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Brian Connolly

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Brian Connolly
Connolly, c. 1970s
Connolly, c. 1970s
Background information
Birth nameBrian Francis Connolly
Born(1945-10-05)5 October 1945
Hamilton, Scotland
Died9 February 1997(1997-02-09) (aged 51)[1]
Slough, England
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • actor
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1963–1997
Formerly ofThe Sweet

Brian Francis Connolly (5 October 1945 – 9 February 1997) was a Scottish singer-songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead singer of glam rock band the Sweet between 1968 and 1979 and known for his charismatic stage presence and distinctive voice.[1]

Early life[edit]

Connolly was born in 1945 in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. His mother was a teenage waitress, Frances Connolly, who left him in a Glasgow hospital as an infant whilst he was possibly suffering from meningitis.[citation needed] The identity of his biological father was never made public. Connolly was fostered at the age of two by Jim and Helen McManus of Blantyre, South Lanarkshire and took their family name. After inadvertently discovering his lineage, he eventually reverted to the name Connolly.[2] The McManuses were the family of Mark McManus, of Taggart fame. Both men perceived a resemblance between them, and supposed McManus's father to have also been Connolly's.[3]

In a radio interview, 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. Connolly has credited the Everly Brothers as being his earliest musical influence.[citation needed]


Early career[edit]

At the age of 12, Connolly moved to Harefield, Middlesex, 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 (not to be confused with the punk rock band from the late 70s, fronted by Billy Idol) 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. Connolly eventually replaced singer Ian Gillan (later of Deep Purple fame) in a band called Wainwright's Gentlemen, which included drummer Mick Tucker.

Sweet (1968–1979)[edit]

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, Connolly was propelled into the limelight, with many appearances on Top of the Pops, with the other members of the Sweet.

In 1974, Connolly was badly beaten after leaving a nightclub in Staines where he received several kicks to his throat[4] resulting in his being unable to sing for some time and permanently losing some of his previously wide vocal range. This incident also meant the band missed out on supporting the Who at Charlton Athletic Football Ground.[4] Several songs on the Sweet Fanny Adams album had to be sung by other members of the band.

As time progressed issues between Connolly and other members of Sweet developed and he would find the band excluding him from decisions. Connolly developed a significant problem with alcoholism 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. Connolly's chronic 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 24 February 1978. His final live performance with the band was in July 1978 in Florida, US, when they supported Alice Cooper. His departure was not made public until March 1979.

After Sweet (1979–1983)[edit]

After news of his leaving Sweet broke, 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 several new tracks at Chipping Norton Recording Studios, in Oxfordshire, with the assistance of friend and producer Mick Angus. The following year one of the tracks, "Take Away the Music", was re-recorded at the Marquee Studios, London with then-Polydor producer Pip Williams.

On 22 June 1979, Connolly made his first major appearance since leaving the Sweet, at the Bravo Super Disco '79 at the Olympiahalle, Munich. Ten thousand people heard Connolly perform a preview of his first solo Polydor single: "Take Away the Music". The single was issued in 1980 by Polydor, and was included on the 1980 Polydor Germany High Life compilation album.

In 1981, 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 Connolly's excessive alcohol consumption and heavy smoking, coupled with the use of prescription diuretic medicine.[citation needed]

Connolly's next release was "Don't You Know a Lady", composed by Roger Greenaway. The song was recorded by British four-piece band Brooks shortly after Connolly's release. The track failed to make an impact. In 1982 with his Polydor contract expired, Connolly signed with French independent label, Carrere Records.[citation needed] It was reported by UK music trade magazine Record Business in the magazine's February 8 issue that the single "Hypnotized" would be released in mid-March and that it was Connolly's first single in three years since he left the Sweet.[5] 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 Connolly recorded several new tracks for an album scheduled for release in August 1983, however the album was not released.[citation needed]

In January 1983, Connolly supported Pat Benatar for three shows in Birmingham, Newcastle and the Hammersmith Odeon, London. Connolly's band Encore, included most of the members of Verity, fronted by ex-Argent guitarist John Verity, and Terry Uttley, the 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". The new tracks were made available on a bootleg 7" single and CD.

