At the age of ten, Don Powell would walk along the street of Bilston - an industrial area in Staffordshire - with the rest of the Boy Scouts' Band, blowing on his shiny bugle and thinking that there must be more exciting instruments to play, if only somebody would let him try.
It was lucky then, for Don, for Slade and for us, that the Scout Master cottoned on to the fact that little Don-who was never one for making a nuisance of himself and preferred to slay in the back· ground-wasn't happy. "How about trying the drums'?" he said to Don one day. Don did-and from that moment on it was drums, drums all the way, deep in his heart.
But back to the very beginning-Don was born in Bilston and when he was very little his parents got their first home on a new housing estate.
All in all, Don's childhood was a fairly normal one - his biggest claim to fame before the Boy Scouts was that he joined the local police force boxing club, fancying himself as a prize fighter when he grew up. "I had to leave in the end because I got 'boxed' once too often and ended up with an ear infection. Then I went on lo athletics and did that for a couple of years as my main hobby alongside the Scout drums.
"There were a few popular groups in the area at the time and one of them was called Vendor. They got to hear of me through someone and next time I saw them, at the Youth Club, they asked me about drumming. I found out later that it wasn't me they had really wanted, but just a drum kit, and I had to tell them I didn't have any drums but Dave Broadley did. Anyway, to cut a long story short, they eventually asked me to join and so I had to persuade my dad to sign an HP agreement for my first set of drums.
"It was quite an eye opener for me joining Vendor, because the only music I had liked up until then was old rocking stuff-Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran. That was because I'd been the youngest kid in our family and my older brothers and sisters had completely influenced what music I heard. But by this time the Rolling Stones were around, and the Beatles, so I was way out of line!
"We had a great time in that group playing at weddings and eating all the sausage rolls, letting the best man join in with the singing! We did Youth Clubs too, and had work every weekend. We weren't earning a fortune-say around £7 to £10 a gig, less petrol. But I did it for the enjoyment.
"In the meantime I had left school and done a college course in metallurgy - I had never thought of turning pro in a group so I wanted to have a career. After college I got a job in a foundry in Wolverhampton and was there for over a year altogether. That job was great-I had a really good boss called Arthur who was interested in the group and so he used to give me afternoons off if we had a gig somewhere like Nottingham. The foundry did something else for me-a guy who worked there wanted to manage us and it was him who put us in touch with a good guitarist when we needed one. 'I know this guy who plays in a band the other side of town and I think he'd like to try your sort of thing.' So one night we went across to see him, playing in a pub group and looking a bit out of place. Of course, it turned out to be Dave Hill-the very first other member of the eventual Slade that I was to meet!
"Dave will tell you his own story, but anyway he joined us and soon we changed our name to the In Betweens. That was to be the start for us as a professional group, although we didn't realise it at the time."
Dave was always a happy boy, extrovert and joking, much like he is now. Says his father, Jack-who is the real proud father and has taken an interest in Dave's career all along: "He always loved music as a lad, did Dave. I knew he'd end up doing something connected with music, but his mother thought he'd be much better off as an office boy or something. He was a good boy and nice to have around, and that was all that mattered to me. A bit of a devil-but then boys ARE, aren't they?"
At school Dave wasn't particularly "academic". He was good at practical things and always enjoyed music lessons, but wasn't one for taking exams.
Says Dave, "There was one teacher at school, junior school that is-who I think is still there now and although at ~he time I thought she treated me badly, but for her I wouldn't be where I am now. You see I wanted to learn to play the recorder. Don't ask me why, I just had a thing about it. But the teacher-she was the Headmistress in fact-said that as I didn't concentrate enough and couldn't read music, she wasn't going to let me learn the recorder. I think the kids who go to that school now still tease her about it.
"So then I wanted to play piano but we didn't have one at home and couldn’t afford one so the obvious alternative was the guitar-I'd seen Elvis and the Beatles, and it seemed like a good idea. So dad bought me a cheap guitar, Kansas City, it was called, for £7-1 had a paper round and between us we found the money at 7/6d a week.
"At the time I hadn't quite reached my teens, so mum and dad didn't take it what you could call seriously-parents in those days didn't consider that anyone could have any talent on a thing like a guitar, it wasn't a 'proper' instrument. So they didn't think you could make money out of it. My grandfather had been a Doctor of Music and he was a great piano player, so I've been told, so that was what most people thought of as music.
