Cum On Feel The Noize by Julie Clarke 1974

Super Star Magazine 1974

His voice was raucous, the platform-soles seven inches of silver, covered with gold stars. Trousers reached merely down to sock level and on his head he wore a black top hat covered in mirrored discs. Around his shoulders were yards of shimmering tinsel draped for effect. He looked every inch a pop star.

He was in fact an engineer, newly apprenticed, and a Slade convert.

More than anyone else, Slade capture the imagination of their fans who faithfully have followed them and their fashions for the seventies.

When Noddy Holder chanced to comment that some "rude young lady" had thrown a pair of knickers up on stage and he'd kept them as a souvenir - thousands followed. Joined inevitably by those famous top hats, copied meticulously down to the last detail, and assorted suspender belts and bras.

And throughout it all, Swin, who is the band's personal assistant has collected every object thrown at the band after every concert and brought them backstage for the group.

Holder's mother, in fact, sometimes despairs at the amount of souvenirs her son has collected and at odd times tries to dispose of them (when she thinks he's not looking) but without much success.

"I keep 'em in large cardboard boxes" Noddy confesses "And I don't like to throw them away."
If the object for many a Slade admirer is to throw some piece of underwear or outerwear at the band, it is usually achieved.

But for a more fanatical minority the prime target is to glean a souvenir of the gig, from the band.

For this precise reason the band are well protected and guarded by a well-trained road crew and also by the aforementioned Swin who guards them jealously like a mother hen. Unless you happen to be a groupie and will stop at nothing less than the body of the person concerned, the prime prize is a lock of hair belonging to one of the group. Tactics vary for achieving this goal, but as dressing room security is extremely tight, the best way of getting the lock, is when the band are either arriving or departing from a concert.

Says Noddy:
"It's not frightening, so much as worrying and you'd be amazed at the strength that some of those fourteen year olds have. And once they get hold of you, you can't punch or fight them back. Generally they work in pairs. One of them grabs hold of you while another cuts your hair off with a pair of scissors. Then if they manage to get a chunk of hair they'll split it between them later."
Noddy, after four years of hair pulling and cutting has become philosophical about his fate.
"You know why they are doing it and it's just something you have to put up with.

But it's really impossible to stop outside a hall to sign autographs because some of them just go berserk and rip you to shreads. It can be dangerous, not only for us but for the other kids who are around. And it hurts quite a lot."
On one occasion a large burly member of the band's road crew was called in by the police for alleged assault. The charge was dropped due to extenuating circumstances. Explains Holder:
"It's a major operation just getting to gigs and on this particular occasion, two girls got hold of me and just would not let go. Rob had to push them away because they were nearly killing me."
If the Beatles were the band of the sixties, Slade will undoubtedly go down in musical history as the group of the seventies.

To date they have had four number one albums and more hit singles in the seventies than any other band. On occasions, Jim Lea, the band's violin, bass and piano player, gets somewhat narked that people seem unaware of these facts:
"Just pull out the charts and have a look - at the number ones for a start;' he says. "There have been times when I think the press have taken us for granted - maybe because we were in a sense too readily available."
While the musical press does tend to become cynical of bands who are successful, the general public (record buying that is) never tire. And as for being "readily available" it has worked in the band's favour - since heavy gigging in Britain has brought its rewards.

In the beginning it was two tours a year, now we seem to be limited to one but the band always release plenty of products on the market -whether albums or singles, and believe in promoting the songs on television. Not from them is there a sneer at programmes like Top Of The Pops.

Says Don Powell of that particular programme:
"Say what you will, it's television. It's a great programme in many ways and should not be sniffed at. Millions of people watch it and it's important if you want to sell records to do programmes like that."
It was Powell of course who suffered a near fatal accidel1t which had the national papers going bananas. It is indicative of the band's nationwide popularity that when he had his accident, the story was considered front page news. And when a while back the band were beseiged at their Holiday Inn hotel in London, again it made the headlines.

Powell's accident, ironically, brought the band closer together than ever. To begin with, reports were doomy indicating he would not live or that if he did his chances of leading a normal life (much less the life of a drummer in Slade) were slight.

Looking back now it is easy to say those reports were exaggerated, yet it appears Powell's life was in danger.

With the onset of the accident the band were faced with a difficult decision. Numb-struck by the news, they still had to think about gigs they were obligated to do. Unable to communicate with Powell who was in intensive care, they decided to bring in Lea's brother Frank, on a temporary basis, to play a couple of gigs with the band.

