Rachel Sweet; Stranger in the House (1978)

 |   |  1 min read

Rachel Sweet; Stranger in the House (1978)

While no one actually used the word "jailbait" at the time, you can bet the idea passed through a few music writers' heads when the photos of Rachel Sweet came across their desks from Stiff Records. Actually, that's not entirely true: Stiff used the word about their young signing.

Sweet -- from Akron, Ohio -- was just 16 when she broke through in Britain. But in the States she had been singing for a decade (commercials, stage shows, opening for Bill Crosby in Las Vegas) when she was brought to Stiff by producer/songwriter Liam Sternberg. Nick Lowe apparently commented that her innocent appearance "made the Mona Lisa look rough".

But there was much more to her than a nail-biting ingenue.

Her debut album for Stiff, Fool Around (uh-hu), was admittedly patchy -- she courageously took on Dusty Springfield with Stay Awhile -- but the first single B-A-B-Y put her firmly in the Brenda Lee/Lulu pop field where she acquited herself well enough.

Her second single from the album Cuckoo Clock tried to place her as a rocker and when she toured with the Rumour as her backing band it wasn't entirely successful, although later she could belt out Ronettes pop.

In truth, Sweet was much more at home in country music where she seemed a natural. She'd fallen into at 11 when she realsised rock'n'roll wasn't going to take to a pubescent kid, but country people kinda liked that sort of thing. Like Tanya Tucker.

And so on that debut album the standout song is Elvis Costello's Stranger in the House where she sounds like a woman and wise beyond her years.

Sweet's follow-up album Protect the innocent nose-dived and after a few more records she got out of the game and turned to acting, graduated with a degree in French and English from Columbia University (she'd been doing correspondence course through Indiana whle with Stiff and scoring straight A's) and then carved out a profitable career as a writer and producer on television shows like Dharma and Greg.

Sit-com's gain was country music's loss on the evidence of this seldom spun song. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Roger Waters: Money, demo (1972)

Roger Waters: Money, demo (1972)

One of the most interesting aspects of popular music reissues is when an expanded edition of a classic album (or artist) offers working drawings of songs which became -- usually much embellished or... > Read more

Groucho Marx: Churchill, Chicago critics (1972)

Groucho Marx: Churchill, Chicago critics (1972)

The great Groucho has been so often copied (Alan Alda, Welcome Back Kotter etc) and parodied down the decades we forget how irreverent he was in his day. By the time of this recording however he... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Eric Bibb: Get On Board (Telarc/Elite)

Eric Bibb: Get On Board (Telarc/Elite)

From the haunting opener Spirit I Am though to the country-blues reworking of the old Civil Rights song Stayed On Freedom which closes this exceptional collection, this 57-year old, Helsinki-based... > Read more

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Multiple award winner Robillard founded Roomful of Blues in the late Sixties, was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and has been playing for more than four decades, and shows no signs of slowing with... > Read more