"Anyway I got on quite well with the guitar, and I really believe that life is planned out for you. I might have ended up a concert pianist, but I didn't, it was planned for me to be in a successful group-may maybe later there will be different successes.
"I remember when I was about twelve and in the Scouts I went to a lady palm reader. The occasion still sticks in my mind. She said, "I don't know what it is you are going to do my dear, but whatever it is you will be very successful at it', I think she was right. I've never felt like a loser,"
DAVE WAS ALWAYS A HAPPY BOY
When Dave was fifteen he had his first group - a collection of boys from the council estate calling themselves the Young Ones. "Then I joined this band - well sort of band - of old blokes playing sax and that in a working men's pub. I was the odd guy out - I was the only guitarist and I was a bit young really to be there with people drinking and smoking. So I was dead pleased one day when this guy came in and stood watching me play. Later he said he was manager of Don Powell's group called Vendor, and they were looking for a guitarist. He said would I like to come along for an audition-so I did.
"A few days later I arrived in the front room of the lead singer's house - no halls for auditions in those days! - And I got my very first sight of Don. He was sitting in the corner of the room, a spotty, pale-faced kid of about sixteen. I got the job, but I never spoke one word to him in the first month I was with the group. For some reason Don never talked, and it kind of fascinated me, you know, I couldn't suss him out. He was so pale, so stern-faced and he used to brush his hair right back. But eventually he decided to talk to me, and he isn't the way he looks at all if you know what I mean.
"Soon after I joined the group we called ourselves the In Betweens and we start· ed doing working men's clubs, and Regals and Plazas instead of just Youth Clubs! We were on the up and up!"
James Lea was born in a public house in Wolverhampton but left there when he was three, and since then-until he got married two years ago-lived in a lot of different homes with his mum and dad, and brothers.
"Yes it was a great honour but if I'm truthful I'll tell you now that I didn't en· joy being in it. I didn't make one friend there the other children weren't my type at all, because they spent all their time talking about classical music and pieces I'd never heard of!
All I wanted was to talk to anyone interested in guitar!
Well I decided to go along, as by this time the In Betweens were one of the biggest local groups. Don and Dave were already in the line-up - leaders in fact. They were doing R&B stuff and this was just what I wanted. From the first moment I ' saw the Rolling Stones on TV I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wasn't motivated by money or anything, just the thought that I wanted to be like them.
"That audition was probably the most terrifying thing I have ever had to do. I only had a guitar and no other equipment so I decided to go along anyway and pretend I couldn't get transport to bring all my stuff with me, and then hope to borrow someone else's there. I wasn't sure what to expect but I arrived to what seemed like a sea of faces all waiting to be auditioned, and what made it worse was that the guy playing when I arrived was quite good - I nearly turned around and went home.
"I managed to borrow what I needed and when it was my turn I played a couple of R&B numbers. I was so nervous I felt I could hardly play, but I was playing really fast because for some reason I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Then I stayed and listened to some more auditions and decided they weren't so good after all.
"It was a week later that Don and Dave came to my house and to my surprise told me I'd got the job. Later they told me they thought it was funny I played so fast, but that they worked out if I could play well fast, I would play even better at a normal speed! The only thing was it meant that I would have to be a professional, as they were just turning pro. I decided it was worth it, and for ages my parents hardly spoke to me as they were so disappointed I'd forsaken the violin and Art college to join an unreliable bunch of pop musicians. It took a very long time for them to come round to my way of thinking - until we had a hit record. They had wanted me to get a degree in music. But I guess they've got over their disappointment now.'
Well, it took Noddy quite a few years to achieve that-after all he had to grow up first-but in the meantime he busied himself with schoolwork and, as it turned out-he was a brainy boy and so that came easy. He was also, believe it or not, a goody-goody! One of his school friends laughingly recalls that Neville was a prefect, always did his homework and never played truant!
Dreams of riches and fame apart, Nod thought he might like to be a teacher when he left school. So he passed his 11· plus and started attending the T. P. Riley Comprehensive School in Walsall where he went on to get no less than six '0' levels. Dad who was a window cleaner, was very pleased with him. The family lived in a tenement slum for much of Nod's child· hood and that probably made Noddy all the more determined to break away and be successful.
"When I was about fourteen I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar and form a group. So I started having guitar lessons. Dad got me a tutor, Freddy Degville, who was a guitarist in the local swing band. I'm sure he was very good but I never appreciated it because all I wanted to do was learn three cords and get in a group.
