The Slade

Walsall, October 1969

It was as Ambrose Slade that the four members of the group had their hair shaved and started flying the flag for the skinhead movement. At the same time, they dropped the Ambrose and, for a very short period, became The Slade.

1969 was a year of change. In January the psychedelic image was as fashionable as you could get but by Autumn it was out. The band had launched their album based on how they had been developing the last few years. Like a huge earthquake, the fashion scene changed almost overnight. Where there had been beautiful countryside, there was now mountains. Where there had been psychedelia, there was now anything but...

Good as their album was, it was already out of date. The cover showed a group of hippies in a psychedelic setting. Their look was suddenly so 'last year' and a drastic move was required if they wanted to stay in the game. It was possibly for this reason that Beginnings was changed to Ballzy for it's US release and the seemingly pointless cover art used.

A public relations company run by two former pop journalists, Keith Altham and Chris Williams, was hired for £25 a week to spread the word and at Chandler's insistence the four musicians lost several years off their age 'for press purposes'. An early press release carried the erroneous but still widely believed information that Powell was born in 1949. Holder in 1950 and Lea and Hill in 1951.

The earliest mention of 'Slade' is presently October 9th 1969, this being the date their haircuts were first reported by the Wolverhampton Express & Star. An article by Tony Rabba claims they got their hair cut without Chandler knowing and he went ballistic. It uses the same publicity photo that we know so well so they probably had their haircuts a few days before and posed for the photos. This ties in with Chris Selby's memory of the day that saw them outside Holder's Parents house on Gurney Road, Walsall.
"I had just started senior school which would have been September 1969 and it wasn't that long after that I saw them. I was going in to Walsall after school with my mates on the bus and they were just standing outside this house on the corner and someone recognised Holder and said something like "His name's Noddy" and we all fell about of course. It must have been early October because I'd recently started school.

I was intrigued by the skinhead image and the article in the Express and Star about them getting banned so at the first opportunity (when funds permitted) I went and saw them at Aldridge Community Centre in January 1970"
Chris Selby, Slade Historian*
 Disc:  11th October 1969

The article also reports that they are playing up and down the country and will play the Wolverhampton Lafayette Club on Sunday, which will be 12th October. On the 11th. they appeared in both the New Musical Express and Record Mirror. The publicity was full on with the NME featuring the picture ad above declaring 'There Is Only One Slade'. This was a quarter page ad and was followed the next week by a half page with management credit and finally, the third week, a full page ad for the single.

Holder claims in his book that the group played their first gig as a skinhead group in Guildford, Surrey. The local paper does not have any advert to support this but there is a ten day period between the first photographic evidence and the first gig ad.

Walsall Observer: 17th October 1969
Their appearance at the Aldridge Community Centre is billed as "Their first appearance in the area with their new Skinhead hairstyles" which we must assume refers to Walsall although the Lafayette gig referred to in the E&S article may have been cancelled?

It was followed next day by an appearance at the, ever popular, George Hotel with Under Milkwood.

Wild Winds Are Blowing was released on 24th October 1969 under the name of The Slade but they were still gigging as Ambrose Slade after this date, probably due to prearranged commitments. What is odd though, is the fact that the publicity for 'The Slade' states that 'There Is Only One Slade'

Mirabelle: December1969

Right from the start, as their PR, Altham plotted publicity ideas with Chandler to get them noticed for their first single as The Slade. They needed the nation to hear how good they actually were but gone were the days when you could buy a record into the UK Top Twenty, which Chandler had done with ‘Hey Joe’ for Jimi Hendrix.
“Eeee, it’s not like the good old days, yoos cannae fix ‘neebody these days. I do miss Payola.”
Chas Chandler
Most of the initial publicity leaned heavily on the Hendrix Manager's latest discovery. Rock writers in the main seemed wary of them. They really needed to find a way of drawing attention to the group. Chandler and Altham had a council of war in a London pub near the office. After a pint or six, Altham had a brain wave?
“We need to ally them to something that is in the news. Something fashionable but controversial, like The Skinheads. We could turn them into the first skinhead band…. But you could never talk them into shaved heads and boots & braces, could you?

Chas’ eyes lit up, much the same as when I’d suggested Hendrix set fire to his guitar. “Brilliant, yoos leave that to me mon.”

When I sobered up next morning I phoned Chas straight away and told him 'We can't do this to them, they're nice guys not skinheads.'

