Belle Vue

Manchester, April 29th, 1975
Slade,Belle Vue,1975
Tuesday, 29th April 1975, Kings' Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester.

Despite 1973 being their 'Glory Years' and 'Flame' being described as the groups demise, it is apparent that their popularity was still on a considerable high. This scene of total carnage shows how 'crazee' the audience were in the Spring of 1975, still getting 'wild, wild, wild' with no sign of a wane. Quite the opposite in fact, the start of a long and enduring relationship for many.
"...that was my first gig. The tickets were £1.60 including booking fee and coloured blue.

I was 15 when me and my mate went to the gig. We'd spent weeks before making jackets covered with sequins, badges and all sorts. My hair was cut in a Dave Hill (Flame) style and I was absolutely covered in glitter - face and hair, jeans decorated with sequins and platformed boots. My mate's dad drove us to Belle Vue and dropped us off.

Brilliant night. It didn't matter in those days what seat number your ticket said, coz everybody swarmed to the front. Bunny was the support band. I was stood very near to the front (about 2 or 3 rows back) in between Nod and Jim.  
 
I remember after when the lights came up I looked round the hall and about the first half a dozen, maybe 10 rows of seats, had been completely trashed. Looked more like piles of firewood than seats. It wasn't done out of violence or wanton destruction though, just screaming excited fans (mainly teenage girls) dancing and having a good night."
Slade Fan: December 2010
Saturday night, Slade had played the New Victoria Theatre in London. That gig was recorded for broadcast as part of an Insight Special for BBC Radio 1. They were promoting their new release, Thanks For The Memory, which involved Jim playing keyboards which he also played on How Does It Feel, also in the set. This involved Noddy taking responsibility of bass guitar duties.

"The out-front sound at Belle Vue was awful, as I remember. If you were near the front you got more of a sound from the group's backline.... Further back, echo was always a problem...."
Ian Edmundson
"I don't remember the sound being awful but I was quite near the front, standing on the seats that were trashed. I went with a few mates including Marcel King (the lead singer of Sweet Sensation) and Nicky Sinclair (played for Oldham Athletic). I'm pretty sure the support group were crap - electric folk if I remember correctly. I used to smoke at the time and somebody threw a cig near Dave. he picked it up so I chucked my lighter at him. He pretended to light it up, but didn't. They had a prize for the best dressed fan. I don't remember who won it, but I knew Dan Archer, who was dressed as Noddy, and he went on stage before the winner was announced."
Tony Pye
"We would arrive early at Belle Vue, sneaking out after lunch time registration when still at school and then wait at the stage door volunteering to help bring in the gear, including one of the Slade shows.... as for the sound - it was that loud you could feel the air rushing from the PA stack."
Colin Blades

sexy divider

The Slade Story by George Tremlett

The cover is a good indicator, much of the content being a collection of music press interviews with some rushed research. Tremlett claims to have 'kept files on the group... since 1969' but his three year project is full of inaccuracies. It was, however, the first popular attempt at a biography on Slade, certainly the first in a book format to my knowledge, and is therefore worthy as a career landmark.

REMEMBERTHIS page of THIS site is actually a book full of misinformation. The actual history surrounds this post. Ahh, what the heck, enjoy, read the book! 


April 1975
Tremlett Cover large
George Tremlett has been a rock writer almost since the music began in the mid-fifties. He left King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1957 and then spent four years on The Coventry Evening Telegraph writing their daily TV column and reviewing all the visiting pop package shows. 
In 1961 he moved to London and became a freelance· writer, working part-time for The New Musical Express. He has since been London correspondent for TV and pop music magazines in Japan, Holland, Sweden, the United States, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Finland. In this he is partnered by his wife, Jane. They also contribute to most major British teenage magazines. 

Outside pop music journalism, George Tremlett pursues a political career as a member of the Greater London Council. For the past twelve years he has also been a councillor in Richmond-upon- Thames. 


Also by George Tremlett 

THE DAVID BOWIE STORY
THE OSMOND STORY 
THE GARY GLITTER STORY 
THE DAVID ESSEX STORY 
THE ROLLING STONES STORY 
THE MARC BOLAN STORY 
THE WHO 


George Tremlett 

The Slade Story



Futura Publications Limited 



A Futura Book 

First published in Great Britain in 1975
by Futura Publications Limited 
Copyright © George Tremlett 1975 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by ,way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being' imposed on the subsequent purchaser 

ISBN 0 8600 7193 6 

Printed in Great Britain by 
Cox & Wyman Ltd, 
London, Reading and Fakenham 



Acknowledgements 
This book is based on my own interviews and those of my wife Jane with Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jim Lea and Don Powell over a period of three years, but where I have supplemented this with quotes from other sources I have in every case duly acknowledged this in the text.






CHAPTER ONE

In a few years' time we may all be saying that Slade are the most important rock group to have emerged since The Beatles. I use the cautious word 'may' because so much of their promise is as yet unfulfilled  because their career is developing slowly and because there have been so many other likely contenders for international super-stardom in recent years who have burned themselves out before completing the course. Even though' Slade have had twelve hit singles in Britain in three years (seven of them reaching the Number One position), the group have still to make the transition from being a working band in the United States to one of the major album-sellers, for, as every ambitious pub band knows, that's where the money is; in today's high cost music business a group just has to make that break-through.

But if anyone can do it, I really do believe that Slade can.

They are already one of the top performing bands in Britain, with a remarkably loyal audience. They have a large following throughout Europe and Australasia, and their first four tours of the United States have brought them up from the smaller ballrooms in which they first appeared there to the medium-size venues, giving them that wide base upon which a well-managed group can build. And in Chas Chandler, Slade do have superlative management; he was after all a musician himself in the Sixties as bass player with The Animals, who were the third British band to break through in the States, and when they split up he discovered and then launched Jimi Hendrix. But more important than that, Slade have the most precious gift of all, original talent. The song writing of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea has those rare qualities of simplicity and melody.

Just. like Lennon and McCartney, they 'are producing songs that will long out-live today's trends in rock music - songs that can easily be adapted to orchestra, string quartet or dance band because they do have those two basic qualities. And then, of course, like so many groups that have emerged in the Seventies, Slade are already much more skilled as musicians than were so many of the first British rock generation, who sometimes found themselves with nit records before they could even play their instruments.

Yet still I am cautious in predicting their future - because so much depends on the success they eventually achieve in America. That is where more than half the world's records are bought every year, followed by Germany and Japan with Britain down in fourth place. The simple reality is that groups now have to succeed in the States; the costs of maintaining a position of superstardom - touring, recording, stage equipment and the whole business of imagery - are now so vast that they more than swallow the income that any group can earn just from success in Britain.

Slade could do it - they have the originality, the stamina, the management and that other intangible quality, credibility.

For it really is true today as ever it was in the days of The Beatles that no band really happens and sustains its success without wholly being what it appears to be - and Slade really are what they seem to be, a working class rock band, with roots set as firmly in the industrial Midlands as John, Paul, George and Ringo had theirs in the equally grimy suburbs of Merseyside.

This is important if one is to understand the way Slade's career is slowly building, the way in which their audience has remained so faithful, for, as detailed in my other biographies in this series, pop music is as thoroughly working class in its origins in this country as dog racing, soccer, fish and chips and Mitchells and Butler's Mild. It is so much a truism that one can easily overlook it - and at first the success of such sparkling sons of smart suburbia as Mick Jagger or the wave of heavy bands of the late Sixties tends to belie it. But then you ask yourself what have they contributed to rock music beyond an ability to improve on other people's ideas, and the answer you get is very little.

The really outstanding artistes, those possessing a genuine originality, are remarkably few in number - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Marc Bolan, Pete Townshend, Elton John, David Bowie, Ray Davies, Gary Glitter (though many would still dispute that), Cat Stevens and perhaps just one or two more. The moment you hear anyone of their records for the first time you know at once who it is because the originality is there; it has become their style. And, in my view, you can say this of Slade.

It is not just the fact that Noddy Holder is the most powerful singer since Lennon; nor that their best songs do have such melody; nor is it the way Slade have developed an appeal as a group in which each member is as strong as the other - it's the combination of all these factors into one style, one which that great working class audience in the Midlands and North can embrace and claim as its own.

It was this same working class teenage audience that The Beatles conquered two school generations before in 1963, that the Rolling Stones never quite managed to capture (however desperately they tried), that The Kinks and The Who almost held, but which seldom gave its heart to anyone else until Marc Bolan came along with T.Rex and which has in recent years yielded completely to Gary Glitter, The Osmonds, David Casssidy, The Sweet, Elton John and, perhaps more than any of them, Slade.

This audience is still an under-estimated force, but the reality is that collectively it controls the British music business. Out of all the hundreds of groups and solo performers offered to it by the record companies only those it takes to its breast will gain the following and the record sales that will enable them to make the next big leap into Europe and then into 'the American market.

It is also unpredictable. Many are the fortunes that have been lost trying to buy a way into this audience. It rarely works.

This audience ignores the advice of the music, papers and the serious students of rock music: it takes the opinions of the disc jockeys with a pinch of salt; it is seldom influenced by advertising, but from classroom to playground, from bus shelter to youth club, the reputation of a new group will escalate with shattering speed. Their records are played and their interviews are read in the major teenage magazines like Mirabelle, Diana and especially Jackie, whose weekly sales occasionally go over the million-mark - far exceeding the total sales of all the British music papers.

Now, this has been Slade's audience, for the past three years. Unlike Marc Bolan, who was aware of his importance before anyone else was, Slade looked after this audience, constantly toured its clubs and ballrooms and then later its larger venues. They spoke in a language that it understood, dressed in a way that it could emulate, and continued to produce the music that it wanted.

Gary Glitter has been just as responsive to this audience; so have The Sweet, The Osmonds, David Cassidy and Elton John. But with each of them the appeal has been slightly different. Although writing his own music, Gary Glitter has been more of an idol in the old fashioned way. The Sweet were originally no more than a vehicle for the music of Chapman and Chinn. The Osmonds and David Cassidy are the heroes adored 'from afar, almost unattainable and seldom seen because they live so far away. While Elton John is the Liberace of his day, warm and friendly, but larger than life, someone who would not be at home in a Bolton back street, but who brings a touch of Hollywood to the teenage girl who has never known anywhere else.

With Slade, however, the response from the audience is quite different. Just like The Beatles before them, they are the four boys - Noddy Holder, Jim Lea, Don Powell and Dave Hill with the ordinary names and a rough edge to their voices who could be living in the next street. The audience senses that it is only ambition and talent that 'makes them any different from themselves - and thus the identification between audience and artiste is total. Even the music itself, with all the essentials of melody and simplicity already mentioned, is down to earth music about love and romance, teasing and friendship, with lyrics that any teenager can understand - just as they understood songs like 'Love Me Do', and 'Can't Buy Me Love', that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were writing for this very same audience ten years earlier.

I don't for one moment think that Slade are unaware of this; indeed, if there is one person who fully understands the complexities of the music business and Slade's position and appeal, it is their manager Chas Chandler, who devotes more of his office time to running their fan club than any other manager I know. If you go up to his office off Oxford Street, boxes of club stationery, sacks of fan mail, cartons of souvenirs seem to pile up high in every corner. The result of all this is that whereas many fan clubs exploit a group's audience and quickly become nothing more than a postal merchandizing operation, the Slade Fan Club is unusual in that it is exceptionally cheap to join (only forty-five pence a year), it offers those souvenirs to members at well below the prices charged by other clubs, and it supplies members with a steady flow of information on the group. In my view, the significance of this in Slade's career build-up cannot be under-estimated, for whereas many managers in recent years have been hiving off the fan clubs to outside commercial operations in return for a fee, in this case, Chas Chandler shrewdly keeps personal control of this vital means of assessing Slade's popularity, so that in effect his finger is constantly on the pulse of Slade's audience.

So many other managers have neglected their group's fan clubs - I even know of one very well known fan club that charges members an annual fee of seventy-five pence, sends them printed material and a badge that has cost in total eight pence, retaining a profit on each member of sixty-seven pence. This is an astonishingly shortsighted policy, one which may eventually destroy not just the club but the artiste - for an audience can be fickle, and disillusion spreads like measles.

On the other hand, the converse can be true; happiness is also infectious. And I believe that this is what is being achieved for Slade by the way Chas Chandler insists that their club is run.

For a start, all its 20,000 members know in advance when the next single or LP is to be released - and that as an immediate sale is enough to get a single moving in the shops. More than that, if only a tenth of the members write into the radio stations and ask for the record to be played Slade have a good lobby working for them!

'Just in postage alone, we spend twenty one pence a year per member - and then there's the printing costs on top of that,' the club's secretary told me. 'So you can see the fans are being treated very fairly. No-one is trying to make a profit out of them, and if it wasn't for the T-shirts, posters and other things that we sell the club would be running at a loss.'

In addition to this, Slade put so much effort and finance into their stage tours and keep the ticket prices reasonably low that very little profit is made from the fans who are anxious to see them live. Indeed, as recently as the spring of 1974 when Slade made a major nation-wide tour of Britain, visiting most of the larger provincial venues and packing everyone, they made hardly any profit at all.

You may think this sounds like madness, But remember Gary Glitter has a very similar policy; as he said when interviewed for my biography of him in this series, it's the royalties from the record sales that provide the profit margin!

And this, I believe, is how Slade and manager Chas Chandler are working. It is the essence of good management, for just like Gary Glitter they are appealing to young teenagers with limited pocket money, people who respond quickly when they recognize genuine affection in an artiste - which Slade have. In each live show, they establish a relationship with their fans, making it plain that they are enjoying themselves, with Noddy's ribald humour breaking through, with the audience being invited to sing along on some numbers (which they always do) and gifts being constantly showered on the stage. 'It's amazing the stuff we get,' says Noddy Holder. 'They give us gold watches, rings, sweaters, socks - and I never know how they can afford it.' And like Don, Dave and Jim, he wears and uses every gift, making them part of his everyday life - which the fans know.

Of course, this is not new in British entertainment. Even at the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's day, the relationship between artiste and audience was an essential part of each play; in music hall, it was what made each house come alive. But in pop music, it is relatively rare - The Beatles had this bond with their audience, but most of the other groups that came along before T.Rex, Glitter and Slade did not; indeed, at one time it became almost fashionable for groups to play as though the audience were not there.

And of this second generation, it is Slade and Gary Glitter who have really worked at developing this bond, ploughing their earnings back into ever-better stage presentation, into costumes and equipment, always respecting their audience. And just as with Glitter, so with Slade it has worked.

'We're not just a hit group. We're part of people's lives,' Dave Hill told me in one very revealing interview. And, of course, he's right. And with that as a basis for their careers, I suspect that gradually over the next few years Slade will change direction - not so much as a calculated plan but in growing up with their audience. Already, there are the first signs that this is starting to happen. Gradually, their music is broadening. The B-side of their June, 1973, single 'Skweeze Me Pleeze Me' was a jazz-based number 'Kill Em At The Hot Club Tonite'; the first time I heard it with Jim Lea's featured violin playing, I thought it was Stephan Grappelly. Then their Christmas release, 'Merry Xmas Everybody'/‘Don't Blame Me' was an all-age-group hit - one of the biggest Christmas records in years, selling 310,000 copies on the day of release and grossing over a million within a month. Their 1974 album 'Old New Borrowed and Blue' broadened out even more - including the beautifully melodic song 'Everyday', which could easily become as much a standard as anything by Paul McCartney, David Gates or Nilsson.

Nevertheless, as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, so much depends on their success in the States; if they do manage to break through there, I have little doubt that Slade could become the most important group since The Beatles.

CHAPTER TWO

Until they were discovered by Chas Chandler, Slade were just one more provincial rock group, one of the hundreds who migrated to London in the Sixties, ambitious but usually feeling ill-at-ease, staying in the cheap hotels around Paddington station, not really knowing their way round the labyrinth of studios, publishing houses, record companies, pubs, clubs, and poky offices that constitutes the centre of the British music business.

Even quite recently, Slade still stayed in the same small hotel. on those occasions when they had to stay overnight in London. They were often stuck for somewhere to go, and made no secret of their anxiety to get back to their parents' homes in the Black Country, that straggling industrial area of tall factory chimneys and smoke-baked back streets - in texture not unlike Merseyside, where The Beatles emerged, or Tyneside, the original home of Chas Chandler and the other Animals. It's rough but friendly country, and though there may not be the great rivers Mersey and Tyne to bind the area together, the ancient canals of the Industrial Revolution wind between the factories and steel works, their barges laden with ore.

Although he came from much the same environment, by the time Slade first met him Chas Chandler had already lived some years in London and was by then, very much at ease. He really did know his way around the labyrinth.

Back in 1964, although a promising group, The Animals only· lasted three years once they had arrived in London. 'We were green, so green we hardly knew what was happening to us,' Chandler later told Melody Maker, 'We just did what we were told and so long as we had enough money to live on it didn't matter ... we spent the money so fast we never had time to sit down and count it. We were screwed here and screwed in America. We had a big turnover but no capital and we always stayed in the best hotels. Then, one day in Ireland, we just decided to drop the whole thing ... during the last eight months our only objective was really to make some money while we still had the chance. It was a question of grabbing what we could before it was all over.'

Like a man running round a building with flames coming through the floorboards, Chandler grabbed what he could - and when The Animals finally broke up he had just £1,400 to his name (which gives the lie to those who thought fortunes were made in the early Sixties; they were - but the musicians' chances came later!) On his last American tour as The Animals' bass player, Chandler saw Hendrix performing at a coffee dub in Greenwich Village, brought him back to London, and for the next three years managed his career and produced his records. Later, Chandler sold his interest in Hendrix to his partner Mike Jeffries. 'Jimi didn't want to listen to anyone, and so I thought OK this is the time to do something new,' Chas explained to Keith Altham of the New Musical Express.

For a while Chandler worked with Robert Stigwood, managing the group Fat Mattress which included Noel Redding, who had been in the Hendrix trio, but that group dissolved before achieving much success. And then one day, while he was still working at the Stigwood office, Chandler received a phone call. It was from an associate who told him that there was a group called Ambrose Slade, who were looking for a manager.

'I went down to see them at the Rasputin Club in London and they knocked me out,' he later told Melody Maker 'I was as impressed when I first saw Slade as I was when I first saw Jimi Hendrix. I wanted to find something different from the Blues. The Animals had been mainly blues, and Jimi was the same thing but Slade just had a ball on stage. After watching them work I had to sign them. Slade were very young when I first met them, much younger than the Animals when we came to London - and they were getting screwed just like we had been.'

Also in that interview with Keith Altham, Chandler said: "I was walking down the stairs (of the Rasputin) and I heard what I thought was a record. It was a well-known number but with a different treatment. I remember thinking “that's a great record" and I walked into the place and there was the group playing live ... somehow their exuberance was like a breath of fresh air. They were just four kids having a ball and their audience were having a great time too. They weren't trying to be the greatest musicians in the world but they were enjoying themselves and getting across to others. '

The group had already worked for three years as the In Betweens, changing their name to Ambrose Slade when they signed a recording ,contract with Fontana Records, part of the Philips Group. Earlier the same year that they were discovered by Chandler, 1969, they had recorded an album 'Beginnings' and a single 'Genesis' for the Fontana label. When that was released, the Philips press officer Ian Coates issued this release to the music trade press:
"Top Midlands group AMBROSE SLADE arrive on the Fontana recording scene with a May LP 'Beginnings' and a single, 'Genesis’ out on May 2nd on TFIOI5.  
Their style falls loosely between blues, soul and progressive, and they manage to combine the most exciting aspects of all three musical styles into one cohesive music force. 
Though they have operated under the name of Ambrose Slade for only' a few months, they have been widely acclaimed in their native Wolverhampton-Birmingham area as the In Betweens. Under that name they have won many fans in the last three years. 
The line-up of the group is: 

DON POWELL, Twenty, on drums JAMES WHILD LEA, Twenty-two, on bass NODDY HOLDER, Twenty, guitar/vocals DAVID JOHN HILL, Twenty-two, lead guitar/vocals 
It is a simple line-up - deceptively simple - because the group have an ace up their sleeves that has even the toughest audiences gasping for more. It is James Whild Lea's superb violin playing. 
Yes violin! He started playing one at the age of nine, and when he was older he played in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra.  
His violin playing on stage is often the highlight of the group's performance. 
Much of the group's material is self-penned by Jim, David and Noddy, whose real name is Neville. He has a very strong personality and looks similar to John Lennon. Even with songs associated with other artistes, the group completely re-arrange the numbers to give them the exciting feel and flair of Ambrose Slade, a group we are going to hear a lot more about."
That year, the skinhead craze was sweeping the country and that summer Ambrose Slade spent four months in the Bahamas, 'Getting ourselves together' as Jim Lea later put it; though in fact legend has it that most of their time there was spent paying off a hotel bill after the management had impounded their instruments!
By the time their next Fontana single was released on October 24th, the 'Ambrose' had disappeared - and so had most of their hair!
Tremlett 01 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Slade were now Britain's first skinhead group - 'allegedly discovered in a Wolverhampton club complete with boots, jeans and braces, looking remarkably surly at photographers, and prepared for instant 'bovver'. Even funnier, in retrospect, was the fact that somehow in the Bahamas they had lost several years of their life - indeed, according to the next batch of press releases one member of the group was either four or five years younger than he had been the previous May.
And when it was pointed out to them that they had never seemed particularly skinhead in hairy days gone by, Dave Hill ingeniously explained that it had been so hot in the Bahamas that they had all decided to shorten their hair. Was it just an attempt to rip off the skinheads? Of course not, said Slade, with commendably straight faces.
But the new image did them very little good at all. That new single 'Wild Winds Are Blowing' (released on October 24th, 1969) disappeared as quickly as the last, and Penny Valentine, then record reviewer for Disc and Music Echo, wrote its epitaph: -
"If they are supposed to be more than just a group cashing in on a fad then one expects a whole new revolutionary sound on record - just as The Who presented us with in the days when they represented the Mods.'Wild Winds' has a faintly aggressive vocal with a heavy backing. Nothing particularly stunning - no real aggro voice - and nothing to wake you from Saturday afternoon boredom or get you leaping off to football in your hobnail boots! Or in fact anything to make a definite dent in current music."
Their next single 'Shape of Things To Come' was released on March 6th, 1970, and, was equally unsuccessful. Clearly, the image was doing them very little good at all- apart from bringing them some publicity. Indeed, it was even said at the time that the skinheads themselves were rather doubtful of them - and Slade were to complain afterwards that with skinhead gangs erupting into violence in different parts of the country they found promoters somewhat reluctant to book them.

