(A Dominion Press Publication)
A Miranda Ward Interview
Head Puts The Block On Slade!?
If a Junior School Headmistress had had her way there might never have been a SLADE!
"I wanted to play recorder at school and I remember Mum writing in and asking if I could. I didn't really like the recorder but it was a way of learning about music - even learning how to read it! But she (the Head) put the block on that right away - 'No chance!' she said!!"School Leaver had managed to catch up with the busy lead guitarist of Slade - DAVE HILL - whilst he was on one of his flying visits to do a "Top Of The Pops" at BBC TV's Television Centre in White City.
"There was no chance either at Secondary School of saying 'I would like to learn to play guitar'; that wasn't even accepted as an instrument in the orchestra! It was always the violin or something like that. I didn't really fancy the violin anyway - I had a go once, it was an awful sound in my ear - Screeching - it reminded me of the dentist - you know, those awful drills!!
And I never did learn to play the recorder." He laughed. "However Dad was a fanatic on music and he always used to have 'Friday Night Is Music Night' on the radio. We never had a telly, so it was a case of having to listen to that or nothing else.
I've always loved orchestrated pieces - it's so opposite to what we do. I think I would have loved to play concert piano, or been a conductor..." and he stood up to demonstrate... "In the front room with your ruler, turning the radiogram full up... heavy orchestrated pieces - pretending to be the conductor and getting into it that way. I always dreamt of playing a conductor in a movie - like Leopold Stokowsky in Fantasia - with the wild hair swinging out all over the place!"
With that demonstration over, Dave calmed down and began thinking about the old days...
"My mates from school seem so sort of distant now, married and kids, there seems a hell of a lot of difference between them and me. It's like a brick wall between us. If you try to buy one of them a drink it's 'Flash Git!' But dare you ignore any of them - it's like you get slagged blind.The thing is with this business that for all you get, for all you lose - and you lose an awful lot if you're going to be a personality in music, if you are going to be known. There's a lot of things you can't do any more. Like taking a walk down the local road or going to the cinema."
"I used to do an awful lot of things, go to the bowling alley or have a game of table tennis. But now its a case of saying 'I'll buy a table tennis set and have it installed in my home'. But it loses something because you can't mix with people . . ."
But Dave hasn't even tried to cut himself off from his roots; he hasn't followed the trend of moving to London...
"I personally like to live up in the Midlands. I know it so well and there are still a few people I can actually see. I haven't got to live up to anything with them. There are one or two friends who would do things for me - like if there was ever a time when I couldn't afford to pay or something they would turn a hand to help me. Which I could never rely on from the pat-on-the-back-set down here in London!
The only reason I'd live in London is because of convenience but otherwise there's too many people saying 'Great!' 'Great!'- it's always 'Great!'. People I know up North are more likely to give you a straight opinion on what you're doing. Down here you don't get straight answers... and we can do without the flash big-heads in the business."
Dave certainly does not appear to have had his head turned by success - but then stardom came the hard way for SLADE...
"A lot of people do seem to think that in this business it is an overnight success. Our film 'Flame' should open up a lot of eyes. It shows the pressures and the short cut to success. Like the guy who comes along and says 'I'll make you a star. But I get 90% of your money!'
I must admit that when I was 14 or 15, if someone had come along and said 'I'll get you a hit record and you'll be on TV and I'll give you £10 a week,' I would probably have said 'Yes'. To me, the thought of being on TV would be the only thing I could think of. I know there are a lot of groups in this business who have been through the 'Flame' thing. A lot of people at the premiere were saying: 'It doesn't half look like me...' 'It reminds me of what I've been through..."
A relaxed Dave Hill talks to SL's Miranda.
I then asked him if it helped having an experienced manager. (Chas Chandler & John Steele - Slade's management - used to play with that successful band of the late 60's, The Animals, along with Eric Burdon and Alan Price.)
"Yes. They've been through it and can say things like 'Watch out here!' or 'Look out there!' They try to stop the dodgy things that happened to them, happening to us. That's experience!!
I used to rebel against teachers and grown-ups when they said 'Don't do this', but you can benefit from someone else's experience when you are young. You don't listen to everything that's told you - you've got to do a lot of things for yourself. If someone came along and said 'Look here's a guy... whatever he tells you to do, DO!' it wouldn't be you to agree. You've got to learn, and the only real way you can think for yourself is by listening, taking advice and going through some of the experiences.
"In the group we all discuss things, throw ideas round, and Chas is there for his experience to advise us. But our individual selves have to come through. And that's what it's all about-Chas always lets us be ourselves and that's always the best thing."
He then went on to reflect on the hard times before they were able to benefit from Chas' worldly experience ...
"It couldn't have been any worse than when we were sent out to the Bahamas. It sounds fantastic, but we were stuck out there for three and a half months-away from home (and we had never been away from home before!) and we weren't even getting paid… the kids around were having to help us out!!
We had to get to know each other really well in that time, that we thought 'Well, nothing can be worse than this'.
I think most successful people that I know have certainly had to go through all the muck before making it. It's really the grounding-that's really what it's all about. If you are not suffering, if you aren't going through all that, then I can't see that the end thing can be any achievement. You've got to start with a spade and you've got to work up and then you finish with a tractor. And I think you can appreciate your tractor more because you've started that way and had to work for it . . ."And Dave has certainly got himself a good tractor-thinly disguised as a gold Silver Cloud Rolls Royce!!!
"And I've got this incredible registration number - YOB 1. Yobby! I've had it for years as well. I bought this old car and it had it on the back and I didn't even realize. Then this bloke comes out of this pub and goes "say! I say! Yobby!'. We got called 'Super Yobs' in the end! I thought it was great when I got the Rolls, sticking YOS 1 on the back of it."And he chuckled gleefully!
Slade's success has brought the usual luxuries of pop stardom-the flash car, the large house… But, with all of this comes the inevitable large tax bill . . .
"Tax is a drag. I mean we're taxed so much that it's not worth working - but f just go along with it now. It's like if I want something I'll probably just go out and buy it, and if I can't afford to pay for it-so what?!"
Miranda watches as Slade rehearse for 'Top of the Pops'.
Photo: Julian Ruthven.
I went on to ask him if he wouldn't think of leaving the country for a year to clear up tax problems as many other musicians have done (members of the Stones, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, etc.).
"No! I wouldn't consider leaving England-even for that ... it always appears greener on the other side, but it ain't. And like England may appear to be having a rough deal at the moment, but it's no better anywhere else, and I've been everywhere else! I don't care if England goes down-I'd still go down with it, coz I like England! I just like the people.
I think that's why we associate with the fans so much. We can relate to them and they can relate to us. We can talk to anyone who comes up and talks to us…
The trouble is we don't get much chance to really sit down and talk with them . . "And that gave
"Hey! Maybe the people who are reading this don't agree with what I'm saying . . .
Maybe they've got comments to make ...
Maybe they want to ask me questions ...
'I'm just talking to you, and I've no idea what they think or how they are reacting. Can you ask them to write in and then I can see from their letters how they feel. I'll do my best to answer them ... that would be great."
OK. Over to you then! How about it?
This is your chance to put Dave Hill on the firing line.
You can write to him, care of:
Dave Hill talks about
life at school
and working for a living.
'School Leaver' thank the BBC and 'Top Of the Pop,' for their kind co·operation in the preparation of this feature.
My thanks to Langdon Comprehensive School careers dept. for making this magazine available to us pupils back in 1974. I certainly would not have looked at it without having it thrust in my face?