Rockapaedia Obituary

Brian Connolly

Band: The Sweet

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Brian Connolly died aged fifty-one on 9th February 1997. Dpic of Brian Connollyuring January 1997 Brian had a heart attack and he was hospitalised in Slough. After a week in hospital, he discharged himself, but was readmitted the following week. This time there was little more that could be done. Brian Connolly died late on the evening from renal failure, liver failure and repeated heart attacks, attributed to his previous chronic alcoholism. and was cremated after a ceremony at Most Holy Name Roman Catholic Church at Old Mill Road, Denham, Buckinghamshire. His ashes were scattered over the water by his daughters Nicola and Michelle. He was also survived by his ex-wife, Marilyn, and his two-year-old son Brian with girlfriend Jean. Fans organised a memorial concert for Brian at the Camden Palace in London on 11th October 1998. Money was raised to pay for a plaque dedicated to Brian at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, Middlesex.
Brian Connolly was born on 5th October 1945 in Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.. The identity of his father was never made public. His mother was a teenaged waitress, Frances Connolly, who left him in a Glasgow hospital as an infant whilst he was possibly suffering from meningitis. He was fostered, aged two, by Jim and Helen McManus of Blantyre and took their family name.
In a radio interview, Brian Connolly reported that singing was a large part of growing up since there was no television, and that he was regularly called upon to sing for family and friends. Brian Connolly has credited the Everly Brothers as being his earliest musical influence. After inadvertently discovering his lineage he eventually reverted to the name Connolly.
At the age of twelve Brian Connolly moved to Harefield, Greater London, where he attended the local Secondary Modern school. In his mid-teens he joined the Merchant Navy, and got a tiger's head tattooed on his right arm during his Navy service. On his discharge from the Merchant Navy in 1963 he returned to Harefield and played in a number of local bands, including Generation X from mid-1965 until about October 1966. The group recorded four tracks but these were not commercially released. The lineup featured Connolly on vocals, Chris Eldridge and Lee Mordecai on guitars, Mark Conway (bass) and drummer Martin Lass. Brian Connolly eventually replaced singer Ian Gillan (later of Deep Purple fame) in a band called Wainwright's Gentlemen, which included drummer Mick Tucker. Tucker and Connolly left Wainwright's Gentlemen in late 1967 and recruited guitarist Frank Torpey, and bassist Steve Priest, naming their new band The Sweetshop.
On the eve of releasing their debut single, Slow Motion, in July 1968, the band shortened their name to 'The Sweet'. They recorded a further three unsuccessful singles; Andy Scott joined the line-up in late 1970, just before the release of their first hit single "Funny, Funny". After this, Brian Connolly was propelled into the limelight, with many appearances on Top of the Pops, with the other members of the Sweet.
In 1974, Brian Connolly was badly beaten after leaving a nightclub in Staines where he received several kicks to his throat resulting in his being unable to sing for some time and permanently losing some of his vocal range. This event also meant the band missed out on supporting The Who at Charlton Athletic Football Ground. Several songs on the Sweet Fanny Adams album had to be sung by other members of the band.
As time progressed issues between Brian Connolly and other members of Sweet developed and he would find the band excluding him from decisions. Brian developed a significant alcohol problem in the mid-1970s. During 1977, when no tours were undertaken and two of Sweet's most successful albums were recorded, the power struggle within the band became even more apparent. Brian's alcohol abuse further compromised his role with the band as his voice began showing the impact in recordings and on stage during Sweet's 1978 US tour. He played his last British show with the classic Sweet line-up at Hammersmith Odeon, London on 24th February 1978. His final live performance with the band was in July 1978 in Florida, USA when they supported Alice Cooper. His departure was not made public until March 1979.
After news of his leaving Sweet broke, Brian Connolly was interviewed by the German music magazine Bravo in which he said he was taking time off to be with his family, and considering a new musical direction (countrified rock). By mid to late 1979 he had recorded a few new tracks at Chipping Norton Recording Studios, in Oxfordshire, with the assistance of friend and producer Mick Angus. One of the tracks "Take Away The Music" was re-recorded the following year, with then Polydor producer Pip Williams, at the Marquee Studios, in London.
Also in 1979 was Brian Connolly's first major appearance since leaving the Sweet, at the Bravo Super Disco '79 event, held at the Olympiahalle in Munich on June 22nd. 10,000 people heard Brian Connolly perform a sneak peek of his first solo Polydor single: "Take Away The Music". It was issued as Brian Connolly's first solo single during 1980, by Polydor. This single is also included on the Polydor Germany "High Life" compilation album from 1980.
In 1981, Brian Connolly was admitted to hospital with bloating, and he sustained multiple heart attacks. His health was permanently affected with some paralysis on his left side which would later develop into a nervous system condition. These problems were most likely related to Brian Connolly's excessive alcohol consumption, coupled with the use of prescription diuretic medicine.
Brian Connolly's next release was "Don't You Know A Lady", composed by Roger Greenaway, was also recorded by British four-piece band Brooks shortly after Brian Connolly's release. Again, the track failed to make an impact. In 1982 with his Polydor contract having expired and Connolly signed with French independent label, Carrere Records. Carrere then released the hard-rock single "Hypnotized", written by Joe Lynn Turner. A Fandango cover, the track was released in Europe with wide distribution by RCA but failed to chart. During this time Brian Connolly recorded a dozen or so new tracks. The original plan was to have a completed album out by August 1983 but this never eventuated.