Even if some people in the music business were chuckling at his nerve in using such blatant imagery, Chas Chandler never lost faith; he knew that the group had something musically and had given up his job with Robert Stigwood to devote himself to the launching of Slade - and when it became obvious that the Dr Martin boots, the shorn-off jeans, the Ben Sherman shirts and braces was a crass mistake, they dropped it, though Chas was to say to Keith Altham in that New Musical Express interview: 'There's no way of telling how much harm or good it did, but at least it got people to realise that there was a group called Slade around and half the battle is getting people to acknowledge your existence. It's possible that if they had kept their hair long they might have been ignored as just another group. As long as I live I will never understand why it took quite so long for them to make it. One of the problems was of course getting the airplay - on the first single we had no plays at all.'

Chandler was so confident that the group was already well· developed musically that he took a group of journalists down to the Pantiles club in Bagshot, Surrey, to see Slade performing live. Mike Ledgerwood subsequently wrote in Disc and Music Echo: 'Very impressive... exciting and interesting ... proved that the four piece line-up has considerable talent and ability.' And John Wells wrote in the New Musical Express: 'They proved to be four very competent musicians but just as important was their visual impact. They moved well and generated plenty of excitement and I doubt if many of the packed audience, some dancing, will forget (them) ... Chas justifiably too has high hopes of them making a big impact this year.'

Both the skinhead era singles were expensively launched with advertising and press receptions, but it was all to no avail; their break-through did not come until that image had been firmly put behind them - and until they had also left the Fontana label and signed with Polydor Records.

One of their most successful stage numbers was the old Little Richard song 'Get Down and Get With It', a raw, stomping tune that they would use to warm up an audience, often playing for five or seven minutes, repeating the chorus, and getting the audience to sing along with them. Chandler suggested they cut the song down to three minutes and issue it as a single, which they did in May 1971. By the end of June, the record slipped into the bottom reaches of the Music Week charts; in August it entered the New Musical Express charts, eventually reaching Number sixteen.

By then, Slade's hair was flowing down to their shoulders; off-stage, their clothes had become almost conventional (yes, even velvet jackets and bow ties) - and on stage their outfits were now colourfully extrovert with Noddy often wearing bright check trousers, red shirts and yellow braces plus a top hat; Dave and Jim all-a-glitter, and Don just that little bit more sober tucked away behind his drum kit.

Chas Chandler, always so careful with money, impressed on them that if they had written 'Get Down and Get With It' they would have earned song writing royalties as well - and the point was taken. On that Little Richard number, Slade had incorporated a boot-stomping sound, giving the single a character very different from the original - but for their next release they were anxious to feature Jim Lea who was, though this was as yet largely unknown, a trained violinist.

"We thought we'd use electric violin, which is an unusual sound,' Noddy Holder told me. 'As he could play the instrument, and many people couldn't, we thought we'd try to make the most of it ... a few nights later he came round to my house and said he had a couple of lines and a melody line ... I took the idea from there, and wrote a catchy chorus, just sitting there in the living room, thumping away at my old Spanish guitar and then Jim came up later with a verse melody.. ."
(S-TSS-B at the bottom of page 21?)

And from that one evening was born the song writing partnership of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea; that night's work produced Slade's next single and their first Number one hit, 'Cos I Luv You', using for the first time the fractured spellings that were to become another of their hallmarks. Since that evening, all Slade's singles have been composed by Holder and Lea and the royalties have all stayed within the group. But you would never have known it, for Chas Chandler, ever savings-conscious, warned them of many other hit groups in the past who had come out of the business with barely a few pounds to their name - and on his advice they continued to live quietly, staying at the cheaper hotels, ploughing such money as they did earn back into the group on better equipment and stage clothes.

They had made their name as a 'working class rock band', and continued to live like one.

CHAPTER THREE

Although Slade have become one of the few groups to reach that level of acceptance in the teenage heartland where each member has a personal following of his own, with constant fan mail and mailbags packed with gifts on every anniversary, singer Noddy Holder is nevertheless the front man, the one singled out by fans and media alike. Partly, no doubt, it is just because he is the singer, the one in the theatre spotlight at the microphone; and partly it's the timbre of his voice, his appearance, the way he has grown in status as an artiste without losing any of his character.

Tremlett 03 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Noddy Holder's voice is remarkable and instantly recognizable; it is a powerful roaring voice that can soar above the rhythmic accompaniment of Jim Lea on bass and Don Powell on drums on numbers like 'Get Down and Get With It' or 'Cum on Feel The Noize', and yet sound so deeply emotional on a song like 'Everyday', which is why comparisons with John Lennon or Roger Daltrey become so inevitable. Holder himself is embarrassed by the comparison, or so it seemed when I put this to him. ~It's very flattering, but I can't see it,' he replied, a reaction that seemed to be genuine, for off-stage he has a self-effacing modesty that becomes almost a reluctance to say anything about himself that might be too revealing.

His appearance, at first sight he seems an unlikely candidate for the kind of critical success achieved by Lennon and Daltrey. At a time when the more talented performers are concentrating less on the business of imagery, Noddy Holder is still very much involved in it with his bizarre top hats perched like a crown above a mass of gingery blonde hair that merges into fluffy sideboards, almost meeting under his chin, framing his superbly arrogant face, so that he reminds you of a Victorian country yokel or a Russian circus clown, before you realize on reflection that this is just the way the images fuse and that really he reminds you of no-one else but Noddy Holder. The image is sustained by his choice of clothes - whether it be black shirts with tartan trousers, waistcoat and matching hat, or red shirt with yellow trousers, yellow braces, and yellow and red high heeled boots. Whatever his dress for the day, for studio photo session, for TV appearance or on stage in a concert hall, the colours are carefully chosen - and always the effect is distinctive. There is just no one else that you could confuse with Noddy Holder.

As an achievement, whether this be his alone or, more probably, partly his and partly Chas Chandler's, this is not something to be under-estimated; he may be a slow developer, but Noddy Holder is successfully fusing self with image at the same time as he is growing all the time as a musician, as a singer and as a writer - with the effect that his audience knows that the image is a genuine one and not a temporary pose. Careers like his always lead somewhere, and personally I have no doubt at all that the time will come - whether it be two years hence or ten - when Noddy Holder will come up with a solo project that will be as distinctive in its way as an album from John Lennon, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Harry Nilsson or David Bowie. As the years pass, it becomes harder and harder for new artistes to develop a style of their own; but Holder is doing so while still an integral part of Slade.

And yet his roots are clearly visible, as they always are with major artistes; Noddy Holder is very much the boy from the Walsall back streets who discovered rock 'n' roll in his teens, and thus escaped the certainty of a humdrum life in a Midlands office. But he still seems reluctant to put all that behind him, still retreating to the Midlands when not working, preferring to live there (not very far away from his parents' home) rather than amongst his rock 'n' roll contemporaries in the Surrey hills.

His full name is Neville John Holder. He was born on June 15th, 1950, the only child of Jack and Leah Holder. His father worked as a window cleaner, and the area of Walsall where Noddy was born was, he says, 'a slum, with rows of houses back to back, just like the opening shots of "Coronation Street" ... I can remember it very clearly, although I was only five years old when the Council decided to demolish the area, and re-housed us on a new estate. I can't go back there now and see the house where I was born, because they pulled down all the streets like that and put up blocks of flats, but I can picture it now - the water coming down the walls because it was so damp, and having to share a loo in the yard at the back with three other families, the houses rose in terraces up a hillside, just row after row, with backyards in between, and not a tree in sight, and smoke hanging down over the roof tops.'

The area where his family was re-housed was an estate close to the famous 'spaghetti junction' - a block of flats opposite a pub. It was a happy but uneventful childhood, highlighted by things like getting his first bike and then later his first guitar. Money was not plentiful, but his parents did what they could, taking him away on holiday, saving up for those special Christmas and birthday gifts.

'When I was about ten, Dad took us away to Margate, and that was fantastic,' Noddy once told me. 'When you live in the Midlands, to be able to go to the seaside is a tremendous thrill, and we were lucky - it was a good summer, very sunny, and we were able ~o go down on the beach every day, splashing about in the sea and looking far crabs ... one night as a special treat my father took us to a summer show at the local theatre; I can't remember who we saw - it may have been Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele or Marty Wilde, because it was around that time - and I can remember just sitting there in the theatre, looking up there at the stage, with all the lights shining on the stage, so excited by it all, and never thinking for a moment that I might be up there myself one day ... well, the idea may have crossed my mind as a sort of dream - but I never really thought that it could happen to me, not then I didn't.'

That year, he passed his eleven-plus examination, going on to what is now the G.C.E. (General Certificate of Education) stream at the T. P. Riley comprehensive school in Bloxwich, between Walsall and Birmingham. 'For the first three years or so I worked pretty hard,' he says, adding that he was particularly interested in geography, geology and biology and was thinking quite seriously at that stage of going on either to a university or to a training college so that he could begin a career as a schoolteacher. But then music intervened.

'I'd been keen on Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley, but when I was twelve or thirteen The Beatles came along, and they really started me getting into music,' he says. 'I'd been really into schoolwork until then, working hard on my homework every night, keen to make a success of it ... but then when the groups started I began to lose interest in what we were doing at school, and spent as much time as I could listening to the local groups that were starting up, and also all the big ones that came to the local venues. They didn't seem any different to us, really - and I think that was part of the magic. One of the big venues near us was the local baths at Bloxwich, where they used to board over the baths for dances - which made it a very cold hall with all that water underneath. The very first group that I ever saw there were The Undertakers who were another of the Liverpool groups that came along after The Beatles had been discovered. Jackie Lomax was their singer, and I thought he was great.'

With friends from school, and occasionally with a girlfriend, he would catch a bus to Willenhall Baths, which was another of the local pop venues - and sometimes visit the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, which could seat up to 1,700 people, ,or the local Mecca ballroom, The Queen's. 'I saw lots of the big bands there,' he told me. 'I was there when The Kinks played The Queens - and I also saw The Who, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, The Fortunes, Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, The Searchers, The Hollies . . . they also used to put on pop shows every Monday night down at the Bloxwich Baths, and that's where I first saw The Rolling Stones.'

But what made the dream of being it pop star seem so possible, so easily within reach, was being able to see other young musicians from the Midlands learning to play in their earliest groups as they visited the local youth clubs and smaller ballrooms before they too, moved down to London to make their first records, appear on television and break into the charts.

'There were a lot of good people starting up in the Midlands groups in those days,' says Holder. 'I used to go and see Mike Sheridan and the Night Riders in which Roy Wood used to play guitar, and another of the big local bands was Denny Laine and the Diplomats ... yes, that's the same Denny Laine who later joined the Moody Blues and is now in Wings with Paul McCartney ... and then there was Carl Wayne and the Vikings, who were also a rated band in the area ... '

And there were many more - Led Zeppelin, Wizzard, the Electric Light Orchestra, Spencer Davis, Stevie Winwood (and hence Traffic), Hardin and York, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, Black Sabbath and Stan Webb all have their musical roots in the Midlands at that same time. Indeed, it was seeing the Spenncer Davis Group in the days when Stevie Winwood was on organ that made Noddy Holder even more determined to become a musician himself.

'Of all the bands I saw in those days, they were the ones who impressed me most musically,' says Holder. 'They had this small P.A. system, one of the smallest I have seen and were very unassuming on stage and then this spotty kid on the organ suddenly opened his mouth and screamed "I love the way she walks ... " and launched into that old John Lee Hooker number, "Dimples" ... gosh, my mouth fell open and I felt a chill down my spine. That was the night I discovered rhythm and blues for the first time.'

As with most people who have made their careers in music, Noddy Holder did not suddenly make an overnight decision to spend his life that way; it was an idea that started as a daydream and then gradually developed into something more. He recalls that the first record he bought was 'Cathy's Clown' by the Everly Brothers, and he was already fifteen before his father bought him his first acoustic guitar and arranged for him to have lessons with Freddy Degville, who played with one of the local bands in the Walsall-Wolverhampton area. 'He was a Django Rheinhardt freak but I never really appreciated what he was trying to show me,' Holder once told Petticoat. 'All I wanted to do was to learn three chords so that I could play songs like "Bird Dog".'

Music rapidly became the all-consuming interest of his life. (He had always preferred hobbies that he could share with his mates, and with The Beatles now emerging and all those other I early Sixties groups following in their wake, music was something that gripped his age group - even more than girls. 'I never thought very much about girls until I was about twelve,' he once told me. 'I was always the sort of boy who preferred the company of other boys ... I thought being seen with girls was rather sissy ... but there was this one girl, her name was Tina.

She had blonde hair and I used to take her to the school dances and that sort of thing. I can't remember very much about her.... though I know she used to take tap dancing lessons. She was older than me, which meant that she left school before I did - and I never saw her again. I haven't kept touch with any of the girls I went out with in those days ... once I'd started going round all the clubs and ballrooms and had started- playing guitar myself, the people I became closest to were mates who were in different bands with me - I still see it lot of them. They always come and see us when we're playing in the area, and I meet up with them down at the pub when we're at home for a few days.'

After his father had bought him that guitar, he formed his first group while still in the fourth form at the T. P. Riley Comprehensive School. 'Most of what I knew I'd picked up by watching other groups,' he says. 'The teachers at school thought it was a good thing to encourage us to learn instruments, and they organized a group contest ... I'd formed my group, the Memphis Cut-Outs, and we did "Blue Moon", an old Elvis Presley number, which the kids loved. We ended up doing two more numbers at the school prize giving. Some of the younger teachers thought it was a gas, and really encouraged us to take an interest in music, but the older ones had it in for me after that.' He was now spending nearly all his spare time either, practising alone at home, rehearsing with his group or touring the local venues to see other musicians working. He did not give up schoolwork completely, but admits music took up more of his time - though he still passed six subjects in his G.C.E. O-level examinations, only failing in French. He could have stayed on at school to take his A-levels and go on either to university or college, but admits: 'School was getting on my nerves so much that, to everyone's relief, I left.' He was then sixteen, and his parents were worried when he told them that he was planning to turn professional.

With the Cut-Outs, he was already earning some money playing at wedding receptions and around the local working men's clubs, where he would gain most applause with Al Jolson numbers (he has always been a Jolson fan) or that football stadium classic 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. But the other members of the group did not want to run the risks that they knew there were in turning professional. So Noddy Holder moved on, turning semi-professional with another group called Steve Brett and The Mavericks, though still accepting his parents' advice and beginning a day-time job, working in an office for a firm of car dealers, ordering their spare parts. 'It wasn't a bad job,' he says. 'But I wasn't giving it my best because some nights I didn't get home from a gig until 4 or 5 a.m. in the morning, and then I'd have to be off to work again just a few hours later.'.

When The Mavericks were offered a month's work in Germany, Noddy thought his chance had come (even though the standard wage for British musicians working in the German clubs in those days was little more than twenty-five pounds a week. Against some misgivings at home, he gave up his office job and turned professional, which. he says was the dream of every· young teenager learning guitar in those days - and has never done any other job outside music since. The engagement was in Frankfurt, and on the boat over to Germany he met another group of musicians who also thought they had just earned their biggest break, too - the 'N Betweens, in which Dave Hill played Guitar and Don Powell, drums.

But the German clubs were a graveyard in those days, and a I couple of months later Noddy met Dave and Don again in a / Wolverhampton street and they swapped reminiscences. He heard that the 'N Betweens had never been paid for their months' work on the Continent, and that the group had since split up. They had recruited Jim Lea to play bass and had now learned that their other guitarist, Mick Marson, was anxious to leave as well so that he could help his father in the family butcher's business.

Holder joined them, but it proved a difficult transition because the 'N Betweens already had a fan following, who tended to resent the fact (as fans sometimes do) that Noddy had now replaced an established member of the group. It was to take the group another five years and two changes of name before they eventually achieved a chart success as Slade. As The 'N Betweens, they recorded just one single 'You Better Run' and, some demos with the American producer Kim Fowley, and then Jack Baverstock, their recording manager at Fontana suggested the change to Ambrose Slade, which Chas Chandler later shortened to just the one word .

Five years on the road without ever making that vital breakthrough is a severe test of any group's nerve; the endless round of small clubs and ballrooms, sometimes not being paid by promoters, motorway breakdowns 'in the middle of the night’, the battle to keep up the hire purchase payments on equipment, snatched meals in transport cafes, the doubts that torment a band after a bad gig or a failed record - very few survive it, But Noddy Holder is convinced that it was this apprenticeship, with their occasional forays into London club land and trips to Germany, that gave the group that secret ingredient, stamina.

“The groups that stick together are the ones that make it, like The Who.” he told me, leaving it unsaid that this was what had kept Slade going. He said something similar to Melody Maker: 'We never thought of packing up. We had to stick at it because we knew the bad times would turn into good times sooner or later. It would never have worked if we had brought anybody else in. The fact that four of us have stuck together has brought us through. Look at The Who. They've stuck together, through the good and the bad, but if one of them had to leave they would flop out. Groups that stick together are the ones that make it.'

The stories that survive about Slade in those early days are very few; when I have tried to persuade Holder, Hill or Lea to produce a few anecdotes I have usually been met with a blank stare (Powell is usually a little more forthcoming) - possibly, I suspect, because the group has been going rather longer than is generally believed. Their road manager Graham Swinnerton (known within the group as 'Swin'), who has been with them since the very beginning, recalled their first northern appearance as the 'N Betweens in an interview with the New Musical Express: 'It was a working men's club in Nottingham, and they only managed to get through a few choruses of "My Girl', before they got booed off because of the volume and the manager came on and announced:
"Committee insisted on 'aving Wolverhampton group, and now we've 'ad 'em so we can send 'em back 'ome!"
Noddy Holder has also recalled, this time in an interview with Petticoat, that the group were booked as support band to Cream when they were just starting (which would have been either late 1966 or early 1967): 'We were just four young kids with a local following in the Black Country. We played dates in the area as the support band to new names like the Cream. I remember one gig at the. City Hall where we played with a local group called Listen who had as their lead vocalist a certain Robert Plant. At that time I used to help out Robert and the band by getting my old man to lend them his window cleaning van when their transport broke down. Anyway we were all on the same bill as the Cream that night, who apart from Clapton were unknown. Robert used to like to move about the stage a lot even in those days before he joined Led Zeppelin. Unfortunately Ginger Baker had a huge drum kit which was spread all over the stage - drums everywhere - I remember Robert very timidly going up to Ginger and asking him if he would mind moving some of his kit off the stage ... '

CHAPTER FOUR

Just before Noddy Holder joined the 'N Betweens, Dave Hill and Don Powell had decided to reorganize the group and had advertised in the local Wolverhampton evening paper for a bass guitarist. Jim Lea had spotted their advertisement, and turned up to the audition in a local hall to find what seemed like a hundred other teenagers, all waiting to show what they could do. 'That was understandable because the 'N Betweens were regarded as the top group in the area - they were my idols at the time,' says Jim, who felt a little nervous and unsure of himself as he looked around the room and saw that nearly everyone else had their own amplification equipment with them.

"I had just my guitar, so I made an excuse about not having any transport for my equipment and borrowed someone else's and could hardly play for nerves," he says.
Tremlett 05 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
But there was something about his playing that interested Hill and Powell, though in the best traditions of 'Don't call us, we'll call you' they told him they would let him know, and nearly a week went by before they both landed on his doorstep one evening and told him the position was his if he wanted it. Within Jim's family, the offer could hardly have come at a more embarrassing moment. He was just on the point of leaving Codsall Secondary School, where he had done particularly well at Art, Music and French, and he had applied to study at four different art colleges. Just around the time that he received that offer to join the 'N Betweens, he also received a letter offering him a place at the Hornsey College of Art in London. But Jim chose pop music - and his mother didn't speak to him for a month!

It is very easy to understand his family's reaction for those were the days when pop music was still far from respectable, and mothers really did believe what they read in the Sunday papers; there are very few top musicians today whose parents did not react with similar horror when their sons seemed to reject everything that 'Home' stood for in favour of pop music. In Jim Lea's case, the reaction was possibly more severe because his parents had encouraged him to learn classical music and because there was a musical tradition in the family.

'My parent's don't play themselves, although they are musically minded,' Jim once told me. 'But both my grandfathers used to be professional musicians - one of them used to, play the piano accompaniment at the Wolverhampton Hippodrome in the days of the silent movies, when every picture house employed a pianist to accompany the film ... and both my grandfathers had learned to play violin. When I was around eight years old, my mother asked me what instrument I would like to play and although I think looking back now that I would have preferred piano, I ended up studying violin - because we had one of my Granddad’s old violins still lying around the house.'

His mother and father arranged for him to take regular lessons with Professor Horace Kenny, who Jim recalls as being an eccentric even by today's standards. ~When I was a kid, he had very long hair - and he even got chucked out of one orchestra that he'd been playing with because of his appearance. Now, he is balding on top and looks a little like Max Wall with his hair still very long, hanging down his back ... he taught me very well, and I became quite enthusiastic, often spending four or five hours a day practising ... and then later I started studying piano as well.'

Jim - whose full name is James Whild Lea - had been born on June 14th, 1952, above the Melbourne Arms public house in Wolverhampton, which his parents, Frank and Edna Lea, then ran.

When he was five years old, his parents moved away from Wolverhampton to a village in Staffordshire, thinking that a country childhood would be better for their children - Jim and his brothers Raymond and Frank and their sister Joan. 'I think we were all very lucky,' Jim told me. 'We'd known what it was like to live in a town, and then we were able to grow up in the peace of the 'countryside, with our own garden, fields to play in, trees to climb.’

