The great thing about a song is that it can have any number of associations. Truly, a song can have as many connections to it as it has listeners.
And for many, the song “The Ballroom Blitz,” by the British-born band The Sweet is reminiscent of the great 1990s movie Wayne’s World.
But the song has its own story, too. Its own origin.
The Sweet: Origins
Before we go behind the meaning of the song lyrics, let’s get into the origins of the band. The Sweet is a British glam rock group that rose to popularity in the 1970s. The band’s core lineup included lead singer Brian Connolly, bass player Steve Priest, guitarist Andy Scott, and drummer Mick Tucker.
The band was originally known as The Sweetshop and at times, the name of the group is shortened to just Sweet.
Formed in London in 1968, the group earned its first hit song, “Funny Funny,” in 1971. The Sweet earned 13 Top-20 hits during the 1970s, including the 1973 song “The Ballroom Blitz.” Other hits include the 1973 track “Block Buster,” and the 1974 song “Turn It Down.” The band’s 1978 song, “Love Is Like Oxygen,” was their last big hit.
Since its inception, the group has sold over 35 million albums worldwide.
“The Ballroom Blitz” Charts
The song, which is also often called just “Ballroom Blitz,” was written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. It hit No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 on the U.K. Singles Chart, as well as the Australian Chart. It hit No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Today, it boasts tens of millions of streams on YouTube.
The Song’s Meaning: A Bottling?
The track was inspired by an incident on January 27, 1973, when The Sweet was performing a the Grand Hall in Kilmarnock, Scotland. Sadly, the band was driven offstage by what’s known as a “bottling,” or when the fans get so angry or unnerved by a group, they begin to throw things onto the stage. It can occur if a band is not of the same genre as the rest of the groups, say, on a given festival lineup.
But regardless of the damage and danger that the band took on during the bottling, it resulted in an all-time classic glam rock song. The Sweet would likely take that trade-off anytime, no?
Recording the Tune
The song was cut at Audio International Studio in London and released in September of 1973. For some reason, the song appeared on the U.S. and Canadian versions of the band’s album, Desolation Boulevard, but it never appeared on an album by The Sweet in the U.K., other than in some greatest hits compilations.
Most Famous Lyrics
The song is not short on lyrics. It’s a storytelling tune that talks about a “man in the back” whose “eyes were as red as the gun” and a “girl in the corner that no one ignores ’cause she thinks she’s the passionate one.”
But more than any bit of story, the main draw to the tune is the giant, electric bolt of energy that fuels the song. The chorus is electric:
Oh yeah! It was like lightning
Everybody was frightening
And the music was soothing
And they all started grooving
Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah
And the man in the back said, “Everyone attack”
And it turned into a ballroom blitz
And the girl in the corner said, “Boy I want to warn you”
It’ll turn into a ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz, ballroom blitz, ballroom blitz, ballroom blitz
One can feel the energy, and can almost picture bottles and other objects flying by your head. DUCK!!!
Covers and Popular Culture
The song has been covered by a number of artists, including in 1974 by the Les Humphries Singers. In 1979, it was covered by the Damned, which featured Lemmy from Motorhead on bass. In 2021, White Denim polished a cover of the song via Dropbox.
But perhaps the most famous cover comes from the 1992 movie Wayne’s World in which actress-model Tia Carrere, featuring a back track with Tommy Nickerson, is credited with a version on the film’s soundtrack. While the original song from The Sweet features a back and forth between bandmates, the Wayne’s World version features the two central characters in the movie, Wayne and Garth, opening the tune.
The track has also appeared in a number of other movies, from Wayne’s World to Bordello of Blood, Romanzo Criminale, Daddy Day Care, and The Sandlot: Heading Home. And the line, She thinks she’s the passionate one,” is featured in the Beastie Boys’ song “Hey Ladies.”
For those of us of a certain age, we’ll always remember the song as part of Wayne’s World. It’s just written into our entertainment DNA. But The Sweet’s “The Ballroom Blitz” will live on for many years and will do so even without Wayne and Garth shepherding its memory.
The song is that electric.
Photo by Roger Morton/Cleopatra Records/Getty Images