Exclusive Interview by Keith Altham
“We represent a new Age. If people think we’re musical dunces it’s because they’re out of touch”
One of the more popular misconceptions usually aired behind Slade's back is that they are no more than a bunch of overgrown skinheads with little to recommend them other than a vulgar stage act and a few prefabricated and very basic hit singles.
It is, in fact, a belief held by quite a few misguided musical critics who set themselves up as oracles upon what is valid in contemporary music.
It is a criticism seldom voiced to the group themselves for fear of a good 'bottling' or more practically because some know full well that at a certain level of success a band will help sell papers and kicking Slade's legions of fans in the teeth will not help circulation figures.
The pity is that the group are well able to take care of themselves and those kind of rock bigots but they seldom get the chance to meet the sniping head on, Knowing full well of their real potential I let them have the case for the prosecution in their manager’s office last week and herewith the justifiable earful I got In reply from the trio of Jimmy Lea, Don Powell and Noddy Holder. Dave Hill was excused - missing believed drunk - Bak Home!!
They were feeling a trifle hung over from Jim's and Nod's birthday celebration in London's 'Tramps' the previous night and just about ready for some provocative action.
"We know that a lot of musicians think we are a load of shit and don't deserve the following we have." said Noddy who is nothing if not frank.
"Well, that following has not come easily or quickly and we've worked fucking hard over three years to get it.
“What we are doing is very simple and very basic but we are doing it. We've written and played all our hit material and they must realise that takes some musical knowledge and talent.
"We're playing within our own capabilities because we would rather do something well than overreach ourselves into a field where there are already too many mediocre groups out of their depth.
"You've got to start somewhere and we've begun by building on a simple entertaining rock format which is fun .- we enjoy it and we've no desire to educate anyone.
"We’ve said it before and I'll say it again - we don't give a fuck about these critics who think we are a bunch of 'thickies' without any musical taste. We are entertaining a whole mass of young people between twelve and twenty who dig us and we think the way they think.
"Most of the people from the Sixties Generation who liked the Stones and the Beatles have no idea how those young people think or feel - they're a generation removed from what they're thinking.
"It's time a few of those people realised we are in the 1970's now. We don't play for 'heads' or 'skinheads' or any other kind of heads. We represent a new Age and if people think we are musical dunces that's because they are out of touch.
"We're not vulgar and we're not obscene. If I stood on stage and pissed on the audience that would be vulgar. What we indulge in is back-street cracks, the kind of language that every kid of our age has heard before and we're not influencing them any more than their schoolmates. We drag it out into the open, laugh at it, and it clears the air.
"It's not important at this stage to run around trying to prove to the critics what brilliant musicians we are - we don't need their respect as long as we have it for ourselves. The only people we care about are our public.
"We played the Lincoln Festival and I was really worried about the audience, It wasn't our audience or even largely our audience. When we went on stage we got a few hecklers and some boos. but by the time we'd got through three numbers and impressed them with the fact that all we wanted to do was help them have a good time we had them all going and got one of the best receptions at the festival. Even the Press acknowledged that.
"Slade are a good band and we are getting better all the time. We've got to take one step at a time though and now that we have made a name for ourselves as an exciting rocking and stomping band we want to consolidate that before proving a few other points.
"With the 'Live' album we managed to convince most people that we were not just a studio band turning out studio hits and our next album will be something different.
"On the next album we are going to do all kinds of different music - soul, hard rock, jazz and blues. Maybe that will convince a few more people that we are not just one-track musical minds but we are not out to prove anything individually. There are no individual musical freaks in the band, and we want to keep it that way.
"We know that we have individual musical ability. You only have to talk about music with Jim for a few minutes to discover that he has had classical training and can sight read. You only have to listen to his violin work and piano to realise he is very underestimated and that goes for Don and Dave as well.
"There is still plenty of room for improvement within the area in which w~ are working now and as soon as we've proved that we are the best band in the world at one thing maybe it will be time to talk about moving on to another."
Noddy is obviously not going to say it himself but it might also be borne in mind that they have what I consider to be the most penetrating and effective rock vocalist since John Winston Lennon.
