The Hits Just Keep On Comin'...
The headline screamed out its message ...
"SLADE: Easily The Most Important Band Of The Seventies".
Just another accolade in an award-studded career. Just another slap in the teeth for the knockers who have been trying to write off the fantastic foursome since the very first chart-busting record.
Actually the knockers started their vicious, reputation-denting campaign even BEFORE the boys hit the Top 20 with 'Get Down And Get With It'. .. all because of their skinhead image. The crew-cut hair, the bower boots, and sundry other accessories such as braces and fierce facial expressions got the group a thoroughly undeserved reputation as punch-up provokers and general trouble makers.
But Slade have outlasted most of their rivals, silenced their critics, conquered the whole pop playing world ... and from here it looks as if they'll go on for ever.
Millions of words have been written about Slade, but now we'll bring the whole incredible story bang up to date. And the first thing to be said is that Noddy and Jim, Dave and Don have not allowed the super big time to make them big-time.
Corny though it may sound, they really are the same down-to-earth, amiable, loyal blokes they were before fame reached out and grabbed them by the scruffs of their respective necks.
But in updating the continuing story of Slade's Travels through the world of pop, it's necessary just to recap on the history of the individual heroes.
Noddy Holder Slade: - real name Neville, lead vocalist and guitarist, born in Walsall ... wanted to become a teacher and got his fair share of '0' levels but was most interested in geography, geology and biology... formed a group at school... turned professional with Steve Brett and the Mavericks ... met up with Don and Dave when they were with the In Betweens... is now one of the most accomplished crowd-rouser's in the world.
Jim Lea Slade: - otherwise James Whild Lea, bass guitarist, born in a public-house in Wolverhampton ... started on violin and gained first-class honours in a London music-school practical examination ... was good at art, music and French at school ... played with Nick and the Axemen ... and played classical stuff with the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra ... then answered an ad for a bassist from his then idols the In Betweens.
Don Powell Slade: - more officially Donald George Powell, drummer, born in Bilston ... was very into boxing and athletics as a kid ... but got his interest in drums from the Boy Scouts' band ... his first pair of drumsticks came from the stem of an artificial Christmas tree ... and joined a band called Johnny Travail and the Vendors ... and he's the tallest and quietest of the Slade lot . . . and he once worked in a small foundry and he's glad he's not likely to have to go back there... and he wishes he could write songs like Harry Nilsson.
Dave Hill Slade: - David John Hill to be completely accurate, born at Fleet Castle in Devon, into a musical family in that his grandfather was a Doctor of Music... was good at metal work at school, and learned guitar from a friend ... his mum wanted him to go into a nice safe office job, but he played with Don in the Vendors ... and now he admires all kinds of artists from Greta Garbo to Omar Sharif, to Paul McCartney and the old-time song writing team of Rodgers and Hart.
Four young men who have turned the pop world upside down and have brought back the real meaning of entertainment and show business to the industry.
You can delve into the mere statistics of a group and not really get anywhere near an understanding of just what makes them tick.
But in the case of Slade, certain achievements are so startling that it's worth stressing the facts and figures.
"Coz I Luv You" went to the top of the charts, and stayed there for four weeks. And inevitably the knockers said that it was a flash-in-the-pan performance and that Slade, these noisy, rough, rude upstarts from the Midlands would be lucky if they even got into the Top Ten again, never mind the number one spot.
So Noddy and his merry men instantly hit back with the huge-selling "Look Wot You Dun", to a few angry cries from school teachers who felt Slade were setting back standards of spelling in the classroom by some hundred years or so!
And "Take Me Bak 'Ome", no better spelt but riotously successful, roared into the number one spot. That was their third Silver Disc ... you win a "silver" for selling 250,000 copies of a single in Britain alone.
Then came "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", another number one, and it was in that exalted spot for three successive weeks. By now the knocking cynics had given up.
Next was "Gudbuy TJane", which went "silver", was thirteen weeks in the charts, but missed the top spot. Still no gloating for the anti-Slade brigade, though... it was a number TWO hit.
On to "Cum On Feel The Noize", which went straight to number one ... STRAIGHT to number one. In other words out one week and at the chart summit the next. A fantastic silver-earning achievement, which even the keenest Slade supporters felt, could probably not be done again.
Except it did happen with the very next single, which was "Skweeze Me Pleeze Me”, straight into top spot, and staying there for three weeks in succession and obviously hitting "silver" again.
And then came "My Friend Stan". Spelt correctly this time, except that the letters "n" were reversed. Another clever scheme to ensure that a Slade record title stood out, no matter where it was on display.
The boy’s next achievement really took the biscuit. "Merry Christmas Everybody", was not only THE Christmas '73 record, but it also went straight in at number one, a double smash that must be unique in pop history. The record went on to sell one million copies in the UK alone, and became the third Slade single to go straight to the number one spot in a year.
The first Polydor album "Play It Loud" is still selling steadily. "Slade Alive" went "gold" with 60 weeks in the charts, to be followed by "Slayed" - gold again. "Sladest", a compilation of goodies, entered the charts at number one, and also struck "gold".
Slade's latest album "Old, New, Borrowed and Blue" achieved an amazing advance sales figure of 300,000 and qualified for a "gold" disc two weeks before it actually reached the shops ... and needless to say made the coveted number one spot in the album charts.
Now is a good time to talk nostalgically about the clever man BEHIND this clever group ... that's manager, friend. mentor, occasional kicker of backsides, and wise man of the ways of pop ... Chas Chandler.
Chas has one helluva record in pop music, but he's not keen on talking about himself much ... and he's hefty enough and so much a walking skyscraper that it's not worth trying to argue with him. His view is that people don't want to know about the managers ... they want to know about the artists.
Nevertheless, Chas was once an artist.
Brian James Chandler was bass guitarist of the famous Animals - a group from the North-East who first hit the headlines with their treatment of 'House Of The Rising Sun'. They had their hits, with stars like Alan Price and Eric Burdon in the ranks, but in the end they split. Just a question of different musical tastes emerging, and anyway Pricey just hated flying ... and the Animals were a high flying pack.
So Chas "discovered" a guitarist-singer in a Greenwich Village nightclub, brought him to Britain, nursed him along and finally allowed him to explode upon the unsuspecting public. The new star was ... Jimi Hendrix, destined, alas, not to live long, but also destined to burn so brightly before his death on September 18th, 1970.
