Released on September 28th, 1973, this superb 'story so far' collection came in a gatefold sleeve cover with colour booklet featuring sleeve notes. Since Slade had been releasing singles for three years now, most of which had never been included on their albums, this collection was a godsend.
Like most, I was fourteen years old when it was released, my 7" singles had been played to death and stacked on a autoplay turntable to be scratched and ruined. Now I had the tracks in good condition again and as a magnificient bonus, Wild Winds Are Blowing was included.
'The time is right for us. The mass audiences want it. We'd always done the same act, but the audiences didn't want it before. They just wanted to be cool and sit down and dig the music and read deep things into it. But finally everybody got sick of that.'
Thus, in a few succinct sentences, Noddy Holder sums up the success of Slade. The right band at the right time playing to the right audiences.
Now that rock or pop (you tell me where to draw the line) has been around long enough to have acquired its own historians and archivists, perhaps we should have expected a band like Slade to appear when they did, stomping audiences out of their lethargy and drawing kids to concert halls who thought grass was something only professional footballers played on.
Slade emerged from their Wolverhampton fastness like Attila the Hun hightailing it down the Appian Way towards a moribund and defenceless Rome. As rock became more ethereal, more intellectual, all down to sitting round a BBC studio to watch the latest American aesthete unburden his soul, perhaps we tended to forget that out there, north of Potters Bar and east of Portland Place, the dark people were huddled round their trannies (transistor radios), thirsting for something to get them going.
They were getting it all right, for it was at this period that Slade were labouring up and down the country in the time- honoured fashion. The only thing they lacked was the Open Sesame to the media, which is called a hit record.
'We built up a following by our stage reputation long before we had a hit,' Dave Hill points out. 'So when we had a hit, it brought more and more people in to see us.'
While rock criticism in general was growing lip and creating its own standards and prejudices, the fact that there was another generation being chucked out of school without 0 levels in music appreciation, who wanted to hear a little boogie as well as latching on to the local football heroes, tended to be obscured.
Show business and sport have long been the accepted escape routes for working class kids. This knowledge was acquired at an early age by Noddy Holder.
'I'd already sussed out at the age of 13 or 14 that I wanted to be in the group business. Nothing else would satisfy me. I knew I had to put my foot down and say, "I'm leaving school".'
Which he did and it must have been a traumatic experience to his parents as he'd already collected six 0 levels.
'I'd rather do something that makes me happy. If it only lasts five years, I'll know I've done what I wanted to do, and if I've shit it up, then it's purely my own fault and nobody else's.'
There speaks a whole generation with an attitude that rejects society's plans for them much more vehemently than most of us think. Unfortunately, it's only given to the few to carry it out, Slade were among that chosen few.
But the game is littered with the corpses of individuals who have risen from the same soil only to reject their backgrounds. Slade have kept the in-puts plugged in to bak 'ome.
They still live in the Wolverhampton area, which must be very nice for Midlands fans, but means that the London branch stores up enough energy to storm Holiday Inns when the group actually stay together in London. Don maintains:-
'I'm very conscious that I'm a working class bloke. In this business you meet a lot of people who are not working class and you know that you're different. Your outlook on life is different to what theirs is. You either decide you want to be part of that clique, or you don't. And I don't.'
But what is it about Slade's music and stage act that has made them the most unique British band of the Seventies so far? In the flesh, it's undoubtedly that they are living out the kids' own fantasies and ambitions. There's an empathy between group and audience that is rare in the pop concert hall, a climate that is more easily recognised in football grounds. They may be stars, but they're our stars.
But Slade are not just straight excitement. Their manager, Chas Chandler, who played bass in one of Britain's most influential bands of the Sixties, the Animals, has always insisted: -
'From the moment I heard Slade, I knew they were better musicians than we ever were.'
And he should know.
As an illustration of how a band like Slade moves towards a style which captures the imagination of a generation, let's look at the 14 tracks here in chronological order.
WILD WINDS ARE BLOWING was the first single that Slade made with their manager, Chas Chandler. 'It came out just at our skinhead period,' says Jimmy Lea.
SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME also dates from that period, and was the theme tune from a film, 'Wild In The Streets'. It was also the first song that the group played on Top Of The Pops.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE started life as an instrumental called 'Genesis' which they were playing around their 'Ambrose Slade' period. Chas Chandler suggested that the boys write lyrics for it, and Don says that the words are mainly about Dave Hill.
POUK HILL is a local beauty spot just up the road from Noddy's gaff in Wolverhampton. Don't bother to look it up in the guides to Beautiful Britain. Some bright photographer, they recall, had the idea of dragging the group up there to photograph them for an album cover. The difficulties arose when the snow was thick on the ground and the photographer insisted on shooting them naked from the waist up. They froze and subsequently all went down with 'flu. 'You couldn't even see the bloody snow when the cover was printed,' they remember.
ONE WAY HOTEL is the kind of song that any band who've survived the miseries of being on the road with barely the price of a fish supper are bound to dredge out of their consciousness sooner or later.
'There were the four of us, plus two roadies, in one hotel room. Six beds. It was pouring with rain, and we were skint not even the price of a pint between us. So we wrote this to pass the time.'
GET DOWN AND GET WITH IT was Slade's first Top 20 single, and it had boon thoroughly market researched before it was issued.
'The first time we played this on stage, the reaction was so fantastic that we knew it had to be a single. It was also the first time that we had laid down the vocals and backing at the same time to try and capture the feel.'
