358. ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’, by Sweet Sensation

One thing that becomes clear the longer this trawl through the charts goes on… If a hot new sound makes its way across the Atlantic – be it rock ‘n’ roll, Motown, or disco – it won’t be long before the Brits are trying it out for themselves.

Sad Sweet Dreamer, by Sweet Sensation (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 13th – 20th October 1974

I was genuinely surprised to find out that Sweet Sensation were a UK based band, from Manchester, so drenched is this record in the Philly-soul sound. Ooh-wah-wah-ooh-wah-wah-ooh… We’ve got strings, saxophones (a proper ‘Baker Street’ sax-riff), and that wonderful, trademark chukka-chukka disco guitar. Sad sweet dreamer, It’s just one of those things you put down to experience… That chorus is sung by the band, in response to the lead singer’s tale of heartbreak.

Been another long night and I’ve missed you girl… I was also genuinely surprised to discover that the lead vocals are not being sung by a woman, so soft and gentle is the falsetto. (That and the fact they’re singing about a girl… Which would have been very progressive for 1974.) Marcel King was just seventeen years old when this hit #1, which makes sense both in terms of how young he sounds and in the way he’s cast as the lovelorn teen: the sad sweet dreamer. I’ve been thinking about you girl, All night long…

I like this record. It’s a grower – a sexy, glossy, sophisticated disco-soul track, from what I am now naming ‘The Disco Fall’ (gettit, like a ‘disco ball’??) There’s something slightly suspect about bands whose name and biggest hit share words. It screams ‘novelty ahoy’! (Think Las Ketchup with ‘The Ketchup Song’, or Mr. Blobby). But in the case of Sweet Sensation’s ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’ I think it’s just a coincidence. They were, however, very nearly one-hit wonders. The follow up to this made #11, and that was that.

Some interesting titbits about this record. Sweet Sensation sprang to national attention by winning a TV talent contest, ‘New Faces’. Which means we can add them alongside Peters and Lee, and Paper Lace, in this category. But ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’ feels like a ‘real’ record – if one record can indeed be any realer than another. It fits right in with earlier, high-quality chart-toppers from The Three Degrees and George McCrae in shaping the sound of late-74.

It was also produced by one Tony Hatch, whose wife Jackie Trent had enjoyed her very own #1 single back in 1965. She even features as a backing vocalist here, scoring her 2nd chart-topper by proxy. And finally, ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’ is another one of those records that is nowhere to be seen on Spotify… unless you want a ropey cover from a band called The Top of the Poppers. Meanwhile, a completely unrelated band called Sweet Sensation can be found, offering their brand of late-eighties, Hi-NRG dance-pop, if that’s your bag…

16 thoughts on “358. ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’, by Sweet Sensation

  1. This really jogged my memory, as I had almost completely forgotten about the group and the record. You’re right in that it is one of those UK productions that has very effectively soaked up the Philly sound, but I remember thinking at the time that it was for me one of the dullest records ever to hit No. 1. I’m afraid that 46 years later it still fails to float my boat, and throughout those years I don’t think I’ve ever heard it played on the radio as an oldie, unlike contemporary 1974 chart-toppers from George McCrae, Barry White et al.

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    This is great…I don’t remember it over here which is a shame. It belongs with the other songs that have that Philly soul sound. No way I would have guessed they were from Manchester…

  3. I loved this one, it made my personal charts long before it became a UK hit (Radio Luxembourg were playing it early on, as they did with Sugar Baby Love) – If radio 1 didnt play you it was a major job to get a hit, often took weeks or months of plugging away. I didn’t watch New faces so I didn’t know or care they came from the show, just knew it was a gorgeous sultry soul track. Written & Co-produced By David Parton – who was also on Pye, and hit 4 with a cover of Isn’t She Lovely when Stevie Wonder refused to release it as a single (or Motown refused) – Marcel King was due to be vocalist but didn’t have the Stevie Wonder vocal range. Pity!

    Spitify has the track on Total 70’s – a compilation CD I have – so not quite sure why it didn’t show up. Purely By Co-incidence, though, isn’t, very annoyingly. Yet they have The Goodies on Spotify, so they should have all substantial UK hits. There are loads of Pye-based compliation CD’s you can great lesser-known 60’s & 70’s UK hits on released in the 80’s and 90’s.

    1. Interesting. I never think of pirate radio as a seventies thing – it’s pure swinging sixties in my mind. How long did they survive with Radio 1 and then commercial stations?

      I think Sweet Sensation are just not licensed in my region – it’s happened with Gilbert O’Sullivan and Peters and Lee, too, alas.

      1. Radio Luxembourg was based in actual Luxembourg, and transmitted across Europe on a very crackly, fade-in, fade-out Medium Wavelength of 208, the most-powerful emitter in the world. After Radio One started up, there was no commercial stations until 1973, and even then few outside big cities so that meant it was the BBC or Luxembourg, and Luxy was the more interesting as they played stuff the BBC didn’t. I think they went on until the late 80’s, from a start in 1933. Interesting history to them!

    1. You know, this is the moment I realise Soul Train was a TV show! I thought it was just a saying – hop on the ‘soul train’… I doubt Sweet Sensation made it on though – this was their first of two hits and then they faded away.

  4. Pingback: 359. ‘Everything I Own’, by Ken Boothe – The UK Number Ones Blog

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