A brilliant guitarist, a master showman, who believed that music needed to put the SHOW back into show-business, otherwise there wouldn't be any "business" to show.
The experiences that Chas tasted with the Jimi Hendrix Experience have paid off with the Slade - the recent triumphs of Slade in America reflect this fact. Chas has always appreciated that you've got to crack the American market if you are going to really count as a super-group. Slade, in 1973, really did crack that market. They positively lambasted the fans there, broke box-office records ... and their triumph was all the greater because when they first went there, they were way down the bill ... despite their hit records bak 'ome in Britain.
Beat a moneymaking trail through America ... one lesson learned by Chas. And another was to insist that a new super-group put on a real show on stage. Jimi Hendrix did this almost intuitively ... playing his guitar with his teeth, cavorting with the microphone, using every fibre of his body to add visual strength to the sheer magic of his musicianship.
Chas knew Slade had that kind of crowd rousing, riot-inciting talent as soon as he saw them in the Rasputin Club in London.
They were young, but they were slowly proving that they had the style and talent to earn reasonable money.
And Chas knew that in his mind they were better musicians than the Animals had been in the beginning. A modest man, Chas says "I could never hope to be able to play bass as well as Jim Lea".
So he had the raw material. He also quickly proved that he had the know-how when it came to exploiting that raw talent.
Maybe because he's known what it's like to be conned out of your wages, Chas states his aim as manager is to get as much money and as much success for his acts ... as quickly as possible. There are so many hazards in pop music, and so many careers are cut off in mid-stream ... and nobody's fault, just the sheer unpredictability of the .business.
So Slade and Chas Chandler were made for each other, if they'll pardon the expression. That the success and the money came
SO quickly probably surprised both group and boss.
And Chas, who has said he came out of his spell with the Animals with only £1,400 in his pocket, was determined that his group would fare much better in terms of the rewards of stardom.
1971, through 1972… that first tour of America. On through 1973 - no doubt the memories have come flooding back to Dave and Noddy, Jim and Don as they've barnstormed to ever-greater achievements. The dismay they surely felt as going to the States first as merely "supporting players" made them aware that in that country at least they were starting at the bottom all over again.
But in the autumn of 1973, as news of their bill-topping efforts screamed back to Britain, there were bands coming up described as "the new" Slade, who said their aim was to create the same kind of excitement as Slade.
Hear Noddy: "The time is right for us. The mass audiences want what we do. 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."
That's part of the sleeve-note on the "Sladest" album ... "the right band at the right time playing for the right audiences. Slade emerged from their Wolverhampton fastness like Attila the Hun high-tailing it down the Appian Way towards a moribund and defenceless Rome."
And there's Dave Hill saying: "We built up a following with our stage reputation long before we had a hit. So when we did have a hit, it brought more and more people in to see us."
And they've been called The Working Class Heroes, and there's Don saying: "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."
Actually that "Sladest" album was an excellent production in every way. Informative sleeve notes, and the background of those giant hits. Important, too, because it meant that Slade had really earned a "best of the hits" type of album. We learned how some of the songs were written... like "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" and "Cum On Feel The Noize" coming from what the Slade boys heard and saw at some of their riotous concert dates.
And we learned of the deep-down fear of a successful band looking for the follow-up to a giant hit. It's always the most difficult song to find in any group's repertoire. In the Slade's case the song was "Coz I Luv You". And Jimmy says: 'This was honestly the first time we deliberately sat down to write a commercial song. We hadn't had to worry about follow-ups before... we hadn't had any hit singles. Still, we wrote this one in about half-an-hour. We just got the right feel early on. We'd found the right formula in one go... the right sort of simplicity and atmosphere."
Some of their songs are almost biographical... nostalgic. Like "Pouk Hill" is a beauty spot near where Noddy lives. The brilliant idea of a photographer was to get the lads up on the hill to get some sleeve shots. He insisted they stripped to the waist in all the thick snow. They subsequently got 'flu, and are still complaining that when the pictures appeared you couldn't even see the snow!
But Slade, non-stop rampaging Slade, have also found that even where there is success there is also near-tragedy. The pop industry, with its endless travelling and rushing hither and thither, has an appalling list of fatalities in road and plane crashes. Don Powell, drummer extraordinaire, was so nearly another statistic in the roll call of horror...
That dreadful crash which claimed the life of his fiancée, and which put Don in hospital, literally at death's door, hit the pop scene with all the awful starkness of a bomb outrage. Fans sent messages of good luck to Don in hospital, but for weeks it looked as if Don would never drum again. And if he didn't... what would become of Slade?
But there's a show-must-go-on tradition in pop music, and there was the concert in the Isle of Man, in the July of 1973, when Slade went on stage in front of 4,000 fans, with a stand-in drummer... Frank Lea, brother of Jim.
There had been a triumphant show at Earls Court. And then the smash. As Don lay unconscious, and the other three group members were holding a conference in Jim's Wolverhampton flat, Frank, 18, was re-piping a dish-washing machine in the next room.
Despite his lack of experience, he volunteered to act as deputy drummer for the show in the Isle of Man.
It took considerable courage on his part.
He knew, too, that the chances were that it would be an all-to-brief taste of fame ... just one gig and then back to work as a plumber. But he settled down to the task with good heart... rehearsed all day Friday, felt reasonably confident when the weekend arrived.
Frank Lea, Slade-for-a-day. He'd learned his stick-work from Don Powell, so he'd been well taught. And up there, on stage, he learned the good news, along with the others, that Don was going to pull through. That it might be a long job of convalescence, but that he would drum again.
Again the odd knocker said that they should have cancelled out the show, out of respect for Don ... yet Don was the first to say, when he had recovered and was getting back in harness, that it was only right that the show did go on. Paul McCartney, Beatlestar, recalled that the same thing had happened in the hey-day of HIS group ... when Ringo couldn't make a tour of Australia and a deputy went in.
Naturally the fans, who'd expected that the show might be called off, were ecstatic with delight that Slade had gone on, blown a beaut of a show ... and there was a special barrage of applause for Frank Lea, up there at the back. They gave Frank a day off next day. But he was back fixing taps, handling spanners not drumsticks, the following Tuesday ... and so another dramatic chapter of pop history was written.