"So in the fourth form I got together with some other mates and we formed the Cut-Outs. By the time I left school I was so wrapped up in groups that I'd lost all desire to be a teacher. I got a job in a Wolverhampton firm as a buyer, buying car parts. I'd been there two months when the group I had just started playing with, the Mavericks, got an offer to play Germany, and we decided to turn professional. I left my job like a shot."
AND THAT WAS DON, DAVE, JIM AND NODDY-TOGETHER AT LAST
Back in England a while later, Nod and the Mavericks split up-but while in Germany he'd happened to meet up with another group out there at the same time - the In Betweens. He got on well with them and in Wolverhampton one day by chance Don, Dave and Jim from the In Betweens came into a coffee bar where Noddy was sitting. "They told me they had heard I'd split up the Mavericks and that they were looking for a fourth member for their group, so would I join? I said I would - I started off just playing guitar and gradually began singing. I used to sing quiet in those days. You just wouldn't have recognised me!"
And that was Don, Dave, Jim and Noddy - together at last. The year was 1968.
"Before we turned pro we had a booking nearly every night in the Midlands. We thought we'd make a fortune when we went professional. But no. Nothing. We were so poor for the first few months we got really depressed." That's Don talking, reminiscing back to 1968 when the popular In Betweens had really fallen on hard times.
"The worst thing was that I was having to pay £3 a week hire purchase payments on my set of drums and I just couldn't afford it. Then dad found out and I had to tell him we weren't getting any work. Of course, he was nice about it and helped me out until, later I could repay him."
Gradually the gig scene began to pick up. The In Betweens had their very own, distinctive sound - raw R 'n' B with a touch of Tamla and soon they were earning £18 a night, five nights a week or so. Out of that had to be taken petrol money, clothes, equipment and so on-but it wasn't too bad.
‘I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU STARS’
Says Noddy: "We had this very old van which was always breaking down. I think Dave was the only one who could drive, so he used to be chauffeur too-but he never complained."
Then came what the In Betweens thought was going to be their 'big' break. A guy whose name they've forgotten came along to them and did the 'I’m going to make you stars' line. "He took us down to the famous Tin Pan Alley-Denmark Street in London, to make our first single." said Jim.
"It was a tiny studio-half the size of a sitting room, but I thought it was great because the Rolling Stones had made a record there, and they were my idols. It was Regent Sound.
"I'll never forget that, it took us about two hours to record an A side and a B side, and cost us £13. It was a terrible record, called You Better Run. Really horrible.
"We got a chitty signed by this guy saying we'd made a record and that was the last we heard. It WAS released on Columbia, and got to about number sixty, one week. I think. But we didn't make any more records as the In Betweens. Somewhere about that time I suppose we realised it wasn't going to be so easy to become stars."
But in a way, the boys weren't worried -they already thought they WERE stars. Dave explains: "In those days around Wolverhampton it was great just to be playing in a group. When I look back on the things we used to say to each other, I have to laugh. I remember once we were having a discussion about who we'd like to manage us, and we decided it would be Norrie Paramour because he'd taken the Shadows to stardom. It never occurred to us that maybe Norrie Paramour wouldn't want to know!
"It was good in a way that we had the confidence. If we were copying what Joe Bloggs was doing on the telly, and getting paid for it, then we felt like stars. We felt big-time. We thought that all we had to do was go down the road make a record, have it played on the radio and that would be it. No trouble!
"It wasn't until we met the guy who made us big-Chas Chandler-that we got a real taste of what becoming a hit group involved-photographic sessions, rehearsals, travelling miles to chat on an obscure radio show."
But that was still in the future. After the disappointment of the flop record, another lucky break came along. The group were offered a six-week contract to play at an hotel in the Bahamas-the town of Freeport to be exact.
Says Noddy: "We had a fabulous all expenses paid six weeks, playing every night and lazing on the beach in the hot sun every day, getting brown. But of course, something had to go wrong. And it did. Towards the end of our stay the company who had booked us to go out there and were paying for our hotel rooms went bust, and we were left with a huge bill we couldn't pay. Thinking it was all free, we'd run up incredible bills of food and drinks.
"We did the only thing we could in the circumstances. The hotel wouldn't let us off the island until we'd paid up - so we offered to work off the bill by playing for them every night for free. They accepted so we spent four months paying it off. Needless to say, we couldn't stay in the hotel any more-they found us one room, put four mattresses in it and we had to live there!