Frank was terrified at the prospect, but a good drummer, in that his teacher had, in fact, been Powell. And for those few gigs he proved competent but not the powerhouse behind the throne that the band were used to. Powell of course recovered and soon joined the band to complete an album in the studios.

His memory disappeared covering some months of his life before the accident but he soon regained strength. The only evidence of the accident some months after was that he had to take it easier. Going to bed and resting before the rest of the band. He was, however, in good hands - once again, the road crew and personal assistant keeping a watchful eye on him. The closeness of the band is quite amazing. The trials they have been through together seem to draw them more into each other than drive them apart. And apart from the success there have been drawbacks. Not only Powell's accident, but an occasion when

Dave Hill the guitarist broke a leg after a gig in Liverpool.

Hill's broken leg night was perhaps the one time when Noddy holder openly admits he was "petrified:' He explains his fear thus:
"That night I really thought we'd had it. We had 90 bouncers holding the crowd but even they were finding it impossible to keep them back. After we'd finished playing Dave was the first to leave the stage and he was the first to cop it. And when he went to the floor we all fell on top of him."
Car accidents, broken legs and shorn hair are almost a lifestyle for the band. They set themselves up as entertainers and as such have become used to the disadvantages this can bring. But as aforementioned it has had the effect of drawing them closer together.

Over to Swin, who has been working with the band since before the early skin head days:

"I realise I must sound biased when I say it, but I truly believe they are as big in some ways as the Beatles and there is no way they cannot go on together.

But their main strength lies in the fact that they get on so well. I know every band makes out they' are good friends but Slade genuinely like each other - they socialise with each other and have a deep feeling for one another. From the very early days they have stuck it through - most bands would have split up before now. You've got to remember they played together for quite a few years before they became well known -they didn't always have it easy."

Coming from what is generally accepted as "working class" backgrounds, Lea insists that all the band wanted in the beginning was a "hit record. We didn't think about making lots of money. When we had a hit record we wanted a number one.

"After we'd got number ones -well, it's still important to have hits but whether it's one or not doesn't concern us so much now. We like to release the best possible material we have at the time."
From travelling to gigs in a van and later in a Ford, the band are now proud owners of their own limousines, a Rolls among them. But perhaps as a result of their working class backgrounds, spending vast amounts of money was something they avoided to begin with.

Says Lea:
"Even when we'd had several hits we were still stopping at transport cafe's on the way home. Only recently have we started to spend our money."
Certainly during interviews with the band they never seemed to have a cigarette amongst them and for an hour long session it was advisable to take two packets of twenty along if you didn't want to go short.
"I wouldn't" says Lea "say we were tight, just careful with money."

If Lea and Holder provide the musical force (they write most of the band's material) it is their manager Chas Chandler who is the business and inspirational force. Chandler, once a member of a sixties pop band, The Animals, later manager of Jimi Hendrix, saw the potential in Slade before anyone (save Swin) and intended to do something about it.

With his vast knowledge of the music industry, even he was given incredulous stares when he announced that this band were "going to be huge:' It was always his wish that the band should move to London but when the boys stuck together and preferred to stay in their home town of Wolverhampton he allowed them their wish.
"Wolverhampton" announces Dave Hill, "is where we come down to earth. We can't possibly get big headed when we go back there - it's where we come from and it's where we shall stay."
Hill made that comment some years ago and still retains a link with his home town. And it is only in recent months have Lea and Powell decided they might like to try living in London. Yet Wolverhampton, and the band's link with that town is part of the band's charm. While they were being screamed at and torn apart they were still going home, after gigs to mum and dad. Quite charming naivety which made them easy to identify with, if you happened to live at home (and most Slade fans still do).

This constant identifiability with the band helped a lot. So when Noddy and the boys realised football was such a popular thing they introduced "You'll Never Walk Alone" into their stage act. Soon, horns and scarves along with rattles were being brought to gigs.

"Ooooze yer favourite fooootbawl team?" yelled Nod and was soon rewarded for his pains by yells of Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds or Arsenal. "D000 yooo know their songs?" he'd inquire innocently and immediately thousands of voices (often off-key) would sing the strains of their local football club song.

After a suitable time had elapsed Holder, who is always in control would raise his hands in the air and announce "Very good, give yourselves a clap."

Off stage, Holder is a quiet, witty and affable person. On stage he is omnipotent. Such is his control over the crowd, were it wrongly directed it would be most frightening.

"Everybody everywhere, raise your hands in the air" he commands, and instantly the whole audience (even the ones in the back rows) raise their hands in the air. "Clap your hands, stamp your feet" - again the command is obeyed. "Get down and get with it" The place goes mad.

