Steve Priest, the bass player who co-founded the UK 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.
Riding the glam rock wave alongside the likes of David Bowie, Queen and T.Rex, Sweet exploded in England with a string of UK top 10 singles in 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.
Featuring Priest on bass, lead singer Andy 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.
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.