“Noddy Holder’s got one of the greatest voices in rock ever.” Ozzy Osborne
A short while ago, fellow traveler HotFox did a post on Slade. That reminded me that that was a band I’ve been meaning to do a post on for a while. Here we go.
Wikipedia: “Slade are a British rock band formed in Wolverhampton in 1966. They rose to prominence during the glam rock era in the early 1970s, achieving 17 consecutive top 20 hits and six number ones on the UK Singles Chart.
The British Hit Singles & Albums names them the most successful British group of the 1970s based on sales of singles. They were the first act to have three singles enter the charts at number one; all six of the band’s chart-toppers were penned by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Noddy Holder and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Jim Lea.
As of 2006, total UK sales stand at 6,520,171, and their best-selling single, “Merry Xmas Everybody”, has sold in excess of one million copies. According to the 1999 BBC documentary, It’s Slade, the band has sold over 50 million records worldwide.”
Their first (minor) hit as the ‘N Betweens was a cover of the Rascals’ “You Better Run” which Pat Benatar also covered. Around that time, the band’s style fit more into an R&B/Motown bag. They hadn’t yet found their collective voice but they began to build a following by playing live.
They eventually found a label and were asked to change their name. “The band were initially hesitant because of the reputation gained as the ‘N Betweens’ but eventually agreed to “Ambrose Slade,” a name inspired by an A&R guy’s secretary, who had named her handbag Ambrose and her shoes Slade.” (Just out of curiosity, do women typically name their handbags and shoes? – ME).
Fortuitously, they wound up being managed by Chas Chandler who, I’m told, had some success managing Jimi Hendrix. If you’re wondering about their overall look, well, you can blame/credit Chandler for that. They adopted a skinhead look (sort of anti-hippie if you will) but there was an unwelcome association with football hooliganism.
In 1970, the band shortened their name to Slade and released a new single, a cover of “Shape of Things to Come”* which, despite a performance on Top of the Pops, failed to chart.
So where does yours truly come in? Well, the first album I recall hearing by them is the Slayed? album which I’ve graced my post with. I can’t recall which song I heard first but it was probably “Gudbye T’Jane” with its catchy, “I say you’re so young, you’re so young” refrain. These guys were AC/DC before AC/DC were AC/DC.
More headbanging? Here’s the Alvin Lee tune “Hear Me Calling” from Slade Alive! Can’t say the lads didn’t have an enthusiastic audience:
So, even back then I became known as someone who knew something about music (as a fan, not a musician) and some friends started to respect my opinion and taste. Then I said I liked Slade and …
Boom! I might just as well have said I had some of Hitler’s paintings in my bedroom. “They’re just loud! How could you even like those guys?” Hey, the way I see it, one day you’re in the mood for Kind of Blue, the next day Humble Pie. It’s all good.
Back to the Slayed? album. You may well know “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.” You may well know this and “Feel the Noize” thanks to Quiet Riot. But I have not much interest in their covers of what were already perfect nosebleed headbangers. The lyrics easily rival Bob Dylan at his most poetic:
So cum on feel the noize
Girls rock your boys
We’ll get wild, wild, wild
Wild, wild, wild
The truth of the matter is, while Slade got airplay in the States, I don’t believe they were anywhere near as popular as in the UK. Not sure why.
Here’s my sad Slade story. I was living in NYC and my friends and I would go to shows on a regular basis. I won’t remind you how cheap the shows were back in the good old days but well, the thrills were cheap.
One day I found out that Slade and Blue Oyster Cult – two bands I loved – were going to be playing together. No one, I mean literally no one wanted to go. So I did the thing that I do to this day if I have to – went by myself. I see no reason to miss a great show.
So I got a ticket and had a seat in, I’d say, the seventh or eighth row. Then the usher came down, somebody claimed I was in their seat, I passed my ticket down and when it came back, magically I had a balcony seat in my hand. Yes, that’s right. I got scammed. The usher didn’t wanna hear about it so I wound up trooping up to the balcony. I wish I could say I met a pretty girl up there but I’m sure the place was filled with guys. Great show anyway and my ears have recovered nicely, thank you.
Some straight-up Chuck Berry-style rock ‘n roll here. “Get Down and Get With It” which Little Richard had performed:
Whenever I research these things I find something that I DID NOT KNOW. So it turns out that the lads decided to do a movie called either Slade in Flame or Flame. “The film charts the history of Flame, a fictitious group in the late 1960s who are picked up by a marketing company and taken to the top, only to break up at their zenith.”
I’m actually not so inclined to go find what is doubtless a masterpiece but I will post a tune from it here called “Far Far Away,” It’s pretty good and fairly melodic:
I was thinking of ending with their Christmas song but you know, fuck it. Let me enjoy the not Christmas season for a while. Let’s go out with a bang. Here’s Slade’s cover of the Janis Joplin-penned “Move Over.”
According to Wikipedia, “Slade have influenced numerous artists including: Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, the Clash, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Poison, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister, the Undertones, the Replacements, and The Runaways.”
Even though all the guys are, remarkably for rock and roll, still around, the band continues to this day with only guitarist Dave Hill the sole original member. He’s the guy on the right in the picture with the funny haircut. If you want to see them live, get thee to Europe.
*Not the Yardbirds song but a Weil/Mann composition.