The Inland Revenue served Connolly and the other members of the Sweet with a multimillion-pound tax assessment for the income earned from their hit records. Connolly sold his house to pay his share of the tax bill.[citation needed]

New Sweet and reunions[edit]

Brian Connolly's Sweet
Also known asNew Sweet (1984–1987)
OriginUnited Kingdom
GenresGlam rock
Hard rock
Years active1984–1997
Past membersBrian Connolly
Phil Ridden
Brian Rawson
Geoff Roots
Gary Farmer
Steve Turner
Michael Williams
Steve Berry
Neale Haywood
Martin Saunders
Dave Farmer
Steve Mulvey
Bjorn Hurrel
Mel Johnson
Glenn Williams
Martin Cook
Drew Murphy
Dave Glover
Russ Mahoney
Jeff King
WebsiteOfficial webpage

From early 1984 onward, despite recurrent ill health, Connolly toured the UK and Europe with his band the New Sweet. His most successful concerts were annual appearances in West Germany, before and after Germany's reunification. He visited other countries including Denmark, and continued to perform sporadically in the UK. In 1985, Connolly had reportedly stopped.[citation needed] The same year he separated from his wife Marilyn, with the divorce finalised in 1986.

During 1987, Connolly again encountered Frank Torpey, the original Sweet lead guitarist from 1968 to 1969. According to Torpey, Connolly was seeking a German recording deal. Torpey subsequently invited Connolly to record with him, as an informal project. Running late, Connolly turned up and the track "Sharontina" was recorded, but would not be released until Torpey's 1998 album, Sweeter.

In 1988, the producer Mike Chapman arranged for Connolly and former band members Mick Tucker, Steve Priest and Andy Scott to reunite in Los Angeles, California, and rework studio versions of "Action" and "The Ballroom Blitz". The reunion was with a view to producing a new album for MCA Records, however due to problems with Connolly's voice, the project failed and Connolly returned to the New Sweet.

In 1990, he reunited with the original Sweet line-up for the promotion of a music video documentary at Tower Records, London.

By July 1990, plans were made for Connolly and the New Sweet to tour Australia. A number of dates were planned, with the tour starting in Adelaide, and proceeded during November. However, during the long flight to Australia, Connolly's suffered health issues and he was hospitalised in Adelaide Hospital for dehydration and related problems.[citation needed] The band played a show in Adelaide without Connolly. Other shows included one at the Dingley Powerhouse, with the final Australian show at Melbourne's Old Greek Theatre. It was felt at the time[by whom?] that Connolly's health was sufficient reason for the tour not to be extended, and some of the later planned dates were abandoned. Connolly returned to England and his band appeared on The Bob Downe Christmas Show, on 18 December 1990.

During the early 1990s, Connolly played the European "oldies" circuit and occasional outdoor festivals in Europe with the band.[citation needed]

On 22 March 1992, a heavy-duty tape recorder was stolen from the band's van while they were performing the Bristol Hippodrome with Mud. The tape recorder contained demos of four new songs and approximately 20 mixes.[citation needed]

Legal problems continued over 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 band became Andy Scott's Sweet. Connolly and the New Sweet continued to tour UK and Europe.[citation needed]

In 1994, the New Sweet played in Dubai, and appeared at the Galleria Theatre, Hyatt Regency and Bahrain. By this time, Connolly had healed the differences with Steve Priest and Mick Tucker, and 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 Connolly performed together.[citation needed]

Let's Go and solo work (1995–1996)[edit]

In 1995, Connolly released a new album, Let's Go, backed up with merchandising. His partner Jean, whom he had met a few years earlier, gave birth to a son that year. In 1995, Jean succeeded in locating Connolly's biological family. An aunt in Ontario, Canada, revealed that 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.[citation needed]

On 2 November 1996, British TV network Channel 4 aired a programme Don't Leave Me This Way, which examined Connolly's time as a pop star with the Sweet, the subsequent decline in the band's popularity, and the impact on the band members. The show revealed Connolly's ill health, but also that he was continuing with his concert dates at Butlins, where Connolly and his band had appeared a number of times on tour during the early 1990s.[citation needed]

