Disc and Music Echo: August 14, 1971Slade-or when their hair finally grew
"A YEAR ago a lot of people back home walked on the other side of the street if they saw us coming so they didn't have to talk to us," says Dave Hill, never-ever serious lead guitarist of Slade. "But now with 'Get Down And Get With It' in the chart, they come up to Us in the street, shake our hands and say things like 'How you doing mate? Nice to see ya.'."
But that doesn't surprise Slade for they’ve never had it easy, They were launched three years ago on what seemed the perfect gimmick; they were announced as "the first skinhead group" at a time when boots and braces and shaven heads were the "in" thing.
Yet, somehow, they didn’t take off, as they should have.
They were banned from halls by promoters afraid of riots, spurned by members of other groups and suffered more knocks than almost any other group you could think of.
"People thought we were just a put-together group," says lead singer Noddy Holder, "and we became known as just a skinhead group. No one wanted to listen to our music. At first the knocks didn't bother us but when they went on and on, and the people knocking us were the ones who hadn't bothered to listen to us, it got a bit much."
So how then did they finally manage to convince enough people of their talent to get their -third single high in the chart? The answer is hard work and plenty of it. They've been working six, sometimes seven nights a week, gradually building a following by getting audiences raving wherever they've played.
“Most nights it's like a party," says Noddy. "Instead of trying to educate the audience like a lot of groups nowadays, we try and get them to feel part of what's going on. The visual aspect of the act is very important to us. - In fact 50 per cent of the act is visual. the other 50 per cent concentrates on the music."
Their act has always been popular because of the atmosphere they create live. So they figured if they could get that same feel on record they'd have a winner. So that's what they did with "Get Down And Get With It”
"We tried very much to get the excitement of the stage act on the record and I think we succeeded. That's why it was a hit. We could do it on stage and the kids could go away and buy it and get the same thing. That’s what we want to try and do on the next album: not necessarily do rock and roll songs but get the same feel as the single."
The next single, they say very definitely, won't be another rock number.
"We don't want people to think of us as a rock and roll band. We write a lot of songs, ballads as well as ravers, and want to do mostly our material."
But the single won't be a ballad either, "because we couldn't do much with that on stage. We feel we always have to be doing something on stage."
"Slow numbers, we feel, are real downers.” says Noddy. "We like to keep moving but we do a couple of slow things like "Nights In White Satin" because we dare not leave them out now our audiences have got to know them. But If we do a slow number we have to fool around while we're doing it. We’ll belch or something. We don't want to be pretentious and the slow things aren't us. We'd hate people to think we're preaching to them. We just want them to have a good time."
They emphasise though, that rockers they may be, but they also believe in melody.
"At the moment," adds Noddy, "we’re not as heavy as we want to be on record but we’ve got to think of the radio. We wouldn't get our records played if they were any heavier."
A live album by them is an obvious possibility.
"But," says bass guitarist Jimmy Lee (who complains they never show him on Top Of The Pops), "it would probably be a complete shambles. Completely chaotic. The kids get so involved and leap about so much that leads would get broken and the sound wouldn't be all that good. But it might be an idea for us to do an album half live and half studio recorded."
Slade's main concern now when they get on stage is to create an atmosphere, to create excitement.
Says Dave: "It all started one night we all got drunk and went on stage and had a good laugh. The kids all dug it and we enjoyed it. And that’s the way it's been since. Not that we need to drink before we go on stage! But now we're a lot more confident.
"We've got to the stage where we feel if you don't like us you don't like us and it doesn't bother us.”
Slade no longer dress like skinheads but their dress still attracts a lot of attention. They've gone from one extreme to the other. Now it's all bright colours, boots, dungarees and other such eyebrow-raising costumes. But that's all part of "showbiz."
"That's what's lost out of this business," says Jimmy Lee, who incidentally has taken up playing the fiddle in the hope that it will bring him in a few more camera shots. "All the flash has gone out of groups. You've got to give the audience something to think about, something to look at. You've got to give them value for money."
"That's what the skinhead look was all about," says Noddy. "We were hoping to get the same effect, but we found a lot of people didn't dig that. As we look now we're gelling over to more people. Before the people either liked it or they didn't. But we're not knocking it. It was something we did and tried and it was a laugh at the time.”
"But now that we've broken through," says Noddy, "we're not going to out price ourselves like so many groups do when they have a hit. Those that have been nice to us we'll play for at the usual price. But those that knocked us . . . we're going to do them for every penny!"Phil Symes,
A big thank you, as always, to Chris Selby for supplying this superb article.