PART OF OUR DREAM'
- strikes, power cuts & the oil crisis
I remember there were times you'd go into
Woolworth's and there were candles in there because there was
You used to look in the paper to see when
the power was going to go off. Then Top of the Pops wouldn't
be on. Football matches with afternoon kick-offs - all the evening
games were switched to afternoons because there were no floodlights.
We had this residency in Putney - two
nights a week and Sunday lunchtime. It was the time of the three-day
week and they used to print in the Evening Standard when
the juice was going to go on and off. And it was always during
part of our set there was going to be no electricity, so we'd
get all the people in and we'd start at seven-thirty and play
all this heavy stuff through to nine o'clock and then bang, the
lights'd go out. And we'd put up Davy lamps, I'd take out the
acoustic bass, the drummer'd play with brushes, the guitarists
would play acoustically and the singer sang through a megaphone.
And you weren't getting that anywhere else in town, so the place
was swinging from the bloody rafters. They put candles round the
bar, the pub was still doing business and about quarter to eleven
the juice'd come back on again, we'd do 'Jumping Jack Flash',
that sort of stuff, and they loved it.
What they'd do before they were going
to switch the power off was blip the power to let you know that
you've got five minutes. And that blip destroyed tapes - it could
ruin a tape. It was just a case of suffer it until you've got
power again. Some studios invested in their own power source,
but the only way that could really be sufficient was to use your
own power prior to there being a power cut, because there was
nothing available at the time that could switch over fast enough
for it to be imperceptible.
[Sparks] had just signed to Island, we
were starting to record Kimono My House and the vibes were
great: we had Muff Winwood producing, the support within the company
was fantastic, we'd moved to England and this was our dream -
we were always Anglophiles. And then we started to record it and
all of a sudden they said, 'Well the studio may be operating for
six hours, between these hours, but the power rationing's going
to be like twelve noon to four - there's no power then so you
can't work.' And we thought, well okay so you just work around
that. And then we're told, 'Well lads, even if the record does
get finished, there may not be enough vinyl to go around.' Cos
that was one of the scares, that there wouldn't be enough vinyl.
It wasn't part of our dream of coming to Britain.
Our contract was with RCA Italy, and it
was a servile contract, it was a dreadful one, we got very little
percentage on the main hits at the beginning. And so after about
a year, we wanted to renegotiate. Well, the Italians said, forget
it, so we complained to RCA in America. America stepped in with
RCA in England, and they said to us: 'We will renegotiate the
contract, but you'll have a contract which is split between England
and America.' So they were splitting the percentages between them.
Now The Sweet were contracted directly to British RCA, and at
that time there was a shortage of plastic because of the oil crisis.
Suddenly there's a conflict of interest: RCA in Britain made more
money out of Sweet than they made out of Middle of the Road, because
they had to split it with America. So one of our singles went
straight into the charts and inexplicably a week later disappeared.
And Sweet went roaring up.
Now we've got no axe to grind with The Sweet - or even RCA, because
they were looking at their best interests - but we were told by
other people that the reason the song disappeared was because
they stopped pressing the record, and the record didn't get into
the shops. And The Sweet's record got pushed in. In every other
part of the world we continued to make top ten hits for at least
two years after Britain stopped. And that politically was the
reason. When we think back on it now, if we'd negotiated just
simply with Britain, we might have been better off.
Ted 'Three Day Week' Heath
these words were brought to you by
Top of the Pops
'The Funky Gibbon'
Fuck the critics
Sparks vs Rubettes
'Under the Moon of Love'
Crisis, what crisis?
The Real Thing
Bay City Rollers
'I Love To Love'
The death of Arnold