His mother encouraged him to paint and draw, to practise his violin for at least one hour a day (it was only Jim's enthusiasm that took him into those extra-long sessions), and then the family bought a piano, which was kept out on the veranda and he started to learn to play that as well. 'But I was never able to play very late at night with it being out there,' he says.

Within six months of first taking up the violin, he passed his first practical examination and when he went on to the Codsall Secondary Modern School he was encouraged even more by being offered a place in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra. But he never felt very much at ease there, although he stayed in the orchestra nearly two years - because most of the other boys had won places at grammar school whereas he had failed his Eleven Plus examination. 'I didn't get on with anybody in the orchestra,' he told the music paper Melody Maker. 'They were all eggheads with very short hair, and they didn't like me being in with them. I enjoyed the orchestra for the music and it was great to be part of that sound with the violins and the kettledrums blasting away all around me. It was a really eerie sound.' And he told me that looking back, he thought playing with the orchestra had been a fantastic experience for a young teenager to have had. 'It was like being in an enormous group,' he said, adding that he was able to travel occasionally and get used to being up on stage in front of an audience. 'But the trouble was that I just never had any friends in it at all… the only communication that I had with the other boys was the occasional joke about the length of my hair, which was short by today's standards, anyhow.'

Jim had come close to joining the string section of the National Youth Orchestra, and by the time he had spent five years studying violin under the guidance of Professor Kenny, had become quite proficient, passing Grades Two to Five in examinations set by the Royal College of Music. Because of this background, his musical tastes tend to be somewhat broader than those of the other members of die group, covering not just the usual musicians' choices of The Beatles and Buddy Holly but ranging broadly over Harry Nilsson, Neil Young and Bob Dylan to Dvořák's 'New World Symphony' and works by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Holst, Brahms and Beethoven. But he thinks now that he could never have become a classical musician; like so many of to day's musicians he finds more satisfaction - and indeed, more creativity - working in the recording studio, developing his own ideas.

The switch came when he was only thirteen, when - to his parents' astonishment - he insisted on giving up his classical training, his position in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra and the probability of a place in the National Youth Orchestra so that he could spend his time rehearsing with his first pop group, Nick and the Axemen. And in that Melody Maker interview he recalled: 'The first thing we did was to chuck out the bass player. No-one else wanted to play bass, so I had to. I started off playing really fast bass lines because my fingers were supple from playing the violin. It was one of those groups where you have far more rehearsals than gigs. We never earned any money, but I learned to play bass.'

His parents were almost as disappointed by this decision to spend nearly all his spare time playing pop music as they were to be three years later when he turned down the chance of studying at the Hornsey College of Art; but Jim had no regrets and has none now. Furthermore, now his younger brother Frank, who sat in with Slade after Don Powell's road accident, also has his own group, Jack Flash. (Their elder brother, Ray; has his own business selling second hand cars.)

'When I started off playing bass guitar, I was trying to make Nick and the Axemen sound like the Shadows... I was very much into that sort of music and The Ventures, too,' he told me. 'Music became the only thing I was really interested in. Football has never really attracted me - I've never been very keen on sports at all, though I quite liked cross country running when I was at school... the only sport I ever watch now is wrestling on TV.' .

Like so many of his generation, once he had discovered pop music he lived it every hour of every day, talking about little else, devouring the music papers every week from cover to cover, spending hours in the music shops looking at all the latest equipment. 'We are all fanatical about the music business,' he says. 'We tend to spend all our waking hours eating it, drinking it and generally absorbing it into our systems ... it's not a bad thing to be totally involved like that when you've decided to make music your life. The more you put into this job, the more you get out of it - that's the only way to look at it. We've always worked hard, ever since I joined the 'N Betweens, but it's always been great fun, and that's how we can take the pace ... it's a much harder pace than most people think it is, often travelling four or five hours to a gig and then back again afterwards, not getting back until maybe 5 or 6 a.m. in the morning, and then keeping it up night after night, maybe five nights a week. Once a couple of friends of ours back in Wolverhampton asked if they could go on tour with us, and after a couple of days they'd had enough. They couldn't take I any more. But we can just keep going - because it's the way we live and because we've never wanted to do anything else.'

It's this attitude of mind that has kept Jim Lea practising and rehearsing, and latterly writing at the grand piano he has brought for his home in Wolverhampton. Ever since he first turned to bass guitar and pop music at the age of thirteen, even though his parents often expressed considerable doubt in those days - it would be an exaggeration to call this a sense of destiny - but equally Jim Lea knew just where he wanted to go and what he wanted to achieve. And having had that original training ill violin has proved a considerable asset - most notably on Slade's second hit record 'Cos I Luv You', which he wrote with Holder, which featured violin as a basic group instrument, and which he still says he believes to be one of their better numbers.

Being able .to write music and having this basic classical training can also be a drawback, he says; it can make it more, difficult for a would-be songwriter to develop his own style. 'I used to write quite complicated stuff for the group with harmonies and arrangements, until Nod and I put our heads together,' he told Keith Altham in the New Musical Express. 'After listening and playing classical music I've come to the conclusion that really "simplicity" is what it's all about. The essence of really communicable music is in its simplicity  things that get into you; head right away. You ask most people what they like about classical music and they'll immediately relate to the more popular pieces. Listen to Tchaikovsky's B Flat Concerto and you realize how simple the really good music is. The appeal in things like Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" was its amazing simplicity. The really heavy composers like Brahms and Beethoven knew all about the effectiveness and importance of keeping it simple ... Beethoven was a pop writer - he wrote for the masses ... my musical training has been useful in that it gives me the ability to retain tunes almost at once - just after one hearing, when maybe the others might forget it. But the most valuable things I pick up by ear. It was really The Beatles who turned me off just studying and playing music by numbers, onto working things out for myself.. '

Both in his approach to work and in his everyday attitudes, Jim Lea seems more settled than the other members of the group and it was really no surprise when h~ became the first to buy a home of his own and then, immediately afterwards, the first to marry. His wife, formerly Louise Ganner, had worked as a soft furnishing seamstress before their wedding on March 19th, 1973, and their home is a five-bedroomed mock Tudor house on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, named 'Redroofs'.

Louise is the only girlfriend that Jim Lea has ever had. 'Until I was thirteen, all my time was spent learning violin,' he explains. 'I took that very seriously because I was very keen at that time to become a good violinist... then after that, when I formed Nick and the Axemen, pop music took up all my time so that I never really had time to think much about girls. I always thought girls were a waste of time, and as far as I was concerned I'd never had reason to change my mind ... my family weren't expecting me to become a violinist. They thought I'd probably go into advertising as a commercial artist, because Art was my best subject at school.

'One day at school I went into another classroom to get a pot of white paint, and Louise was already in there - and when we were alone she asked me if I'd go out with her on a date. I did, and that was, how we started - I've never had another girlfriend. I've never chatted a girl up in my life, and wouldn't know where to start. I've always been much too shy.'

Their home now is a large suburban house, built somewhere around the end of the First World War, maybe a year or two later. 'When I first went to look at it, I got lost because the upstairs is very complicated 'With different corridors, and I couldn't remember which room I had seen and which I hadn't,' said Lea.

There's a tall hedge to guard his privacy, and a large garden.

'When I'm there we can feel completely on our own. I can get away from the group, and pull the drawbridge up": 'I don't know why I have to do that, but I just do. And when I can do that, I settle down at the piano and write,' said Jim.

'I'm the sort of person who needs to be able to hole up at home,' he said. 'With most people, they're out at work all day and then when they go home in the evenings they like to be able to sit down, stretch out and put their feet up ... but our life isn't like that. When we're working, it's all work, all day and all night, what with interviews and photo sessions, travelling between gigs, buying clothes for stage appearances, checking equipment, rehearsals, recording and so on ... the pressure on us never stops. Even if you have a meal with someone after a show in the evening, you're still working because you're selling yourself. So when I get the chance, I really like to retreat into solitude.

'This house is just what I was looking for, with the larger rooms that you used to get in the days when it was built about fifty years ago, built in the older style with oak beams across the ceilings, with leaded windows (which I've always loved)... 'downstairs we've got a living room, a dining room, a study and a television room, plus the kitchen, and then five bedrooms upstairs. Having so much space, it's nice to give each room a purpose. The TV room is very comfortable, and the living room is large ... the other thing I like about it is that it's still a town house - I'd always rather live closer to the pubs and clubs that I've always known, and be able to see all my old friends, which I still do.

'The actual decorating of the house I've left to Louise because we've been away touring so much - and she's good at it. After leaving school, she went on to study design at Art College ... and the colour schemes and the furnishings are largely hers. Already, we feel as though we have lived there years.'

But for Jim Lea, who as well as being so settled in his lifestyle is also a dedicated musician, reading other people's music from the written sheet and composing his own, the most important aspect of his life today is that he has the freedom from other distractions when he is at home to concentrate on his song writing.

'Keeping the hours we do, it was always very difficult trying to write when I was still living at home with my parents,' he said. 'There, my piano was out on the veranda - and I couldn't play late at night (which is often the tune I like to settle down to write) without waking up everybody else in the house. Now, I can work whenever I want to - though I'm not one of those songwriters who needs to shut himself off from other people. The ideas are floating around in my head all day, wherever we are - and I may think of a melody for a song sitting in the car or having a drink down at the pub. The important thing is being able to get them down either on paper or on tape as soon as you can afterwards - and that's what I can do now.'
(S-TSS-C at the bottom of page 41?)


CHAPTER FIVE

The other member of Slade with a musical tradition in his family is guitarist Dave Hill, who is also the one who seems to try hardest - some would say too hard - at the whole business of creating an image for himself with his odd hairstyle, high heeled boots, and outlandish clothes. In fact he is thinking of marketing similar fashions under the trade name 'Superyob', and has a car with the YOB 1 number plates

Hill is an extrovert, hard-working, superstitious, more sensitive than he cares to admit, perhaps over-conscious of his working class background - and at the same time warm in his personal relationships, an easy person to interview because he appears to enjoy relating anecdotes.
Tremlett 04 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Hill was born at Fleet Castle in Devon on April 4th, 1952, a fact which he insists on adding to all official documents, even though he only lived there three weeks. Like the others, he was brought up in Wolverhampton by his parents, Jack and Dorothy Hill. He has one sister, Carol, who works as a travelling representative, though Dave says she should have become a ballet dancer. 'She didn't stick it,' he adds. 'She got as far as she could without leaving home and then rather than leave home, which is what she should have done, she gave up ballet, and I think that's a shame.'

His interest in music he traces back to a grandfather who was a Doctor of Music. 'I'm not as clever as that, but I think there is something that I inherited from him,' he says, relating the story of how he tried to learn to play the, recorder when he was still at primary school only to be thwarted by his teacher, Miss Friar. 'I was always acting the clown, and I suppose that was why she wouldn't let me ... she probably thought I was just a rather cheeky, mischievous child, but I really was dead keen to learn to play the recorder. She told me that I couldn't - because I couldn't read music. Well, I thought that was silly - who can read music at the age of seven?' says Dave. 'I don't think she really liked me. I was always in trouble because I didn't concentrate enough on my work. Later I wanted to learn piano, but we could never have a piano at home, and then some time after that I thought of learning to play saxophone, but that came to nothing ... later my Dad bought me an old Spanish guitar, and I used to play that for a bit until I swapped it for an electric guitar.'

The only other incident of any note that occurred during his primary school days was when he fell in love for the first time pat the age of ten and a half. The girl, whose name was Carol, was eighteen months younger, and Dave says they met on a coach to Llandudno, when he was going on holiday with his parents. 'She came from Wolverhampton, too, but I'd never really noticed her before,' he says. ‘It was a very long coach journey, one that I remember very clearly because I was sick on the coach - and I was worried that that might put her off me ... for the rest of the holiday, I spent every day with her down on the beach, and then we sat down on the coach back home to Wolverhampton, which was very embarrassing, because me Mum kept asking me to sing a song ... well, you don't do things like that when you're sitting with a girl, do you? I went all red in the face.'

The romance lasted three years, and because they attended different schools Dave and Carol would communicate by passing notes. 'I always wrote much more than she did, and that was because I was madly in love with her - and she didn't bother about me very much,' says Hill. 'Once I sent her a note asking her to meet me at the Saturday morning film show at the cinema we went to in Penn, and when we got there I found there was a skiffle contest being arranged ... up there on the stage there was a guitar, a tea chest bass, a washboard and some maracas, and they were inviting kids from the audience to go up there on stage. I was determined to impress her so I went up on the stage and they gave me the washboard to play ... all through the show, I kept looking down at her and smiling, rubbing away at my washboard, which must have been an awful noise ... when I went back to sit with her, my hands were bleeding - I'd rubbed so hard I'd taken the skin off the back of my knuckles ... that must have been the first time I ever performed on stage.

'Her parents didn't like me very much because they thought I was too rough, and she was forbidden to see me so after school or in the evening after supper I'd go round to her house, and peep round the garden hedge to see if I could see her ... and then she passed the 11-plus and went to grammar school, and I went to Highfields, which wasn't such a good school, and she seemed to look down on me a bit ... but I was crazy about her. She reminded me of Doris Day because she had a very young face that seemed to light up in sunlight, and she had this long fair hair.'

Although his mother thought he had a good voice and kept trying to persuade him to join a choir, Dave didn't really have that latent interest in music awakened until he moved on to the Highfields Secondary Modem School, where his work was undistinguished, and he was consistently bottom of the class. 'I was a complete dud,' he says, though he is continually grateful to his science teacher, Brian Close, who discovered his interest in music, and encouraged him to bring his guitar to school. ,

'He was a smashing bloke - mention his name, because I owe a lot to him,' Dave said to me. 'In the evenings he used to play with a dance band, so he was a fairly good guitarist, and he started me off, giving me lessons after school and in the lunch hour ... a friend of mine had a tape recorder, and we started writing our own songs as well and putting them down op tape. I really enjoyed that, and then with some other kids who lived down on the council estate where we lived and who went to the same youth club, I formed my first group, The Sundowners.'

'By now I was just coming up to the age of leaving school, and my Mum - who wasn't very keen on me turning to music for the rest of my life - had me fixed up in an office job, so off I went. I then decided to join another group, The Vendors, who were already semi-professional - that was where I met Don Powell for the first time. He was already their drummer.'

Later, he and Don both joined the 'N Betweens, who had a reputation on the Wolverhampton teenage underground for being the town's top group. 'At first we were playing blues and using a harmonica,' Dave told Melody Maker. 'We had a fat singer with a great voice, but he was too lazy to turn up for rehearsals, so we sacked him and Nod came in. Then we auditioned some bass players and Jim joined.'

And so, he realized what he wanted to do, and, once Dave discovered what pop music could do for him - and the sense of fulfilment it gave him - he never wanted to do anything else. He did not return to that office job, and never looked for another. 'I don't think I've got any friends outside the music business,' he says now. 'That's funny, really ... at school, I was always very ambitious. I wanted to get on. I wanted to be successful, but the biggest problem of all was knowing how to get started ... I always used to do everything wrong when I was at school, and that sort of became part of me. I wanted to be different to the other kids. I wanted to be successful was ambitious, and I didn't want to follow other people ... now I'm very anxious that I shouldn't lose touch with my roots. I come from a working class background, having been brought up in a council house. With all the travelling, excitement and adventure in our lives now, it would be very easy to get blasé about all that ... but none of us have. Mind you, I'm making no secret of the fact that I want to be as successful and as famous as I can, but I never want to lose that contact with my family and my roots ... I think you have to try to find a good balance for yourself, and then that way you have a happy life.'

Like so many of the more successful artistes in the music business, he has an understanding with the group's fans; something that goes deeper than just a response between musician and audience. And though, inevitably, there are now some restrictions on his freedom - because it is almost impossible for any member of Slade to walk down a street without being mobbed - Dave Hill appears to have no regrets. He enjoys his fame to worry too much about its implications.

'We can't get out of the car when we go to a gig,' he told the music paper Sounds. 'We can't possibly stop at any restaurant.' But he said he had seen no resentment of their success. 'I can go down the road in the Jensen, and nobody says, "Look at that flash git"; everybody says, "That's our boys", you know. But it doesn't make us feel that we're up there and you're down there. Fans come round to my house. It's a really snooty area, but nobody's frightened to come and see me. OK, I'm not there much, but no one gives the impression that we're going to kick them off.' And even when they deface his car, Dave's attitude is 'we're not gonna turn round and tell them off, because they bought me that car. OK, I've worked for it, but it's partly theirs.'

His home is now a £40,000 house in Solihull, one of the more exclusive Birmingham suburbs - and because, like many musicians he found it difficult raising a mortgage (building societies are very suspicious of anyone who works in pop music) Dave has agreed his finances in such a way that he will pay for the house over a period of five years. 'It cost me forty grand;' he said, the Americanism slipping into his speech after so many US tours. 'Obviously, it's not worth that much - that's just the price they're fetching these days. My bank account is really the house. Everything I've got has gone into it. It makes more sense than leaving your money in the bank where the tax-man can get at it. Mind you, I've overdrawn my bank account to get it. Everything I earn with Slade now goes into that house.'
Tremlett pic 21 large, Dave Hill at home 1973
Dave Hill beside the fountain in his garden

The house is next door to a girls' school, but surrounded by an acre of mature trees - and he has furnished it in characteristically flamboyant style with such extras as a silver bathroom with mirrors on every wall and a circular bath that is so vast that when the workmen came to fit it one of them said: 'Which end do you want the diving board?'

The house is sixty years old, with huge oak doors, and he always answers the door if a fan arrives. 'We've always had this very strong thing about talking with the fans,' he told the London Evening News. 'I mean if I get letters from girls I write back. And I'm sure that the people I write to consider my letters very personal and important.' One group of fans even broke a window and entered his house while he was away - and then phoned up to ask if he was going to report them to the police. 'I was annoyed - but of course I wouldn't tell the police anything. The last thing I'd ever do would be to get a fan in trouble,' he says. '

His decision to move to Solihull came as a surprise to the other members of the group, who have all stayed the other side of Birmingham in the Wolverhampton area. 'We're always surrounded by people when we're working,' Dave explained. 'Some months before I bought the house I'd noticed that I was beginning to wish sometimes that I had a home of my own to go back to. Although I love my parents very much~ there comes a time when you want a home of your own ... when I go back home to my folks, they always make a fuss of me, and want to know all about our latest tours, the places we've been to and what we've done, which is very nice, and I'm always glad to tell them... but I still like the feeling of being able to go back to my own home, close the door, relax and not talk to anyone at all if I don't feel like it.'

As soon as his neighbours found they had a famous pop star living in the district, he found himself being invited round for sherry - and even to be vice president of the local Sea Scouts.' As yet there are no visible signs that he is there; all the changes have been inside the ten-roomed house.

'No, I don't get lonely,' he says. 'I can wash and cook, and I can even sew if I have to. My mother hasn't been too well for quite some time, so we all had to learn to fend for ourselves and I don't mind that at all... now, I'm thinking of planting out the vegetable garden and rearing my own chickens... it's having a garden like that with all those trees that is one of the big attractions of the place for me... one day I'd like to have a house with even more land, I think, and then I'd have dogs and horses. I like riding. When I was about thirteen, I used to go riding quite a lot because there were some riding stables near where we lived.'

He has other ambitions, too - to launch that range of 'Superyob' clothes, closely modelled on his own self-styled creations with their shimmering use of silver circles, bright red and gold cloths, silks and satins in silver and blue. He has his own clothes specially made for him to his own designs, and thought that as they had caught on with the group's fans he might just as well offer them to different boutiques. 'I've already got a hairdressing shop,' he says, 'and next I'd like to move into fashion and design ... it's something that I've always been interested in ... I wouldn't mind having my own boutiques. I think when you're doing well in this business you should make investments for the future because you don't know how long it's going to last, do you?'
Tremlett pic 19 large, Dave Hill
Over the three years that I have been interviewing Slade, Dave Hill seems to me to have changed more than any of them. Noddy Holder has become more self-contained; Don Powell, more relaxed and out-going; Jim Lea seems to have this sense of fulfilment, but Dave Hill is still as restless as ever, still as ambitious, still searching for more success, bursting with energy and ideas, and almost visibly growing, as the success he has achieved opens the way for him to travel and to enjoy experiences that would otherwise never have been available to him.

'When I was a very young kid, I used to have a dream night after night that I was travelling in a Rolls Royce - and then I'd wake up and find myself still in bed,' he told me once. Now, the dream has materialized.

Today his dreams are less romantic. As well as having several boutiques, he says he would like to work' as a designer: 'I'd need someone to help me because I don't have the technical skill. I just have the ideas ... but I know what sort of clothes, hats and shoes I'd like to create, and I've got an idea in my head' for a revolutionary boot design. But I don't want to say any more about that in case someone pinches the idea from me.'

He enjoys the trappings of his success - the expensive Jensen car, the £40,000 house, the vast wardrobe of clothes, the paintings and the silver that he has collected to decorate his home, and though he works so hard, seldom slowing' down, it is possible to under-estimate him. He admits to being first a showman and then secondly, a guitarist. 'I made up my mind some time ago that I really just wanted to help focus attention on the band, and I've worked at it and exaggerated my own style,' he has told the New Musical Express. 'I've always been a bit flash and all I had to do was get up enough nerve to go on stage and be as outrageous as I felt ... I'm really not a pretty character because what I put over is more brutish, and it can only be a reflection of the music which has a hard masculine feel about it. I couldn't be camp if I tried, because my background is working class and I'm tough at heart. Someone described me once as looking like an off duty navvy from "2001" ... there are so many good guitarists in this business that if you can't go out on stage and deliver, you might as well be dead. There's only one Eric Clapton who can afford to lay back, but even he surrounds himself with musicians who project something more ... we're not really interested as a band in improving our own status as musicians - we're only interested in entertaining and giving our audiences a good time. We don't feel the need to educate them. We've recorded some numbers, which we've deliberately held back because we feel they are too clever - too indulgent for our fans at the moment. As we get older as a group then we hope to take those fans with us as we change.'

