The 'N Betweens 1968

Wolverhampton 1968
Photobucket
Another hectic year for The 'N Betweens, kicking off at the Woolpack in Wolverhampton on the 2nd. Playing with their usual circuit buddies like The Soul Seekers and The Californians and new name Hari Kari which featured Billy Bonham on keyboards. 1968 brought the Jimmy Cliff Explosion in January, The Herd in February, Amboy Dukes in March and John Mayall's Bluebreakers making one of their last appearances in April, this time with Peter Green, at Willenhall Public Baths. In July they would split up for 15 years?

Maurice Jones was managing their affairs and the Astra agency considered them to be a strong enough group to compete with the better known bands like The Cream, with whom they were often booked. The group got the opportunity to hone themselves into a four man steamroller during a stint overseas.
Photobucket
On the 20th May 1968 the group left the UK. Maurice Jones had found them a dream booking – a one month residency in The Bahamas. None of the lads had been anywhere exotic, in fact, there only experiences outside of the country had been less than positive. Suddenly, here they were staying in a luxury hotel and told to order anything they wanted on room service and put it on the club owner's tab. As Noddy Holder relates...
Photobucket
Express & Star: May 23rd 1968
"On the first night, the promoter took us to a club which was part of the hotel complex. It was really posh, full of tourists and fabulous suntanned women. There were a few locals, but mainly it was English and American holidaymakers. 'Is this the sort of place we'll be playing?' we asked the promoter and he nodded. We thought we had died and gone to heaven.

The next day, we came back down to earth with a bump. The bloke took us to our real venue which was right on the other side of the Island, in the black area. It couldn't have been more different from the club we had visited the previous evening. It was in the middle of a field and it looked like a big shack"
The club proved to be little more than a shack in the middle of nowhere and they had to play several sets every night, of which the first was a selection of pop songs for tourists.
"Our set started at 9pm. For the first three hours, we had been told, the audience would be made up mainly of white tourists. We decided that was when we should play our pop songs. We were pretty sure that only chart hits would go down well. 'There's a curfew at midnight,' the promoter told us. 'That's when all the tourists have to return to their hotels. After that, the locals come in. We were terrified when we heard that."

"It was the later set we played to the locals after midnight that really scared us. We were four white kids in funny gear trying to please the local black gangs who were into Calypso and Ska. We decided to give them our James Brown soul selection and we could not have made a better choice because unbeknown to us Brown was considered a god in The Bahamas and four white kids playing soul music was some novelty.
"We also had to become versatile and adapt to provide backing for local entertainers like limbo dancers, fire-eaters and_transvestite go-go dancers. One of the big attractions was called Silver Man. He sprayed himself all over in paint and did a wild Voodoo dance"
The compère was a gay bongo player called Eric who used to give Nod a drink out of his special rum bottle each night, which he had secretly laced with marijuana. Nod couldn't understand why it had such an effect on him for some days. Eric overran on his bongo solo regularly, once he was on he was hard to get off. One evening Silver Man sweated in the wings until he eventually collapsed and passed out. Nod managed to revive him by washing his paint off, but it was like that pretty much every night.
"We ended up with the most bizarre show you can imagine. The idea was that we would not only play our own music, but also back a lot of other local acts, which included limbo dancers, a couple of fire-eaters and a transvestite go-go dancer in a cage. It was like an Acid-inspired cabaret show. We were rocking our socks off with loonies every night."
One night they found William Bell in their dressing room. He had just had a huge hit with Judy Clay called 'Private Number'. He sang with The 'N Betweens as his backing band.
"Another night, we had to support a girl group called The Twans who were three gorgeous black girls with a choreographed dance routine. They launched into Aretha Franklin's 'Respect'.

