Now the man in the back is ready to crack
as he raises his hands to the sky
And the girl in the corner is everyone's mourner
She could kill you with the wink of an eye
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Kilmarnock Cross around 1900
You know how that synth-pop band with the funny haircut, Flock of Seagulls, ended up saying in interviews that if they never heard "I Ran" come on the radio again, it would be too soon? Sweet must feel that way, at least some days, about "Ballroom Blitz."
This song recounts a real-life event. The building is the Grand Hall of the Palace Theater. The year is 1973. The place is Kilmarnock, a large burgh in East Ayrshire, Scotland, which, by complete coincidence, has also had a museum in it since 1901, which is named "The Dick Institute."
The incident: Bottles were thrown, and the band left the stage. That is absolutely, positively, the only thing anyone knows about the incident. You can Google, you can Wiki, you can chase down old issues of Rolling Stone
, you can glue yourself to VH1 for years, and whenever this song and Sweet will come up, you will never learn anything more about the incident this song is about except for these same two facts. (1) Bottles thrown. (2) Band left.
Who threw bottles? Why? Were the throwers angry, lusty, spiteful, what? What kind of bottles? Wine bottles? Ten-gallon Sparkletts Water bottles? Baby bottles? Were they throwing the bottles at the band, at each other, or up in the air in celebration? Were they trained circus precision-bottle-throwers? Did the band, in fact, have anything to do with the manual ballistic propulsion of containers intended for the storage of liquid products? Were the bottles redeemable for five cents?
The answer to these questions sleeps with the fishies. Literally, since half the band is now dead.
Johnfinnie Street in Kilmarnock
What is known is that this song will never die. Covering "Ballroom Blitz" seems to be a trope for a diverse variety of bands, and the only rule seems to be that no two bands covering "Ballroom Blitz" may ever have the same music style. Contrasting to the... ah... somewhat swishy nature of Sweet, the first cover was done by none other than The Damned in 1979... with Motorhead's Lemmy bucking the bass. Krokus kronked it out in 1984. Moderatto serenaded it in 2004. The Surf Punks caught the wave in 1988. Vanilla Ninja sneaked it in in 2003. The Offspring gave it a bounce, Testify bore witness to it, Les Wampas hunted it down, the Buzzcocks got a buzz from it. The list goes on and on. Somebody's probably covering it right now.
And that's not to mention the many, many times the original song is used in everything from commercials to video games to movie soundtracks. Apparently, if you hand Sweet the money, you get to use the song however you want. 1992's Wayne's World
was the most famous offender, the one who brought the song back just when it was settled in for a nice long fade from glory. Movies to follow suit included Bordello of Blood
(1996), Daddy Day Care
(2003), Romanzo Criminale
(2006), The Sandlot: Heading Home
(2007), and Get Smart
(2008). It was also used in the commercial for 2007's Ghost Rider
, even though it wasn't in the movie. It might have been used just to reassure viewers that it had to be a real movie, because it had "Ballroom Blitz" in it.
You have to admit, it's an infectious little ditty.
Ballroom Blitz Songfacts
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