Some groups tend to take new honours, new awards, for granted. But Slade are always grateful for each new expression of devotion from the fans. They've won countless popularity polls - Best Group, Best Live Band, Leading Recording Act... Pop magazines have headlined Slade triumphs... but each time the boys wind up number one they really mean it when they say...
'Thanks a million - much obliged - hope we can keep up the good work!"
When they were booked into the famed London Palladium for a January 1973 Sunday night concert, there were those who shook their heads sadly and predicted that this was NOT the right venue for a rumbustious pop group like Slade. The show incidentally was promoted as part of the celebrations to mark Britain's entry into the Common Market.
Not the right venue? Originally booked for just one show, the box-office reported a sell-out after only two hours so Chas Chandler decided to hold another one in the afternoon of the same day. Failure... an eagle-eyed person actually spotted one empty seat down in the stalls when the boys started their act. Turned out that the seat-holder had just slipped out to answer an urgent call of nature.
The thing about Slade is that they're so downright natural and amiable that even the highest sections of authority and the Establishment like them.
Recently at the Lyceum Ballroom in London Slade were presented with the Carl Alan award for the 'Top Group', for the second year running - by no less a person than H. R. H. Princess Margaret, who later invited the boys to join her at her table. There they joked and laughed for some considerable time, and it is also believed that the Princess confessed to being a big fan of Slade!
In the Melody Maker, Chris Charlesworth wrote: 'The group was born about six years ago in Wolverhampton. But the four young men who make up the group are among the most down to earth of any successful pop musicians. It seems almost unbelievable that they still live at their parents' homes in Wolverhampton and when possible travel back to Wolverhampton after a gig rather than stay in a hotel. Apart from Noddy Holder, they are all on the telephone and the numbers are in the phone book making it easy for local fans to contact them. Fans constantly wait on their doorsteps..."
That piece was written in September 1972. Later on, the boys were to get their own homes ... splashing out, they called it. And they bought their own cars, and they learned that it was common sense to stay at the best hotels and enjoy a real night's rest rather than make do in near doss-house conditions.
But underneath those material possessions, behind the writing of a few big cheques, they remained the same likeable blokes on and off stage. Noddy's voice has, if anything, got louder and more powerful over the years. Dave has got more energetic and his guitar solos more ambitious. Jim looks more and more the serious musician, the man who got his training in a youth symphony orchestra, no less. And Don sweats more and more as he grinds out that excruciatingly powerful and unremitting beat which is so much a part of the Slade sound.
Each has found individuality. Each has a separate role to play. Talk to Jim and he jokes about being the one that nobody knows about, but in fact his vital statistics are embedded in the heart of umpteen thousands of fans.
Still he says: "I had a fantastic life 'as an infant, in a country village. And my mother was so keen on music that she gave me every encouragement to play violin. But my interest in art clashed with my interest in music. That's not all ... my interest in pop music nearly caused a family split!"
"It was because of my idols, the In Beetweens ... they'd auditioned me, and offered me a job, but it meant turning professional. At the same time my acceptances came through for several different art colleges I'd written to. I said yes to the group job ... and my mum didn't speak to me for a whole month."
But it's been worth it, hasn't it? And Jim grins, because there are a whole lot of things he can talk to his mum about these days ...
Especially about the way the fans react to some typical Noddy Holder riot-raising. His dialogue changes from venue to venue, but the impact is just the same ...
"Are you all having a good time?" ... cheers. "We hear there's a lot of sporting' girls in this town"... cheers. "Hands up all the girls with white knickers" ... hands flutter. "Hands up the girls with no knickers"... gigantic roars, and more hands flutter. And some more of the party spirit with:
"We want all the fellows and all the girls to stand nice and close during this next romantic number... we want all of you to get a good feel of each other"... shuffle, shuffle, laugh, and more cheers.
Noddy knows just how far to take it. There have been extrovert whippers-up of audiences before in pop music, but Noddy is the guv'nor. He's the one who demands that hands be waved in the air. The one who controls perfectly organised yelling matches between males and females. He stomps and cavorts, and grins, and leers. He's perhaps best of all at leering. A Noddy Holder leer is something to behold.
To get that kind of instant reaction you also need the very best of sound equipment. No good demanding audience participation if the audience can't hear your demands. So Slade have forked out for the best gear ... for the first few years of stardom, they ploughed just about every penny they made back into the group's equipment.
Every last detail is checked out. And that, again shows the ever-present influence of Chas Chandler, who believes in leaving nothing to chance.
Naturally, the sheer firepower of a Slade performance has led to comparisons with other bands ... some of whom having been established for a long time. The Who - often mentioned in the same context as Slade. The Rolling Stones, too. But the boys believe that these comparisons really are odious.
Says Noddy: "The thing is that we know people are trying to be complimentary when they liken us to someone else. But they keep harking back to the 1960's, and we're convinced we're essentially a band of the Seventies. We want to be thought of as trend-setters, not followers. When those guys during the progressive scene, went up there on stage, spent half-an-hour just tuning up, then their turned their backs on the audience while they played great long solos ... when they did that, they were setting up a reaction among the fans.
"The fans were saying: 'To hell with all this boring stuff. We want to be entertained. We pay good money to see a group, and we want them to make some kind of effort to put on a show: That's where we came in ... we could put on a show."
"We get fed up with the people who say that the fans haven't got taste ... specially if they send our records up to the top of the charts in double-quick time. Who is to say what is taste; or who should buy what? Those fans will only spend their bread on stuff THEY think is good. You just try letting your standards slip, and they'll soon show you what they think of you. Getting complacent is the worst thing that can happen to a chart band."
"And you won't catch us making snide remarks about other people getting hits. There's just gotta be room for all kinds of music in this business."
It's been said that Slade, particularly during the hectic year of 1973, have developed a knack of getting audiences to react in the same way that football-club supporters behave ... the in-time clapping, the chanting as if on some special cue, and the whole atmosphere of competitive enthusiasm.
And Nod and the others won't disagree.