The sense of direction that runs through so many of Dave Hill's more recent interviews is very noticeable; he quite clearly knows where he wants to go. And Slade's next target is to make that US break-through that has so far eluded most of the second-generation British rock groups.

'We started off as a working class group working hard to get our music across,' he once told me. 'Now that we've done that we are working harder than ever before ... and America is a challenge to us because they've never seen another group quite like us. Our records are starting to sell there, and I'm convinced that if we work at it we'll break through there just as we have here ... already, we can pull in audiences of up to 5,000 whereas we were only drawing about a thousand when we first started in the States ... because we work so hard, I think we're entitled to everything we've got. I'd say the same to anyone. If there is something you want to do, then go ahead and try - and if you work hard you'll be successful. And that's one of the best feelings there is. The feeling that you have done it all on your own.'


CHAPTER SIX

Don Powell has always seemed to me to be the least complicated member of Slade but that is not an unusual characteristic of drummers. In later years they often tend to become musically frustrated because there is just no way that you can compose songs sitting at a drum kit. And there does come a time in most musicians' lives when they feel that they would like to start writing material of their own. For Powell, the moment has already arrived. 'I'm thinking of learning to play the guitar,' he told me quite recently.

The first instrument he tried to play was the bugle, which he was offered on joining the Boy Scouts at the age of eleven. 'I wanted to learn the drums as soon as I saw the drum-kit they had in the Scout hut, but I was told I would have to learn the bugle first,' he told me. 'I did try, standing there at the back of the hut, puffing out my cheeks, but the bugle just didn't make a sound ... perhaps I didn't blow it right, I don't know - but in the end they let me play drums after all.'
Tremlett 09 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Powell was born on September 9th, 1950, in Bilston, Staffordshire. His parents, Wally and Dora Powell, had three other children, two sisters Carol and Marilyn (he calls her 'Mash') and another son, Derek, His childhood appears to have been quiet and calm; the memories that he has are happy ones. 'l can remember my first day at school,' he told me. 'Then my Gran was alive and she lived near us. She used to come round to the house most days, and I can remember her telling me that when I wanted to go to the loo I would have to put my hand up ... and try as I could, I just couldn't understand what she meant ... and then on that first day I was sitting in the classroom when someone ran down the corridor ringing a bell, and everyone got up out of the seats - so I got up, too, went out into the corridor with the rest of them, walked out into the street and went home.'

When he arrived back at the family house, his mother said: 'What are you doing?'

Don replied: 'I've come home for my dinner.'

‘But it's only ten thirty,' she said, and that was how he discovered that schools have mid-morning milk breaks.

From primary school, he went on to the Etheridge Secondary Modern School, where he was much more interested in sport than he was in schoolwork. Athletics and boxing were his keenest hobbies. Once he won the school's prize for running 100 yards, and was presented with a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. 'My Mum was there, and I felt so proud,' he told me.

'I loved running - it must have been a marvellous feeling for Roger Bannister that day when he became the first man in the world to run a four-minute mile. That's something I'd love to have done; I'd love to have been him at that moment. I've seen the film of him running that mile, so I just know he did it - but what no-one can ever know is what it felt like at that moment when he realized for the first time that he was going to break the record ... my other hero is Muhammad Ali, who is my all-time favourite boxer. Before he had his title taken off him because he wouldn't join the US Army, he was undoubtedly the finest boxer the world has ever seen ... so quick, so fit, so fast on his feet and yet so graceful ... it used to make me laugh the way he wrote all those poems about people, making them angry, making them all think he wasn't as good as he said he was - and then on the night he'd show them all. And that was great. I'd love to have been a boxer like that.'

For some years, Don Powell was a keen schoolboy athlete; he practised every night after school, competing in the mile and cross-country events in the Midlands Amateur Athletics Association championships as a member of the Bilston Athletic Club, which he belonged to for three years. As a boxer, he was always a middleweight - though any hopes that he might have had as a teenager of turning professional and making this his career ended when he developed an ear 'infection that was so dangerous that he had to go into hospital.

'The doctors advised me against any more boxing,' he told me. 'I spent ten days in hospital and thought I was getting better and then they told me that I shouldn't go back to boxing just in case I permanently damaged my hearing, and I was upset about that because I used to enjoy boxing. I was in the local Police Force's boxing club, and used to think I was pretty good and felt really' cocky until they put me in the ring with the British schoolboy champion, who knocked hell out of me. My nose used to bleed easily - I've had my nose broken three times.

'I don't know why, but I was never that interested in football - that didn't catch my imagination like boxing and athletics. I think really the reason was that I was never any good at football, and knowing that I just didn't bother any more about it.'

Until he started playing drums, Don Powell had never seriously thought of music making as a career; he had joined the Boy Scouts after having to give up boxing and had enjoyed the camps. 'It was my scoutmaster who gave me my interest in drums,' he says. 'At first all I did was clean them and then occasionally I would play at practices. He then asked me to have a go at the bugle. I really hated that. I used to stand at the back with that awful instrument at my mouth, and that's about all it was doing. I couldn't get any sound out of it at all. That carried on for a few weeks before I was found out and was sent back to cleaning drums.

'Then came my big "break". I was asked to complete the line-up on one Sunday morning parade, and I was so chuffed I must have had the cleanest shoes that morning.'

Being an ingenious little boy, Don says he made his first pair of drumsticks from the stem of an artificial Christmas tree.

'It was three or four years after that I joined my first group, borrowing a set of drums from a friend who lived a couple of hundred yards away from me ... I used those for the first six months, trying hard to pick up the professional way of handling drumsticks. I used to go down to the local youth club, watching a band called The Cadenza practising - and it just baffled me the way the drummer was able to move his feet at the same time as he moved his hands. That was something I found very difficult to do to begin with.

'Then one night this other local group, Johnny Travall and The Vendors, came down and asked me to help them out for that night as their own drummer was ill, and I ended up staying on with them ... my parents could see I was keen, so my Dad helped me by putting down a deposit on a new set of drums and I paid off the hire purchase payments with what we earned from gigs, which was never very much because we were only earning four to six pounds a night, and out of that we always paid two pounds to our roadie towards the cost of transport, so you can see how tight things were .. .'

By now he was leaving school and although the band was semi-professional, Don Powell thought he ought to get a job not so much for the sake of a career but to pay for his drum kit. He worked in an iron foundry as a metallurgist, spending eighteen months on day release at the Wednesbury Technical College.

'I'd never really bothered very much about working when I was at school,' he says: 'School had just seemed one great big joke, and I never treated it seriously at all ... there didn't seem ' much point in a lot of the work we had to do, but it was so different going on to technical college . . . I really started to enjoy studying while I was there. Metallurgy fascinated me, and nothing would take my attention off work ... then I spent six months working on the analysis of brass, iron and steel, wearing a white coat every day, testing metals in a laboratory ... it was a very responsible job, really, and I think I would probably have made a career of it if I hadn't become a musician - it's still something that I could go back to if I ever wanted to.

'Every morning I had 'to get up at five o'clock so that I could be at work by six, and then it was my job to make sure that all the sand was right for the moulds in the foundry - and then I had to take away samples of all the molten metals that were poured into the moulds and test them to make sure that their composition was correct. There were two hundred people working in that foundry, and really they depended on me because work couldn't go ahead until I had completed my analysis... and I was only seventeen.'

Dave Hill was the guitarist in the group, and they changed their name to the 'N Betweens - though Don says he cannot remember why. 'One of the biggest things that could happen to an unknown group in those days was to be offered work in Germany, because that meant going abroad, travelling and even turning professional,' says Don. 'We were offered a month's work over there, and we jumped at the chance…'

For Don, that particular 'break' came just a few months after he had thought quite seriously of giving up playing with the group and concentrating instead of making a career of his work at the foundry. He had been finding the hire purchase payments a struggle and the group was earning so little and making no progress, that he was beginning to feel convinced that it was all leading nowhere. But, unlike Dave Hill and Jim Lea, whose parents were unhappy at their willingness to throw everything up for the chance of success in pop, Don Powell's family actually encouraged him to keep going when he was the one who was quite prepared to give up.

'I'm very grateful to them for that now,' he says. 'Everything seemed to get on top of me ... I'd been finding it difficult to cope with the late nights and starting work again at six in the morning, and that was when I thought of jacking it in.

But my parents talked me out of it. They sat down and talked it over with me, and said I shouldn't give up now after spending so many years learning how to play. I really do think that I have a lot to thank them for because if they hadn't done that I might be working in a factory now.'

As mentioned before, it was on that trip to Germany that Don and Dave first met Noddy Holder travelling over on the same boat with his group. When they returned their own bass player decided to quit 'and at the same time Dave and I wanted to leave and form another group of our own ... we auditioned for a new bass player, and along came Jim, carrying his bass guitar in a polythene bag ... and then we met Noddy again walking down the street, and asked him to come in with us ... I think Jim was the only one who was a bit doubtful to begin with ... he was that bit younger than the rest of us, and musically I don't think he was very sure of us then.'

Perhaps because he is the least interviewed member of the group, Don Powell tends to be the most forthcoming when he does start to talk about his work with them and his adventures both before and after Slade's success. Although his parents have done much to encourage him, indeed his father, a steelworker, buys all the music papers - and they both try to see as many of Slade's shows as they can and although the doubts that he had did persist for some time, Don now has his life calmly in perspective. The serious car accident in which his girl-friend died in July, 1973, seems to have left him with a detachment, the unusual ability to be able to view everything that happens to him almost as though it were happening to somebody else, perhaps because he spent so long in hospital away from the group, able to think about his life carefully and without interruption. It was not the first time he had been close to death.

'I nearly drowned once when I was about twelve years old’ he once told me. 'I'd been fooling about in a swimming pool with some friends, and just to show off I jumped in at the deep end of the baths, thinking I'd be able to swim ... and then I felt myself drowning and I started to kick and struggle, and, of course, they all laughed because they thought I was just larking about. In those few moments, I thought I was dying - and it's quite true that in a moment like that your life flashes past your eyes - I saw my own funeral, with my family walking towards the church, and my Mum was crying on my Dad's shoulder.'

Another time when he thought his moment had come was in very different circumstances; it was after Slade had become successful and while they were touring in Germany. They were appearing at a club so Don went down to get the door key so that they could rehearse before the audience arrived. 'As I knocked at the door of the house that I'd been told to go to, a woman leant out of a window and started shouting at me,' he told me. 'Then two policemen came running round the corner, pulled out their guns, pushed me up against a wall with my hands above my head, and dug a gun under my ribs... all the time they were going on at me in German, and I couldn't understand a word they were saying - until I managed to explain to the woman who had now come out into the street that I had come for the keys ... it was only then that I discovered that a girl had been raped in the area the night before, and the police were looking for someone of just my height and build... the woman explained about the keys to the police, and they went away but that was a very nasty moment.'

But that was a very different experience from waking up in hospital, finding himself bandaged - and not knowing why he was there. That, as I say, seems to have given him the ability to think about himself and his career objectively - something that I have noticed, in their different ways, in both Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdinck who both spent long periods in hospital.

Now, although be was not particularly interested in school, Don Powell is a dedicated self-improver; like Dave Hill, he is growing all the time - taking the opportunities of travel to see different places, reading extensively, following the cinema, experimenting with food and with music. Although not proficient in any instruments other than drums, he is starting to write his own songs - though at the moment he's concentrating on lyrics.

'I'm the sort of movie-addict who goes to see one film at the afternoon matinee, and then goes straight round to the next cinema to catch the evening show,' he says. 'I often do that ... the one film that has completely taken me aback was "2001" which I saw four times, and then still didn't understand it... and I'm fascinated by anything to do with Black Magic and superstition. I've seen the Ouija board when I've been with friends, and I don't really know what I think about it ... even in my life there have been things that I haven't been able to explain. I think the strangest was the relationship I had with my uncle, whom I was very close to, and who developed terminal cancer while I was in the Bahamas with the group. He was in bed and my aunt was looking after him, although he was getting worse and worse. Towards the end, he was confined to his bed and could hardly move because of the pain he was in, and then one day my aunt was sitting downstairs and she heard a noise from his room. She ran upstairs, and found that he was out of bed and getting dressed. She asked him what he was doing, and he replied: 'I'm going to meet Don at the airport. He's coming back today...' And the strangest thing was that I was flying back that day, but nobody knew about it. I hadn't told anyone which day we were coming home, and we had been away several months. But somehow my uncle knew, and I don't know how you explain a thing like that ... how do you explain the fact that a man who was crippled with pain could on that one day get up out of his bed and start to get dressed? It's something I don't understand,' says Powell, who has never been particularly religious, though he used to go to Church when he was in the Boy Scouts. 'I don't not believe - but then I never give it much thought,' he says.

Already, with his success in Slade, he has been able to buy his first home - a flat in Wolverhampton, although after that car accident his doctors advised him to move back home to live with his parents. 'I moved back to the flat at first, but I used to wake up in the morning and not know where I was,' he says. 'I like going back there because that's the area where all my mates live, and when I go down to the pub in the evening they treat me just the same as they always did ... they'll ask me a few questions about where I've been lately, and then we settle down for an evening drinking together, talking just like we always did, and I enjoy that...'

Eventually when Slade's career evens out, as most do in the music business, and they are able to relax more frequently, spacing out their holidays, tours and recording sessions, Don Powell thinks he would like to buy a small farm - still in the Midlands, probably in the Staffordshire countryside not very far from the area where he spent his childhood,

'That's the one thing I'd like to end up with eventually,' he says, and it is an ambition that has remained constant over the three years that I have known him. 'I wouldn't like to have a large farm, because that would take too much looking after, but I would like to be able to grow my own vegetables, to be able to have a dog of my own, and my own horses ... I love horses, although I've had one or two bad falls.'

Meanwhile, he is getting more pleasure from working than many musicians seem to; you never hear Don Powell complaining about the pace at which Slade have to work, the travelling they have to do, the hours they spend rehearsing or recording. 'Since I've been with Slade, I've travelled most of the world,' he told me. 'We've" seen most parts of the States, and because we're not all that big over there yet we've been able to actually see the places we've visited properly without being confined to our hotel rooms - the thing that shook me about New York was a little detail, seeing the taxis with glass that was so thick that it was bullet-proof - you pay the driver through a slot so that he is never exposed to the passenger ... that really made me think about New York ...

'I don't think we've changed at all. We have a great relationship within the group, and when we go back home we may not see each other for a few days - and then one of us will phone the other up and we'll meet up for a drink just like any other group of mates... but the problems come because we're able to travel so much more than other people. It's only people who have known us for a very long time who can accept that... with people that we don't know very deeply it creates a gulf. If I say that the previous night I was on Sunset Strip, they just can't adjust to that - because Sunset Strip is somewhere they would only see on TV ... but that's just the way we live now. It has happened so gradually that all the travelling and visiting different countries is just part of our life, and it's not fantastic to us - though it is to other people, and that's why I think my relationship with other people is changing, though I don't really want it to.' 

CHAPTER SEVEN 


Before Chas Chandler came into their lives, Noddy Holder, Jim Lea, Dave Hill and Don Powell had already spent three years together; had already released one record as the 'N Betweens, 'You Better Run', and had recorded with Jack Baverstock at Fontana as Ambrose Slade.

But for them the most fruitful period had been the season spent working in the Bahamas. Like The Beatles in Hamburg, they had found themselves virtually stranded in a foreign country with little to do but concentrate on their music - and in their case the need to do just that became particularly acute when their instruments were impounded by the management of their hotel because they hadn't paid their bill. 

When we arrived there, we were told to go to this hotel and we just booked in,' Dave Hill told me. 'No-one had told us that we were responsible for paying the bill, and we thought the club must be paying it ... but in the meantime the ownership of the club, had changed, and they disclaimed all responsibility - so we found ourselves having to stay much longer in the Bahamas than we had ever planned to, earning the extra money to pay back the hotel so that we could get our instruments back ... and they let us play them in the evenings so that we could do that.' 

Although Dave Hill was to later say that they had developed their skinhead hairstyles in the Bahamas because of the heat, it's undoubtedly the fact that they had to work so hard and so long that was the biggest contribution the experience gave to their careers; they just had to see it through because there was no question of them being able to go back to Britain without their instruments.

Originally, they were expecting to stay out there six weeks… but because of that mix-up over the hotel booking, they stayed six months. Noddy Holder later told Petticoat. It took us six months but that was the experience, which laid the foundation for the band today. Out there we got into all kinds of music from Moby Grape to Reggae. We played limbo and we even backed the fire eaters and the cabaret.' 

The stay was not without its incidents. 

One afternoon they had gone to the barber's for a trim, and were sitting there, waiting, talking. 'There was this shady looking character sitting in a chair having his hair done,' remembers Don Powell. 'He heard us talking and realized we were English, and said he had just come back from London. We asked him what he had done over there, and he said he had flown over there to kill a bloke for the Mafia. He said they had paid him so well that he would never have to work again, but he realized that now he had done one job for them he realized that they might go back to him one day and ask him to do another job for them ... you can imagine us, sitting there, hearing that, with the bloke just talking about normally as though it was an everyday conversation ... we just sat there with our mouths open.' 

But in the main, their stay in the Bahamas was constant hard work, every evening, entertaining audiences that were largely composed of young Americans on holiday, and when they weren't playing on their own they often backed visiting soul singers. 

'We knew while we were there that we were at the cross-roads,' Jim Lea told me. 'We had no doubt about that, and we used to say to ourselves that when we got back to England it would be "make or break", and then when we did get back we just started to move up. After the Bahamas, we moved forward very steadily so that we could almost feel our career building up, brick by brick.' Dave Hill agreed: 'we had a few arguments over there, but the experience did us good. Musically, it all came together for us ... ' 

And then when they returned to Britain came that booking at the Rasputin club, where they were seen by Chas Chandler, who had for some time been anxious to find another act to work having then recently parted company with Jimi Hendrix. 'Chas didn't say we were the greatest thing he had ever heard, but he did say he thought we "had it in us" and it was just a· case of "getting it out of us",' Noddy Holder said in that Petticoat interview with Keith Altham. 'It was Chas who instigated the skinhead publicity and I still think he was right. We had written three songs before we met Chas and he pushed us into writing all our own material. Without his support we would never have got noticed.'

Even before meeting Chandler, they had released that first Fontana album 'Beginnings' from which they had taken the single 'Genesis', which Noddy Holder says they had written in just five minutes. But that made very little impact - and likewise their first two singles with Chandler 'Shape of Things To Come' and 'Wild Winds Are Blowing' both failed (both were on the Fontana label), and even when they switched to Polydor and released 'Know Who You Are'/'Dapple Rose' that failed, too. So it's not all that surprising that when they realized how popular 'Get Down and Get With It' was with club audiences, Slade released that - even though it meant the song writing royalties going to Little Richard! 

'It was when we were discussing how much money we'd get from the record after it started to break that Chas really impressed on us that we ought to be writing our own material,' Noddy Holder told me, and though Slade generally shy away from any questions about record sales, contract royalties or such other sources of income as Performing Rights it is no secret that Chas Chandler, being the shrewd manager that he is and coming as he does from a background of Sixties groups, has impressed upon them the virtues of maximizing income and minimizing costs. Within the music business, this is a relatively old fashioned approach; in recent years the tendency has been towards massive advance promotion of new talent with artistes being treated like stars and financed accordingly long before they have sold enough records to justify it all, with the result that there are now some world-famous groups who are virtually penniless in that they have debts running into hundreds of thousands of pounds which have to be repaid before they can even think of making any changes in the direction of their career. 

Not so Slade. 

Until quite recently, their equipment had only cost them £6,000; their transport was a family car rather than a Rolls Royce or Mercedes; their road crew was kept to a minimum (whereas some bands now travel with as many as thirty or forty 'assistants' of different kinds), and it was only as late as the summer of 1973 that they moved away from a cheap hotel in Paddington and started staying at the medium price London hotels like the Holiday Inns. 

'Chas has told us all about the groups in the Sixties who had hit records, toured overseas, broke through in the States and throughout Europe - and came out of it with hardly a penny,' Don Powell told me. 'And these were really big names that we could remember from the days when we were just starting and that we had gone to see and had really respected years ago - and Chas didn't just generalize. He told us what had happened to them and how, and he impressed upon us that if we didn't look after our money that's what could just as easily happen to us. 

'That's where we're so lucky to have someone like Chas to guide us. He has seen it all. He knows everyone in the business - who is straight and which crooks you have to avoid - and now it is all second nature to him. He knows the business inside out, and never puts a foot wrong, which you don't if you've been around as long as he has.'

And so when they did get that first hit single with 'Get Down and Get With It', it was only a matter of weeks before Slade produced their own song writing team. Each of them had been turning over ideas for songs. Don Powell had written several lyrics, but one evening Jim Lea thought of a very simple melody-line, and drove round to the council flat near Spaghetti Junction where Noddy was living with his parents. And that night the Holder-Lea song writing partnership was born.
(S-TSS-D at the bottom of page 65?)

CHAPTER EIGHT

The song that Jim Lea and Noddy Holder completed together that evening was 'Cos I Luv You', which featured Lea playing electric violin, and which brought Slade their first No. I hit single. The way in which they worked on the song was to form the pattern for all their song writing since then; it is still Jim Lea who writes the melodies -often very simple ones, with little more than a chorus to begin with - and then he relays them to Holder who starts writing a lyric to fit the tune.

'With "Cos I Luv You" all that Jim had to start with was just a couple of lines for a lyric and the melody line,' Holder told me. 'When he drove round to our place, he sat down and played it over to me on guitar in the living room, and then we just took it from there, with me sitting on the arm of a chair, thumping away at my old Spanish guitar, which I've still got at home. It was easy enough to work out the chorus, though we found it a bit harder trying to develop the verse melody, but then Jim , came up with an idea for that ... and that's how we always work now. It's Jim who works out the basic tune, and then he' often leaves it to me to work on the words, though we'll often swap ideas for the choruses.'

