Brian Connolly

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Brian Connolly
Connolly, c. 1970s
Background information
Birth nameBrian Francis Connolly
Born(1945-10-05)5 October 1945
Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland
Origin Harefield, Middlesex, England
Died10 February 1997(1997-02-10) (aged 51) [1]
Slough, England
Genres Glam rock, hard rock, bubblegum pop, country rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, actor
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards, guitar
Years active1963–1996
Labels Polydor, Carrere, RCA
Associated acts The Sweet

Brian Francis Connolly (5 October 1945 – 10 February 1997) was a Scottish singer-songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead singer between 1968 and 1979 of the British glam rock band The Sweet. [1]

Glam rock is a style of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, makeup, and hairstyles, particularly platform shoes and glitter. Glam artists drew on diverse sources across music and throwaway pop culture, ranging from bubblegum pop and 1950s rock and roll to cabaret, science fiction, and complex art rock. The flamboyant clothing and visual styles of performers were often camp or androgynous, and have been described as playing with nontraditional gender roles. "Glitter rock" was another term used to refer to a more extreme version of glam.

The Sweet British glam-rock band

The Sweet are a British glam rock band that rose to worldwide fame in the 1970s. Their best known line-up consisted of lead vocalist Brian Connolly, bass player Steve Priest, guitarist Andy Scott, and drummer Mick Tucker. The group was originally called Sweetshop.


Early life

Connolly was born in 1945 in Govanhill, Glasgow. The identity of his father was never made public and 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. Connolly was fostered at the age of two by Jim and Helen McManus of Blantyre and took their family name. Connolly is sometimes incorrectly cited as being related to Mark McManus of “Taggart” fame.


Govanhill is an area of Glasgow, Scotland. Historically part of Renfrewshire, it is situated south of the River Clyde between the Gorbals, Pollokshields, Strathbungo, Crosshill, and Queen's Park. The council ward has boundaries of Dixon Avenue and Dixon Road to the south, Victoria Road to the west, Butterbiggins Road to the north, and Aikenhead Road to the east. Govanhill had the status of a police burgh between 1877 and 1891 before becoming part of the City of Glasgow.

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

Meningitis inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord

Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, and neck stiffness. Other symptoms include confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises. Young children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability, drowsiness, or poor feeding. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance, meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.

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. After inadvertently discovering his lineage he eventually reverted to the name Connolly. [2]

Early music career and Sweet

At the age of 12, 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. 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.

Harefield village in the United Kingdom

Harefield is a village in the London Borough of Hillingdon, England, on a hill, 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Charing Cross near Greater London's boundary with Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the north. The population at the 2011 Census was 7,399. It is the westernmost settlement in London.

Greater London County of England

Greater London is a ceremonial county of England that is located within the London region. This region forms the administrative boundaries of London and is organised into 33 local government districts—the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, which is located within the region but is separate from the county. The Greater London Authority, based in Southwark, is responsible for strategic local government across the region and consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The City of London Corporation is the principal local authority for the City of London, with a similar role to that of the 32 London borough councils.

A secondary modern school is a type of secondary school that existed throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 1944 until the 1970s under the Tripartite System. Schools of this type continue in Northern Ireland, where they are usually referred to as secondary schools, and in areas of England, such as Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Wirral,(where they are called high schools).

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.

Single (music) Type of music release usually containing one or two tracks

In the music industry, a single is a type of release, typically a song recording of fewer tracks than an LP record or an album. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, a single is a song that is released separately from an album, although it usually also appears on an album. Typically, these are the songs from albums that are released separately for promotional uses such as digital download or commercial radio airplay and are expected to be the most popular. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.

Andy Scott (guitarist) British musician and songwriter

Andrew David "Andy" Scott is a Welsh musician and songwriter. He is best known for being the lead guitarist and a backing vocalist in the band Sweet.

<i>Top of the Pops</i> British music chart television series

Top of the Pops, also known as TOTP, is a British music chart television programme, made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly between 1 January 1964 and 30 July 2006. The programme was shown every Thursday evening on BBC One, except for a short period on Fridays in mid-1973 before being again moved to Fridays at 7:30 pm in 1996 and then to Sundays on BBC Two in 2005. Each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week's singles chart. Additionally, there was a special edition of the programme on Christmas Day, featuring some of the best-selling singles of the year.

In 1974, 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.

Staines-upon-Thames town on the River Thames in the borough of Spelthorne in Surrey, England

Staines-upon-Thames is a town on the River Thames in Surrey, England. Historically part of Middlesex, it was known to the Romans as Pontes or Ad Pontes, then as Stanes and subsequently Staines.