In fact, he has said that it wouldn't surprise him if 75 percent of the Slade fans were soccer fans, too. Nod himself used to go to watch Walsall and Wolverhampton Wanderers when he was a kid, and he says that one of the most emotional things he's experienced was watching a film on television of the Liverpool FC Kop supporters swaying, arms linked, and singing "You'll Never Walk Alone". The scarves raised in supplication to their red-shirted heroes ... it stuck firmly in Noddy's mind. And that's why he so much enjoys including that song in the Slade act of today.
He adds: "You'd be surprised how many letters we get linking us with some football club. Like 'All we have in life is Slade and Manchester United' ... or whatever club is involved."
Predictably Slade are also inundated with letters from fans - there were 14,000 in one particular week. Some of the fans ask for help over private and personal matters. Slade, as a group, are flattered, but they try not to commit themselves in replies. They have a highly organised fan club, but they don't want to set themselves up as psychologists and psychiatrists as well. "We have enough things on our own minds", they say. But you can see that they are genuinely concerned about their fans who find themselves in trouble.
Maybe Slade will never entirely lose their links with their own origins. Certainly it is true that Noddy, even after three giant hit singles, carried on with his original holiday plans of a few days in Ireland, hitch-hiking with a rucksack on his back. And never, ever, letting on, who he was to any of the motorists who gave him a lift. To have been treated like a pop celebrity, instead of just another lonely walker, would have spoilt the whole idea.
The down-to-earth ness was well illustrated at the time the Slade gang moved off to America in April of 1973. There were so many good wishes travelling with the so-called "Superyobs" as they steamed off via a British Caledonian jet from Gatwick airport.
They had been before, as we've seen, way down the bill, but preparing the ground for this, the real test of their ability to adapt for American audiences. They'd talked plans right through the night ... how to change football chants for baseball calls, and how they realised it was what you did out there on stage that mattered, not merely ballyhoo advertising in the newspapers.
They'd even kitted Dave Hill out with a special costume, featuring the padded shoulders as worn by the typical American football star. Dave has always been the one to wear the make-up and the flash clothes. He collects the expected ribald remarks from the others, but he has learned that a thick skin is the best defence against the mickey takers.
Slade used the trip to record in the States, and again Chas Chandler's know-how paid off big dividends. As for their earthy, British style humour, well, Slade were determined not to allow American audiences make them change all that. "We're what we are", said Noddy, adding "For better or worse. Just a bunch of English Superyobs."
They worried themselves sick, but they didn't admit it. And once they'd got into the run of the American way of pop, they realised they had nothing to worry about. On the most important series of gigs in their career together, they triumphed. Or to put it another way: America was SLAYED.
And they were introduced as Britain's number one rock and roll band, and Dave carted those shoulders of his out to mid-stage, and Noddy wore his usual gear and exhorting the fans in an even broader accent than usual ... "get together, get those feet going, put the boots in" ... instant communication. A few American fans, looking a trifle uncertain, gawked. But the mass of the audience got together, got those feet going, put the boots in hard on the floor.
They were suitably, comprehensively, slayed.
Journalists covering the first concerts of this magnificent flag-waving tour were somewhat surprised to hear Noddy deliver some of his direct threats.... "If any of you don't get in singing with us, I'll be down among you and kicking a few backsides."
Slade can feel dead whacked from travelling thousands of miles. They can be sharing some discomfort, or bad news, or just be feeling ill. But once it's a shout of "get down and get with it ... S-L-A-D-E ..." then they turn on the fire-power and energy. Enough to fire off a space ship. Enough to power an ocean-going liner ... or so it seems.
Umpteen people have tried to analyse what there is so special about the Slade brand of music. You can ask a dozen critics and they'll come up with a dozen different answers. But ask Jim, and he reckons it's all down to the basic fact of ... simplicity.
Says he: "I used to write a lot of really complicated things for the group, and then be surprised when nobody took much notice. But it's obvious that if you want to communicate musically to the greatest number of people, then you have to find a basic simplicity ... not try to talk, musically, miles over your head.
"You listen to a Tschaikovsky piano concerto, and underneath it all is simplicity. The heavier guys just leave everybody behind. I could play it by my so-called trained-ear... write songs that are absolutely correct in every detail, but I'd be running the risk of leaving all the listeners behind. There's nothing clever in that. So I've thrown away the musical rulebook. I go for simplicity. And Nod and I find the songs just keep on coming."
Why, one wonders, do so many critics take delight in putting down Slade? Probably it's just a matter of success, and the inevitable jealousy that it brings in its wake. A critic doesn't get the adulation or the money, so he gets his kicks out of putting down the successful.
Fair-minded critics; and there ARE some, have revised their views ... from just thinking Slade to be a noisy rabble-rousing band they've accepted the tremendous musicianship of the group. But Slade, like many another top group, know that critics are unpredictable. They've had rave reviews when they know for some reason (say Noddy’s sore throat) they have played badly.
And they've been panned into the ground when they know perfectly well they've given a top-value, grade A performance.
All they ask is that they are an act, a show business entertainment, as well as a group. They go on stage because they like to entertain, and are confident in their own showmanship. If they didn't have that confidence, then they'd just stick to making records in the studios and you'd hardly be aware of what they looked like.
Maybe you'd think that Slade have now seen everything, and are surprised by nothing. Well, they were certainly surprised by the activities of the Groupies in the States. The boys explained, wide-eyed with astonishment: 'They really are something.
They have their own handout sheets ... like photographs and personal details. And they don't like being called groupies any more - they describe themselves as friends of the groups. And they have their own cars and flats, and they get your phone number and just ring through and say they want to see you.
"In most hotels you have trouble getting in and out because they are continuously patrolling the lobbies. You tell them you want to go back to your room on your own... and they just don't believe you. Won't accept it without a helluva argument."
But touring, especially in the States, is a hectic business and more often than not Slade had interviews and photo-calls as well as the on-stage shows ... so they were able to plead total exhaustion.
And when they finally did get back to Britain, after their three American tours, they were more than happy to get back to Wolverhampton and a bit of peace and quiet. They've always been impressed with the way that the locals bak 'ome refuse to treat their superstars as anything more than just good mates.
In Wolverhampton there are the memories. Memories of playing as the In Betweens in a working man's club in Nottingham, and getting booed off because they were playing too loud, and the master of ceremonies roaring into the microphone, as the lads scampered off: 'The committee insisted on having a Wolverhampton group and now we've had 'em, we can send 'em back home."
