Steve Priest, the bass player who co-founded the British glam group Sweet that had hits including “Ballroom Blitz,” “Fox on the Run” and “Love Is Like Oxygen,” died today, his bandmates said without providing details. He was 72.
Priest had been living in the Los Angeles area for several years, and his band played often at local venues including the Canyon clubs in Agoura Hills and Santa Clarita.
"It is with a heavy heart that we announce at 8:25am PT today, Steve Priest, founding member of The Sweet, passed away. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle & Maggie and 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.
— The Sweet (@SPSweetBand) June 4, 2020
Riding the glam rock wave alongside the likes of David Bowie, T.Rex and Queen, Sweet exploded in England with a string of top 10 singles in Europe during the early 1970s. The band scored smash singles with “Co-Co,” “Wig Wam Bam,” the chart-topping “Blockbuster,” “Hellraiser” and “Little Willy.” The latter would become the quartet’s first U.S. hit, reaching No. 3 in early 1973.
The group was most popular in Denmark, where it had 11 No. 1 singles including 10 in a row from 1971-74, and Germany, where Sweet had eight chart-toppers.
Featuring Priest on bass and supplemental lead vocals — often shouted, sometimes yelped — singer Brian Connolly, guitarist Andy Scott and drummer Mick Tucker, Sweet continued to rack up chart success in Great Britain and appeared on such popular TV shows as Top of the Pops and Supersonic. Its 1974 third LP Desolation Boulevard featured “Ballroom Blitz” and “Fox on the Run,” both of which reached No. 2 in the UK — among five hits for the group that would peak in the runner-up slot there.
The U.S. version of Desolation Boulevard was released in 1975 and had a different track list, adding some songs from the band’s 1973 album Sweet Fanny Adams. “Ballroom Blitz” — which featured the familiar “Are you ready, Steve?” intro that name-checked Priest — and “Fox on the Run” both reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 that summer.
“Ballroom Blitz” would go on to be covered by the likes of Krokus, the Damned and Tia Carrere, who performed her version in the 1992 hit movie Wayne’s World.
Sweet would go on to have a few more intercontinental hit singles including “Action” (1976) and “Love Is Like Oxygen” (1978) before splintering in the late 1970s when Connolly left for a solo career. He died in 1997, and Tucker died in 2002. Scott formed his own version of Sweet and continues to tour outside the U.S.
Born on February 23, 1948, in Hayes, England, Priest re-formed Sweet with a new lineup in 2008 and had been touring ever since, with the bassist performing while seated in recent years and adding some vocals.
Survivors include his wife of 39 years Maureen O’Connor, a longtime publicist for Rogers & Cowan; their daughters Danielle and Maggie; daughter Lisa; and three grandchildren.
O’Connor said Friday that because of the coronavirus pandemic, no public service or memorial is planned for now. In lieu of flowers, a donation to MusiCares in Priest’s memory can be made here.