendous box set; at the time, however, it spoke more of the uncertainty with which the band's record label, if not the bandmembers themselves, viewed the future. And, tellingly, it sank like a stone.