(A Dominion Press Publication)
DAVE HILL - Slade guitarist and star of "Midsummer Night's Dream"! If you think that's an unlikely story, let Dave himself guarantee it for you. He told me about it when I met him in Slade's dressing room between rehearsals for "Top of the Pops". Admittedly the play wasn't a lavish all-star West End production and it all happened some years ago... in fact it happened when Dave was at school, and he joined in the school play. It was his first stage appearance - the beginnings of Slade?
How did he feel about it? I asked.
"I got a real buzz from it, because it WAS the first time I had the chance to get up on stage. After that there were other little points when I got up, like at the Saturday morning cinema, in between the old 'Flash Gordon' movies. I was on scratch-board because I couldn't play an instrument at the time.
But the school play came first and it was the first time a teacher had actually taken an interest in me when I was working on this part. I think there's always at least one good teacher in a school who takes that kind of interest, and it doesn't half make you feel good. It makes you feel important for that bit of time. I really think the teacher's interest is important.
Apart from the play I never had anything to show as far as the regular school format was concerned. My typical reports were 'Very Poor', 'Could Do Better, 'Could concentrate More', or that kind of thing. But if a teacher buttoned down and worked with us and we worked on getting something out of school, then things could happen."
Dave still finds that philosophy of enthusiasm useful with Slade:
"In our music we've got to work on it all the time," he said; "we've got to show an interest in it, otherwise it just falls flat."
Dave has good memories of the school play, but it emerged that it wasn't every day he was happy with his school, and his teachers' interest in him ..
"The heavy top-rate teachers only taught the grammar kids, and our class only ever saw them if our teacher fell ill. Then one of the tough teachers would come in: they would just stick something on the blackboard and say, 'we'll do this today'. They didn't have much time for us."
Dave also had problems with the other figures of authority in the school-the prefects.
"I used to hate prefects", he said. But he made an effort to get involved in the school sports, not very successfully as it turned out . . .
"We had houses (I don't know if schools still have them, do they?). I tried to force my way into the sports once just because I wanted to have a go. What I did was to run the mile, because that wasn’t very popular ... the clever kids just did the sprinting jobs! My only chance was the mile, so , gave it a go. I lost! But I had a bash at it."
He laughed at the thought of that long mile.
"I must admit we had a lot of laughs at school, mainly by tomfoolery But I'm not proud of missing out on a good education. I don't think school harmed me in any way."
I then asked Dave if he had ever used his skill as a miler to run in the opposite direction to school...
"I admit I knocked the odd day off here and there, but I never made a point of knocking a whole week off. Some of the kids' used to . . . I suppose it's boredom. But you can't really avoid school; it's the law. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we didn't have to go to school."
Dave doesn't think school has changed much since his days-"Still the same rules" - but he knows that things can never stand still.
"I sometimes see these old films on TV about school life as it used to be," he told me, "with the collars and ties and the uniform bit. Things have certainly changed since those days, but actually in a way you've got to admire the old style. There's something very English about it, and you think 'School uniform really looks ace!' But you can't really relate to it nowadays, I'm afraid."
He went on to talk about the way he noticed other things changing around him. He remembered the time when he first went house hunting and realized that architecture moves with' the times, and not always for the good!
"You look at an old house and think: 'Well doesn't that look great. Why aren't houses made like that nowadays?' But the fact is, they aren't and they won't ever be again. It isn't ever going to be like it used to be. It's like the old, old story of your parents saying: 'It wasn't like that in my day. We made our own entertainment them - you lot have got it lucky.' I remember my dad telling me that, and in some aspects he's right. Not everything your parents tell you is rubbish, you know, like the old line about getting married too young. Your parents always tell you you're missing life if you get married too young, and there can be a lot of truth in that. A lot of kids get hooked and miss out on going anywhere."
It's a mistake Dave himself didn't make, and he's taken full advantage of his chance to see the world.
"I've been all around the world, and to Australia twice. I probably know more than I would ever have learned if I'd been tied down to an office job. I think there's no better thing than experience... just living and seeing a bit of the world."
Dave values experience far more highly than money.