Inciting the audience to clap or even stamp their feet has had its drawbacks. Audiences, when they number thousands can get excited. And when they get excited, chairs get broken, barriers get crushed and bent and inevitably there is much damage done.

After their memorable Earls Court gig (where they pulled in some 18,000 people) there was a damage bill of £5,000 to be paid.

When they played the Palladium the balcony cracked, and again the band had to foot the bill.

Noddy says they reckon to payout between two and five hundred pounds a night when they tour Britain for damages.

"We are;' he adds, "insured, but the insurance people know what's going to happen so they obviously don't give us cheap insurance. But we pay up, you have to foof-the bill if you want to keep on working at these theatres. And it's not as if the kids go about wantonly destroying seats - they just get a bit excited and carried away with it all."
Apart from identifying with football - Slade have been quick to realise that a bit of naughtiness goes a long way. Knickers is a pretty inoffensive word which is used to effect throughout the act. It used to be Holder announcing "David is wearing his pink frilly knickers tonight and if you are very good he'll show them to you" before being greeted with "oohs and aahs" as the audience made out they were shocked. Now, slightly changed, Holder announces: "We'll have a minute's silence - and any girl who breaks it will have to come up on stage and take her knickers off." There is, predictably, a loud noise after this statement and a pause for a giggle.

While Wolverhampton and the tag of working class heroes may have been their grass roots, America is undoubtedly the next goal to conquer. Holder reckons
"On the first couple of tours there it was really heavy going because they hadn't heard of us before and also because we've got what is basically a very English stage act."
The football sequence for instance had to be removed and lights, a hitherto unknown thing for Slade were implemented.

Gradually the conversion has come about. It is in fact very interesting to witness Slade playing in America. Early gigs in New York were at the Academy of Music which has a capacity of around 2,000 and seems very much akin to London's Rainbow Theatre but of late they have played the more prestigious Felt Forum (capacity 5,000).

Early in the Forum gig there were maybe a few hundred converts near the front participating with hand claps and foot stomps.

Those at the middle and back watched quite astounded. Astounded for it is very un-hip in the States to really participate.

After about four numbers those in the middle part of the auditorium were clapping along with the rest. And by the end, as one might expect, the whole audience were going berserk, discovering the joys of getting one's rocks off to a British band.

After the gig, the promoter came round to congratulate the boys and commented how he'd truly never seen anything like it. "They were all clapping and waving their hands in the air. They never do that here. Are you used to that in England?"

"Yes" the manager painstakingly remarked, "it did happen like that in England - all over England in fact." Certainly for that particular night Slade had reached yet another turning point in their career. The one thing that worried the Americans regarding Slade was the possibilities of a riot.

"If they can get them to behave in such a way, well, they could incite a riot." an onlooker remarked.

Says Dave Hill:
"There were some Americans present at a gig we played in Wembley and they could not believe the reaction we got. I think they thought we were going to say "Kill the pigs, turn the cop cars over" but of course we didn't and we never would."

"You are never really aware" chips in Holder, "of the power you have over your audiences - like you say to me what's it like when everyone waves their hands in the air -well I don't really think about it. I'm just up on stage singing and talking to people I'm not aware that I wield any power."
Certain young ladies however do get affected by the power of the band. It is not unknown for a fifteen year old to tell her parents she is "staying with a friend" and endeavour to spend the night outside a hotel where Slade are staying. Or unusual for young ladies to follow the band around from gig to gig when they are on tour. Two girls once found out Holder's home address and spent the night camping out in his garden (much to his mother's annoyance!).

Musically it was at one stage easy to say the band kept to a safe style once they had their early hits. "Cum On Feel The Noize" may to some then have sounded not too dissimilar to "Gudbye T' Jane" or "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" but of late there has been a maturity in their music and they have experimented more.

"My Friend Stan" was quite a departure as was the magnificent "Everyday" showing Holder in softer vocal strains. It was also the perfect vehicle to answer the critics who seemed to believe Slade could only play loud volume rock. In America they released "When The Lights Are Out;' a track off the "Old, New, Borrowed, Blue" album featuring Jim Lea on vocals. And for many Americans this is what Slade are all about.

"Sometimes" says Lea, "I think it would suit me not to go out on the road for months but Slade is all about touring. And look at Nod, he'll be on stage singing away when he's 50. Don't you think so?"
Indeed I do, and so do the rest of the members of the band who may by that time have grown quite bald or grey but will still have their individual brand of magic.


This article was written by Julie Clarke and is taken from the Super Star Magazine #1/2 which is entitled "Slade In Flame" and priced 30p back in 1974.

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