"Living in one room together taught us a lot. It was quite a laugh in some ways, but you don't realise how difficult it is to live on top of three other people until you try. Anyway, four months later they let us off the island and back we came to Britain. While we'd been out there we had cut our hair fairly short, as it was so hot. And in a way that was what led us to becoming Britain's first skinhead pop group!”
Back in England, and broke again, the group were determined to continue. Pretty soon things were looking up: the In Betweens were beginning to play gigs as far away from the Black Country as London and people in the record business began to notice them. "Fontana records told us we could make some demonstration records for them. And we decided that a change of name would be a good thing-so we thought about it and decided to call ourselves Ambrose Slade."
SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
The year was 1969-and on the strength of those demonstration records, by December 1969 Ambrose Slade had made their first single for Fontana. It was called Wild Winds are Blowing. And it was a miss.
"It wasn't a bad record," says Jim. "None of the records we made before we had a hit - except that early one ..... were bad. In the old days other people used to write our records but soon Fontana said to us that if we wanted to get anywhere we'd have to start writing our own stuff.
"At first we didn't have a clue but we finally got it together and the first thing we wrote was this instrumental. Later on we also wrote Know Who You Are - our first single for another record company, Polydor-whom we're still with."
Ambrose Slade's second and last single for Fontana was Shape of Things To Come. It was also a miss but they were beginning to get a few reviews in the music papers. Why? Unfortunately the critics weren't praising Ambrose Slade with their tough, ugly image-they were knocking them.
Then the real 'big break' came along.
Chas went down, saw the boys and decided that they had the potential and the talent. He signed them up.
"The first thing Chas did was get us a new recording contract with Polydor in September 1970. The second thing he did was tell us to drop the first part of our name and just become Slade," says Don.
"And the third thing he did was to tell us to write as much of our material as we could, and pair off in twos for the purpose. So I went with Jim and Nod went with Dave, and it all seemed to work out very well."
By this time Slade had got so used to setbacks that they weren't going to be too optimistic. The boys had shorn their heads and joined the skinhead craze of 1970. Although the skinhead image wasn't being too well received, it WAS getting them publicity, so they decided to keep it for the time being. But still they didn't have a hit record-the first for Polydor, Know Who You Are - didn't get anywhere.
Says Dave, "We were doing all these things and it seemed to be getting us nowhere - photographs in Istanbul, sessions for Radio Belgium. And plenty of gigs. But Chas told us to put up with it. 'You may not see the point of doing all these things now,' he said. 'But if you do them you will find out that one day in the future it will all come right, and we'll get the rewards of all this effort.' And sure enough when we did finally get a hit all those photos began to appear all over the world. '
January 1971 and Slade are on the brink of real stardom. They've just recorded the single, which is to be their very first, long awaited hit. And they and Chas are toying with the idea of getting rid of the skinhead image. It seems that the skinhead kids all over the country want black reggae music, not four lads from Wolverhampton playing their own brand of dance music.
In the first few months of 1971, Chas Chandler was making sure that, although Slade were still short of a hit, their name was becoming well known within the business, and they were getting plenty of work in clubs and on shows like the Radio 1 Club.
GET DOWN AND GET WITH IT
It seemed that no one liked Slade.
When Get Down And Get With It walked, rather than bounded-into the charts some weeks later, you can imagine how everyone felt. That impossible dream had happened at last - just as Chas had always said it would. The record never made the Top Ten, but it got to number fifteen and it gave Slade just what they needed- the chance to show what they could really do.
"Chas and we decided that it was time to start growing our hair again and to try to rid ourselves of the skinhead image for good. He also told us it was time to write our own hit, so Nod and Jim went away and wrote Coz I Luv You in fifteen minutes one afternoon. We also went on the road all over the country because Chas knew that we were happiest as a 'live' band and could build up a following this way."
Two of Slade's hits to come - Mama Weer All Crazee Now and Cum On Feet the Noize - were inspired by the atmosphere at concerts. If you've never been to a Slade concert-try it sometime. It's good for the system.
But back to 1971. October was the biggest month in Slade's life. Coz I Luv You leapt into the charts in its first week of release. Two weeks later it sat at number one, where it stayed for four whole weeks and earnt Slade their first silver disc. Coz I Luv You caused a storm-not least with schools all over the country because teachers complained to their MP's that Slade's deliberate spelling mistakes in their song titles would corrupt the youth of the nation and breed a generation of bad spellers.