There's the local boozer, called The Strumpet (sic), and characters that abound.... like one Reg Keirle, a pianist-entertainer who is unlikely to dislodge Elton John from his pinnacle but nevertheless entertains enthusiastically with wittily re-written versions of familiar airs.
And there's no doubting the pride the boys feel in their home-town ... they refuse to allow Dave to regard himself as a Devonian any more, but have recruited him as a full-time Black-Countryman. They are, of course, known everywhere.
Known to one Philip Husban, a man of the church, who has long encouraged local musicians, and used to provide rehearsal rooms for the Slade as beginners. A great man, say the boys. Great because though he's pushing on a bit, he's really in touch with what young people are thinking and, more to the point, what they like to listen to. And he believes he can tell within a few bars whether a new record is going to be a hit or not. That's the kind of talent, which could make a fortune in Tin Pan Alley ...
Says Don: "There are plenty of clubs and pubs in Wolverhampton where you can go for a pint and a chat, and nobody to disturb you. They'll call you all kinds of names, but it's all in good part, and maybe it's just to cover any kind of embarrassment. They don't give you the big-star treatment, and believe me it makes a nice change."
But, alas, there aren't many places in the area where a superstar band can actually go out and play. Slade will never forget their early-days fans, but they sometimes regret that they can't make more concert appearances for them.
Walk round Wolverhampton with Slade and you are aware of an instant feeling of mutual admiration and respect. It's a nice feeling ...
As far as the money side goes, Slade take things very carefully. After they'd had a hit record, Chas Chandler had to persuade them to pay an extra five bob a head so they could stay in better bed and breakfast hotels. They chortle with delight when they recall the hotel manageress who said they'd have to share a room ... and they all said they didn't mind seeing as how they were all good friends, and they went upstairs and found the room, opened the door ... and found they were expected to share with half-a-dozen assorted Irish navvies, all of whom were already snoring their heads off.
A hit record, financially speaking, means income from royalties, but some groups tail off in their personal appearances as the money comes in ... they grow careless, forget details, don't bother, turn up late - or, at very best, simply cut back on the length of the act.
Slade, though, seem to work harder and harder to please.
Says Noddy: "We don't think of ourselves as a short-term thing. We want the people who come to have a good time at one of our shows today to be coming to have a good time in five years' time... ten, maybe. If you really care what you give your fans then they'll stick with you."
Says Noddy: "You remember little things. Like I remember the first pair of knickers ever thrown up at us on stage. They were smallish and orange and white. I've kept them. In fact, I wouldn't clean me guitar with anything else ... "
"Seeing an audience having a good time is what it's all about. I'll get an audience going it if kills me. It may take a couple of numbers, but I'll get 'em going. Right from the time I was a sergeant in the Cadet Corps I've had this confidence that I can handle other people. I was in a gang, the Beachdale Mob (sic), and we had a pretty lively reputation, one way and another.
'Thing is that we've learned so much just by sticking together. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so that we've been able to build up our act on that knowledge. So it figures that the longer we ARE together the better the act must become. But ... we want to stay a working-class working band, and that means that we have to keep in touch with ordinary working-class folk."
Dave has been asked many times about his silver glitter - girl fans assume a superstar must inevitably pay superstar prices for it. They're generally astounded to learn that they'll only have to fork out 4p, and invest in a hairspray if they want to get the right effect on their hair ... first spray the hair, then immediately sprinkle some glitter over it ... acting fast so that the hairspray will still be sticky, then leave for a minute or two until the spray is dry, then brush through lightly to spread the glitter evenly.
From such a simple manoeuvre comes a great new pop-music trend.
And despite horoscopes and predictions and whatever, they still get dozens of letters weekly asking for the boys' birthdays.
And the short snappy answer is: Don on September 10, Jim on June 14, Nod on the following day, June 15, and Dave nearly an April Fool-er on April 4.
Every birthday about half-a-ton of chewing gum arrives for Don. It's chewing that keeps him going...
Slade Around The World….
One day they'll write a movie-script about what happens to today’s Slade as they roar round the world on gigs. Maybe the true story will come across as a work of fiction, but for sure the boys will HAVE to play themselves. They'll be ideally cast to enact scenes like the time they had to use a police Black Maria van to escape from the Winter Gardens, Bournemouth... using a second van as a decoy.
Like Dave working it out that he throws about five quid's worth of glitter at fans every week. Like being called BACK on stage at the Paris Olympia by the police to calm down a frenzied audience. Like Dave becoming an avid collector of clocks, yet still often not being sure what time or day it is .
Like a casual afternoon's shopping in Todd's, Kensington Market, for high-platform shoes leading to a new fashion with the Bata shoe shop chain selling Slade-styled footwear... and like Dave forgetting he was wearing platform shoes and tripping, breaking a leg, and ending up well plastered. Like Don, on a promotional film, being "shot" with a fish in his mouth, and having to assure the authorities that it REALLY was a dead one, about to be fed to some sea lions. Like the fire brigade being called in Holland to support a balcony in a theatre while fans climbed down to safety - the Slade good vibes had proved too much for it.
In fact, there's something weird happening just about every day. Latest thing is the large number of letters coming in about the Slade's roadie crew ... these hard-grafting back-room boys are getting their own share of hero-worship from fans.
There's Swin, alias Graham Swinnerton, also known by the Slade as Mr. Immaculate for his sartorial elegance. And there is sound mixer, "Charlie", otherwise Ian Newham who is reputed to be an expert at driving down roads in the wrong direction. Roadie Rob, apparently unknown by any other name, except sometimes as Paddy, and on other occasions "a thunderin' Scottish drunk".
Slade men talk of their staff in light-hearted tones, but that hides not the fact that the backroom boys are very essential to the smooth running of the outfit.
"You can say they are indispensable", says Nod. "And if you don't say it, you can be sure they'll say it for themselves."
However the noble art of roadie work has developed over the years. The roadie has to have a very good knowledge of all kinds of subjects... electricity, cars, map-reading etiquette, diplomacy. And the ability to help Dave get a YOB I number plate for his silver Jensen.