Connolly's final concert was at the Bristol Hippodrome on 5 December 1996, with Slade II and John Rossall's Glitter Band Experience.[citation needed]


Plaque commemorating Connolly at Breakspear Crematorium, Middlesex

In January 1997, Connolly had a heart attack and was hospitalised in Slough. After a week in hospital he discharged himself, but was readmitted the following week. Connolly died around midnight of 9–10 February 1997, as a result of kidney and liver failure and repeated heart attacks.[citation needed] He was 51 years old.[6]

On 17 February 1997, Connolly 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, his girlfriend Jean and their one-year-old son Brian, born 26 May 1995. On 11 October 1998, fans organised a memorial concert for Connolly at the Camden Palace in London.[citation needed]

Money was raised for a plaque dedicated to Connolly at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, Middlesex. It was unveiled on 9 February 2000.[citation needed]

In 2013, Connolly's son, Brian Jr., competed in the television talent show The X Factor. Brian Jr.'s mother, Jean, married and now lives with a former band member, Glenn Williams, in Spain.[7]

Band members[edit]


Brian Connolly Band[edit]

The New Sweet / Brian Connolly's Sweet[edit]


Brian Connolly Band
1982–1984 1984
The New Sweet
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Chas Cronk – bass
  • Tony Fernandez – drums, percussion
  • Dave Lambert – guitar
  • John Verity – guitar
  • Brian Willoughby – guitar
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • John Verity – guitar
  • Clive Barrett – guitar
  • Steve Rodford – drums, percussion
  • Terry Uttley – bass
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Brian Rawson – guitar
  • Phil Ridden – drums, percussion
  • Geoff Roots – bass
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Phil Ridden – drums, percussion
  • Gary Farmer – bass
  • Steve Turner – guitar
  • Michael Williams – guitar
1990 1990–1992 1992–1993 1993–1994
Brian Connolly's Sweet
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Berry – bass
  • Neale Haywood – guitar
  • Martin Saunders – drums
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Dave Farmer – drums, percussion
  • Gary Farmer – bass
  • Steve Turner – guitar
  • Michael Williams – guitar
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Dave Farmer – drums, percussion
  • Gary Farmer – bass
  • Steve Turner – guitar
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Bjorn Hurrel – bass
  • Mel Johnson – guitar
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Phil Ridden – drums, percussion
1994–1995 1995–1996 1996–1997
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Martin Cook – bass
  • Dave Farmer – drums, percussion
  • Drew Murphy – drums, percussion
  • Glenn Williams – guitar
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Dave Farmer – drums, percussion
  • Glenn Williams – guitar
  • Dave Glover – bass
  • Russ Mahoney – drums, percussion
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Glenn Williams – guitar
  • Dave Glover – bass
  • Jeff King – drums, percussion


With Sweet[edit]

As Brian Connolly[edit]



  • Brian Connolly and the Sweet – Greatest Hits (1986) – new recordings of Sweet singles – Success Records
  • Let's Go (1995) – Sweet re-recordings and three new post-Sweet tracks – Bam Records
  • Take Away the Music (2004) – compilation of solo singles and demos – Malibu Records

Appears on[edit]

  • Closed (Belgian psychedelic band) – guide vocals on "My Little Girl From Kentucky" and "Spider"
  • "Remember December" by Paper Dolls – backing vocals (1970)
  • High Life 20 Original Top Hits (1980) Polydor Germany – Features "Take Away the Music"
  • Sweeter (1998) by Frank Torpey, CD Album – Notable for Brian Connolly's 1997 lead vocal track, "Sharontina" – Frankie Dean Records

List of songs[edit]

"Generation X" (aka the Troop)[edit]

Song Writer(s) Time Producer Album Year Other
My Opinion Connolly 1.09 unknown The Sweet – From the Vaults Volume 12 Early 1960s
On the spotlight Connolly/Christopher Eldridge 1.29 unknown The Sweet – From the Vaults Volume 12 Early 1960s
You'll Call My Name Eddie Hill/Jean Branch 1.12 unknown The Sweet – From the Vaults Volume 12
Various – Rare Mod Volume 5

