The cast

Oral histories



- strikes, power cuts & the oil crisis

Russell Mael:
I remember there were times you'd go into Woolworth's and there were candles in there because there was no electricity.

John Hughes:
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.

Steve Jones:
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.

Richard Dodd:
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.

Russell Mael:
[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.

Ken Andrew:
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
Ken Andrew
Richard Dodd
John Hughes
Steve Jones
Russell Mael

Gary Glitter
Top of the Pops
'The Funky Gibbon'
Fuck the critics
New Seekers
Gerry Shury
New Faces
'Rock On'
The Sweet
Sparks vs Rubettes
'Under the Moon of Love'
Generation X
Biddu's roster
Crisis, what crisis?
Glam fashion
Rock indulgence
The Drifters
The Real Thing
Bay City Rollers
'I Love To Love'
The death of Arnold