a new target for the knockers
By JULIE WEBB
A FEW MONTHS back a derogatory mention of Marc Bolan would bring a few cheers for any band on stage. Now it's Slade coming in for the knocks. But like Marc Bolan, they too can laugh all the way to the bank.
At Wishbone Ash's London Rainbow gig drummer Steve Upton referred to the Wolverhampton Ravers and likened them to four dancing Christmas trees.
And Slade's Noddy Holder, being Noddy, just laughed when he heard, and said: "I think that's funny."
This has been Slade's year - everything has gone their way, except for minor mishaps like Holder's charge for alleged obscenity in Scotland, and Dave Hill breaking his ankle.
It's significant that last week their single was the highest new entry to the chart. While the singles chart is not always indicative of who is happening, in Slade's case the entry underlines their undoubted popularity.
In the last 18 months their money has gone up. You'll have to pay 10 times more to hire them now. And still a promoter is guaranteed of getting his money's worth.
No one could ever describe Slade as a lazy band. On stage they work hard.
But one might imagine that the time has come for a change in the band's musical policy. After all, their singles this year - while undoubtedly strong and commercial - are rather similar in concept. Loud, raucous, thumping stompers are great for a time, but how long will it be before people tire?
"Slade are shrewd people.'' Elton John commented a few months back. "Shrewd enough to change with their next single." True, they are shrewd. yet "Gudbuy T'Jane" is along the same lines as their other singles. I asked bassist Jimmy Lea about this.
“It isn't time to change yet. If we brought out anything we couldn't put it over with plenty of guts. On stage, it wouldn't be any good. They don't want to hear it - we don't want to play it. We have stacks of stuff that's different but the time isn't right yet.”
‘Gudbuy T’Jane' was conceived and written in a very small space of time - in about 10 minutes after we came back from America. We wrote it on a Friday and played it on Saturday'. Chas (their manager) heard it on Sunday and we recorded it on Monday in one take".
The lyrics could hardly be described as meaningful. Comments Lea: "We write them cause they sound good when you sing them".
However successful a band proves to be in Britain, the ultimate goal is always the States. Slade are huge on the Continent. and this year paid their first promotional visit to America.
"It was a tremendous challenge - it's always good to fight against complacency."
Needless to say the band go back there next year, yet at the same time they obviously hope to retain their magical hold in Britain.
"We're not going to die off. It's stupid even to think that way. In this business you don't have to give a damn… we're not trying to prove anything, never have done."
Slade fans can be stroppy, rude and exuberant but they are at least loyal.
"We don't want the Osmond type of thing," says Lea, "with fans wailing at airports. We get the right reaction where it counts - on stage where it's all happening. The Osmond crowd are a whole lot younger anyway".
Perhaps the largest difference between Osmond and Slade fans is that while Osmond admirers wave posters, Slade people wave football scarves. The Osmonds might have sweets or pictures thrown at them. Slade fans chuck everything from Noddy-type hats to the flimsiest bras and knickers.
Noddy still treasures the first pair of knickers they ever had thrown on stage.
"Orange and white they are - I wouldn't clean me guitar with anything else."
Of course knickers and bras arc mainly brought to gigs tucked in a handbag or pocket, with a request drawn or embroidered on them, yet of late young ladies have been seen to get carried away and take 'em off during the evening before flinging them stagewards.
At Newcastle - the opening date of the Slade tour - one very young lady had ripped her bra off and flashed her boobs at Dave Hill. Hill comments:
"There was nothing nasty about it. It wasn’t a sexual thing - she'd probably never had sex in her life. Just that she was caught up in the excitement. That's the kind of fan we like, the ones who enjoy themselves and have a good time. They are the kind of people who stay with you for years."Holder affirmed this.
"The kids who come and see us will, I hope, stay with us for say five years at least. We'll keep going for 10 years if we can keep up the pace."
Keeping up the pace must be one of the major bang ups for any band. Last year, drummer Don Powell collapsed after a gig and had to rest up - and bassist Lea commented:
"I'm the weakest one; it tells on me more than the others."
So how do they manage to keep themselves from flagging?
"Once we get on stage we get a buzz of the audience. It's always been like that. As soon as you're up there, everything comes above tiredness."
Perhaps the most frightening thing to witness at a Slade’s gig is the almost Svengali- like power Holder has over the crowd. You feel if he told them all to go out and paint the town with red paint, they'd break into a shop, steal the paint and start right away.
"I don't see it myself," says Nod. "I push them to enjoy themselves so when they leave they arc too knackered to do anything else. Certainly too knackered to be violent."
Slade also announce a second night at the Edmonton Sundown (they are already booked there for the 17th) on December 18th as part of their sell out tour. 16th at Brixton Sundown had already been added.