During January 1983, Brian Connolly supported Pat Benatar for three shows including one at Hammersmith Odeon, London. Brian Connolly's Encore, included most of the members of Verity and Terry Uttley, bass player from Smokie. Songs played included "Windy City", "Fox on the Run", "Hypnotized" and new numbers, "Sick and Tired", "Red Hair Rage" and "Burning The Candle". These three tracks are available on a bootleg 7" single and CD. The band and Brian Connolly also played two other dates for the Benatar tour in Birmingham and Newcastle. The Inland Revenue served Connolly and the other members of the Sweet with a multimillion-pound tax assessment for the income earned off their hit records. Brian Connolly sold his house to pay his share of the tax bill.
From early 1984 onward, despite recurrent ill health, Brian Connolly toured the UK and Europe with his band, now under the name of The New Sweet. His most successful concerts were in West Germany every year, before and after Germany's reunification. He visited other countries including Denmark, and he also continued to perform on and off in the UK. Brian Connolly had reportedly stopped drinking in 1985, but separated from his wife Marilyn, divorcing in 1986.
During 1987, Brian Connolly would meet up again with Frank Torpey, who was the original Sweet lead guitarist from 1968 to 1969. Frank Torpey later explained in interviews that Brian Connolly was trying to get a German recording deal. The two got on very well and Torpey subsequently invited Brian Connolly to go into the recording studio with him, as an informal project. After much trepidation and as always, running very late, Brian Connolly turned up and the track "Sharontina" was recorded. However, this recording would not be released until 1998, when Frank Torpey's 1998 CD album, "Sweeter", became available.
In 1988, Brian Connolly reunited in Los Angeles, California, with former band members Mick Tucker, Steve Priest and Andy Scott, to rework studio versions of "Action" and "The Ballroom Blitz". This was to be a trial to see if a full reunion and new album could be arranged. This was for America's MCA Records. This Mike Chapman-produced reunion floundered quickly due to problems with Brian Connolly's voice. Brian Connolly went back to performing with his band "The New Sweet". In 1990, he reunited with the original Sweet line-up, for the promotion of a music video documentary in London at Tower Records.
By July 1990, plans were made for Brian Connolly and his band to tour Australia. A number of dates were planned with the tour starting in Adelaide. This proceeded and took place during November. However, during the very long flight to Australia, Brian Connolly's health had suffered and he was hospitalised temporarily in Adelaide Hospital. This was allegedly for dehydration and related problems. The rest of the band played a show in Adelaide without him, so as not to disappoint the waiting fans. After several other shows, including one at the Dingley Powerhouse, Brian Connolly and his band played the final Australian date of the tour at Melbourne's Old Greek Theatre. It was felt at the time that Brian Connolly's health was sufficient reason for the tour not to be extended, and some of the later planned dates were abandoned. Brian Connolly went back to England and his band appeared on The Bob Downe Christmas show, on 18th December 1990.
During the early 1990s Brian Connolly played the European "oldies" circuit and occasional outdoor festivals in Europe with his band. However his plans would suffer a small setback when on 22nd March 1992, a heavy duty tape recorder was stolen from the band's van whilst at a gig in the Bristol Hippodrome with Mud. It contained demos of four new songs, totaling about 20 mixes.
Legal problems were still going on in the background over the use of the Sweet name between Connolly and Andy Scott. In something of a truce, both parties agreed to distinguish their group's name to help promoters and fans. The New Sweet became Brian Connolly's Sweet and Andy Scott's version became Andy Scott's Sweet. BrianConnolly and his band continued to tour, both in the UK and Europe.
In 1994, Brian Connolly and his band played in Dubai. He appeared at the Galleria Theatre, Hyatt Regency. He also performed in Bahrain. By this time Brian Connolly had well and truly healed the differences with Steve Priest and Mick Tucker, as shown when he was invited to the wedding of Priest's eldest daughter, Lisa. At the private function, for which Priest specially flew back to England, Priest and Brian Connolly performed together.
In 1995, Brian released a new album entitled Let's Go. Available on CD, this was backed up at the time with merchandising as well. His partner Jean, whom he had mpic of Brian Conollyet a few years earlier, gave birth to a son that year. In 1995, Jean finally managed to track down his missing biological family. It emerged that he had an aunt in Ontario, Canada who revealed that Brian Connolly's true birth mother had died in 1989. She also informed him that he had a living brother and sister, whom he met up with in England.
On 2 November 1996, British TV Network Channel 4 aired a programme "Don't Leave Me This Way", which examined Brian Connolly's time as a pop star with The Sweet and the subsequent decline in the band's popularity, and its impact on Brian Connolly and the other band members. The show revealed Brian Connolly's ill health but also that he was continuing with his concert dates at Butlins. Much has been written about the fact he was touring Butlins, in fact his appearances were nothing new; Brian Connolly and his band had appeared at Butlins consistently a number of times on tour during the early 1990s. Brian Connolly's final concert was at the Bristol Hippodrome on 5th December 1996, with Slade II and John Rossall's Glitter Band Experience.

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song: 'Blockbuster' by Sweet