Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland

Ballroom Blitz by Sweet

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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 Read full Lyrics
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."

Kilmarnock Cross around 1900Kilmarnock Cross around 1900
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 and Blender, 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.
The famous Eaglesham Fingerpost points the way to Kilmarnock<br>Photo: Kenneth Mallard, <a href="" target="_blank">Geograph Project</a>, cc-by-sa/2.0The famous Eaglesham Fingerpost points the way to Kilmarnock
Photo: Kenneth Mallard, Geograph Project, cc-by-sa/2.0
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.

Cen Fox
August 11, 2010
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Comments: 7

  • Anonymous from East AyrshireBottles thrown is factually incorrect. It was coins that were thrown at the band. One striking the singer on the head. They then walked off. I know the reasons for the coin throwing. But, in these days of politically correct woke pish, it wouldn't go down well if I mentioned it.
  • Alex from AyrI was at the gig in the Grand Hall. Kilmarnock had a lot of teen gangs at the time. They were all there. The Onthank & Shortlees boys & the Bellfield Cumby. All had been drinking & everybody was buying glass bottles off beer in hall. Sweet arrived on stage & bass player Steve Priest was camping it up as usual & unfortunately started blowing kisses to the crowd as he played. Diversity was an unknown commodity in those days & one of the tanked up guys hurled a bottle at Steve. Rest of the crowd started throwing more bottles. Band quickly exited the stage & when there was no band to fling the bottles at the dance floor turned into a war zone as a mass fight started between the 3 or 4 gangs. End of concert. Only got to hear half a song.
  • Scott from BellshillAccording to my dad, one of the band blew a kiss at the men in the audience, so my dad lobbed a coin or bottle in response, and that's what kicked it off. My mum later wrote a letter of apology to the band, although I think this was before she met my dad.
  • Jim Marshall from Kilmarnock I once learned ...Lol, am no ayeways right ...BUT here's whit else I wiz telt :
    That the band returned to their HQ and studio after the tour which included the Grand Hall date ... The road crew were asked by the songwriting duo Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman how the tour had gone ... in the conversation the roadies told the story of visiting Grand Hall Kilmarnock .. a local Ballroom type venue ...and there an incident had taken place and gave the song writing duo an account about what happened and who said whit and who done whit ... after a short time the songwriters , wrote the song based on the story told by the road crew ...The song "Ballroom Blitz" is a transcript in rhyme and put to a jovial tune to give "The Sweet" a top hit of the seventies and major chart success with it . The BAND " The Sweet " were not fully aware of the story that took place to inspire the songwriters Chinn & Chapman to do the song ! FACT x
  • Paul from KilmarnockMy o9lder sister and cousin were at the gig with their respective boyfriends and some folks the audience took exception to the mixing desk, which, apparently was somewhere on the main floor for some reason. Thinking that the band were miming and that the music was being played from the desk, people started booing and bottles started flying ... rumour has it that my cousin's fella threw the bottle that struck one of the band (Andy Scott, I think).
  • Andy from KilmarnockMy uncle said it was a rival gang fight in the concert that got out of control
  • Charlie Adam from Scotlandaye
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