It was Jim Lea who had explained to me how anxious they had all been to produce a follow-up to 'Get Down and Get With It' from within the group, and how Chas 'Chandler had kept urging them every time they went up to his office: 'Let's hear those songs you've written.' He admits that had it not been for Chandler's persistence, he might not have spent so much time working on ideas for songs, and they might easily have adapted another old rock 'n' roll song for the follow-up. 'All I really had that night when I went round to Nod's was a bass riff,' he said, 'but I knew that what I'd got was really commercial, and when I played it over to Nod he liked it, too, so we just sat down together with just the beat in our minds, and worked on it... it only took us half an hour to finish it, but when I got back into the car I was tingling all over because I knew we had done it.'

The song was just as tightly written as that Little Richard number they had adapted; very basic, raunchy rock 'n' roll, but with a sensitive melody underlined by the use of electric violin which is a relatively rare instrument for groups to use.

And apart from the use of violin, the sound on that single became identified with Slade over the next two years - it was not until the end of 1973 and early in 1974 that their melodies became more dominant.

Over those two years, Slade's singles were superficially very much alike, often noticeably built around Jim Lea's bass riffs - or hooks' as Noddy Holder calls them. Like Marc Bolan with his run of hit singles over the same period, they found a formula and stuck to it - and kept on sticking to it even after Bolan had moved on into more self-indulgent forms of music.

By the end of 1973, they had had seven Number one hit singles in just on two years - and in the twenty year history of the British pop music business, only Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have had as many number one hits as that.
Tremlett 10 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Musically, Lea and Holder have very different personal tastes and backgrounds as we have seen in the separate chapters

showing how each member came into the group; Lea prefers the more melodic music of Nilsson, Buddy Holly, Paul McCartney, Carole King, Neil Young, Burt Bacharach and the lighter works of such classical composers as Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Brahms - whereas Noddy Holder likes soul music and basic rock 'n' roll ranging over Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops and other Tamla Motown groups through to Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and, of course, The Beatles and Simon
and GarfunkeI. There seems little doubt, however, that the breadth of music that they encompass between them is reflected in the style Holder and Lea have developed between them; most songwriters are derivative before developing a style of their own.

At first, it was easy to be deceived by the apparent repetitiveness of Slade's singles; they seemed so alike in formula - even down to the trick of mis-spelling each title and then reversing letters in words for typographic effect. But personally, I believe their style was taking shape faster than the critics realized - and by the time they released the 'Old New Borrowed and Blue' album in February 1974, it had become very accomplished.

Noddy Holder admitted to me on one occasion that some of their song titles had embarrassed them. It was just as they were releasing 'Cum On Feel The Noize'. 'I feel silly mentioning the title,' he said. 'I've always felt that our titles are a bit silly. We all felt' that when we recorded "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", and then after a few weeks we get used to that title and don't mind it quite so much.

With most of the songs Slade have recorded, the basic ideas have still originated with Jim Lea.

'I thought of the melody for "Cum On Feel The Noize" one evening when I was still living at home with my parents, and it just came to me in about five minutes,' he said, 'Then "Everyday" developed one evening when my wife and I had a couple of friends round to the house, just sitting around drinking. I said. "Anyone can write a song" and we just sat there, the four of us, trying to produce a melody ... then suddenly my wife said to me, "I've got one - but I can't sing it here!" So I went with her out into the kitchen, and she sang just a few words, "I can see you look at me..." And that was what started off the song. That was the first line.

'She gave me the basic idea that evening, and I was knocked out by that first line because it was so simple. But we didn't finish off the song there and then. The basic melody was sort of there in the back of my mind, and I worked on it again when we were on holiday in Majorca ... and then one night after we'd been working late in London I caught a train back home to Wolverhampton around two or three o'clock in the morning and started thinking about the song again, and all the pieces sort of dropped into place.'

Equally unusual was the way another of their songs developed, 'Gudbuy To Jane', which was born during a plane flight on one of their United States tours. They had been guests on a television show in San Francisco, where the interviewer had the unusual gimmick of sitting with a beautiful girl called Jane beside him throughout the programme, just as decoration - she didn't say a word. 'She had black hair and was a very dolly bird, but just sat there, not speaking at all,' Noddy Holder told me.

'Before we went on the show, she lost one of her boots, and we had all got down on our hands and knees in the studio trying to find what she called her "Forties trip boots". She said she had paid a fortune for them, though when we found them they were just those polka dot boots that you can see in every shop down Oxford Street, and we could see that she'd been conned...'

As they got in the plane, someone cracked: 'Ah well, goodbye to Jane...' And off they went to fly to the next gig, with Don; Dave and Noddy dozing off to sleep. But the phrase had settled in Jim's mind, and when he went to the loo he sat there, put his fingers in his ears, looked at the blank lavatory door ... and the melody just came. Even odder was the fact that when they returned to London and went down to the Olympic studios in Barnes (where they do nearly all their recording work),

Noddy Holder went off to another loo with a sheet of paper in his hand - and came back with the lyrics for the song, which must be a unique way of writing a song. Have you ever heard of a hit song being written in two lavatories thousands of miles apart?

Although some of their ideas have come in strange situations; Slade are now so professional in their attitude to recording that if they know they have to go into the Olympic studios to produce a single they will do just that. 'That's what we did with "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," said Noddy Holder. 'We just went into the studios, sat down and wrote it, straight off, just like that.'

So far their most successful single has been their, 1973 Christmas release 'Merry Xmas 'Everybody', which sold 310,000 copies on the Friday it was released. On the following Monday another 86,000 copies were ordered and within three weeks it grossed sales of over 1,000,000 copies, making it one of the fastest-selling Christmas records of all time. Indeed, it was the first time since Dickie Valentine's 'Christmas Alphabet' in 1955 that there had been a Number one Christmas hit with the word 'Christmas' in the title.

'There's a strange story behind that one,' Jim Lea told me. 'Nod wrote the chorus for that one four years earlier, but with a different lyric - nothing to do with Christmas at all ... and then on our second tour of the States we heard a lot of Dylan stuff on the radio, and for the first time I really started getting into Dylan. I'd never really bothered much with him before, but on that tour I really started listening to his music, and to me every time I hear that single I can hear Dylan's influence on me because we took Nod's chorus and then I wrote a melody as a Christmas song, and then Nod added the lyrics, which seemed to fit it perfectly. At the time that we wrote it, I thought the song was a bit corny and I thought perhaps we ought to make it a bit grittier before we released it, adding some rock 'n' roll guitar, and then those sales figures started coming in, and we just couldn't believe it, which just shows how wrong you can be.

'The funny thing was when the record came out, everyone told us that it sounded just like The Beatles and that Nod's voice was very like John Lennon's - and we couldn't see that at all.

'It's funny, but people have said things like that to us many times over the years and yet we think Nod sounds very different to Lennon. Of course, we're all Beatles-influenced - everybody is in the music business because they were the ones who started it all for the British groups. But the strange thing is that within the group I'm more into that sort of music whereas Nod goes in for Tamla Motown, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker and that sort of music ... and yet people still say it - I can remember once 'years ago my brother used to come and hear us play, and one night he said of Nod: "He's trying to sound like John Lennon" - and he wasn't at all.'

'Influences like that aren't something that musicians can really understand; they get into the music without them knowing it, and it's only their audience who hear it ... ' for me, it was Dylan who influenced that record, especially the melody - I can't see that "Everyday" sounds like a Beatles number, not in a million years, but what I do know from what I've read is that Nod and Lennon have both been influenced by different artistes at different times ... I understand that Lennon went through a Tamla Motown period years ago, and so has Nod .. " and then he went through a phase when he was very influenced by Dylan, and that's happened to us more recently... and if there are any similarities with The Beatles, I think that's probably where the explanation lies , . , mind you', if there's one person that I would love to work with it's Lennon - I dig his voice, and everything about him. It’s funny that thing with Lennon and McCartney. They're very different people, and the music they write when they're on their own is very different - I love the albums Lennon has done on his own "Sometime In New York City", "Mind Games" and "Imagine". I'm still playing "Mind Games", which I love - I think now he's probably my favourite songwriter. And as I say it's funny because Nod and me are worlds apart in the way we think and written just like him and McCartney.

'Singles are my thing. They're what I really enjoy working on, and if Nod and I work separately we come up with something completely different, and then by each working on the other's ideas we give them that something extra ... if Nod is on his own he'll come up with an out and out rocker, and then I'll put the hook in - which is the thing that sells it ... and then if I come up with a melody, he'll put a hook in that - that's the way we work.'

Unlike some songwriters, Jim finds that he can work anywhere; he does not need to shut himself away, though he says that his wife and their friends always know when he's turning over ideas for a song because even when he's sitting down in the lounge talking to them his eyes glaze over as though he is daydreaming. 'People are always complaining about it,' he says. 'I start to look vacant as though I'm miles away. When I'm working on a song, I'm living in a world of my own, actually listening to the music, because I can hear the idea taking shape without singing any words - it's always the melodies that come first with me, and I forget about everything else until I've worked them out ... sometimes when I'm back home I'll sit down at the piano and work out an idea there, and then other times, perhaps I'll try it on guitar instead ... I've still got that old guitar my parents bought me ten years ago, still tucked away in a polythene bag, though just recently I've bought myself another acoustic guitar, a Yamaha, which I really love playing when I'm alone at home.'

When he and Noddy Holder have added their own touches to a song, it is still not the end of the process; after that, every member of the group throws in ideas as well as they record the number, with Chas Chandler sitting at the control panel, listening carefully. Holder told the New Musical Express that it was working on the hook-lines that took up most of their time when recording. 'Chas is in there listening for the strong points, bringing 'em out, y'know. The way we work is to record the backing track simultaneously - no over-dubs if we can 'elp it. To get that live feel, y'know. Then it's the vocals and clappin' and what-have-you. We don't spend much time in the studio 'cos we know what we want. Like "Slayed" - that album took ten days to record. In that time we actually recorded an album, two singles and two B-sides. It's not bad goin', when you think about it.' And he told Petticoat: 'We're fifty per cent humour and fifty per cent music... every number we play is a beat number. Not just rock but music you can stomp, clap or just freak out to. It's a violent kind of music, but it provides a release in the form of an escape valve.' Then Jim Lea told Melody Maker: 'We just go in to record each track as a possible single. So now we get albums full of singles. It's the way the writing went; we just channelled ourselves into four-minute songs with hook lines. That's the way we write though it's beginning to break out of that a bit now as you can probably tell if you listen to the last album - but we're going to go on as we are for a bit yet. The tempos haven't changed, things like that, but numbers can get longer and certainly more melodic, using different instruments to what we've used before - Moog, slide guitar, things like this. But we never really plan, just record and see what comes up.

A lot of bands go in and scrap reels of tapes. We tend to be very concise in what we do. We get a greater percentage of winners out.'

Unlike many artistes, Slade do not have many unreleased tapes. 'We always release our material as we go along,' Jim Lea told me. 'In fact, it's mostly released as we do it - though there may be a gap in some countries... ' for instance, that Christmas single was Number one throughout Europe, but we didn't release it in the States at all - and then we released one album overseas '''Cos I Luv You" which we didn't issue in Britain because it was all singles that had already been hits here for us, and we thought it was more than likely that most of our fans would already have those numbers in their record collections.'

As they talk about their work, it all sounds so simple because Slade do have this no-nonsense approach; the same attitude to working in the music business that their manager Chas Chandler has always had, though Jim Lea admits that he always gets that feeling of tingling excitement every time, he knows he has the idea for another song.

'It's a tremendous thrill to know that you've done it again,' he says. 'After "Cos I Luv You", the next one, "Look Wot You Dun", came as we were travelling in the car and by then I had all sorts of ideas, just bits of melodies, turning over in my head. Then when we wrote the third one, "Take Me Bak Home",  I just thought, "Strewth - we've got another song!" I just thought of those few words, sang over that hook to the others - and we knew we'd done it again.

'Now, they always start the same way. One of us gets just a few words like that which form the hook, and we just say, "Listen to this" - and then away we go.'

And having established this as a pattern, Jim Lea feels that he would now like to develop his ideas even further. Already school orchestras are starting to order Slade's sheet music. The melodies are so simple that they adapt easily even to a brass band. The German orchestra leader, James Last, has already recorded several of their numbers with a full studio orchestra. And it is partly this that is fascinating Lea. 'I'm starting to get very into musical arrangements,' he said. 'I can read and write music, and play piano and violin as well as bass, and I've been thinking just lately that I'd like to write an orchestral piece myself, writing parts for all the different sections of the orchestra. Several people have suggested that I should do something like that, and I'm beginning to feel that I could do it....'  

CHAPTER NINE

Between the time of their first hit single, 'Get Down and Get With It', and the release of their first group-written hit, 'Cos I Luv You', Slade changed - visibly as well as musically. By then Chas Chandler had already been managing the group for two years, and he says now that he will never be able to understand why it took as long as it did for the group to make their breakthrough.

'We used to be right scruffy up to the time of "Get Down and Get With It" but then we, like, had some money in our pockets, and so by the time of "Cos I Luv You" we were startin' to flash out a bit with the clothes,' Noddy Holder told the New Musical Express, adding that 'a lot of things happened in the five months between those singles being released.' 

Which was an understatement - for 1971 was a turning point in rock music, and I had the impression then (which I still have now) that Slade were not really ready for the break when it came. They were musically, but after over five years together without success - and having gone through that disastrous skinhead phase - they were still caught unawares. When that Little Richard number brought them their first hit, they were even photographed celebrating - all rather conventionally dressed with jackets, shirts and even ties! Indeed, they almost looked a little too ordinary - for 1971 was the year that flash went back into rock. The first generation of British rock stars had grown tired, absorbed by drugs, obsessed by their own importance, preferring to divide their time between private studio sessions, rare public appearances and a quiet life at home in their country cottages with their women and children - occasionally interrupting the tedium to mumble a statement of personal philosophy for the education of the readers of Rolling Stone, Oz or the International Times. Even the music became self-indulgent and insufferably pretentious - and then suddenly it all changed. 

Marc Bolan proved to be the main catalyst. Even now his influence is probably under-estimated, for that was the year that T.Rex stomped and bopped from town to town, prancing about their stage in brightly coloured shimmering clothes, lisping lyrics and being fey-but-Oh-ever-so-sweet. That was the year that tubby Reg Dwight from Pinner became all-a-glitter and better known as Elton John; the year that Rod Stewart topped both the singles and LP charts on both sides of the Atlantic in the same week; the year that David Bowie decided that he had to become outrageous; the year that The Sweet became the T.Rex-substitute with their Chapman-Chinn songs and somewhat cheaper costumes; the year that Gilbert O'Sullivan stumbled to the fore dressed in short grey trousers, long socks, Forties haircut and an amalgam of back street fashion and Thirties kitsch. 

It was, the commentators decided at the time, the year that glamour, excitement and teenage enthusiasm returned to the music business. Record sales boomed. The circulations of the teenage magazines rocketed. And if you wanted to be out front, you just had to have an image. When 'Get Down and Get With It' came out, Slade didn't have one; but when 'Cos I Luv You' was released, they did. 

It is just possible that this was not as calculated as it later appeared, though personally I believe Slade and Chas Chandler knew exactly what they were doing. Whereas Bolan, Elton John, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, The Sweet and Gilbert O'Sullivan all had images that were to a large degree foreign, Slade became a caricature of themselves. One writer came close to realizing this, and that was Nick Kent in the New Musical Express, who later commented: 'The strong working-class consciousness - the empathy with football, deliberate bad spelling, light-hearted irreverence, the knowing grin (as opposed to the shot sneer of most rock 'n' rollers) - all suddenly appeared. The musical equation was resolved - it was now the image that needed turning up. One foot on the stairway and the gambles all started paying off. Bolan was busy building himself up into becoming the great white narcissistic wonder while Slade, paradoxically, came out looking like buffoons in ludicrous fancy dress. But the trick was that you laughed with them and not at them. Their bawdiness was well in key with their image, their good-timey attitude was contagious and all the way along, the music acted as a celebration for all the shenanigans. Just like all good rock 'n' roll should.' 

In fact, the transition was masterly. Just as Andrew Loog Oldham had realized years earlier that the public would want an antidote to The Beatles arid had then produced the Rolling Stones, so Chas Chandler in a like situation seems to have had an instinctive feeling - if no more than that - that the new teenage pop audience that came together in 1971 would sooner or later want something more substantial, something grittier than the rather ethereal music that Marc Bolan was popularising at the time. 

So when Slade started promoting 'Cos I Luv You', they became a very different-looking band, indeed. Gone were the shirts, jackets and velvet bow ties. Instead, Dave Hill was now a 'Superyob'; Jim Lea appeared in red satin suits; Don Powell had suits of striped cotton, and Noddy Holder, vivid check trousers, high heeled boots, brightly coloured shirts and those absurd top hats, his hair now over his shoulders, his sideboards practically meeting under his chin. He looked plain· daft indeed, in some photographs he seemed to tighten his cheek muscles and look the very image of comedian Ken Dodd. 

Of course, the whole thing was a caricature; but it was also very shrewd - for Bolan was taking himself terribly seriously (as, indeed, were all the survivors of the first generation), and now along came Slade, dressed like four characters from Diddyland, stomping even harder than T.Rex, but laughing with their audience, joking, teasing, treating it all as one great big game. 

But it was all so honest, so lacking in pretence. One afternoon I interviewed Dave Hill, and he was wearing silver platform soled boots, red trousers and a gold shirt. But he did not try to persuade me - as so many other artistes did with national press writers who interviewed them at the time - that all this imagery was costing a fortune. 

. 'I'd like to make one thing plain,' he said. 'You get some pop stars telling all sorts of lies about the money they spend on clothes. Some of them even say they spend £500 a week on clothes. That's all nonsense. It costs nothing like that to dress the way we do. I've only ever bought one really expensive outfit and that was an all-gold leather suit with matching boots, which I had specially made for me for £100. That's the only time I've ever spent as much as that on an outfit - and I was able to wear that outfit for quite a few shows.'

Likewise, Noddy Holder said that for quite some time he had had just the one top hat 'and it's getting tatty - though I did get a special leather case to carry it in for our European tour.' The greatest expense seemed to be borne by Don Powell who at one time had over fifty stage suits - many of them in velvet - that had cost him as much as forty-five pounds each, though he was finding it so hot on stage at many gigs that he was rapidly dispensing with that attire and instead wearing specially embroidered vests. 'The only way we're different from other people is that we have to have a stock of clothes because there's no time for laundry when we're touring so we need a change of clothes every day during a tour, and then mass laundry at the end of it,' he said. 

In my view, the other important decision that Chas Chandler took was to keep the. fan club under his own control; as mentioned earlier, many other managers were virtually selling the rights to run fan clubs on their artistes to commercial agencies in return for a fee or royalty - but not Chandler, who had grown up in the days when all managers had a girl in the office running the fan club - often in between taking dictation, typing, answering the telephone, and making the coffee. Now, of course, running the club is a full-time job for part of his staff - but it is still administered from his office so that if he wants to make use of it Chandler has a card index system at his fingertips, giving the names and addresses of all the group's keenest fans. 

It is interesting to note that - unlike the Osmonds fan club, which is the only other fan club in Britain that is as well organized - there is not the same obsession with personal details and family trivia, though naturally enough fans are told the sort of information that one would expect to come from a club of this kind.

Thus, in a July/August newsletter of 1971, members were told that Slade were working so hard that they would not have time for a holiday that year. Dates are given for all their ballroom appearances - including such unlikely venues as the Teenage Centre at Fareham, Hampshire, and the Paget Rooms at Penarth. Members are told that Slade will tour the Isle of Arran, Scotland, for three days, and appear at a pop festival at Weeley, near Clacton. 'During May the boys went to Holland for three days and were so successful that they were asked back this week ... Slade popped into the office today for a couple of interviews, so please keep your eyes open for a feature on them in both Mirabelle and Record Mirror.' And then Jim Lea writes a personal message, noting that ~Get Down and Get With It' had very favourable reviews 'and that pleased everyone concerned. To promote the disc, we have done various interviews and shows. The Roger Whittaker TV show for one, which sounds an unlikely thing for us to scream and stamp our way into, but apparently it came over very well, although we didn't see it ourselves due to a visit to Holland. Unfortunately it was only on regional TV, London, Anglia and Harlech as far as I know, so a good many of you will have missed it ... the audiences (in Holland) must have been among the best we have ever played to. Our night in Amsterdam landed us a contract for a forty-minute TV show of our own, which is recorded and filmed at a live open air concert ... our last night over there was very frightening for all of us. We stayed in a hotel, which gave us a single room each, but I don't think that anyone had a wink of sleep due to creaks and bumps all night long with numerous (sic) nightmares. It also seemed that we had all got some feeling of an alien body being in our rooms, although all the doors had been locked ... we played at Cardiff University in the hottest (sic) place that I have ever been in. Dave couldn't stand it and collapsed to the ground with heat exhaustion, which was all very well but the stage was about five feet high, luckily he didn't hurt himself ... I hope that they have some ventilation for the next time we play there.' And the lyrics were published to two of their songs, 'Get Down and Get With It' and 'Do You Want Me', and members were told that an inmate at Rampton Hospital would like to have a pen pal. 

In the October/November newsletter, members were told that 'the boys have been so busy over the past two months they have been unable to write an article in this issue', but instead Chas Chandler wrote thanking all the members for buying 'Get Down and Get With It' and for turning up at their shows, 'I apologise for my part in delaying this newsletter, my reason was two-fold, firstly the enclosed stickers which I wanted you to have as soon as possible and secondly the delay in releasing the new single, which was due in fact to the success of "Get Down and Get with It". Slade was kept sd busy they were unable to go in the studios and finish it off. We have arranged for those members who can attend a special free showing of Slade in the studios...' Also enclosed with the newsletter were postcards for members to write in to the radio disc jockeys, requesting plays for 'Cos I Luv You' and ten Slade stickers per member - plus details of a road accident in which the group had been injured, the lyrics to 'Cos I Luv You', all their scheduled live appearances, and the invitation that all fan club members were welcome to go to Command Studios in Piccadilly on either October 19th, 20th and 21st to hear Slade recording their album. 'To be admitted free, all you have to do is show your membership card.' 