What no one knew was that the lead singer had lost her voice between the rehearsal in the afternoon and the show. The backing gals went “Woo”, after which she was supposed to sing 'What you want'. Instead, there was silence. The girls went
“Woo” again. Still nothing. She was opening her mouth, but nothing was coming out. Suddenly, this bloke in the front row of the audience shouted, 'Sing it like it is, sister.' We just collapsed. The girls were still doing their dance, but the four of us were on the floor, laughing."

"After a couple of weeks in the Bahamas, Dave had made friends with a load of American and English girls. One afternoon, they took him to a fashion show, which was happening at one of the other hotels on the island. Dave ended up as one of the catwalk models wearing a dress. He came back to the club that night in it. It was a full-length floral thing, all pink and white. He wandered in with his girls, boasting that his picture was going to be in the Bahamian newspaper the next day. 'I'm keeping the dress on for the show,' announced Dave. Jim hit the roof but it got a great reaction. We hadn't been on stage two minutes when a girl in the audience stormed up to Dave. She was furious because Dave was wearing exactly the same outfit as her."
Noddy Holder: Who's Crazee Now?

Don's first close call seems to have happened at this time. Andy Scott, who would later join The Sweet and score significant success as a top glam rock band, recalls an incident that clearly took place during this residency.
"I first met Slade about 45 years ago, long before they were famous, on the Bahamas. Slade were playing on one side of the Island, and the band I was with were playing on the other side. I remember myself and Don were swimming and got dragged out to sea. We had to hang onto a lilo, we almost drowned."
Andy Scott: 14th November 2012

Half way through this Bahamas rock circus residency, disaster struck and the club owner disappeared with thousands of pounds, leaving them stranded with a massive hotel and bar bill unpaid. The hotel moved them into the equivalent of a broom cupboard and when the club re-opened under new management they took half of their wages until the outstanding amount was paid off. The 'N Betweens had to slog it out for three months, working like musical slaves until they were able to leave the island.

"The new owners were Americans and they demanded we pay the bill for the suites and the food and everything.

Of course we couldn't pay ... so they kept us on working every night for next to nothing to payoff the debt. They put us in a one room staff apartment."
For the next two months The 'N Betweens lived in each others' pockets and Jim Lea, for one, considers this to have been a major factor in welding the group together. Letters to the Astra Agency begging for money were ignored and all determined to put every spare penny towards the cost of flying their equipment home. Nod took charge again and sorted out their financial difficulties. He was always the one who had to budget their money when they needed a new tyre on the van or replacement equipment.
"We made friends in the Bahamas with a lot of local kids who were from American families. They brought lots of records with them which had yet to be released in England, like Steppenwolf's 'Born to Be Wild' which we worked into the stage act."
"We couldn't believe our luck but the owners told us they were going to re-decorate the discotheque and that it would be closed for a week. They actually asked us to move our gear out which is what we'd been wanting to do for weeks. So the next morning ... very early ... we drove out to the airport, put our gear on a plane and caught the next one to London."
During those weeks in the Bahamas, the group got their personal gripes out of their systems, which helped them later down the line.
"We discovered that we were four very different characters. The others realised that none of them would get the better of me in an argument.

Jim was probably the most argumentative, he could also be really insulting although half the time he didn't even realise it. We never knew if he was trying to insult people or if he just didn't think, but after spending so much time together, we got used to it. We learnt that, in a band, you couldn't take each other too seriously or you'd just split up."
It was that crash course in survival in The Bahamas that pulled them together and forged the band's strong camaraderie. They returned to England on the 29th August being hailed a success. On the 7th September at Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton:
"This Saturday: The return of Wolverhampton's top group from a successful season in the Bahamas"
Photobucket
Express & Star:
September 12th 1968