Early 1960s

"Wainwright's Gentlemen"[edit]

Song Writer(s) Time Producer Album Year Other
Ain't That Just Like Me Billy Guy, Earl Carroll 2.40 unknown Various – Rare Mod Volume 3 2011 produced in 1965

As Brian Connolly[edit]

Song Writer(s) Time Producer Album Year Other
Alabama Man Brian Connolly, Mick Angus 3.46 Pip Williams Take Away the Music 1980
Burning the Candle ? 5.06 unknown none 1983
Don't You Know A Lady (When You See One) Roger Greenaway, Mike Leander 4.56 Pip Williams Take Away the Music 1980 First sung by Brooks (1980)
Fade Away Brian Connolly, Brian Willoughby 3.24 John Verity Take Away the Music 1982
Hypnotized Rick Blakemore, Bob Danyls, Dennis La Rue, Joe Lynn Turner 3.09 John Verity Take Away the Music 1982 First sung by Fandango (1980), Not Fragile (2003) cover
Red Hair Rage ? 4.23 unknown none 1983
Phone You Brian Connolly, Mick Angus 3.08 Brian Connolly Take Away the Music 1980
Sick And Tired ? 3.53 unknown none 1983
Take Away the Music Brian Connolly, Mick Angus 3.47 Pip Williams Take Away the Music 1980

As Brian Connolly's Sweet[edit]

The "Old Sweet" material are new recordings.

Song Writer(s) Time Producer Album Year Other
Action Connolly, Priest, Scott, Tucker 3.19 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Block Buster Chapman, Chinn 3.10 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Burn on the Flame Connolly, Priest, Scott, Tucker 4.14 unknown Let's Go 1995
Co-Co Chapman, Chinn 2.28 unknown Greatest Hits 1986/1997
Do It Again Brian Connolly, Johnny Earle 3.31 unknown Let's Go 1995
Elavita ? ? unknown Home Demos 2002
Fox on the Run Connolly, Priest, Scott, Tucker 3.33 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Hell Raiser Chapman, Chinn 3.14 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Jailbait Fade Away ? 2.45 unknown Take Away the Music 2002
Lady ? 3.57 unknown Take Away the Music 2002
Let's go Brian Connolly, Johnny Earle 4.25 unknown Let's Go 1995
Little Willie Chapman, Chinn 3.13 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Love Is Like Oxygen Andy Scott, Trevor Griffin 3.53 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Magic Circle Brian Connolly, Trevor Griffin 4.12 unknown The Definitive Brian Connolly's Sweet 2001
Old Folks ? 3.12 unknown Take Away the Music 2002
Poppa Joe Chapman, Chinn 3.13 unknown Greatest Hits 1986/1997
Rock & Roll Disgrace Connolly, Priest, Scott, Tucker 3.46 unknown The Definitive Brian Connolly's Sweet 2001
Sunshine Days ? 3.07 unknown Take Away the Music 2002
Teenage Rampage Chapman, Chinn 3.26 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
The Ballroom Blitz Chapman, Chinn 4.09 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
The Final Show ? 3.25 unknown Take Away the Music 2002
The Sixteens Chapman, Chinn 4.19 unknown Greatest Hits 1986
Wait 'Til the Morning Comes Brian Connolly, Glen Williams 4.33 unknown Let's Go 1995
Wig Wam Bam Chapman, Chinn 3.34 unknown Greatest Hits 1986


  1. ^ a b "Brian Connolly - Sweet No More". New Straits Times. p. 23. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  2. ^ "The Sweet/ Brian Connolly Interview - YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Brian Connolly". The Independent. 11 February 1997. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b Cavanagh, David (23 September 2010). "Glam rock bottom: why did it go so sour for Sweet?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 October 2023.
  5. ^ Record Business, February 8, 1982 - Page 5 Ex -Sweet singer back
  6. ^ "Brian Connolly—Sweet No More". New Straits Times. 2 March 1997.
  7. ^ "Son of Scots rock legend is looking to follow in his dad's footsteps". Daily Record. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]