MALCOLM DOME sits it out
with Slade's NODDY HOLDER
When St. Noddy the Holder, that renowned Bishop of Bludgeon, fmally elects to trade in his multi-storey, stackheeled pulpit for a slow-burning log fire, bungalow-level carpet slippers and a Barbara Cartland novel (ah. the quiet life!), hell doubtless snuggle under his duvet (complete with Wee Willie Winkle night cap) having first offered praise to his 'Lordy Lordy' for creating Quiet Riot ('And on the eighth day .. .')
Now, cum, on, the reason's obvious! The Los Angeles quartet recently blasted into the US Top Five with their version of that klassic, 'Cum On Feel The Noize' (or in Phil Mogg's case, 'Cum On Feel The Noze'), thereby awakening a whole generation of sibling Yanks to the pleasures of etymological contortion, and at the same time ensuring a steady flow of offshore bucks into the Slade reservoir. Bank managers, stockbrokers and hotel doormen now eagerly rush to call Holder 'sir', as they assiduously pump his flesh (to use a political hustings term) and feel his newly bulging wallet.
If the 'silent' hell raisers from LA are the fast-food 'rocky burger' taste of the moment then Slade have undoubtedly helped light the flame that makes 'em so hot! For not only have QR struck a rich precious Meta1 vein with 'Cum On Feel The Noize', they've done it in a manner so like the Wolverhampton wacky racers - a case of Mike Yarwood and Harold Wilson!
“It's a good version of the song. I don't think Quiet Riot have added anything to the original, but they've updated the sound."
Noddy Holder looks professionally relaxed (everything Slade do has that air of the old pro' about it) as he contemplates higher things (a full can of lager stuck on a very tall shelf) whilst lounging across his publicist's couch.
"The first Slade knew about Quiet Riot was when they approached our publisher for permission to do 'Cum On .. .'. We agreed, never believing something like this would happen. In fact, the record was out for some while in the States before becoming a big hit, wasn't it'? The really nice thing about the whole affair is that it proves how strong our songs are. After all; 'Cum On Feel The Noize' is now ten years old, so it's obviously stood the test of time rather well!
"We've actually been approached in the recent past by people wanting us to update one of our classics. But, not even seeing what a band like Quiet Riot have done so successfully with modern studio technology on an old Slade tune has persuaded us it's worth doing. There was a spontaneity and electricity about the numbers when we first did 'em that could never be recaptured now. There just wouldn't be the same feel so, no matter how much money is offered, we're not into prostituting our own heritage."
Of course, why should Slade bother revisiting past glories, when QR are doing it for them? Rumour (unsubstantiated at present) has it that 'Mama We're All Crazee Now' and/or 'Gudbye T’Jane’ might well crop up on the stripe-happy lads' next album. So, there's every possibility that the Slade back catalogue will become legitimate plunder fodder for a host of American hard rock pirates (possessed of a sheep mentality) looking for healthy chart pickings. The irony of it is that Holder's heroes are presently without a US recording deal ("we're hoping to clinch one soon") and have always been regarded as too parochially British to rock 'em dead on the transatlantic route.
But, in Britain during the early Seventies, Slade could boast more hits than any assassination squad. However, being in the pop business is rather like playing the fruit machines. You can get a run of luck when every coin triggers a jackpot, then inexplicably the winnings just dry up. There's no obvious logic to either streak and Slade have been stuck in the latter groove for some years, releasing a torrent of strong stuff that's scarcely dented the charts.
Until now, that is, cos it's 'flame-on' time again as 'My Oh My' has burnt a cinder trail up the Top 20. A ballad in the tradition of 'Everyday' and 'C'est La Vie', this song sways with an almost waltz-style rhythm (a case of 'We'll Bring The Strauss Down'?) yet retains a north-face- of-the-Eiger (i.e. very rocky) foundation - balls to the waltz??
What sets it up as different from anything Slade have ever attempted before is the neotechnological sound gained by producer John Punter.
''Yeah, it is slightly more modem than our previous stuff. But we didn't deliberately set out to get something like that. It was more a case of John Punter getting involved.
"It was RCA's idea to get him in. They asked us to write a couple of songs specifically for singles release. So we recorded demos of two numbers, 'My Oh My' and 'Run Runaway'. When the label heard them, they flipped and thought the songs were great, but ... they insisted we get in an outside producer to do the final versions. To be frank, we thought the demos themselves were good enough to put out, however the success of 'My Oh My' suggests RCA were right.
"Working with an outside producer for the first time in, well, years (all recent Slade vinyl has been self-produced) was certainly interesting. It provided us with a fifth pair of ears and a new outlook in the studio. John was easy to work with in the end cos he was prepared to work with us rather than trying to dictate to us. And it was enlightening to actually do things in a slightly different manner to our norm, We built the sound of each instrument layer by layer with Punter rather than just putting down all the basic tracks in one go and then overdubbing,"
The thought might traverse a few minds that Slade were almost pressurised into using an outside producer by RCA. Indeed, given the fact that there's been a virtual Stalin-style purge recently of the label's comradely heavy rock roster (R.I.P Hawkwind, Alkatrazz, Budgie among others), were Slade in any danger of a concrete handshake?
