Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ka-Boom!: The Sweet: "Hell Raiser"

And now we return to The Sweet - the band that came up through bubblegum and wanted to be a rock band and found themselves, at this time, with one metaphorical foot in each camp.  Unlike Slade, David Bowie or T. Rex, The Sweet didn't write their own songs and thus were at the mercy of the fairly new songwriting team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.  As I previously wrote about them, they had to do songs like "Funny Funny" and "Co-Co" and probably felt like adults trying to ride tricycles; but clearly Chinn & Chapman sensed in the band's harmonies and attitude something a bit...de trop.  Something a bit beyond the aggressive workingman's pride of Slade or regal foppery of T. Rex - The Sweet were inherently silly because of their split circumstances, and that awkwardness feeds into their best songs. 

"Hell Raiser" was their next single after their own hysterical "Block Buster!" - and of course it's loud, starting out with a fiery yell of lust and going out for blood afterwards.  This isn't exactly Black Sabbath, but damned if it doesn't sound like punk rock as well (I can only wonder what the future Joey Ramone made of it).  The song is about a girl who is nothing but trouble (she sounds as if she is a one-woman riot, nearly) who has "ultra sonic eyes" and who is a literal bombshell, a "natural born raver" - a huge female that the singer is scared of, as much as attracted to.  "Look OUT!" Brian Connelly yells at the start, as if the girl is indeed about to send her own special shockwaves out, stunning all the men as she shakes her "ooh."

That the lyrics have the narrator telling his mom (who wants him to get this girl) that whenever she touches him it feels like he's "burning in the fires of hell."  Thus this whole song is him trying to explain how intense this girl is and how in turn he feels; this isn't so much a song about thinking as much as feeling, the ferocity of the song matching all this lust-fear-lust stopping-and-starting.  The song leaps out at you in the best Glam Slam tradition, singing directly to those boys who know a girl just like this (or maybe wish they did).  The song ends with an explosion, which could stand for so many things (I will let you, dear reader, figure out what it means).  Chinn and Chapman and The Sweet, with this song, balanced the rock and bubblegum perfectly - the hysteria of the song melds with the supersonic speed and they sing sincerely - well, as sincerely as possible, all things considered.  (It certainly sounds more grounded in reality than the song which kept it off the top - the breakdown-inducing "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" by Tony Orlando and Dawn.) 

When I next return to The Sweet, the song won't be about a girl who is a riot - it will be about a riot.  Well, it is the early 70s.

Next up:  we are all one, man.

1 comment:

MikeMCSG said...

The Sweet were my favourite band pre-punk but I always thought this was the weakest post Co-Co song with the melody getting lost somewhere amidst the bombast.
They did write their own songs which appeared on the B-sides but these were generic hard rock which wouldn't have got them beyond a Free support slot. However there is one self-written song you'll be covering.