Already, you can see how cleverly the fan club is being organized. A genuine rapport is being established between Slade and Chandler and the fan club members. 

By the following April, the fan club newsletter is no longer just five duplicated sheets; it now becomes a two-colour printed four-page foolscap newsletter - with photographs of Slade on nearly every page in most issues. But still, there is this response from the group to their audience - and fans are given details of their appearances, can compete in a competition to write captions for photos of the group, are invited to buy T-shirts for only 70P, are told that their latest album 'Slade Alive' is 'coarse, rare and gritty, just how we like them', given details of where they buy their boots, while Noddy Holder writes that his message 'has been written on a scrap of paper in the back of our truck whilst travelling on the M1 ... I hear from Di that the membership has more than doubled over the last two months which is terrific. It seems to make everything worthwhile ... it's a sad sight seeing "Look Wot You Dun" slowly go down the charts but it was a great feeling when it shot straight up to the top. Thanks to all you great fans for helping it on its way. For promotion we did a lot of TV including a film for "Top Of The Pops", this was taken at Chessington Zoo and half-way through the film Don was seen to have a fish in his mouth. This I assure all the fans that wrote in was a dead fish, ready to be fed to the seals, but the keeper being a bit short-sighted mistook Don as being one ... ' Also in that newsletter were' the words of their song 'Candidate', which is the 'only political song that Slade have recorded - a rather cynical lyric about political candidates being 'cartoon faces in the news, storming from the house in ones and twos', which in all probability, reflects their fans' own feelings. . 

The next newsletter (for June and July, 1972) reports that 'Slade had their first big break for holidays just before their British tour for nearly two years ... while playing at one of their concerts in Holland the fire brigade was called in to support a balcony. Fans climbed to safety. The vibrations were too much for it ... Jimmy has started to learn yoga ... The boys may do an American tour at the end of August.' Members are given the lyric for the latest single, 'Take Me Bak 'Ome', their date-sheet for June and July, addresses of pen pals, and the comments of different music papers on the group: 
‘Slade Alive" is just what it implies, having been recorded before a rowdy crowd of fans at Command Studios. If you've ever been to one of their noisy gigs you'll know exactly what I mean.’ New Musical Express 
'Because it was recorded in a studio proper, before an audience, they've achieved the kind of balance and sound not often heard on a live recording.' Melody Maker 
'On stage the group hold attention with their cavorting antics and general enthusiasm, and to followers this is a good album to keep to remind them of the live performances they see.' Record Mirror
Then fans are given a report of Slade's latest trip to Holland, detailing how Noddy wore a checked cap, sideburns bushing out, green shirt, braces and boots. 'Next to him Dave smiles, while wearing a shiny silver coat and Christmas tinsel in his hair, with Don lurching behind his drums and Jimmy pounding his bass in a bright yellow jump-suit. This evening's gig turned out to be a small club - one of Holland's many youth centre venues - which the boys gained experience playing on their previous tours. They start with "Hear Me Calling" and the place becomes electrified, immediately the audience begins to stomp. Then it's into their quiet number "Darling Be Home Soon", but soon it's back to the beat and thud of "Get Down and Get With It". After an hour it's all over, finishing with "Born To Be Wild", which just about sums up their entire stage act ... now it's off to the Paradiso. This is the main Dutch venue, and one of the toughest to play. Slade go on about II pm. At their backs must be the biggest light show in existence. It's hard going, though the sound and separation are better than previous gigs. Not until "Get Down and Get With It" do the audience come to light (sic).' 

As you can see, already the pattern is developing. Every newsletter contains the lyrics of at least one song; fans are even told that at that Dutch venue the group found it tough going to rouse the audience, and although there is some personal information - the newsletters are still basically concerned with the group's work. Thus in the newsletter after that (August and September, 1972), Don Powell writes: 'It's been the most hectic two months we've ever had, in and out of studios, masses of interviews and we unofficially carried on the tour into June and July. One gig we really enjoyed and that was the Lincoln Festival. We played on the Sunday, when the weather was a little better than the first two days. We thought that we would not ·be welcome and we would have trouble getting through to the crowd, as this was not "our" audience. We won them over to our side, after a few minutes. I don't think I saw one person sitting down and after every number we were greeted with roars of approval. We even brought on Stanley Baker (the organizer) to meet the audience and the audience cheered their thanks. Just heard we are doing the Rainbow Theatre at Finsbury Park on the 29th July. I hope this newsletter gets to you before then, and if so we will see all you London fans there it’s been a long time since we've played London, so we hope to make it up to you… ' Then in the news section it is reported: 'Dave has a silver Jensen with registration number "YOB I" ... at Bury St Edmunds a girl climbed on to the roof of Slade's car. Fortunately they were able to stop and dislodge her without injury ... Chas Chandler is going to America to arrange a world wide tour, which will include Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the USA ... Slade will soon appear on TV's "In Concert" ... New single and album scheduled for release in October and November.' Fans are also given some details of the group's road crew: 'Number one man is "Swin", real name Graham Swinnerton ... otherwise known as "Mr Immaculate" to the boys for his sartorial elegance. Next there's "Charlie" alias Ian Newham, who is their sound mixer and is very good at driving down main roads in the wrong direction. "Rob" who is unknown by another name is their roadie sometimes described as "a thunderin' Scottish drunk", who is usually referred to as "Paddy". And finally their mystery "roadie" is "Morris" otherwise known as Martin Norris who refuses to speak to anyone, but is easily distinguishable by his tanned elbow and tendency to do impressions of air brakes.' 

The style of the newsletter is a mixture of teenage magazine journalism and music paper journalese, but if you notice very little is said about the group's private lives (which is unusual in a fan club). The emphasis is continually on their work. By the time the next newsletter was released in October and November, 1972, Slade were already starting to make much more frequent overseas appearances, and so Dave Hill writes: 'I am writing this newsletter from the States ... we are very excited over here as it's our first trip to America. We are on tour with a group called Humble Pie, who are top of the bill. There's another group second and we go on first. We have to talk a bit slower, and they don't understand everything Nod says, but we can' get them clapping their hands in the end, just like home. We've travelled all over the place - this country is so big - San Diego, Longbeach, Las Vegas, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. It's been really hard work and as we are only the support group we don't get all the special privileges as we do back home but we don't mind. It's been great fun ... I expect some of you saw us on our fleeting visit to London to do the Sundown. Glad to see you remembered us while we've been away. We flew in from Las Vegas to do the concert and then back the next day. Only one complaint about the flying, the film they show on the plane was the same one on the inward flight as on the outward flight. That's one thing I hate doing, seeing a film twice… on our return from the USA, we will be doing a tour of Europe and then a big tour of Britain. This will also include a special concert in Wolverhampton, our home town.' This time, the news section reported the dates for their forthcoming tour plus the fact that Slade had received a second silver disc 'Take Me Bak 'Ome', that they would be topping the bill at the Stars Organization for Spastics charity concert at the Wembley Empire Pool on October 28th, and had been selected as 'Group of the Year' by Radio Luxembourg. And just in case they had not already seen the reviews, fans were told what the music papers had had to say about their latest single, 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now': 
'Slade don't fool around - this immediately comes on like a number one record and that's exactly what it's going to be. After the hits they've had already I consider this their best by far from the fuzzed out guitar intro to the rocking stomping chorus through to the crowd singing-along at the end. Slade personify the excitement that's obtainable through the forty-five market.' New Musical Express 
'With howls they tear straight into another huge boogie with that typical distant and manic voice sounding like rending calico. Slade's unique power comes from the fact that they fit memorable melodies to their boogies. By the time this one ends you could believe, so dense does the sound and the atmosphere become, that 50,000 people were roaring along with the band in some distant dark stadium. The total line is shouted over and over with a lot of whooping and shrieking behind it and there's a burst of that hand clapping that is incorporated so well into the band's records. How on earth can a record like this fail? And what curmudgeon would want it to.' Disc 
By now, Slade were successful throughout Europe - though not the United States. The newsletter reported that the 'Slade Alive' album had now been top of the LP charts for twenty-six weeks. 

In the newsletter after that (December 1972, and January 1973), fans were told that the tours of Australia, New Zealand a.nd Japan had now been finalized; that they would be gomg back to the United States; that 'Gudbuy To Jane' had brought them another Number one in Britain, and that they had now collected four silver discs for sales of 250,ooo-plus of their last four singles; again the lyrics of 'Gudbuy To Jane' were printed, and in the news section it was reported that Wayne, Merrill and Alan Osmond had been to their Rainbow concert - and so had Donovan; that Noddy was taking part in a discussion programme on 'Behaviour and Belief' for a Schools TV series; that someone threw a brick at Noddy during a concert in Brussels, hitting him on the hand; that they would spend fifteen days in Australia, and that when they appeared at the Paris Olympia, police asked them to go back on stage after the concert to quieten down the audience. Fans were told of one review of 'Gudbuy To Jane': 
'Following "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", the Wolverhampton Wanderers have chosen another Lea-Holder rigid rocker. There's a simple little drum intro as the guitars join in followed by a ferocious bass line. Bound to storm the charts and should be a big Christmas seller for the band. During the past year Slade's song writing has improved greatly. If they continue to progress at this rate, nothing can hold them back.,' New Musical Express 
Each member of the group contributed a short message. Noddy Holder recalled that 'we had a terrific time in the States. The audience over there really helped by giving all their support. When we first went over there I thought it would be the Big Bad Country but it wasn't at all. Everyone was very helpful. It was a pity we didn't have time to do any sightseeing, but we did manage to see Disneyland. We'll try to see more on the next trip. One thing we did notice was that in the west of America it is slow and lazy while in the east it is fast and snappy. Chicago looks like Birmingham with skyscrapers, we all thought that. The crowds were great in Chicago. In New York they were incredible.' Jim Lea said they hoped to spend Christmas at home with their families. Don Powell reported that he had bought a new drum kit, using it for the first time at the Rainbow concert, while Dave Hill said they were all looking forward to the Australian trip 'we will get there in mid summer and we might come back with a golden sun tan.' 

They reported on the Australian tour in the April/May newsletter: 'In Sydney it rained and everything was a washout ... the audience soaked to the skin enjoyed every minute of it. That same wet Sydney weekend Melbourne was both thirsty for rain and entertainment but a week later the black clouds appeared over Melbourne, there was a crack of thunder and down poured the rain.' Everyone was convinced that Slade's appearance would have to be called off. Over 25,000 Melbournites stood for six hours in pouring rain and waited for Slade. And when they appeared the crowd went berserk. Wherever Slade have appeared in Australia - Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth - hail, rain or shine they have Slayed Australian audiences. It took a power strike in Canberra to stop a performance.' Jim Lea commented: 'We went there not knowing what it would be like, in much the same way as we arrived in America. And when we got there we discovered that "Slade Alive" was the biggest selling Australian album since "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". And while we were there our record company released "Slayed" which was awarded a Gold Disc a week after release ... during our stage act we had to do the old favourites because they are behind us on releases, but it was nice to do the old ones again. We had a few sound problems but we got across OK.' 
Tremlett 08 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
By the time that newsletter was posted to fans, yet another British tour had been arranged, opening at the Edinburgh Empire on May 31st - and Slade were now clearly reaching a new level in their career. In their home town  it was being suggested by the Mayor that the town should honour them with a civic reception. Their latest single, 'Cum On Feel The Noize' had grossed British sales of 500,000 in only three weeks 'selling so fast that at one point the factory was completely out of stock for a few days'. ·When the next single 'Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me' was released it sold 300,000 in just the first week. And by then Slade were planning to finish their British tour with the biggest concert they had ever appeared in, in this country - before 18,000 fans at the Earls Court in London. The concert was scheduled for July 1st.
(S-TSS-E at the bottom of page 89?)
Tremlett pic 20 large, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me
In the months before that concert, Slade had triumphed everywhere but the states - though even there their live shows were becoming successful, sometimes attracting audiences as large as 17,000. But in every other record-buying country, Slade had hit LP's and singles. In Britain, they had been chosen to star in a special London Palladium concert to celebrate Britain's entry into the Common Market. They had broken through in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Concerts and TV appearances in Holland, Germany and Belgium had become a frequent feature of their date-sheet. 

Not since The Beatles had a group risen so far so fast, indeed, the Daily Express said their reception at that London Palladium concert was the most hysterical seen at the theatre since Johnny Ray appeared there in 1958. 

And in the months up to that Earls Court concert, the hysteria mounted. 'I wouldn't dream of trying to walk down a London street now,' Noddy Holder told me, admitting that he did, have several disguises that enabled him to move around fairly freely when he wanted to. 'I've even worn dark glasses and a beard,' he said. 

Security was becoming a problem; after some appearances in provincial cities Chandler would have to arrange for the local Police to escort them away from theatres - occasionally in a Black Maria. At Brighton, over 2,000 fans crammed the area around the stage door. At Newcastle, fans broke through thick plate glass windows to get near the group. At Glasgow, fans chased their car down the street: - with one girl still spread-eagled across the roof. Even in the States where they had yet to have a hit record, Don Powell noticed that some girls were turning up at different venues thousands of miles apart. 'That was amazing,' he told me. 'We'd never come across that before.'

Then after those extraordinary first six months of 1973, when their record sales reached those peaks, when they stormed through so many countries and even British Rail thought they had to have Slade to promote a new European travel scheme for the young, came that Earls Court concert. 

In psychological terms, the build-up was extraordinary. 

Slade had been so successful and had not appeared in London since the Palladium concert - and there were, after all, comparatively few acts that could pack an 18,000 seater venue in London. Because of the city's lack of suitable venues for rock concerts, such occasions were rare. Earlier that week Slade booked into th~ Holiday Inn Hotel in Swiss Cottage, planning to spend five days in the recording studios before the concert but by the Thursday night word had spread on the teenage grapevine and the hotel was besieged by screaming fans. It became so difficult for the hotel to function normally that the manager asked them to leave, but Chas Chandler told the London Evening News: 'I flatly refused. The lads had been recording for twelve hours and were completely exhausted.' 

On the Saturday, my wife and I spent two hours with the group, interviewing each of them separately, and one could sense that they, too, realized that their career was reaching a peak - and apart from breaking through in the States and maybe making a film, there were few rivers yet to cross. They had reached the top. 
Tremlett 07 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975
Now when a group reaches this level, the stock managerial trump is to make them exclusive, to restrict their personal appearances and interviews, and so give a sense of occasion to each new LP release or concert tour. Chas Chandler did no such thing. 

And it was just at this moment; Fate intervened (if I may use so dramatic a phrase without its meaning being traduced). Within hours of their Earls Court triumph, Don Powell was nearly killed in a car crash in which his girlfriend died, and for some days thereafter it seemed possible that he too might die and no-one knew what would happen to Slade.   

CHAPTER TEN

The day before that Earls Court concert, I had spent two hours with Slade at the Swiss Cottage Holiday Inn. They seemed more relaxed, more self-assured than I had ever known them to be before, and were looking forward to the concert, which they regarded as a major highlight in their career.

By then, Slade had become so popular that thousands of fans would turn up to their shows dressed like the individual members of the group - wearing top hats like Noddy, glitter in their hair and on their cheeks like Dave, or the check suits, boots and braces which had so much become the group's style. 

The Melody Maker reported that it was 'the most sensational concert of their career' and that 'Salesmen dispensing Slade souvenirs - hats, scarves, badges, posters and books - did a roaring trade.' The concert was recorded and filmed, and the group were clearly the most popular in the country; for the first time in six years they were planning to take a long holiday. 'We've never been able to afford to go on holiday before,' Dave Hill told me. 

After a few days at home in Wolverhampton  he and Don Powell were planning to fly to Hollywood where they had arranged to rent Rock Hudson's former home in the nearby hills. 'We've seen photos of it - there's a big pool there, and we're going to laze around all day, and then in the evenings we'll go down to the clubs on Sunset Strip,' said Hill, who was also looking forward to visiting San Francisco, touring Chinatown  and he also hoped to see some big league baseball games and to go deep sea fishing for shark and marlin off the Californian coast.

'I can't remember when I last had a holiday - it was when I was a kid,' Don Powell told me, adding that he was hoping to return to Disneyland, where he had already spent six hours on a day off during one of their American tours. I love Disneyland - it's incredible. You'll just have to go there,' he said, describing his journeys on the Jungle Ride ('you feel as though you're surrounded by real lions and tigers') and the Moon Shot, ('you really feel as though you're taking off') and the Pirate's Den ('the most fantastic place of all for me. You glide between these two galleons, firing their guns at each other with all the pirates clambering over the side, waving their swords').

The concert itself was every bit as successful as the build-up,” said it would be, with all the tickets - priced at £1, £1.50 and £2 - sold by promoter Mel Bush. A giant screen was erected over the stage so that even the fans at the very back could see them projected and instead of their usual 6,000 watt PA. system Slade had hired a 13,000-watt system for this occasion to make sure that they could be heard in every corner of the arena. In front of the stage there were no fewer than two hundred security-men guarding the group just in case the audience stormed the stage, though promoter Bush told the New Musical, Express that 'The best security-man of them all is Noddy Holder. He controlled a crowd of 65,000 in Australia beautifully once, from a stage maybe two foot high. It had to be seen to be believed.'
Tremlett pic 13 large, Dave $
The following week's music papers agreed that the concert' had been a triumph. In Melody Maker, Chris Charlesworth said it was 'perhaps the final and ultimate climax of the group's career. It would be difficult to imagine Slade, or any group for that matter, emulating the barrage of fanatical acclaim that. Slade won for themselves at Earls Court. It was more of a convention than a concert, a gathering of the converted that rivalled political assemblies, royal weddings and sporting crowds in both size and fervour. It was bluddy wonderful...’

It was, he concluded, Slade's finest hour. Likewise, in the New Musical Express, Nick Kent reported: 'It sounds perfect. No other word for it. Dancing Dave Hill prances around, playing adequate lead riffs and grinning with inane charm. But it's Holder who holds the court in tow here. His rhythm guitar provides the muscle, while his vocals - a salty combination of Steve Marriott and John Lennon at their rocking best - are sometimes frighteningly powerful ... all around me, girls appear to be passing out overawed by their own frenzy. A couple scream themselves into a state of total collapse ... the concert was a further testament to Slade's vital importance in what, in effect, is the total reconstruction of the energies that govern the workings of pure rock 'n' roll music. If, as was stated before, the Beatles brought "art" back to the masses when such a project seemed impossible, then Slade have brought rock back to the people when it seemed to be going through its final death pangs.'
Tremlett pic 16 large, Noddy live
After the concert, Slade returned home to Wolverhampton, planning to spend a few days there before going on holiday; Noddy was intending to spend three weeks at home in his new house - but Jim and Louise Lea were off to Majorca, and Don Powell and Dave Hill were planning to fly off to Los Angeles for that Hollywood holiday.

On the Tuesday night, Don Powell spent the evening with his girlfriend Angela Morris, a former local beauty queen whom he had met some nine months earlier at a local discotheque. 'Don and Angela were devoted to each other,' said her mother afterwards, and it was reported in several national papers that they were thinking of marriage. The couple had gone to a Wolverhampton nightclub, Dix's, where they had drunk some champagne. The club owner, Mr Dick Brownson, told the Daily Express: 'I had never seen Don and Angela so happy. We were celebrating the first anniversary of the club, which opened a year ago. They were talking about getting married later this year and we were even joking about the best man and the wedding invitations.' Angela's father said: 'We all thought they were made for each other. They were so very close. We expected them to say they were getting married at any time. No matter where Don was abroad he would always phone her.'

As they left the party, Don and Angela climbed into his white Bentley S3. Then as they were travelling along Compton Road near the local technical college, the car careered out of control and ploughed into a wall. They were both found lying in the road by a passer-by; Don was unconscious in the gutter.

They were both taken to the Wolverhampton Royal Hospital, where doctors found that Angela was dead and that Don Powell had suffered serious multiple injuries. The press were told that he was 'very poorly'. At first, it was feared that he might have a fractured skull and for some days it was thought possible he would die. It is still not known who was driving the car when the accident happened; when the inquest was held in January, 1974, the Coroner Mr. Walter Forsyth said there was doubtful evidence as to whether Don or Angela was driving at the time the crash happened - when Don recovered consciousness he found he could remember nothing of the days before the crash. His memory was a blank. He could not even remember the Earls Court concert. He did not even remember owning a Bentley; when asked about his car, he kept talking about the mini that he had had before that.

With Powell lying in hospital in a coma, Slade were presented with a major career problem; before beginning their holidays, they had been due to make two more concert appearances at Douglas in the Isle of Man. What should they do? Should they cancel the concerts - or, like The Beatles years earlier when Ringo had been taken ill, should they book a replacement drummer?

They decided to go ahead with the concerts - with Jim Lea's brother Frank playing drums, even though he was still very much only a part-time musician, earning his living by day mending burst water pipes. Quite by chance he had called at his brother's home to repair a washing machine, and had found all the other members of Slade sitting there, wondering what to do about those Douglas concerts. 'Try me,' said Frank Lea - and they did. After all, at eighteen he had already been a part-time drummer for five years, and had watched Slade play many times.

When asked what he thought of their decision, Paul McCartney said they had been quite right; it was what The Beatles would have done in a similar situation.

Yes, the show had to go on; and did.

And the Melody Maker subsequently reported: 'On Friday he (Frank) rehearsed with the group, on Saturday his picture appeared in the papers and on Sunday he was the hero of 4,000 fans who turned out to witness this historic gig. And, curiously enough, I doubt whether anyone noticed the difference. Frank has been taking drumming lessons from Don Powell and travelled with the group on numerous occasions. What better man for the job? And what a reception the fans gave Frank when Noddy Holder introduced him: the cheers were almost as loud as the din that followed Holder's announcement that Don Powell was recovering and would be back behind his kit within three months: Nothing, it seems can keep Slade down. "This weekend we're really going to enjoy ourselves," Dave Hill told me when I arrived on Saturday. "Now that we know Don is going to be all right, it's like a pressure valve being released. For two days we thought Don had had it, but when we heard that he was taken off the critical list and put on the severe list we knew everything was going to be all right." , Chas Chandler told the paper that on the Wednesday he had gone straight up to Wolverhampton on hearing of the accident. 'The doctors at the hospital didn't give Don a chance. I was walking about in a daze, but when I heard he was going to pull through I was the happiest man in the world.'