One other-side-of-the-world highlight in the Slade book of memories was in Melbourne when they played to a crowd of some 45,000 fans in a thunderstorm. Seems the drought-affected Aussies had been praying for two things: rain AND the Slade.
Slade turned up, did a little dance at the airport and down came the rain. Many groups would have scrubbed the gig, because there can be very real danger in using electronic equipment in a thunderstorm, but Slade, as ever, were determined not to let the fans down.
And, again, this kind of devotion to duty stems from Chas Chandler. There's no doubt at all that he's the number one Slade fan. He really digs the boys, defends them from criticism, deals with intruders in one of two ways - (a) with gentle persuasion and Newcastle-type wit or (b) with heavy insistence, backed up by his giant stature. He encourages changes but an "outside" critic gets short change from him.
Truth is, of course, that Chas really does know more about rock and roll than most people, so there's not much dividend in crossing swords with him.
There's no real point dwelling, here, on the spell of Slade-ism when things were NOT going too well ... that is during their skinhead era. It didn't last long, but the "disguise" they had to wear took some adjusting. They stripped off their hair and wore it shaving brush style ... about an inch long.
They were representatives of the skinhead scene, and were idolised therefore by the mods who wore bower boots, braces and so on. But it did react against Slade for a while, because they were unfairly associated with the violence that some skinheads indulged in.
The fearsome posters of Slade scattered round the country didn't help much, because Don, though a gentle chap beneath it all, was quite capable of putting an expression fierce enough to make strong men quail. Slade as a group didn't mind the skinheads because they were the ones who really enjoyed dancing - and to be a real Slade fan you've got to enjoy dancing.
It was an era soon over. It's rarely talked about now, but it has to be mentioned, even if just in passing, in any comprehensive survey of what made Slade what they are today. But Noddy admits, perhaps still a little ruefully, that for a time promoters were reluctant to use Slade in their halls because they anticipated nothing but trouble once the skinhead fans got weaving.
Now the Slade gentlemen are copied, aped, cribbed from and mimicked by umpteen other groups. There are Slade T-shirts, stickers, everything. But it was interesting to check out with Noddy Holder on the kind of bands that really turned him on when he was but a youngster.
He admits right away: "First time I saw a band live, saw that singer up there in the spotlight, I was into the glamour thing. I knew it was what I wanted to do. You never could dream of it being like it has been ... America, hit records and that ... but I had the idea that it'd be a quick way to fame, to the fast cars and the birds and all that sort of thing. Then when you're getting the hits, those things don't seem so important."
"But I was really into the shows put on by the Rolling Stones - oh yeah, and the Kinks. I remember first time I saw the Who, with Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon. And the Small Faces, as they were then ... I -really enjoyed their shows. You'd hardly believe some of the package deals that hit Wolverhampton in the early days ... like Jimi Hendrix, Englebert Humperrdinck, the Walker Brothers and Cat Stevens, all on the same show. Funny about Hendrix, how we're managed by the guy who took him to the top."
"Pop was exciting in those days. Then some of the excitement slipped away, and then it came back again. I'm dead chuffed that we've had a bit to do with bringing back that excitement."
To the people who write to Noddy imploring him to take things easier otherwise he might wreck his voice for good, here's an important message. Dave Hill thinks Nod's voice is actually getting better all the time ... sort of building muscles on the tonsils and hitting match fitness all the time. But lots of fans HAVE been very concerned about the amount of whoa-whoa-ing Nod gets through in an average concert.
But the boys DO get tired, and they do sometimes genuinely look on the point of exhaustion. It's so easy for the fans to demand too much from their heroes. Some star names can just turn off, be abrupt to the point of rudeness, but Slade are 'built differently ... and it's obvious that they will have to watch the amount of public-image work they put in.
Yet they say they get bored if they don't have enough to do... that getting out there in front of a responsive audience is reward enough for all the ligging about they have to do.
And the hits will surely continue as long as Jim and Nod want them to. Says Noddy:
"Until we'd done the Slade Alive album we didn't really realise that a combination like ours could possibly work.
"I mean there's Jim who knows what it's all about, and there's me, just playing it by ear. But suddenly there it was - exactly right for the two of us. We just sat down and the hits started coming out."
Slade now are established as just about the most exciting live band in the whole wide pop-listening world. Some of their early work is now much in demand... fans offer to pay large sums of money for the old Ambrose Slade albums, like Beginnings, and Genesis, a single on the old Philips label. And a first off Polydor single, Know Who You Are, out first in September 1970, has also been deleted.
They joke about those old records, but accept that even the hopeful-hopeless flops have been very much part of the development of the group. As were the meals they used to get from Mrs. Swinnerton, mother of their back-room "genius" Swin - great lumps of bread pudding to give them strength to go out on a poorly-paid gig... when now they can afford the most expensive grub in the most pricey and exclusive restaurants.
Talk to the parents of the individual Slade men and you are talking to very proud folk indeed. They love to recall little incidents about days gone by... such as when Jim played truant from school and crashed slap into his mum in the local supermarket, only to be marched back, by the left ear to the classroom. .
Christmas is obviously one of the happiest times of the year. For pop groups the period that runs from one year into the next is important as well as happy - it's the time of the annual battle to see which singer or band gets the hit record tied in with the festive season... and it's the time when the popularity poll results are printed in the pop papers.
Take Slade's scene stage by stage. Slade's commemorative single was the rampaging "Merry Christmas Everybody" which once again zoomed into the charts straight to the number one spot. And they had a considerable amount of big-name competition against them ... like Roy Wood's Wizzard and Elton John. But Slade proved their fanatical fan support by having THE big Christmas hit of the year.
And the poll results. Top British band, and by a mile, in the Record and Radio Mirror Poll. They had nigh on four times as many votes as second group T. Rex, who'd actually won the title the year before.
Noddy was voted second top singer, and he hadn't even made the top ten the year before. Dave Hill came out as top guitarist, and Jimmy Lea got a top ten rating in that division, too. Jim was also in the top ten keyboard men as well. Don Powell was a very comfortable winner in the top drummer section, and both he and Jim were rated in the miscellaneous section.
More awards came in the Disc Music Poll Awards for 1974. Slade came out Top British group, and fourth in the world. They were the best live group... and the amazing Mr. Holder beat the likes of Cliff Richard, Marc Bolan and Gary Glitter in the top British male singer division.