They got the feel all right. and this is the song still tremendously popular on stage, which has become the group's national anthem.
COZ I LUV YOU was that fearful animal, the follow-up single.
'This was the first time that we deliberately sat down to write a commercial song. We hadn't had to worry about follow-ups before ... we hadn't had bloody hit singles.'
'We wrote it in about half-an-hour. We just got the feel right early on, we seemed to have found the right formula, simplicity and atmosphere.'
It got to NO.1 after two weeks, and stayed there for four weeks.
LOOK WOT YOU DUN was a song that the group had lying about for some time. Jim and Don wrote it originally, but it was thought the chorus wasn't strong enough to do much with it. So it was recast, and it went to No. 2.
TAKE ME BAK 'OME was a deliberate exercise to recapture the stage act on record. The group had felt that the previous two singles were not representative of the stage act; this was.
MAMA WEER ALL CRAZEE NOW found its inspiration in the scene after a Slade concert.
'We went to look at the hall after a Dig. It was devastated. Everybody seemed to have gone crazy that night.'
They also went crazy over the single; it went to NO.1.
GUDBUY T’JANE is the only song which has very personal connotations for the group.
'It was during our American trip in September 1972. We were on this telly chat show in San Francisco and there was this chick who just sat beside the compere - that's all she did, just sit there, looking gorgeous. She had this pair of shoes, called them her "Forties Trip" shoes. She thought they were marvellous, though you could buy them in any Oxford Street store over here. She lost them just before the show and we helped her turn the place over to find them.'
When the group recorded the song, it hadn't been rehearsed. There was some spare time during an album session. They played it through and laid it down in half-an-hour. It made No. 2.
LOOK AT LAST NIGHT indicates that Slade are well aware of the fickleness of fame. It's about the people and show business has more than its fair share of them who seek out the successful but disappear into the night when the good times are over.
CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE is yet another song inspired by the Slade audience.
'We did this gig, in Liverpool I think, whore you could actually feel the noise of the audience in our bones.'
So could the public ... it went straight to No. 1, the first time that had happened since the Beatles.
SKWEEZE ME PLEEZE ME did the same straight to the top of the charts, and was again conceived as an audience participation song.
Wild Winds Are Blowing
Shape Of Things To Come
Know Who You Are
One Way Hotel
Get Down & Get With It
Coz I Luv You
Look Wot You Dun
Take Me Bak 'Ome
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Look At Last Night
Cum On Fee The Noize
Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me
When Sladest came out Don Powell had died, been resurrected but on the critical list and not expected to make it, alive and well but unlikely to play again.... all of which had one thing in common, the band were finished. In '73 we had the newspapers and the news (two channels only) and that was it. You waited?
I believe Sladest was probably released to buy time while Don recovered and the band, hopefully, got back in the swing of things. It was most definitely not just a greatest hits album, although it did fill all the criteria. After Slade Alive! the group became idols for unpretentious working class teenagers... and there were a lot of us around. The hits rolled in and the group could do little wrong till suddenly.... POW!
It's so hard to put into context. It was such an impressionable period in my life, sport was purely a social thing, I was just finding out what sex was for, alcohol had yet to become relevant. The only important thing in my life was Slade, had been for a year and a half now, and the euphoria of Earls Court (my second Slade gig, both of which, had left me totally blissed out) was followed by the news that the group was probably finished. I believe 'traumatic' would be an accurate word to describe my emotional state.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't moping around crying, contemplating suicide and stuff like that but I had landed with a hefty bump. Even though Don was back in business, when Sladest came out, we grabbed it like a lifesaver. It was proof of life, the band were alive and still happening although it seemed to be an epitaph. It was clearly 'the story so far' and had the band not been able to get back in the chair, it could have been 'The Story'.
I went out and bought it on the day of release. I opened it with reverence, gazed lovingly at the live photos and read the sleeve notes in awe. I almost died with excitement on the bus, reading about Wild Winds Are Blowing, one of the very few Slade recordings I didn't have, and I understood instinctively, that this album catalogued my collection of Slade 7"s. It also amplified that feeling of dread in my gut because I could see that this album could stand as Slade's headstone....
"Here lies Slade, they were gooder than shit!"
The great thing about it is, it worked really well just like that but on the other hand, retrospectively, it also stands as a great album on it's own merit. 14 tracks, 11 singles, 8 hits, 5 #1's.
In the UK, the singles had not featured on albums often and they had mostly been released since Slade Alive! had been recorded, it was almost chronological unlike the tracklisting. The rear cover list is even more confusing having nothing to do with the running order or discography?
Interestingly, half the Slade written tracks feature Powell writing credits. This may have been a pension fund in case Don couldn't continue in the band. It would certainly explain why One Way Hotel and Pouk Hill were added to sandwich Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, their latest hit.
All the others are the group discography and Wild Winds Are Blowing was guaranteed to produce revenue to pay off the old Winsley & Saker outstanding bill. This particular track wasn't on any album and was deleted as a single, it therefore could not redeem itself until now. I guess it balanced the books.
The only track on the album to feature a Dave Hill writing credit is Know Who You Are.
I had two main criticisms with Sladest, Mama & Jane were on Slayed, so why add Look At Last Nite too. The other, far more important point, why wasn't C'mon C'mon included. I always assumed it must be a weak song and I didn't actually get to hear it for decades. It's easy to see now that Look At Last Nite was included because, had the album become a memorial, it was highly relevant. C'mon C'mon though, that was a serious omission
Cover Art here 49.9 MB
Cover Art here 49.9 MB