Some months later Don Powell told me that when he had read reports of the Isle of. Man concert, his immediate reaction had been: 'What am I doing lying here?'
Tremlett pic 11 large
Until that moment he had been feeling sorry for himself, and I had not been responding particularly well to treatment. He told me: 'The doctors told me later that that was when I started to fight.'

He had woken up in the hospital's intensive care unit after being unconscious for six days to find that he was lying in bed with five broken ribs, two broken ankles, a gash in his head. 'One of my wrists had snapped, and that was in plaster, strapped to my body ... and there were tubes up my nose and in my arms ... and my whole body was black and blue. It was four o'clock in the morning when I woke up again for the first time,' he said.

'I couldn't remember anything about the accident, but I heard afterwards that by a strange coincidence the guy who found the car after the accident had recognized me. He knew Jim Lea, so he phoned Jim up and said: "Can you give me Don Powell's phone number?" - and he slammed down the phone. Then he rang my parents, and my brother Derek and my brother-in-law Gerald went round to the hospital where they were told that they didn't expect me to last the night out . . . " they had to drill into my head to let the pressure out ... my Mum was in bed for weeks with tranquillizers.'

He said he could not remember anything about the evening he had spent with Angela. ~My father told me what had happened ... I could remember nothing about it. There I was, lying in bed, not knowing why I was in hospital, though I went to the toilet one day and saw the scar on my head, but I still didn't know why I was there ... I still have problems now with my memory.'

I reminded him that we had had that long conversation in the Holiday Inn at Swiss Cottage the day before the Earls Court concert, and his face lit up. 'Yes ... that's right ... I think I can remember that. Your wife was with you, wasn't she?' he said.

'I couldn't remember anything about Earls Court at all until I saw the film that had been made of the concert ... American TV wanted a couple of numbers from the film, and there were two shots that were the first I could remember... but my memory is a problem now. Before I go to bed at night I have to write things down just in case I forget something that I'm thinking about ... I know when I woke up after being unconscious, one of the nurses came over to the bed and I asked her what had happened, and she said I had been in a car accident, and I thought it must have been an accident with the rest of the group. Then they came to see me in hospital, and I couldn't work that out.

'I saw the lads standing at the end of my bed, and I thought they were pinching all my grapes ... they were being very careful in what they said to me, and because I was in the intensive care unit they all wore green smocks. I looked down at Nod's feet, and I saw big white socks. "I like your shoes", I said and they started laughing ... they told me afterwards that that was the first time they'd laughed since they'd heard of the accident.'

By mid-August, Don was back rehearsing with the group, having made a remarkably quick recovery; the doctors had advised that the best thing he could do would be to return to work with the other members of the band. At first, he took it fairly easy, with occasional rehearsals, some studio recording. 'I can remember everything that has happened since I woke up in hospital,' he says. 'I can remember them coming to see me, and then Chas coming in, and the doctors telling me that getting back to work would be the best thing for me ... the first job I did was a "Top of the Pops" for "My Friend Stan", and that was a bit of a problem working because my legs were still a bit weak.'
Tremlett pic 12 large
That latest single, 'My Friend Stan' was released on September 28th, and again the advance orders were well over 300,000; by then Slade were already half-way through another four-week American tour, and before they left the four of them turned up at a motor race meeting at Brands Hatch, attended by 15,000 fans. Don Powell wrote in the fan club newsletter: 'I must thank all of those who came along to wish me luck. I was really knocked out. Officially I should've taken another couple of weeks convalescence, but the Doctors reckoned I would improve quicker if I got back with the others and start circulating again. I still use a stick to help cure a limp; the walking stick incidentally was given to me by Swin (their road manager Graham Swinnerton) after a holiday to Switzerland. Swin 'also sleeps in the room next to me, when we are away from home, so he can wake me up in the morning, because I still don't know where I am when I open my eyes.'

Slade followed their American tour with dates in Belgium, Switzerland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Austria, playing concerts in eighteen cities - though the schedule had to be re-arranged after Noddy Holder was taken ill with a virus complaint and had to spend three days in hospital.

By now, Slade were clearly changing course; the tours were that bit more prestigious - and the music itself was becoming more melodic. 'My Friend Stan' is one of those numbers, as I mentioned earlier, that could easily be adapted to orchestra or brass band because the basic melody is so strong. Their 'Sladest' album (a compilation set) grossed 200,000 in Britain by Christmas - and then came that seasonal blockbuster 'Merry Xmas Everybody', selling 1,000,000 in just three weeks, and soon after that in February, 1974, their 'Old New Borrowed and Blue' LP, which showed just how quickly Slade were advancing musically. And clearly they were taking their audience with them, just as The Beatles had done years before; in 1973 alone they sold over 2,500,000 singles in Britain.
Tremlett pic 17 NME large, NME Pollwinners 1973
(Back row left to right)
Max Bygraves, Don Powell, Dave Clark, John Entwhistle, Jim Lea, Noddy Holder 
(Front sitting) Dave Hill, and Vera Lynn at the NME Awards in '73 

In the annual Record Mirror poll they were voted top British group, with Dave Hill No 1 'guitarist, Don Powell No 1 percussionist and Noddy Holder No 1 and Jim Lea No 2 respectively, in the British Male Singer and Miscellaneous Instruments sections. In Spain, they were voted No 1 Foreign Group. And they received similar awards for being the top overseas groups from magazines in Finland, Belgium and Ireland. For the second year running, they received the annual Carl-Alan award presented to the top British Group. And in the Disc poll, they were also voted Top British Group, and No 4 in the Top World Groups section - with Noddy Holder again being voted top male singer. In Poland one of their singles was among the top singles for no less than six months.

By now, by the end of 1973, Slade were clearly one of the world's top groups - with only the United States left to conquer.

CHAPTER ELEVEN


Viewed from a managerial standpoint, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Slade's international success is the way in which they have been able to achieve this without in any way losing their British audience. This is much more unusual than it may seem. Fans are not so much fickle (as is often wrongly suggested) as easily hurt.

Indeed, I have always noticed that fans tend to be remarkably loyal, backing their devotion with hard-earned cash or rather more of their pocket money than they can really afford either in buying records or fan magazines, photos or other merchandise (an opportunity to actually see their favourite group may not arise more than once or twice in a year). Having done so, they follow their group with hawk-like enthusiasm, knowing almost as much about their lives as they do, quickly spotting a change in lifestyle or in career-emphasis, and feeling spurned or let down when their idols appear to ignore them, either in not appearing regularly on TV, or in just not being around. Fans are quick to spot a phoney; much quicker than the recording companies or the music papers. There have been many artistes in recent years who have concentrated on winning an overseas following at a vital stage in their careers - and have then come home to Britain only to find that in their absence they have lost their audience and that their records no longer sell as well as they did. And once an audience is lost, it is seldom regained.

Slade, however (and this again is evidence of Chas Chandler's sure touch as a manager), have never neglected their British audience. By working extremely hard they have usually made at least two provincial tours every year plus regular TV appearances to promote each record (there are some artistes who are just not around when their records are released), maintaining a constant supply of photos and interview material for the teenage magazines so that they have been constantly in the minds of their audience even when they have been making frequent TV and concert appearances in Europe, regular tours of the United States, and the occasional trip to countries as remote as Australia or Japan. All this underlined, of course, by their communication with the hardcore of their British audiences through those fan club newsletters.

This was just the way that Brian Epstein handled The Beatles' career in its initial stages - but it is still surprising how many other managers (and artistes!) have not learned the lesson.

In fact, by maintaining as full a date-sheet as The Beatles did before them, Slade have successfully laid down the foundations for a world-wide career; true, they have still to make that break-through in the States - but they and Chas Chandler have no doubt that that day will come. And in the meantime, they have established themselves in many other countries - and thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process.

They have a large following in Scandinavia, even in Norway which has not been as good a market for British groups as Sweden and Denmark - and in Finland they are exceptionally popular, selling as many as 30,000 copies of each single (which is a very high sale for a country with such a small, scattered population). 'They didn't really know us until we went over there,' Dave Hill told me. 'We found them quite different from any other audiences we have played to - in their musical tastes and their fashions. Everyone seemed to be about two years behind England, and the people are very Russian-influenced. On our first gig, we went out on stage to be greeted by almost total silence - which is the sort of thing that can happen to you in Japan, where this is regarded as the correct thing to do, but we weren't expecting it in Finland. They just stood there and looked at us, watching - and then suddenly about forty or fifty kids stormed the stage and that broke the ice. They all started to stomp and rave, and really enjoy themselves. I think it was our clothes that accounted for that initial reaction; they had never seen anything like us before.'

In Sweden and Denmark, they appeared in the open-air folk parks before crowds as large as 15 to 20,000, but their trip had proved eventful long before that. The group had hired a private aeroplane, and as they left Britain felt more than a little nervous when one of the doors was found to have been left open - the airhostess just banged it into place. They were not asked not to smoke during take-off, and were not told to fasten their safety belts, and then a little while later the captain's voice came over the intercom: 'If anyone's interested, there's a game of Brag going on down the end of the plane!'

Their other memory of Finland was the food. 'That's the only time in my life that I've ever eaten reindeer omelette or grilled pike with beetroot borscht,' Jim Lea told me.

Food is something that most major groups tend to take very seriously, frequently complaining in interviews that overseas tours and dysentery are inseparable companions - and I have yet to meet a British musician who says he has eaten well while touring the States. Slade are no exception. 'American food is awful,' Dave Hill told me. 'Me, now I like salads - and to me a salad is a nice bit of meat, maybe some cheese or salmon, some lettuce, cucumber, onions, a few radishes. But if you ask for a salad in America, the lettuce is always dry, the tomatoes are tasteless - and they drown your plate with some foul sauce ... the result is that you end up practically living on steak because it's the only food you can rely on. During American tours I've sometimes eaten steak three times a day, even for breakfast -' and though I've always thought of steak as a luxury and something you can't afford to eat very often, that can drive you mad.
Tremlett pic 15 large, Jim
You can never get an English breakfast over there.' (Jim Lea has even told me that on one tour the choice of food was so limited that he lived on nothing but scrambled eggs for six weeks - and by the end of the tour had. lost half a stone in weight.)

In spite of their complaints about the touring comforts, Slade have tried very hard to break through in the States, and by the summer of 1974 had toured there four times, gradually building up the size of their audiences without the help of a hit single or album. 'I know people are saying that Slade haven't cracked America and enjoy saying it,' Noddy Holder told the Melody Maker. 'People expect it to happen overnight because they think it happened in England overnight, but it didn't. There was three years of hard graft on the road before we had a hit record in England and this country seems a million times bigger. Things just don't happen like that here. Every city has to see us as a live band before we can hope to sell records. It’s all building slowly, and we never expected it to happen quickly. It's happening exactly the same for us here as it did in Europe. It's the same pattern everywhere.' Likewise, Dave Hill said. on the same occasion: 'America is something we can get our teeth into. There's only America left. The test of it we just go back to,' and he told The New Musical Express: 'I've heard we have a strange underground following there, but we have a strange underground following in Holland, too, rather than a big general following like we have in England ... I've got a feeling it's our turn over there.'

They admit that they find the touring a physical ordeal. 'It's hotel, car, airport, plane, airport, car, hotel, gig, hotel, car, airport, plane - and that's the way it goes on day after day, every day without a change in the routine, and then week after week for maybe six or eight weeks until the tour is over,' Jim Lea told me. 'You never really get to know anywhere properly, though occasionally you may get just a day off to catch up on sleep or lie by the side of the pool. You never really get to know anywhere ... and by the end of the tour you're exhausted· through lack of sleep and almost dead on your feet ... I quite like life on the West Coast, from what I've seen of it. It's cheaper there than it is in Britain - the food is cheaper and so are cars and petrol, and you can even get a better house for the same money than you can in London ... but New York is terrible. It's a decaying city, anyway, and when you go to bed at night in your hotel you can never get to sleep because there's always this whine of traffic in the distance. It never seems to stop. It just goes on whining, twenty-four hours a day - car horns, engines, police sirens and ambulances, all fusing together into this non-stop whine which is something I find very hard to endure because I'm one of those people who needs ten hours' sleep a night.'

I asked Don Powell what had been the deepest impression that New York had made upon him, and he replied that he found the people unfriendly - and that after a few days there he suddenly realized that he bad not seen the sun since he arrived in the city. 'That was a very strange thing,' he told me. 'I'd felt something strange ever since we booked into our hotel, and it was something I just couldn't put my finger on - and then I realized that I'd seen blue skies every day, but no sunshine. The skyscrapers are so tall and so close together that the only tine you ever see the sun is when it crosses the space between the buildings of the street you're in, so you can easily go days on end without seeing the sun at all ... and I've never known such bad roads in my life. That's because all New York's air conditioning plant is buried underneath the roads, and the heat and the vibration have made the roads buckle.'

Yet in spite of all this, Slade still keep returning to the States, still hoping that each new record release and each new tour will bring them their American break-through; already, they are beginning to feel that it will not be so very far away.

'We're getting the same response that we got in England five years ago,' Don Powell told me. 'It's getting better there all the time. The last time we played Philadelphia, we drew an audience of 18,000 - and when something like that happens you feel that all your previous tours have been worth it. On the last tour, we did two weeks with Brownsville Station - and that was a really happy tour for us because we felt we were making progress all the time, though I'm afraid I never feel very relaxed in the States. In one hotel we stayed in, there was a notice in every room saying: "MAKE SURE YOUR ROOM IS LOCKED BEFORE YOU GO TO BED. IF SOMEONE KNOCKS MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHO IT IS BEFORE YOU OPEN THE DOOR." Seeing notices like that brings you up with a jolt because it makes you realize that America is every bit as violent as everyone says it is, and that something could happen to you, just staying in your hotel room.

'In New York, they actually advise you not to leave the hotel and go down town on your own. While we were staying there, we went out into Central Park to pose for some publicity photos, and some Negroes came running past us, shouting and screaming, and we gathered that a fight had broken out just behind us.

'One night, I was lying in bed in my hotel and there was a knock at the door. I asked who it was, and a man's voice answered, saying he was a detective. I opened the door and asked to see his credentials - and he just pointed at his gun! Apparently, there were two girls missing from home and he was just going from room to room in the hotel because he'd heard they might be there.

'Coming from England, where you never see a policeman carrying guns, that's something you find very hard to accept. I've noticed that with other American policemen; they make a point of showing you their guns just so that you know they're armed.'

Among the cities where they received a particularly good response were Dallas (where they visited the street where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963), New Jersey, Memphis (where they travelled out in a hired car to see Elvis Presley's mansion), Seattle and Louisville - but the part of the States where they all say that they felt most at home was on the West Coast. 'The East and West Coasts are like two different countries,' Dave Hill told me. 'In New York on the East they're always hustling, bustling, driving fast down the streets, or hurrying down the sidewalks - but on the West Coast, around San Francisco and Los Angeles, people are slower, much more friendly, more easy-going.' The one place that Noddy Holder had long been hoping to visit was Los Angeles 'because I'd always had this ambition to go there ever since I was a kid, and used to watch "77 Sunset Strip" and "Hawaii 50" on TV. I'd always thought Hollywood and Los Angeles were fantastic dream places, but when we got there and went to see the Strip I found it was dirty and rather crummy, a bit like Soho - and that was rather a let-down.'

Their American audience is mostly a young one, and Dave Hill explained to the New Musical Express: 'Basically the kids like us because we're with them. Kids feel they already know you from little things they read in the papers. It's been proven that there are people like us everywhere: France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden. If those countries can get our humour, then America can, too ... we can do a lot for the morale of music here (in the States). It needs a kick, something fresh and new.' In a later interview with the same paper, Hill said: 'When we first came we were playing to twenty-eight-year-olds, which is ridiculous, a right drag ... on downers, all zonked out, beards and hair down their shoulders. We tried to get them going but it was a dead loss. But as the tours have gone on it's sifting down all the time and getting younger and younger... we hated it the first time. It was difficult to relate to but we're OK now because we can relate and relax ... it's a lot of hard work touring America but it can also be a lot of fun.'

But, even though Slade switched American labels in 1973 from Polydor to Warner Brothers expecting this would bring them the extra promotion Chas Chandler felt the group needed in the States, they are still a long way off playing Madison Square Gardens in New York, which is their ambition just as it has been so many other British groups. And when asked, Chas Chandler explains: 'We like to, do it slowly, and build properly,' And that is what Slade feel they are doing.

'You see, we're something quite new for American audiences,' Jim Lea told me. 'We're not another Beatles, another Rolling Stones or another Who - we're the first Slade. Our style is different to all those other groups, and that means it's going to take time for audiences over there to adapt to us. But we'll get there in the end. You just wait and see.'

CHAPTER TWELVE

Of all the groups that have come to the fore since The Beatles' success first made it possible for British musicians to have a world-wide following, I believe Slade is now the one poised for and best-equipped to handle that same level of acceptance internationally. That has been the theme running through this book, and so far as chart statistics go it is underlined by the fact that Slade have already established a popularity second only to The Beatles themselves in their home country.

The big 'if' that still hangs over their future is whether or not they will achieve those American record-sales that are essential to their break-through in the States, though personally I have little doubt that they will - sooner or later. In Warner Brothers, they have one of the most aggressive record-marketing companies working for them; in Chas Chandler, they have that other essential, skilled management (after all, if he could do it for Jimi Hendrix, why not with Slade?) and most importantly of all is the ever-improving quality of their music.
Tremlett pic 18 large
Those British groups that have had lasting success in the States have been the ones with something different to offer musically, but since The Beatles period when such lesser artistes as the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, The Mindbenders and The Zombies also had high American record sales very few of the top British acts have been ones with a teenage base. This; at the moment, is in my view Slade's weakness; in Britain and to some extent throughout Europe their audience is teenaged - whereas the really big American sales are now earned by groups who appeal to a somewhat older audience, such as The Who, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Traffic, Ten Years After, Humble Pie, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Deep Purple.

But the musicians in those groups (who now concentrate mainly on album sales) mostly have ten years' playing behind them. Slade are in the next musical generation, are only now moving into the same market - although in terms of technical ability and song writing style they are, in my view, more accomplished than most of those groups were at a comparable stage in their own development.

Like so many of the second generation groups, they are much more professional than their predecessors were when they were just starting, ploughing much of their income back into their act, and avoiding the pitfalls of drugs and alcoholic excess which wrecked so many lives in the business in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

When touring overseas, they even take their own PA system with them (most groups hire their equipment overseas) - despite the extra cost. And they are not a group to leave a trail of damage behind them in foreign hotels. Indeed, even on the road, they tend to maintain this professionalism, eating regularly, getting sufficient sleep, and always arriving at a venue in time for the sound-check - if you see Noddy Holder with a glass in his hand, it will usually be rum and blackcurrant because that's the drink his doctor recommends for his throat. 'I gargle every day with TCP,' he says; adding that he also has the occasional Guinness, hot lemon with honey - but never whiskey. 'The doctors tell me that's too harsh for my throat,' he says. 'I can sing through a ninety-minute set without feeling any ill-effects at all, but if we've been in a recording studio for eight or nine hours, maybe repeating one high note again and again until we get the sound right, then my voice starts to feel it ... and it's no good messing about. If you are a singer, you have to look after your throat. Most of the time I have no trouble at all, but I still gargle every day - and I never take chances.'
Tremlett pic 22 large, Noddy Holder
In the past eighteen months, there have been several indications that Chas Chandler is gradually changing direction with the group; in 1974 two of their singles, 'Everyday' and 'Far, Far Away' were more melodic than earlier material- but the change in emphasis was gradual, not a sudden switch that would have been too much for their existing fans to accept. Likewise, although their concert appearances became fewer arid they also worked on their first film 'Flame' Slade still carried their audience along with them.

Their major British tour in April and May, 1974, took them to the provincial cities that had always been the heart of their audience - to Bradford, Blackpool, Manchester, Birmingham,. Bournemouth, Southampton, Bristol, Swansea, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Dundee, Glasgow, Liverpool, Scarborough, Hanley, Blackburn, Sheffield, Newcastle, Oxford, Southend and Cardiff ... but this time they wound up the tour with three consecutive nights at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. Unlike most touring shows of its kind, this was one with a theme - 'Slade's Crazee Nite' with a prize for the fan at each performance who looked best in his Slade gear (The winners were also taken backstage to meet the group). The identification with the audience was still strongly there, but the group were - subtly - moving on to a different plane.

Holder told the New Musical Express: 'We're not expecting to make a lot of money on this tour - in fact we'll probably break about even. Ticket prices have gone up but that bread isn't going into our pockets. It's costing more to take the show on the road - petrol's costing more, everything's costing more. The halls are costing more to hire, advertising costs more and so the price must go up - if only to break even. You have to understand the economics of a tour. In Britain we're taking twelve ton of equipment with us, with the lights and everything, and that's going to take a lot of getting around. There's a crew of basically ten people, and their wages and expenses have

to be paid, and hotel bills and food on the road. Our own hotel bills, our own transport, repairs to theatres ... at Earls Court we had to pay about £5,000 in damage bills. Seats, hand rail that sort of thing - the Palladium balcony cracked, although 1 think the promoter was insured against that. At Greens Playhouse in Glasgow, the balcony cracked ... (damage) works out between two and five hundred pounds a night ... you have to foot the bill if you want to keep working at these theatres.'