The Who English rock band

The Who are an English rock band formed in London in 1964. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide.

Charlton Athletic F.C. Association football club

Charlton Athletic Football Club is an English professional association football club based in Charlton, south-east London. They play in League One, the third tier of English football. The club was founded on 9 June 1905 when a number of youth clubs in south-east London, including East Street Mission and Blundell Mission, combined to form Charlton Athletic. The club play at the Valley in Charlton, where they have played since 1919, apart from one year in Catford, during 1923–24, and seven years at Crystal Palace and West Ham United between 1985 and 1992.

As time progressed issues between Connolly and other members of Sweet developed and he would find the band excluding him from decisions. Brian 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. 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 24 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 Sweet

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 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 Connolly's first major appearance since leaving the Sweet, at the Bravo Super Disco '79 event, held at the Olympiahalle in Munich on June 22. Ten thousand people heard Connolly perform a sneak peek of his first solo Polydor single: "Take Away The Music". It was issued as Connolly's first solo single during 1980, by Polydor. [3] This single is also included on the Polydor Germany "High Life" compilation album from 1980.

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, coupled with the use of prescription diuretic medicine.

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 Connolly's release. Again the track failed to make an impact. In 1982 with his Polydor contract having expired, 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 Connolly recorded a dozen or so new tracks. The original plan was to have a completed album out by August 1983, but this never materialised.

During January 1983, Connolly supported Pat Benatar for three shows including one at Hammersmith Odeon, London. Connolly's Encore, included most of the members of Verity (fronted by ex-Argent guitarist John 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 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. Connolly sold his house to pay his share of the tax bill.

New Sweet and reunions

Brian Connolly's Sweet
Also known asNew Sweet (1984–1987)
OriginUnited Kingdom
Genres Glam rock
Hard rock
Years active1984–1996
Website Official webpage
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

From early 1984 onward, despite recurrent ill health, Connolly toured the UK and Europe with his band, now under the name of 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. Connolly had reportedly stopped drinking in 1985, but separated from his wife Marilyn, divorcing 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 go into the recording studio with him, as an informal project. Running very late, Connolly turned up and the track "Sharontina" was recorded, but would not be released until Torpey's 1998 album, "Sweeter".

In 1988, 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 run, to see if a full reunion and new album could be arranged, for America's MCA Records. The Chapman-produced reunion floundered quickly due to problems with Connolly's voice. Connolly returned to 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 Connolly and his band to tour Australia. A number of dates were planned, with the tour starting in Adelaide, and proceeded during November. However, during the very long flight to Australia, Connolly's health had suffered and he was hospitalised temporarily in Adelaide Hospital, ostensibly 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, Connolly and the band played the final Australian date of the tour at Melbourne's Old Greek Theatre. It was felt at the time that Connolly's health was sufficient reason for the tour not to be extended, and some of the later planned dates were abandoned. Connolly went back 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 his band. Plans suffered a small setback on 22 March 1992, when 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 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 version became Andy Scott's Sweet. Connolly and his band continued to tour, both in the UK and Europe.

In 1994, Connolly and his band played in Dubai. He appeared at the Galleria Theatre, Hyatt Regency. He also performed in 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.

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.

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.

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


During January 1997 Connolly had another 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. Connolly died around midnight of 9-10 February 1997, attributed to renal failure, liver failure and repeated heart attacks, likely caused by his previous chronic alcoholism. Connolly was 51 years old. [4]

He was cremated after a ceremony at Most Holy Name Roman Catholic Church at Old Mill Road, Denham, Buckinghamshire on Monday, 17 February 1997, and 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 (born 26 May 1995) with girlfriend Jean. Fans organised a memorial concert for Brian at the Camden Palace in London on 11 October 1998. Money was raised for a plaque dedicated to Brian at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, Middlesex. It was unveiled on 9 February 2000.

In 2013 Connolly's son, Brian, competed in the television talent show The X Factor . [5] Jean went on to marry Glen Williams (who was briefly a band member). They now reside in Spain.

Band members


Brian Connolly Band
The New Sweet / Brian Connolly's Sweet
Brian Connolly Band
The New Sweet
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Chaz 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 Utley – 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
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
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Martin Cook – bass
  • Dave Farmer – drums
  • Drew Murphy – drums, percussion
  • Glenn Williams – guitar
  • Brian Connolly – lead vocals
  • Steve Mulvey – keyboards
  • Dave Farmer – drums
  • 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

As Brian Connolly



  • 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

  • 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

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  1. 1 2 "Brian Connolly - Sweet No More". New Straits Times. p. 23. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  2. [ dead link ]
  3. "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