"No, I don't think that's really fair. We've always got on very well with everyone at RCA. Certainly, they didn't issue us with any ultimatum over John Punter. It was just felt that we needed him to give us a more out-and-out modem style. I admit I was against it at first, but events have proven them right. I don't believe RCA ever doubted we could have hits, cos our track record shows we can write the sort of tunes that have instant pop appeal and, once you've got that ability, it doesn't simply dissipate. Maybe the problem with those other bands like Hawkwind was that they'd no previous experience of having successful and regular chart entries."
Whether or not 'My Oh My' is the birth of something big, we'll be able to judge when 'Run Runaway' ("a heavy jig") comes out in January. And that might well be the final song Punter records with Slade.
"He was only brought in for those two singles. We'd already finished our new album (self produced) by then and, in fact, the LP versions of 'My Oh My' and 'Run Runaway' have been recorded without John. So people will be able to compare the two approaches and hear whether or not an outside producer made that much difference to 'em."
The album is strangely titled 'The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome'. Now, with some bands, a monicker like that would immediately throw up an explanatory comment like: 'Oh, it was inspired by an obscure Herman Hesse novel/a long-lost episode of 'The Prisoner”/a rare Salvador Dali portrait (delete where applicable). So, which is it, Nod?
"Well, I was reading the sports pages one day and there was an article on motor sport. It talked about the 'kamikaze complex' those guys who compete seem to have in putting their life on the line every time they go on the track. I think Barry Sheene was mentioned as a specific example. Anyway, it struck me that some of our songs fitted in with this idea, so the title seemed a logical choice. And let's face it, everyone has something of that complex in 'em, we all take gambles at some point in our lives."
Could it be that Noddy Holder is a budding Freudian figure in the rock hierarchy? Psychological woargh-fare lives, head for the couch! Still, at least the above explanation will allay lascivious rumours that 'The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome' is, in fact, a title inspired by a new type of Japanese outdoor super-loo!
As for the music, well, at the time of writing, I've heard not a screech or tweet from the album, so all I can do is refer you back to the Mayhem column in our last issue for track details and leave Holder to deliver just one comment ...
"I'd say 75 per cent of it is really out-and-out rock."
It's in the shops now so check it out for yourself.
And so, to a thorny subject - Girlschool. Since the release of the Holder/Lea produced 'Play Dirty', some rather silly comments have appeared in print concerning my supposed opinions on both the album and the band. So, let me briefly put the record straight. I still admire the gals. Furthermore, I applaud the direction they've attempted to take on 'Play Dirty'. I just think it's not quite come off. However, I'm most certainly not waging any vendetta against 'em and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be forced into eating a slice of home-grown humble pie as 'PD' becomes an international best-seller, but…
Not surprisingly, Noddy doesn't share my reservations.
"I think it turned out really well, especially after the problems we had. For example, they were so difficult to motivate. When the girls got down to playing, they were great, particularly Kelly who is an amazing guitarist. But for some reason, they couldn't perform at their best unless they really wanted to. It wasn't due to any laziness, just an inability to self-motivate. So, Jim and I had to capture them at just the right moments. On top of this, they were always arriving late and then slinking off to the pub. In the end we were forced to lock 'ern in the studio to ensure the deadline for delivery of the final product was met.
"Originally, we were approached just to do a single. Bronze Records were looking for a hit so we got together with Girlschool and recorded one of our songs, 'High 'N' Dry', plus one of their numbers. Anyway, things turned out so well that we were then asked to do the album. Spencer Proffer was being lined up for the LP and he even came over to meet the band. But in the end, it was decided to stick with Jim and me.
"To be honest, I can't really bear to contemplate what might have happened had they gone off to Los Angeles with Spencer. He seemed like a nice guy who knew what he was doing, but the girls actually went into the studio to record the album with one song fully written ('Breaking All The Rules'), one half-written and a collection of partially thought-out ideas. We had to help 'em get the numbers together so I can imagine what a state they'd have been in without Jim and me to pull things together.
"I was amazed how much time they wasted in the studio just writing. With the year gap between 'Screaming Blue Murder' and 'Play Dirty' I expected 'em to have ten strong songs fully written and arranged. In the event, a lot of expensive recording time was wasted on composing.
"With Slade I'm used to having things totally ready before going into a recording studio and once work begins on an album we simply slog at it until it's ready, rarely taking extensive pub breaks. But I was talking with Ozzy recently and he told me Sabbath used to do things like Girlschool and I've since learnt a lot of other famous bands work that way as well, so maybe we're in the minority.
"But, let me say this. Girlschool are potentially a great band and this album is very good. Certainly, everyone around 'em – management, record company - are convinced it'll sell exceptionally well. I just hope they're right."
I bet he does!