Mick Tucker

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Michael Thomas Tucker, drummer: born London 17 July 1947; married (one daughter); died Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire 14 February 2002.

With Mick Tucker, its powerhouse drummer and founder member, the British group Sweet made the transition from bubble-gum pop to become one of the leading acts of the glitter-rock era.

Between 1971 and 1978, the band scored 15 UK hit singles and developed an outrageous, androgynous look to accompany the raucous proto-metal riffs of "Blockbuster", "Ballroom Blitz" and "Teenage Rampage". Setting fire to a gong positioned behind his kit on Granada Television's Supersonic or twirling his drumsticks on Top of the Pops, Tucker caught the public's imagination. Sweet sold over 50 million records and influenced the likes of Kiss, the Ramones and Def Leppard.

Born in Harlesden, north London, Mick Tucker joined a Harrow cover band, Wainwright's Gentlemen, that featured the vocalist Ian Gillan (now of Deep Purple). In 1968, Brian Connolly replaced the singer and the group, now also comprising the bassist Steve Priest and guitarist Frank Torpey, renamed themselves Sweetshop. This was shortened to Sweet in 1970 with the arrival of Andy Scott, who took over from Torpey on guitar. "We wanted to appeal to kids and teenagers like sweets or candy: bubblegum pop with fruity lyrics," recalled Tucker.

Their early singles on Fontana and Parlophone had flopped but, once Sweet signed to RCA and hooked up with the songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman in 1971, they proved unstoppable. The lightweight "Funny Funny", the sugary "Co-Co" and the saucy "Little Willy" charted around Europe but the band, who used to ape The Who's dynamic stage act when playing clubs, grew increasingly frustrated with the poppy material provided by the Chinnichaps.

The writers upped the ante with the riotous "Blockbuster", which topped the British singles charts in 1973, but the successful partnership between Sweet and their svengalis, who also wrote hits for Suzi Quatro, Mud and Smokie, only lasted another year. Determined to prove their worth as musicians, Tucker, Connolly, Priest and Scott penned the infectious "Fox on the Run" and the catchy "Action" which charted on both sides of the Atlantic in 1975. Jettisoning their glam image, Sweet seemed to have reinvented themselves as a bona-fide rock group.

In 1978, they switched to Polydor and issued the Queen-like "Love is Like Oxygen" but Connolly left the following year. The band soldiered on until 1982 and Tucker subsequently joined the Monroes. By 1986, Tucker and Scott had reformed Sweet and were competing in the nostalgia circuit with the New Sweet fronted by Connolly (who died in 1997).

Diagnosed with leukaemia five years ago, the personable Mick Tucker retired from music just as a new generation was discovering Sweet via Tia Carrere's cover of "Ballroom Blitz" in the 1992 film Wayne's World. Paying tribute, Scott said: "Mick Tucker was the best drummer around in the Seventies. And then there were two."

Pierre Perrone