THEIR CLOTHES WERE THEIR TRADEMARK TOO
Their clothes were their trademark too. No more bovver boots, braces and dungarees for Slade. To go with the new, longer hairstyles the boys created a look which was to be copied for years - still is, in fact. Noddy always wore a big top hat and short, tartan trousers-preceding the Bay City Rollers. Dave was the first pop star to bring silver and glitter into fashion. He wore silver boots, trousers, shirts, rings, jackets-and silver glitter in his hair and on his face. Dave also start· ed the trend for really outrageous platform shoes-all the group did, after a visit to Kensington Market where they all bought a pair of brightly coloured, multi-stacked heels. Some of Dave's platforms were 10cm (4in) high with 15cm (6in) heels. It's no wonder that by January '72 nobody remembered that Slade had once been skinheads.
WE LEARNT WHAT MONEY’S ALL ABOUT
"We learnt what money's all about and that it can disappear very quickly. So when the hit records started to come we didn't all rush out and spend. Noddy had always wanted plenty of money to spend on flash cars and suchlike, but even he didn't go out and get all those things."
So it was that for the first two years at the top, Slade's lifestyle didn't change very much. Chas smilingly recalls that he had to force the boys to stay in a nice bed and breakfast place rather than a tatty one which would have cost them five shillings a head less! The boys waited a long time before buying beautiful cars and none of them left their parental homes until fairly recently. They've gained a reputation for being careful with their money - though in no .way would any of them stint on giving their parents the things they need. Dave badly wants to buy his parents a new house but they are reluctant to leave their old, familiar surroundings, so he has compromised by decorating the old home for them.
Nod and Dave are still more than happy to live in Wolverhampton - that's where they feel relaxed. It's also where a lot of mates and relations live - like Swin, Slade's long-time friend and sometimes personal assistant. Swin's mother loves it when he brings Slade home for a cup of tea.
Girlfriends? Well, Nod likes a lot of girlfriends, Dave and Don content themselves with a few and, of course, Jim got married two years ago to Louise, his sweetheart from schooldays. Louise is blonde, pert, and friendly and Jim's mum is delighted that he and Louise got together.
"She's such a nice girl. We've known her for years and I'm so glad he's married her rather than a strange girl from London or somewhere. I feel at ease with Louise and I know Jim thinks the world of her. They had a little wedding in the registry office, nothing fancy. And we hardly had any warning!"
Since Slade made it to the top things haven't always been good for them. Perhaps the worst tragedy to strike was when, in the Summer of 73, Don, was involved in a car crash and everybody thought he was going to die. He lived, but his girlfriend died in the crash. That's a part of his life Don prefers not to talk about - in fact he has lost all memory of the months preceding the crash, which is perhaps, in a way, nature's method of being kind. Don was out of the group for some time and Jim's brother Frank Lea deputised on drums for a little while till Don was well again.
Anyhow, despite the occasional setback, Slade have never looked like losing their position as Britain's number one pop group. Another first for them was that in 1974 they were destined to make the first really successful movie by a pop group since The Beatles made A Hard Day's Night.
SLADE’S TASTES HAVE CHANGED
The Download Link is here: Download.
Filename: Slade Fan Club News No 1 JanFeb1980.pdf Filesize: 13.00 MB
From an factual and informative point of view though, this is complete baloney. Any facts in this bio have been made totally worthless by the misinformation. The dates are wrong and some happenings are a chronological disaster!
They returned to England on the 29th August 1968 being hailed a success. On the 7th September at Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton:
- "This Saturday: The return of Wolverhampton's top group from a successful season in the Bahamas"
- "The earliest mention of 'Slade' is presently October 9th 1969, this being the date their haircuts were first reported by the Wolverhampton Express & Star. An article by Tony Rabba claims they got their hair cut without Chandler knowing and he went ballistic."
- "...and then three months ago they met Chas Chandler..."
It is however, a nice bit of memorabilia (my thanks and appreciation to Stu Rutter for supplying it) and was a great source of rare unseen photos. Please view this as memorabilia only, the FACTS are elsewhere on this site.
"Despite being out-of-date....they included photos of the group members as children that, previously, had been unseen by the public. Chas had a pile of these booklets in his office that he was about to dump. I salvaged them and said that I would give them out with 'new fan club' subscriptions. Chas must have had a supply of these booklets though as, if I remember correctly, some venues on the '77 Tour' had them on sale....."
Dave Kemp 2011