In that paper there was a fascinating interview in which Dave Hill and his dad talked about things generally, and Slade in particular. Seems Mr. Hill Senior actually likes classical music, especially by Bach, and then goes for the lush orchestral material of James Last ... but his pride and joy, music apart, is the lads of Slade.
In the front room of the council house in Wolverhampton is a collection of Gold Discs. Next-door is a school for 500 lucky girls... except that they have been warned by their headmaster not to talk to Dave or try to get into his house.
Says Dave: "They really are a good bunch of girls. They do try to leave me alone so I can relax here with my parents when I'm not in my own home. Still our values have always been more in people, than in things, so I dig living up this way and ignoring what they call the big bright lights of London."
As for the "Merry Christmas Everybody" single... well, there was talk about why they'd brought it out so soon with "My Friend Stan" still high in the charts. But Noddy pointed out that it would have been stupid wishing people a merry Christmas in the middle of March... and anyway:
"We really did want to thank our fans everywhere wanted to give them a special message hoping they'd have a good time over Christmas and wishing them all the best for the New Year. Simple as that - a special Christmas card, which just happened to be in the shape of a record."
One of the great highlights of Slade's year was their gig at Earls Court, where eighteen thousand fans were packed in... everybody having a ball and really feeling the Noize! They took film of that show and it is being worked into a semi-documentary movie, which will dig deep into just WHAT makes Slade such a standout live band.
It's understandable that sometimes Slade wonder what there is left for them to do... each new triumph has them closer to dominating the scene. Maybe the one thing is just to be accepted as THE greatest band in the world - accepted by everybody everywhere. And sometimes, judging by the piles of fan-mail stamped with the stamps of all nationalities, it seems they've already achieved just that.
Maybe the world-tour scene is a bit worrying for Slade fans in Britain; possibly they might think their heroes are gradually deserting them. Not so. The Mighty Mister Holder has said, over and over again:
"This country, Britain, is our bread and butter. It's our home and we love it. We'd never leave it. After all, it took five long years of very hard work. So in 1973 we spent more time abroad than ever before, and there's more to come right through to 1975, but there will always be at least one major tour a year in Britain ... we'll always come Bak 'Ome."
As for the knockers ... well, they can just go on moaning. Slade know there's no pleasing SOME people. Towards the end of January and February this year, several critics said that if they'd only stop the fooling around on stage, then Slade would really qualify as a first-rate rock band... as if they didn't already.
Says Dave about that: "We're not a band for people to watch, sit and listen to - our act is up there on stage, and we want to get all our fans into it as much as possible. I honestly believe we're giving people what they want, so to hell with the critics ... every time we playa hall, I'm certain we go away with a few hundred more genuine followers."
"And if through no fault of our own, some fans get carried away and do a bit of damage... well, we try to put it right. But seeing fans really enjoying themselves is something else ... we get a real kick out of seeing 'em coming down the M6 for a London gig and waving their scarves and their top hats and so on. Just like a football crowd on the way to a match, only it's just for the four of us."
It's the attention to detail, the determination to please and the sheer hundred per cent get-up-and-go that keeps Slade on top. As each year goes by, the nigglers assume that the Slade bubble will burst. It won't. And believe us, the boys have got a lot of real surprises up their colourful sleeves for the future.
As you read this, Slade are sitting on top of the pop world. As you read this, Slade are no doubt remembering that they had to fight very hard to make the grade. That's why they still take nothing for granted... not even worldwide popularity.
Watergate…Iggy…lifts and Alcatraz!!
Andrew Birkin looks at Slade's successful US tour.
Some time in New York City. A girl hovered round the foyer of a Manhattan hotel, clutching a brown paper bag beneath her coat. Two bomb scares had headlined the papers that morning, and the receptionist eyed her parcel with suspicion. "Is Dave Hill here?" The receptionist shook her head without taking her eyes off the parcel.· "They checked out an hour ago. Can I help you?" The girl gave a resigned, dejected sigh. "You see the thing is that I've been up since five getting this stuff for Dave. I had to go miles to get the right stuff." Adding "He's very particular, you know." The girl opened the bag to reveal the precious contents - two pounds of finest multi-coloured glitter. "Cost me over ten dollars. I mean it's not the bread, it's just that..." She turned towards the exit doors. "Oh, Dave - why do I do it for you?"
Dave Hill stood with his arms outstretched, legs apart, while an Airport Security man checked him over.
"Hey, watch what you're doing down there. I'm feeling very sensitive this morning!"
On the plane to Toledo, an all-American car salesman from Detroit subjected Don Powell to a lecture in defence of Nixon and the Watergate tapes. "What's so special about Watergate, huh? I mean what's so darned special about buggin', huh?" Don nodded vaguely. "I do it all the time." He clamped on a pair of headphones, but the salesman continued undeterred. "I mean, what do you think about it all, huh?" Don fiddled with the volume switch. "Sounds great in stereo..."
This was Slade's third U. S. tour, and the rigours of inter-city flights were being met with all the sleepy indifference of the seasoned traveller. Noddy and Jim kicked round vague ideas for a new number between mouthfuls of homogenized sandwiches, while Chas Chandler settled back to his eighth sci-fi paperback in ten days. Dave stared blankly out at the snowy wastes of Northern Ohio and then leaned across to Swin.
"Hey you didn't see that bird with the glitter, did you?"
The Toledo Sports Centre was thronged with 4,000 blue-jeaned kids, watching Iggy and the Stooges in stony silence. Slade's reputation as a live act had built up over the two previous tours, and the crowd were beginning to get impatient. A chorus of "We Want Slade" spread from the front rows as Iggy pranced about the stage in his Y Fronts, waving the mike stand at a gaggle of girls holding up a "Cum On And Feel The Noize" (sic) banner. Back in the dressing room Chas settled into a corner with his book, surrounded by coke-filled litterbins and boxes of half-eaten Kentucky fried chicken. Noddy had sought sanctuary in the shower room, and was sitting on an upturned beer crate, swathed in a heavy black overcoat and patiently tuning his guitar. On stage Iggy launched into a last attempt to work up enthusiasm for his act, hurling himself half naked into the front rows. A moment later, Slade marched on stage like victors from a cup final. Dave strutted across to the far mike, his shadow rising over the vast arena roof like some Tolkien phantom. From the moment they walked on stage, the fans were with them all the way through to the end. But then Toledo was like home ground; other gigs had not been so easy. Like London, Ontario, a hundred miles north of the border in Canada. This was a first time appearance, and for the first ten minutes the audience gazed at Slade like Zombies, mouths open, as if they'd been expecting to see a performance of "Swan Lake". But like a political orator, Noddy was quick to adapt to the situation.
