The Sweet Blockbuster Christmas Show
with support from The Jokers
Parr Hall, Warrington
Friday 21st December 2018

When I was about 5, my parents didn’t have much money, but my dad had an arrangement with a firm who hired out jukeboxes to cafes and bars, where he got the old records cheap when they were done with them. He sold them in his shop, but always gave me and my bro first pick. Some of them were scratched to buggery, but it meant I was able to build up a record collection I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

It was the glam rock era, and my favorites included The Wombles, Showaddywaddy, The Rubettes, Mud, The Glitter Band, Slade and The Sweet. I still remember the orange RCA label of “Ballroom Blitz” and the missing centre (jukeboxes needed the centre taken out so they could fit on the spindles) and it was one of my most played singles.

As you get older, your tastes change, by my teens I was listening to darker fayre such as Joy Division, Cocteau Twins and The Cure, and later was a big fan of C-86. My musical tastes have taken many twists and turns over the years, at one point I was really into Army of Lovers!

Now I’m at a stage where I just enjoy music!

Chinnichap – the songwriting partnership of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn wrote the early songs. They are often seen as the 70s equivalent of Stock Aitken Waterman, in that they wrote hugely successful songs but were often seen as lacking credibility to the purists. Indeed, the poppy songs sometimes seemed at odds with the heavier sound of Sweet.

I don’t subscribe to the whole “guilty pleasure” thing, if you enjoy something and it’s not doing anybody any harm, why feel guilty? I mean if criticising people for liking different music makes people feel better about themselves then fair enough, I’ve done it myself, but it’s quite sad when you think about it!

44 years on from getting the 7″ of Ballroom Blitz and watching them on TOTP/Supersonic, given the chance to go and check out The Sweet and take some photos – Hell yeah!

Warrington Parr Hall

I’ve never been to Parr Hall before, with so much going on in Liverpool and Manchester, it’s easy to overlook Warrington as a place to go to gigs. It’s a really nice venue and not that difficult to get to – about 30 mins from Lime St by train, and a 11 minute walk from Warrington Central to the venue. The town centre looked lovely last night with all the Christmas decorations up! The staff including Security staff were all very friendly and helpful, and the bands were on stage to schedule. I’ll definitely be checking out what’s on at Parr Hall next year, already on my radar is the Wilko Johnson show in March.

The Jokers

I must admit I hadn’t heard of The Jokers before, though looking at their facebook page they are clearly very popular – and it’s no surprise having seen them last night. Great performance and whilst quite heavy, the songs were melodic enough to have me tapping along even though I didn’t know any of the songs.

After a hard week at work trying to get projects finished before Christmas, lack of sleep, and it’s dark and rainy outside, a wee voice in my head was saying “do I really want to go out tonight when I could just stay in and chill” thankfully I told the wee voice in my head to sod off, and when The Jokers took to the stage I knew the journey was more than worth the effort!

The Sweet

Doors were due to open at 7pm, I turned up about 20 minutes early and there was already a long queue, which is testament to the band’s enduring popularity. Indeed they’ve sold over 50 million records, so there are clearly a lot of fans out there.

Brian Connolly, the original lead singer sadly died in 1997, a little bit of trivia I thought was interesting when I did a bit of research, was that he was originally from Hamilton in Scotland, and Mark McManus (Taggart) was his half brother.

I only really know a handful of their popular singles such as “Teenage Rampage”, “Hellraiser”, “Love is Like Oxygen” , “Fox on the Run” and as mentioned “The Ballroom Blitz” but I thoroughly enjoyed every song I heard, which has lead me to listening to their albums on Spotify. I’m a bit late to the party, but what a party!

The audience were clearly loving it, which is always a huge factor in the atmosphere of a gig.

The band mentioned that the last time they performed in Warrington was back in the 70s with Deep Purple “but most of you probably weren’t born then”. Sure enough, there was a good range of ages in attendance! Whilst their last UK hit was in 1978, Waynes World brought them to a new generation in the 90s, and the increasing popularity of “retro” festivals and parents playing their records, plus the increased accessibility of music thanks to streaming, is presumably helping to bring them to a younger crowd.

Last night was a revelation! If I hadn’t had a press pass yesterday, would I have spent £30 on a ticket and traveled to Warrington to see them after a hard week at work and very little sleep the night before? Probably not. Would I buy a ticket to see them if they come back next year? Almost certainly!

I’ve had photo-passes for some great gigs and festivals this year, so it was nice to end the year with a bang!

Aside from a couple of previews that’s it for my ramblings for this year, so Merry Christmas + Happy New Year to all our readers!

Words + Pictures – John W. King

Also appears on Urbanista Magazine UK