"Too late mon, we got the Boots and braces and they're in the barbers having their hair shaved off for the photographer"

Chas always had the courage of other peoples convictions and I was now committed to representing the boot boys of Rock & Roll."
Keith Altham

Chandler had established a business relationship with impresario, Robert Stigwood, and the pair had formed a production company called Montgrove Ltd. I believe Chandler was to find and develop new talent and Stigwood would finance the operation. In this event, Stigwood did not share Chas's enthusiasm for The Slade (possibly because of the new 'thuggish' skinhead image) and appears to have left him as their sole business adviser and, I assume, the only financial interest too. They remained on the RSO books throughout 1970 and beyond though. There is room for dispute over this story and the claim that 'Slade were the first skinhead group' .
"...when we were looking for a manager, Chas Chandler came to see us with a view to managing us. We believe that all he did was steal our image and give it to Ambrose Slade, so we can put that myth to bed. Slade were not the first skin-head band, Neat Change were."
Brian Sprackling - Neat Change: Marquee Interview May 2009

Walsall Observer: Friday 7th Nov 1969

They got their first 'noise' related headline as Ambrose Slade (as Skinheads) in November 1969. Reviewing their Hallowe'en Gig on Friday 31st October at Mossley Youth Centre, a venue they were very familiar with, there is much made of the volume at which they played. It would of course, be the beginning of a trend. One can only wonder whether the performance was stopped to present Harold with his pen and pencil set?

The Times 11th November 1969

November also saw The Slade make their first UK TV appearance on the Monster Music Mash. This show was the fore runner to the Old Grey Whistle Test and it was a 30 minute show broadcast on the 11th November at 17:15 on BBC 1. Slade played two songs, Martha My Dear featuring Jim on the violin and the single, Wild Winds Are Blowing.
Popular music series; introduced by Alan Price. BBC1
tx 1969/10/07 - 1969/11/11 (Tue) 6 eps. x half hour

Production Company: BBC
Producer: SCOTT, Peter Ridsdale
Designer: TRERISE, Paul
Presenter: PRICE, Alan

Alan Price was, of course, one of the original Animals and it's logical to assume that Chandler must have used that connection to get the opportunity. Rik Gunnell being Price's manager and John Gunnell being the agent for The Slade would also undoubtedly help. Either way, this was a prime time spot on national TV.

Walsall Observer: Friday 28th Nov 1969

There are very few gigs advertised as The Slade and it's clear that the group were being promoted as both 'The Slade' and 'Slade' at the same time. It possible that, having dropped Ambrose, some felt the need to add The. The single release is the only obvious concerted effort to label the group as The Slade but the radio DJ's use the records as there guide. The artwork and labelling for Wild Winds Are Blowing would have been put in weeks before its release. I have a suspicion that Chandler and Altham may have been using the two different names without realising, until the single landed on their desk. The name 'improvement' is generally accepted as a natural progression in the evolution of their image.

Express & Star: 18th December 1969
There was a downside of course. It was this image that led to a decision by The Wolves to cancel an appearance by the group at the Wolves Social Club in December 1969. There may have been others but they are not recorded to our knowledge but in the media...
"We made it out that we lost more bookings than we actually did."
Chas Chandler

December 1969

The image also affected relationships between the group and some of their contemporaries. Many of the artists on the scene at that time did not want to be associated with them. As would always be the way, the group found acceptance in the universities.
"It caused us a bit of stick but... despite what we looked like we played the music the students wanted to hear. Skinheads liked Ska and Blue Beat which we didn't play at all so it was all a bit of a sham."
Noddy Holder

The earliest known gig advertised simply as Slade (in the Midlands) is currently the Lafayette in Wolverhampton on Friday 12th December 1969. It's likely that they played as Slade prior to this but an advertised gig has yet to be found. The Slade bade us seasons greetings from the back page of the Record Mirror and made a discreet exit

Record Mirror: 27-12-1969

The group had already had their name misspelt in abundance as The 'N Betweens so I doubt it would have bothered them too much. It's hard to determine whether it was a conscious decision or any organic process really. To this day Noddy still refers to the other members of the group as The Slade's.


*All information courtesy of Chris Selby, universally appointed Slade Historian by fans that give a damn, except the Brian Sprackling interview May 2009 courtesy of  Koldo Barroso who is responsible for The Marquee Club website. This site is a treasure trove and should be supported at all cost. Don't let it close!

The Slade Known Gigs


19/10/1969 Community Centre, Aldridge
20/10/1969 The George Hotel, Walsall
(With Under Milk Wood)

23/11/1969 The Roundhouse
(Manfred Mann, Principal Edwards & Slade)
28/11/1969 The George Hotel, Walsall

29/11/1969 Bloxwich Baths
30/11/1969 Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton
12/12/1969 Club Lafayette, Wolverhampton
12/12/1969 Bilston USC, Bilston
14/12/1969 Connaught Hotel, Wolverhampton
21/12/1969 Bolero Club, Wednesbury
261121969 Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton
27/12/1969 Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton
28/12/1969 Queen Mary Ballroom, Dudley

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