It starts around late October every year—the loop of Christmas songs played out over sound systems and tannoy in department stores and shopping malls across the UK. Songs by one-hit-wonders and novelty acts that somehow found a place in the nation’s heart rub along nicely along with festive number ones by artists like David Bowie, Bing Crosby, The Waitresses, Wham and Wizzard.
These Christmas compilations are a good little earner for the songwriters’ pension fund. The only downside being that some of these artists are now best known for their Christmas number one rather than the quality of their back catalog. It’s a fate that could almost have happened to Slade whose festive stormer “Merry Xmas Everybody” is now “credited” with starting the seasonal race for the Christmas number one.
But Slade aren’t just for Christmas—they’re for all year round.
Slade were Noddy Holder (guitar, lead vocals), Jimmy Lea (bass, violin), Don Powell (drums) and Dave Hill (lead guitar). They were according to Paul McCartney the heir apparent (along with T.Rex) to The Beatles and The Stones. From 1970-1975 Slade had seventeen top twenty singles, six number ones—three of which went straight to the top of the charts—and sold over six-and-a-half million records in the UK alone—a feat not achieved since the days of the Fab Four.
I was first introduced to Slade by my older brother. As kids we shared a bedroom which meant anything one of us played on the record player both of us had to hear. This is how I was introduced to a lot of music I might never have tuned into—it was a shared experience unlike the i-pod users today who dwell in their own little jukebox. Slade may not have started off as one of my favorite bands—but I sure as hell grew to like them and appreciate why they were brilliant and in their own way, very very revolutionary.
The album that started it all off was Slade Alive—one of the greatest live albums ever recorded. A garish red gatefold LP that everyone seemed to own. One listen to that whole album explains why Slade were such an influential and revolutionary band—go on just stream the sonic armageddon at the climax of last track side two “Born to be Wild”—it’s eight minutes and twelve seconds of Slade delivering the future of rock ‘n’ roll music.
More from Slade, plus concert footage in East Germany from 1977, after the jump…