"Money is certainly not the answer to your problems. I realised that when I went to . the States. What sickens me about America sometimes is that they have got too much. The kids just watch television all the time, and it's not doing them any good. America is a good example of over-indulgence. If you have too much done for you, there's nothing left for you to do yourself. You can give kids the best schools, the best uniforms, the best of everything. Parents can give too much ...
Money is certainly not the answer to any kid making it. I mean none of us in Slade came from rich families. I've had one or two letters from rich kids whose parents want them to take over and run the family business, and the kids are just rebelling against it. I'm glad to see kids like that. When it's all there, it's too easy-it's on a plate and they don't want it. They want something else. A kid wants to make his own point in life . . . he doesn't want his fathers business."
"I like my parents. My mother has always been in bad health, and she's always had to go out to work. My father lost an eye while he was working on a car, which put him out of work for a while, But my dad was a worker. He's great - not lazy!
I like to go round and see them every so often. If I haven't been round for a while he rings up and say, 'You don't come and see us any more - Bighead!' He doesn't mean it!
But I think the worst thing is if kids let their parents bury themselves, because parents grow old very quickly after a certain age if they are not taken an interest in. Having a young person around the house every so often does them good. Granny loves having the grandchildren around because it keeps her young. It's horrible when kids just disown their parents and let them die."
After that rather harsh criticism of some kids' behaviour, Dave spoke of the other side of the coin, parents who give their kids a bad time...
"A lot of kids have a really rough time from their parents ... but they are still you parents. You only have one old man and one mother however you look at it! It's best to disregard how horrible they have been to you ... at least you'd get a kick out of doing something for them'"Despite Dave's fondness for his parents, he did have parent problems when it came to working in a band ...
"My dad was a bit unsure of me going into the group thing. Obviously you can't be sure of being a success. But in the end he left it up to me. He said I should try it if I really wanted to, and he stood behind me when I made the decision. When I started in the band I wasn't making any money, so he said I could live at home for free whilst I gave it a try. Mum wasn't very pleased about it. But looking back it was good that mum was against it, because it gives you that bit more incentive and determination to succeed."
Incentive is another thing Dave has some interesting ideas about, particularly in work...
"It must be terrible for the guy who's got to be a nine-to-fiver and is hating every minute of it, just working because he's got to make money. I'd rather earn less to do something I really liked. Whatever you do in life you should take a pride In it if you can and try to get a kick cut of it. I'm not at all politically minded - I'm afraid that's where I get thick - but I did have a few ideas about people buying shares in their own companies and actually becoming involved to the company. There was a firm up North somewhere making pottery I think-and they were going bust and selling out to a foreign firm. So the people who worked there actually put their own money into the firm and became shareholders; they became a part of the firm, I thought that was fantastic.
There's a sequence in the film "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" about boredom on the factory floor. A guy was going 'One... Two... Oh, why bother, I won't get paid any extra.' No matter how hard he worked, he wouldn't get anything out of it, why should he bother?"
Does Dave think ambition is a real incentive?
"You need ambitious people who strive for things. But not everyone even wants to go high and own a big house and a big car. Our parents and relations are quite happy in a normal environment. They don't want anything big; they do a normal job, go down the local and get along with it. Then you've got the ambitious ones, and you need both. That's what makes it all move. Some people need money, and some don't, but as I say, money isn't going to solve your problems."
In Dave's philosophy, money comes very low down the list. Money's not worth worrying about, he thinks, and worry itself is one of his pet hates.
"Life shouldn't be a worry to anyone. I used to worry a lot about my future, but that was because I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do. Then I got involved in the group thing. I thought we might get on, but I never thought about earning as much money as this out of it. But I can see now what I don't need around me, and if it all fell through tomorrow I know that I could be happy. I could go on a farm. I'm not worried any more.
It's a fantastic attitude. working hard and knowing you are enjoying what you are doing. I think kids at school should go for a job that they really want to do and that they know they will enjoy doing, and try to prove themselves, It may not appear to be working out. but 'Opportunity Knocks' is just around the corner, usually at the point when lots of Kids give up. You've just got to have the courage of your convictions, whatever type of job it is. Take a pride in it, get involved in it and then you can really get something out of it!"
You can write to Dave Hill c/o"School Leaver".Grand Buildings.Trafalgar Square.LondonWC2N 5Hl