The episode caused further unpleasantness between The 'N Betweens and the Astra Agency and the group switched their allegiance to a rival outfit run by Nita Anderson who later managed the record label Heavy Metal Records. It was Anderson who was to act as the catalyst in a chain of events that led to The 'N Betweens' fortunes taking a crucial turn in the early months of 1969.
"While we were on the Bahamas we never had any help from Astra so when we came back we decided to leave and we went with Nita Anderson."
Don Powell: The Slade Forum 2011
Jack Baverstock was head of A&R at Philips. He was a man hungry to find The Next Big Thing and a little bird had whispered in his ear that Wolverhampton had it. That little bird was Roger Allen who was Nita Anderson's business partner. Allen was also a close friend of Irving Martin, who carried some influence with Baverstock. Allen told Baverstock that it would be in his best interest to invite The 'N Betweens down to London for a studio audition.
Photobucket
Express & Star: November 21st 1968


Baverstock felt that The 'N Betweens implied an element of homosexuality. There had been some talk of the new name being Nicky Nacky Noo (the group's own idea according to some?).
"Baverstock thought that The 'N Betweens was a crappy name, and he said that he wanted us to be called a name that we had said in the studio. Well, we'd been talking about hotels, something about us having said in the poshest place since the Nickey Nackey Noo. And he thought that Nicky Nacky Noo would've been a good name for us! I said that I was going to leave if we were going to be called that:

Anyway, sometime later he rang up Roger AlIen and said that he'd come up with the name Ambrose Slade. I thought it was a crappy name, but as we didn't want to lose his recording deal we decided to call ourselves that."
Jim Lea: Fan Club Interview April 1980
In December 1968, The 'N Betweens spent a whole day in the Phillips Studio at Stanhope Place near Marble Arch in London where they recorded four songs with, recording engineer, Roger Wake. Baverstock was impressed enough to offer them a contract with two suggestions. One was the name change and the other was London based management.
"Jack said he didn't like the name. 'It makes you sound bi-sexual' he said. We freaked out, that had never even crossed our minds. In the 60's being gay was a real scandal."
Noddy Holder

"The notion of Ambrose Slade came from his secretary having a handbag named Ambrose and a cap named Slade!"
Jim Lea
Photobucket
Express & Star: December 12th 1968

It was Jack who christened the group with their new name, as Jimmy Lea explains:
"Jack Baverstock had heard our version of Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind, the Ted Nugent number, and another instrumental which we called Blues In E."

"Irving Martin had produced both tracks for us. Jack rang up and told us he wanted to make an album with us. We just could not believe it. Apparently it was the instrumental he rated as quite distinctive because of the stomping sound.... He maintained that the record had this beat that was new and different. He was quite right really, because in later years the beat used on that record became our stamp."
Photobucket
Express & Star: December 7th 1968


The group had a couple of recording sessions in December 1968. One on the 8th. was for radio broadcast and a few days later on the 11th they recorded four tracks for their album. The 3rd December is yet to be confirmed.


divider

Most of the Noddy Holder quotes are from his book 'Who's Crazee Now?' Media supplied by Chris Selby after many hours of research.Thanks to Dave Kemp for some wonderful trivia.