Having disposed of the more objectionable points made by the Slade Slammers we turned our subject of discussion to the future, and the shape of things to come.
Uppermost in the band's mind is America but their manager Chas Chandler has very shrewdly resisted the temptation to throw them in at the deep end after a few big hits and is simply sitting back and watching the offers snowball.
"We've really used the Continent as a yardstick to measure how we could crack the States." said Chas. "We managed to do it in Europe by making ten major TV appearances and that is the way I want to do it in America.
"There are very few bands who can come across on TV with the kind of visual impact which will communicate itself to the audience from a small screen but Slade can do it.
"What 1 don't want is to send them over on one of those petrifying slogs around America where they work themselves into an early grave before they get going. I've seen too many good groups fall to pieces and break their hearts trying to open up the States by touring."
It might be as well to note that Chas obviously knows what he is talking about with some hard won personal experience from his early days in the Animals and his successful promotional work with Jimi Hendrix whom he co-managed.
Marc Bolan who is, of course, contemporary with the kind of young success, which Slade are enjoying recently, made his bid for fame in the States but with apparently qualified success. Did he make any mistakes?
"Yeah:' smiled Chas slyly. "He didn't have a manager or someone who knew what America is about. It's difficult to appreciate the size of the problem unless you have experienced it."
Noddy was enthusiastic about the group's following now in Europe.
"We did a few live appearances and did as much TV as we could," said Noddy. "On one of our dates in Holland they had to bring in the local fire brigade to hold up the balcony, the kids were stomping so hard."
While discussing their recent performance on "Top Of The Pops" the strange case of Ray Davies and 'the punch up' in the BBC Club last week came to light. Mr. Davies, like Alice. is apparently becoming curiouser and curiouser.
"We couldn't understand it," said Jim. "I mean we genuinely liked the Kinks and admired Ray Davies, we really did. I went up to see him and told him I'd really enjoyed a performance of theirs I'd seen in Southampton and he turned round and said:
" ‘Oh, yeah, they were the crap days, By the way I don't like your shirt,' and poured a beer all down me".
Entering into the spirit of the occasion Mr. Lea poured a pint over Mr. Davies in return.
"Everything we said he seemed to think was meant nastily or something. Just as we were leaving Dave said 'Tara Ray' and Ray got hold of him by his hair and started swinging on it."
Having eventually extracted Mr. Hill from the fray and calmed him down, the diminutive figure of Mr. Chandler ambled back in to the club to inquire what was troubling Mr. Davies.
"As I walked back into the club this arm shot out and grabbed hold of my shirt," said Chas. "It was Ray - I was amazed. He said something like, 'Come here I want to talk to you,' So I got hold ofhim by the throat and talked to him!
"I think that was the point when they banned me from the BBC Club, I, of course, said how sorry I was that I walked in with my hands in my pockets and allowed Ray Davies to attack me."
Those who have known of Ray's eccentric behaviour over the years will not be unduly surprised by this little outburst but .it does seem a strange way to win friends and influence people who had nothing but compliments to offer the Kinks. Incidentally Ray, Rick Wakeman sends his regards!!!
We ended up on a happier note talking about the insane road crew, which Slade have now gathered together for their continued enjoyment.
Number one man is 'Swin' whose real name is Graham Swinnerton otherwise known as 'Mr. Immaculate' to the boys for his sartorial elegance. When Slade are feeling particularly bloody minded they insist that all the other three roadies speak through him.
The most extraordinary character in the crew appears to be 'Charlie' alias Ian Newham (sic) who is their sound mixer and has remarkable penchant for driving down main roads in the wrong direction.
It was Charlie who once rang up Chas from Park Lane when expected to be at London Airport and when the boss inquired what he was doing in Park Lane was told: "I woke up here."
'Rob' who is unknown by another name is their roadie described slanderously by John Steel as "a thundering Scottish drunk" who is usually referred to as 'Paddy' and whom no one can really understand due to his thick brogue.
And finally their mystery 'roadie' is 'Morris' otherwise known as Martin Norris who refuses to speak to anyone but is easily distinguishable by his tanned elbow and tendency to do impressions of air brakes.
"An indispensable team!" said Nod.