But when the group played Liverpool, where they had had considerable difficulty finding a hall to play in, it was evident that this time round their fans were more prepared to listen to the group (a sure sign that Slade were moving on from being primarily a teenage attraction to something more solid and lasting). The Melody Maker reported: 'There were few really wild scenes, nothing smashed and for once it was possible to listen to this very entertaining band. True, twenty bodies were hauled across the stage but Noddy and his men had remarkable control, all part of the strong professional image they project, and things were kept cool. With a mere flick of the finger Dave Hill, Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea made that crowd do what they wanted - the crowd was an asset to Slade's performance and used in every conceivable way to enhance the music. Bodies were brought in to sway in silence when Slade sang their ballad "Everyday"; to rock around in "Let The Good Times Roll" and erupt with the Koppites' own tune, "You'll Never Walk Alone" ... Slade could have gone on all night.'
Photobucket
After finishing that tour, they visited the United States again, drawing a crowd of six thousand at the New York Academy of Music, repeating their success in Philadelphia returning to London to begin work on their first film 'Flame', in which they play the members of a Northern pop group, Flame, trying to reach the top in the flower-power days of 1967, Noddy Holder plays 'Stoker', Dave Hill is 'Barry', Jim Lea is 'Paul' and Don Powell is 'Charlie', characters in an original

screenplay by Andrew Birkin. 'I think Chas had the main idea - to make a movie with a proper script,' Jim Lea told the 'New Musical Express. 'The scriptwriters came with us to America, listened, wrote things down, and it went on from there ... it's basically about two groups from the North or Midlands competing with one another.'

The film is produced by Goodtimes Enterprises, the company that also brought out the two David Essex pop films 'That'll Be The Day' and 'Stardust' - for 'Flame', the producer is Gaverick Losey and the director is Richard Loncraine, but though the film is set in the late Sixties the music has been specially written for the movie by Holder and Lea (Slade's hit 'Far, Far Away' released in October 1974 was one number from the film, and they also released an LP).

'Flame is a group picked up by a management and told what to do,' Don Powell told Record Mirror. 'Doesn't work like that with Slade. I don't think it works like that with anyone now. The period is 1967 and that sort of thing went on then ... Richard the director and Andrew who wrote it came on tour with us in the States to" get to know us individually, what we were like and everything and they kind of wrote it around us. 'Course, it's a completely different thing for us, I mean from touring or anything else and I think the thing that we were scared of, as we'd never done this thing before, was how the actual film crews, the real actors would take us. And they've been incredible. It's an incredible crew. Like a big family.'

Concert scenes for the film were shot at the Rainbow Theatre London; the soundtrack album was recorded at the Olympic Studios in Barnes, West London, and most of the outside location work was done in Sheffield (where Flame were supposed to have originated) and in London.(where they eventually succeeded in breaking through after being conned at different stages in their early career).

'The main thing about the film was the bloody hours we had to keep,' Dave Hill told Melody Maker. 'We were doing night shifts. We were up at six in the morning, we were working all day, and then we switched shifts because there were a lot of night scenes. We were knackered, but we had lots of fun. We learnt such a lot.' Jim Lea complained to the New Musical Express that he had found acting 'very difficult, mainly because everything you did was watched by so many people. There's a large crew round you all the time. But the director said to us the chances of four members in a band being able to act is a million to one... we considered ourselves non-actors - but there has been an amazing amount of interest (from the film industry). I thought the music industry was bitchy enough but the film industry is ultra-bitchy. It gets so that the slightest thing is a talking-point.' And he admitted that he had found himself almost living the part he played until 'if I was doing a violent bit I'd come back at the end of the day and act violently. Apparently, that happens with a lot of people. Like there was one guy in the film who played the part of a loser and he kept telling me how he felt like the loser even when he'd finished for the day.'

The surprising thing is that though Slade have now made their first film, have had four albums which have reached Number one in the British album charts, and have had that impressive run of hit singles, they have still not acquired the same degree of respect that much less important bands like Roxy Music enjoy in the music papers; the fact clearly irritates them - and they are now rather quick to tell you that they no longer take the critics seriously, and often don't even bother to read them. 'I think we are taken for granted by the press. Definitely. To a certain extent we've been too readily available ... I don't think they respect us enough,' Jim Lea told the New Musical Express while the group were waiting for 'Flame' to be released, and over the preceding years it was the sort of comment they all frequently made in their interviews with me. ,

To some extent, it is their accessibility, their willingness to make themselves available to fans and journalists alike, and the, way in which they have continued to tour which more frequently over the past three years than their contemporaries David Bowie and Marc Bolan that has led to this over-familiarity; but it has also given them, in my view, this enormously firm foundation.
Tremlett pic 14 large, Noddy in Flame
Many more British fans have been able to actually see and meet Slade in the flesh than have ever been able to establish such contact with Bowie and Bolan, and this in itself gives them that extra understanding with their audience. 'Just think of it all those kids coming to see us just like I used to go and see the Stones and The Who, The Kinks and all the other groups that started off in the early Sixties,' Noddy Holder commented to me one afternoon. 'When those kids are grown up; I'd like to feel that they will talk about us to their kids just like we'll tell our own one day that we saw The Beatles or the Stones when we were young... or perhaps they'll remember one of our records because it meant something to them at one point in their lives, just as different records have meant something to us. That's what makes it all worthwhile, touring like we do ... and then just think, some of those kids will be standing out there in the audience, listening .to us, and saying to themselves, "I could play as well as that one day ... " and they'll go home and beg their parents to buy them a guitar, and they'll start practising and writing just like we did, and by the time their turn comes, they'll be even better than us. That's what people forget; the music is getting better all the time.'

And it is because Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jim Lea and Don Powell really believe that; because they genuinely feel that their music is improving and a justifiable pride in it; because they enjoy their relationship with their audience, and because that same audience is growing with them - and because all this self-confidence is underlined by the quality of their music - that I have little doubt, as I suggested in the opening sentences of this book, that in a few years' time we really will all be saying that Slade are the most important rock group to have emerged since The Beatles. Like all the great innovative groups of the rock era they have gradually developed a style that is uniquely their own, however different each melody may be. And this is their strength.
Tremlett 02 large, Photos from The Slade Story by George Tremlett, 1975



THE SLADE CHRONOLOGY

This chronological record of Slade's career is culled from the files I have kept on the group since 1969:

1950
June 15    Neville John Holder (Noddy) born in Walsall, Staffordshire.
September 10 Donald George Powell (Don) born in Bilston, Staffordshire.

1952
April 4 David John Hill (Dave) born in Fleet Castle, Devon.
June 14 James Whild Lea (Jim) born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

1967 [Error: This happened in '65]
Noddy, then with another Midlands group the Memphis Cutouts, meets Don, Dave and Jim, calling themselves the In Betweens, travelling on a boat to Germany.

1968
July The In Betweens fly to the Bahamas and spend six months there working in a club.
[Error: It was June and it was three months]

1969
May 2 Having now changed their name to Ambrose Slade, they release the single 'Genesis' / 'Roach Daddy' (Fontana).
May  Fontana also release their first album 'Beginnings' with the tracks: 'Genesis', ‘Everybody's Next One', 'Knocking Nails Into My House', 'Roach Dadddy', 'Ain't Got No Heart', 'Pity The Mother', 'Mad Dog Cole', 'Fly Me High', 'If This World Were Mine', 'Martha My Dear’, 'Born To Be Wild' and 'Journey To The Centre of Your Mind'.
October 24 As Slade they release the single 'Wild Winds Are Blowing'/'One Way Hotel' (Fontana).

1970
March 5 Press launching for Slade at the Bag O'Nails Club, Kingly Street, London.
March 6 Release of single 'Shape Of Things To Come' / 'C'mon, C'mon' (Fontana).
September Release single 'Know Who You Are' j'Dapple Rose' (Polydor).
November Release the album 'Play It Loud' (Polydor), with the tracks: 'Raven', 'See Us Here', 'Dapple Rose', 'Could I', 'One Way Hotel', 'The Shape of Things To Come', 'Know Who You Are', 'I Remember', 'Pouk Hill', 'Angelina', 'Dirty Joker' and 'Sweet Box'.

1971
May  Tour of Holland.
       Release their first hit single 'Get Down and Get With It', an old Little Richard number, coupled with 'Do You Want Me' and 'Gospel According to Rasputin' (Polydor).
June 24 Dunstable California.
July 1-4 Return to Holland.
July' 8 Bristol Old Grannary.
July 9 Leytonstone Chez Club.
July 10 Fareham Teenage Centre.
July 15 Minehead Regal.
July 16 Cymbran Croes-y-Celiog Community Centre.
July 21 Bognor Regis Rex ballroom.
July 22 London Marquee.
July 23 Penarth Paget Rooms.
July 28 St Andrews Cosmos Youth Centre, Fife.
July 29-31 Isle of Arran, Scotland.
August 1 Glasgow Electric Garden.
August 9 Edmonton Cooks Ferry Inn.
August 11 Nairn Ballerina Ballroom.
August 12 Paisley Water Mill Hotel.
August 13 Ayr Bobby Jones Ballroom.
August 14 Burnt Island Palais, Fife.
August 15 Bearsden Kilmardinny Stadium.
August 16 Dumfries Oughton's Rest.
August 28 Weeley Festival, Clacton on Sea.
October 1 Huddersfield Technical College.
October 2 Hull University.
October 5 Leicester Palais.
October 6 Derby Clouds Club.
October 7 Llanelli Glen.
October 8 Leytonstone Chez Club. Release of Slade's second hit single and their first No 1 'Coz I Luv You'/ 'My Life Is Natural' (Polydor).
October 9 Madeley College, Staffordshire.
October 11 Bolton Casino.
October 13 Cardiff Top Rank.
October 14 Ayr Dampark Hall.
October 1S Greenock Beau Brummel Club.
October 16 Glasgow Queen Margaret Union.
October 17 Dunfermline Kinema Ballroom.
October 19-21 Record album at Command Studios, Piccadilly, London, with fans invited free each night between 8-11 pm. 'Anybody will be welcome,' says manager Chas Chandler. 'Not only will they get a free show - but they'll have a unique chance to see how records are made.'
October 22 Cuffley Youth Centre, Hertfordshire.
October 26 Bristol Old Grannary.
October 27 Boumemouth Cardinal.
October 28 Nottingham Palais.
October 30 Aston University, Birmingham.
October 31 Darwen Uncle Tom's Cabin, Lancashire.
November 5 Canterbury Christchurch College.
November 6 Narwich Melady Raams.
November 11 Barry Memarial Hall.
November 13 Dagenham Raundhause.
November 19 Birmingham Callege .of Education.
November 20 Bastan Starlite Ballraam.
November 21 Middlesbraugh Excel Bawl.
November 22 Fly to Europe far ten-day TV schedule in Holland, France, Belgium, Germany. On the German crossing their boat is hit by 'mountainous seas' during a Force 9 Gale. All contact with the boat is last - and they arrive 26 hours late.
November Slade re-sign with Polydor for three years after receiving .offers from several other British companies.
December 3 Sheffield University.
December 4 Warringtan Padgate Callege.
December 9 Great Yarmauth Tawer Ballraom.
December 10 Leeds Palytechnic.
December 11 Watfard Technical Callege.
December 16 Bristal Sauth Callege.
December 17 Slaugh Callege.
December 18 Salisbury Alex Disca.
December 2.0 Dewsbury Tawn Hall.
December 21 Prestan Public Hall.
December 24 Marquee Christmas Party, Landan.

1972
January 1 Cambridge Corn Exchange.
January 3 Plymauth Tricarn.
January 6 Cheltenham Narth Glaucester Technical Callege.
January 7 Herefard Flaminga.
January 8 Cramer Rayal Links Pavilion.
January 9 Birmingham Barbarella's.
January 13 Ealing Tawn Hall.
January 14 Narth London Polytechnic.
January 15 Leicester University.
January 17 Croydon Top Rank.
January 28 Third hit single 'Look Wot You Dun' / 'Candidate' released by Polydor.
March 1 'Slade Alive' LP previewed for press at Ronnie Scott's Club. Tracks: 'Hear Me Calling', 'Like A Shot From My Gun', 'Darling Be Home Soon', 'Know Who You Are', 'Keep On Rocking', 'Get Down and Get With It' and 'Born To Be Wild' (Polydor).
March 17-27 German tour.
April 1 Scarborough Scene Club.
April 2 Coventry Theatre.
April 3 Bournemouth Chelsea Village.
April 7-9 Belgium.
April 21 Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange.
April 27 Begin five-day Dutch tour.
May 4 Coventry Maccarno.
May 5 Bristol University.
May 6 Bracknell Sports Centre.
May 10 First major concert tour opens at St. George's Hall, Bradford, with Status Quo as the support band.
May 11 Glasgow Green's Playhouse.
May 12 Sheffield Ci~y Hall.
May 13 Liverpool Stadium.
May 14 Guildford Civic Hall.
May 15 Birmingham Top Rank.
May 16 Chatham Central Hall.
May 17 Barry Memorial Hall.
May 20 Dundee Caird Hall.
May 21 Edinburgh Caley Cinema.
May 24 Norwich St Andrew's Hall.
May 25 Purley Orchid Ballroom.
May 26 Flamingo, Hereford, and release by Polydor of Slade's fourth hit single 'Take Me Bak'Ome' / 'Wonderin Y'.
May 27 Leicester Football Club.
June 2 Blackpool Winter Gardens. June 3 Margate Dreamland.
June 9 Exeter University.
June 10 Wellingborough Rock Street Centre.
June 11 Fly to Helsinki for tour of Finland.
June 17 Glasgow.
June 18 Oxford Merton College.
June 24 Dunstable California Ballroom.
June 25 Southend Cliffs Pavilion.
June 28 Begin five-day German tour.
July 7-8 France.
July 11 Portsmouth Macarno. July 12 Torquay Town Hall.
July 13 Bournemouth Starkers Club. July 14 Barnstaple Queens Hall.
July 15 Penzance.
July 28 Blaekpool Macarno.
July 29 First appearance at the Rainbow Theatre, London.
July 30 Douglas, Isle of Man.
August 6 Belgium.
August 11 Blackpool Macarno.
August 12 Felixstowe Pavilion.
August 25-28 Great Western Festival. Release of their fifth hit single 'Mama Wee All Crazee Now' /'Man Who Speaks Evil' (Polydor).
September 2 Sutton Coldfield Belfry.
September 7 Sunningdale.
September 9 Weston-Super-Mare.
September 25 Grangemouth.
October 18 Receive the 'Group of the Year Award' from Radio Luxembourg.
October 28 Stars Orgahisation for Spastics Show at the Empire Pool, Wembley.
November 3 Newcastle City Hall.
November 4 Preston Public Hall.
November 5 Oxford New Theatre.
November 6 Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
November 8 Bournemouth Winter Gardens.
November 9 Sheffield City Hall.
November 10-11 Rainbow Theatre, London.
November 13 Leeds Town Hall.
November 15 Manchester Free Trade Hall.
November 17 Hanley Victoria Hall. Release of sixth hit single 'Gudbuy T'Jane' / 'I Won't Let It Appen Agen' with advance orders of 100,000

November 18 Liverpool Stadium. Fans storm stage and Dave breaks an ankle and has to have it in plaster for six weeks.
November 19 Birmingham Town Hall.
November 20 Brighton Dome.
November 22 Doncaster Sundown.
November 23 Glasgow Green's Playhouse.
November 24 Edinburgh Empire Theatre.
November 26 Southampton' Guildhall.
December 1 Polydor release 'Slayed' album with advance orders of 80,000. Tracks: 'How D'You Ride', 'The Whole World's Going Crazee', 'Look At Last Nite', 'I Won't Let It Appen Agen', 'Move Over'" 'Gudbuy T'Jane', 'Mama Wee All Crazee Now', 'I Don't Mind' and 'Let The Good Times Roll'.
December 2 Plymouth Guildhall. December 3 Cardiff Sundown. December 5 Bristol Colston.

1973
January 7 Star at the London Palladium in special conncert to mark Britain's entry into Common Market. 'Not since 1958 when Johnny Ray, the American crooner, made the ladies cry at the Palladium has the theatre experienced such instant hysteria,' said the Daily Express.
January 13 Weston-Super-Mare Winter Gardens. January 15 Edmonton Sundown.
January 23 Begin ·Australian tour in Sydney.
January 27 Voted top British band and Top Live Band in annual New Musical Express poll.
February Polydor release their seventh hit single 'Cum On Feel The Noize' / 'I'm Mee I'm Now An That's Orl'.
March 25 Receive the New Musical Express awards at Wembley Empire Pool.
April/May U.S. tour.
June 1 Edinburgh Empire Theatre. June 2 Newcastle City Hall.
June 3 and 5 Wolverhampton Civic Hall. June 6 Brighton Dome.
June 8 Birmingham Town Hall. June 9 Bristol Colston Hall. June 10 Cardiff Top Rank.
June 11 Southampton Guildhall. June 12 Sheffield City Hall.
June13 Blackbum King George's Hall. June 14 Hanley Victoria Hall.
June 15 Leeds University.
June 22 Polyd~r release Slade's eighth hit single 'Skweeze Me Pleeze Me' / 'Kill Em At The Hot Oub Tonite'.
June 30 Riots outside Holiday Inn Hotel, Swiss Cottage, London. 'The manager ordered us to leave immediately, but I flatly refused,' says manager Chas Chandler. 'The lads had been recording for twelve. hours and were completely exhausted.'
July 1 Concert at Earls Court, London, with audience of 20,000.
July 4 Don Powell's car crash in which his girlfriend Angela Morris died. Don spent six weeks in hospital.
July 8 Douglas Palace Lido, Isle of Man - with Jim Lea's brother Frank, a plumber's mate, replacing Don on Drums.
July 29 Frank Lea's second concert at the Douglas Palace Lido.
September 18 Slade fly to the US to begin a month-long American tour, and switch to the Warner Brothers label in the States;
September 21 The 'Sladest' album released. Tracks:
'Wild Winds Are Blowing', 'Shape of Things To Come'.' 'Know Who You Are', 'rouk Hill', 'One Way Hotel', 'Get Down and Get With It', 'Coz I Luv You', 'Look Wot You Dun', 'Take Me Bak Orne', 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now', 'Gudbuy T'Jane', 'Look At Last Night', 'Cum On Feel The Noize' and 'Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me'.
September 28 Polydor release Slade's ninth hit single 'My Friend Stan'/'My Town’
October 22 Return from US tour.
October 25 Begin European tour in Brussels, Belgium.
October 26 Courtai, Belgium.
October 27 Zofiengen, Switzerland.
October 29 Paris, France.
October 30 Poitiers, France.
October 31 Bordeaux, France.
November 5 Oslo, Norway.
November 6 Bergen, Norway.
November 8 Gothenberg, Sweden.
November 9 Copenhagen, Denmark.
November 10 Arhus, Denmark.
November 12 Frankfurt, Germany.
November 13 Hamburg, Germany.
November 14 Berlin, Germany.
November 17 Mannheim, Germany.
November 19 Vienna, Austria.
November 20 Munich, Germany.
December 7 Polydor release the tenth Slade hit single 'Merry Xmas Everybody'/'Don't Blame Me' - which sells 310,000 copies on the day of release, and totals over 1,000,000 sales in Britain alone.

1974
January/February US tour.
February 3 Return from the US.
February 4 Polydor release their album 'Old New Borrowed and Blue'. Tracks: 'Raise The Roof', 'Find Yourself a Rainbow', 'How Can It Be', 'Miles Out To Sea', 'Just a Little Bit', 'Stop', 'When The Lights Are Out', 'Don't Blame Me', 'Everyday' and 'Good Time Gals'.
February 16 Leave for Hong Kong. February 21 Begin Australian tour.
March 29 Polydor release their eleventh hit single 'Every day'/'Good Time Gals', both tracks taken from the 'Old New Borrowed and Blue' album.
April 19 Begin their first British tour since Don Powell's accident, 'Slade's Crazee Nite' - opening at Bradford 'St George's Hall.
April 20 Blackpool Opera House
April 21 Manchester Belle Vue.
April 22 Birmingham Odeon.
April 23 Bournemouth Winter Gardens.
April 24 Southampton Gaumont.
April 26 Bristol Colston Hall.
April 27 Swansea Brangwyn Hall.
April 28 Coventry New Theatre.
April 29 W olverhampton Civic Hall.
May 1 Dundee Caird Hall. Several girls taken to hospital with hysteria as fans storm stage causing £1,000 damage.
May 2 and 3 Glasgow Apollo.
May 4 Liverpool Mountford Hall.
May 5 Scarborough Spa Grand Hall.
May 7 Hanley Victoria Hall.
May 8 Blackburn' King George's Hall.
May 9 Sheffield City Hall.
May 10 Newcastle City Hall.
May 12 Oxford New Theatre.
May 13 Southend Kursaal.
May 14 Cardiff Capitol.
May 16-18 Hammersmith Odeon. London.
May 28 Fly to States for their fourth US tour.
June 22 Return from US.
June 28 Polydor release their twelfth hit single 'The Banging Man' / 'She Did It To Me.'
July   Begin seven-week schedule filming 'Flame' in which they play an unsuccessful group. Locations in England and Spain. Directed by Richard Loncraine.



Slade have had more hit records than any group since The Beatles. Their following is enormous and dedicated. Their music is the sound of the Seventies.

This is the story of how Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jim Lea, and Don Powell were discovered by Chas Chandler, the man who previously launched Jimi Hendrix. It tells you how their career has progressed, how their lives have changed. It describes the highlights of that career, the impact of Don Powell's accident, how they write their songs and most recently, their first venture into films with "Flame". It is ...

The Slade Story
Tremlett rear large
NON-FICTION/BIOGRAPHY 0860071936

U.K.40p - AUSTRALIA $1.50 - NEW ZEALAND $1.50 - CANADA $1.50

*Recommended Price

I've replicated the text as is but it is important to recognise the ambiguity in this record of events. The plus side is that it was written when many of the events were less than a decade in the past but on the downside, it is an obvious PR campaign to control and portray the band in a distinct way. The facts are rose-tinted and clearly not allowed to get in the way of a good story. "Let's make sure the guys are all lovable cheeky working class lads." The glaring exception being Dave Hill's remark about John Howells, "We had a fat singer with a great voice, but he was too lazy to turn up for rehearsals." Really Dave.... I'm very surprised that got through?

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My thanks to Mark Johnson 'MKJJ' at The Archive for supplying a legible copy of the paperback. My own copy was loved far too much by a passionate teenager who then left it in an attic somewhere in time?