"You've gotta suss them out. Audiences are like women - you've gotta find their weaknesses. If they start playing hard to get, you've gotta coax them till you feel the right moment."
The moment came when somebody threw a bottle on the stage. Noddy picked it up, then walked slowly back to the mike. He'd seen the boy who'd thrown it, and pointed straight at him.
"We didn't come here for a punch up, but if that's what you want, that's what we'll give you... after the show. Alright:'
There was a dead hush, followed by a sweep of applause. From that moment, Slade could do no wrong, and by the end the kids were up on the seats, shouting and cheering through three encores. When Slade left for the last time it took six roadies to hold back the crowds from the stage.
"Anyone seen Dave?" - Noddy and Don looked up as Chas came into the restaurant. The Detroit concert was due to start in half- an-hour, and Jim had already left with Swin. "He's probably taking a kip", said Noddy, finished off his hamburger.
Chas called his room again, but there was no answer. Then came the message - the lift had stuck between two floors. Needless to say, Dave was inside, hammering on the doors while his only companion, the bell-boy, sat quaking on the floor in a stage of advanced panic. "Come on, boy - where's that stiff upper lip?"
But Dave's attempt to restore a sense of British command was sadly wasted. The bellboy could only mumble something about having had prunes for breakfast which rapidly transformed the lift into a gas chamber! The rest of the group waited in the lobby, not knowing whether to cancel the gig, write out the funeral invitations - or both. After frantic efforts from the hotel management, Dave emerged from the lift ten minutes later, his hand clasped to his mouth and nose.
From the 20,000 seater at the Philadelphia Spectrum, Slade now travailed 3,000 miles to keep a date with the little town of Fresno, California. They have always preferred playing small gigs where there is less of a barrier between audience and group, and in Fresno they had already won a dedicated following. On the night of the concert, the tiny Rainbow Club was packed, with hundreds more crowding the entrance in hope of tickets. After the show, many of the kids followed Slade up to San Francisco to see the concert a second time around. While Slade were on stage, Chas got an unexpected visit from two traffic police. It turned out that one of the roadies had been caught speeding on the free-way between Fresno and San Francisco, and was currently languishing in a California jail. After an hour of hard bargaining, Chas managed to get him a temporary release - on condition that the roadie would fly back to Fresno from New York at the end of the tour, serve out a week in jail, then fly on direct to Australia to join up with Slade for their tour of the Far East! To find out what the unfortunate roadie might be experiencing in an American jail, Don joined a sightseeing tour of Alcatraz the following day. The prison had only been open to the public for the past month, but already hundreds had made the boat-trip across San Francisco Bay to the former State Penitentiary. The party were given a long lecture during the guided tour, and at the end they were asked if they had any questions. Don put up his hand. "Where's the electric chair?". He was somewhat disappointed to hear that there had never been one at Alcatraz, and went off to sulk in the Birdman's solitary confinement cell. Unfortunately, he slammed the cell door behind him, and it took all of ten minutes before he could be released!
From San Francisco, the group flew south to Los Angeles to appear at the Hollywood Palladium. Noddy was a bit apprehensive.
Their earlier tour had come unstuck when the equipment had packed up halfway through the concert due to a power cut. The group settled back for the hour-long flight and Chas took out his 14th paper-back. Suddenly the emergency lights started flashing, followed by the Captain's voice over the loudspeaker. "This is your Captain, Archibald Nixon, speaking. We appear to have a slight fault with the landing gear, and are now returning to San Francisco to check out the problem, following fuel ejection procedure." Fuel ejection constituted the bizarre spectacle of watching 5,000 gallons of fuel being dumped from the wing tips over San Francisco Bay. So much for the Energy Crisis! Don and Jim looked nervously out of the window at the lines of ambulances and fire engines taking up their positions of the tarmac, but Chas remained unperturbed by such minor incidents as he breezed on through Chapter 10.
Noddy's premonitions for the Los Angeles concert proves unfounded, in fact it turned out to be one of the most successful gigs of the whole tour. Only one person seemed upset. He stood at the back of the audience glancing at his watch. "What time do Emerson, Lake and Palmer come on?" "You've got the wrong place, fella - they're twenty miles down the road in Anaheim!"
He was about to leave when the lights dimmed, and Noddy gave them a track from Slade's new album "Everyday". By the end of the concert, he was raving along with the rest of them. Somebody saw him later on. "I thought you were going to that ELP concert?" He hesitated. "Yeah? Well, everyone can make a mistake, can't they? By the way, where can I get one of those Slade T-Shirts?"
A week later, Slade were on their way home for a brief stop-over in Wolverhampton before starting yet another tour - this time the Far East. "How do you think it went, Chas?" asked one of the P R men. Chas looked up from his 18th paperback. "Judge for yourself," handing him one of the trade magazines. "Goodtime Gals" (sic) had only been released in America the week before. It was already at No.18 ... and moving fast towards the top ten.
Production by CCT International (UK), Production Dept. P. O. Box 15, Stanmore, Middx., England, Tel: 01-958-3236, Telex: 923930, © 1974 CCT International (UK), Produced in co-operation with Barn Productions, 13 South Molton Street, London W1. This magazine cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of the publisher. Published by CCT International (UK), P. O. Box 15, Stannmore, Middx. Tel: 01-958-3236, Telex: 923930. Distributors: New English Library Ltd., Barnard's Inn, London EC1 N2JR, Tel: 014614. Advertisement Rate No.1 from 1 st January 1974 on request. Printed in West Germany. Pics-Colour: Gered Mankowitz, B/W: Andrew Birkin & S.K.R. International. .
The Download Link is here: Download Filename: SuperSlade.pdf Filesize: 98.4mb
Many thanks to Lincoln's finest, Mark Johnson, who supplied me with the magazine, my copy went missing many years ago,