The 'N Betweens Known Gigs

1968

02/01/1968 Woolpack, Wolverhampton
05/01/1968 W.R.Wheway School, Bloxwich
(with Hari Kari)
07/01/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
08/01/1968 United Services Club, Bilston
12/01/1968 Civic Hall
, Wolverhampton
(with Reg Bradley & his Band, Freddie Mercer & his Band and Dual Purpose)
13/01/1968 College of Technology
, Wolverhampton
(with Jimmy Cliff Explosion)
17/01/1968 Chubb Scial Club
, Wolverhampton
18/01/1968 Kingfisher Country Club, Wall Heath
(with The Casablanca Kings, Dual Purpose and Barmy Barry)
19/01/1968 Woolpack
, Wolverhampton
19/01/1968 Connaught Hotel, Wolverhampton
(with Bachdenkel Purists)
03/02/1968 Civic Hall
, Wolverhampton
(with Soulseekers)
04/02/1968 Bolero Club.Wednesbury
05/02/1968 Parkhall Hotel
, Wolverhampton
(with Bystanders and Barmy Barry)
08/02/1968 Essington W.M.C, Bloxwich
10/02/1968 Connaught Hotel
, Wolverhampton
(with The News)
11/02/1968 Adelphi Ballroom, West Bromwich
12/02/1968 United Services Club, Bilston
14/02/1968 Shelfield Y.C, Shelfield
25/02/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
(with The Herd)
29/02/1968 Kingfisher Country Club, Wall Heath
(with The Californians and Barmy Barry)
01/03/1968 United Services Club, Bilston
02/03/1968 Woolpack
, Wolverhampton
(with Lucifer Blue)
06/03/1968 Wolves Social Club
, Wolverhampton
16/03/1968 The Ship 7 Rainbow, Wolverhampton
(with Vivid Cherry)
22/03/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
24/03/1968 Connaught Hotel
, Wolverhampton
25/03/1968 Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton
(with The Amboy Dukes and Barmy Barry)
31/03/1968 Woolpack
, Wolverhampton
05/04/1968 United Services Club, Bilston
06/04/1968 Wulfrun Hall
, Wolverhampton
(with Lucifer Blue)
09/04/1968 British Legion Club, Lower Gornal
11/04/1968 Public Baths, Willenhall
(with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers and The Naque)
15/04/1968 George Hotel, Walsall
(with Soul Syndicate)
01/05/1968
03/05/1968 Queen Mary Ballroom, Dudley
(with Soul Syndicate)
11/05/1968 George Hotel, Walsall
17/05/1968 Community Centre, Pelsall
(with The Gilt Edge)
19/05/1968 Connaught Hotel
, Wolverhampton
20/05/1968 Fly To Bahamas
29/08/1968 Return from Bahamas
07/09/1968 Park Hall Hotel
, Wolverhampton
13/09/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
21/09/1968 The Ship & Rainbow
, Wolverhampton
(with
DJ Johnathon Barry)
03/10/1968 British Legion Club, Lower Gornal
05/10/1968 Town Hall, Bilston
(with The Tangerine Slake)
06/10/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
14/10/1968 George Hotel, Walsall-The Traction-'Nbetweens
25/10/1968 Public Baths, Willenhall
(with Crosscut Saw)
01/11/1968 Town Hall, Walsall
(with Simon Dupree & the Big Sound and Hari Kari)
02/11/1968 George Hotel, Walsall
(with Animated Lime)
03/11/1968 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
10/11/1968 Connaught Hotel
, Wolverhampton
20/11/1968 Boney Hay W.M.C. Boney Hay
02/12/1968 George Hotel, Walsall
(with Small Change)
06/12/1968 Public Baths, Willenhall
(with Evolution)
07/12/1968 Palais de Danse, Mansfield
08/12/1968 Radio Recording
09/12/1968 Brownhills W.M.C.
11/12/1968 Studio Recording
12/12/1968 Sounds-"Now Its Ambrose Slade"
12/12/1968 Queens Ballroom, Dudley
13/12/1968 Public Baths, Willenhall
14/12/1968 Community Centre, Pelsall
16/12/1968 Wolves Social Club
, Wolverhampton
17/12/1968 British Legion Club, Lower Gornal
18/12/1968 Woolpack
, Wolverhampton
19/12/1968 Shelfield Y.C. Shelfield
20/12/1968 John Harper P.H, Willenhall
21/12/1968 Holly Hall Y.C
, Wolverhampton
22/12/1968 Connaught Hotel, Wolverhampton
23/12/1968 Queen Mary Ballroom, Dudley
24/12/1968 Lafeyette Club
, Wolverhampton
26/12/1968 Bolrero Club, Wednesbury
27/12/1968 The Ship & Rainbow
, Wolverhampton
27/12/1968 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
28/12/1968 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
30/12/1968 Mount Hotel
31/12/1968 George Hotel, Walsall

1969
01/01/1969 The 'N Betweens are now to be simply called Ambrose Slade
02/02/1969 Aldridge Community Centre

No comments: