In June 1972, Slade showcased a selection of tracks from their recently released album Slade Alive! on Granada TV’s Set of Six. It was an unforgettable performance, and as important, in Pop Cultural terms, as David Bowie (with his arm draped over Mick Ronson’s shoulder) singing “Starman” on Top of the Pops or Marc Bolan belting out Jeepster.
Slade’s performance on Set of Six explained why Noddy Holder, Jimmy Lea, Dave Hill and Don Powell were soon tipped, by the press and fans alike, to replace The Beatles and The Stones. Slade may have looked like Fagin’s Glam ragamuffins, but as a band they delivered powerful, pulsating, exciting, entertaining and timeless Rock and Roll.
01. “Hear Me Calling”
02. “Look What You Dun”
03. “Darling Be Home Soon”
04. “Coz I Luv You”
05. “Get Down And Get With It”
06. “Born To Be Wild”
The first single I bought was “Snow Coach” by Russ Conway. It was at a school jumble sale, St. Cuthbert’s Primary, sometime in the late 1960s. I bought it because I loved winter, and Christmas, and the idea of traveling through some snow-covered landscape to the sound of jingling sleigh bells . I also knew my great Aunt liked Russ Conway, so if I didn’t like it….
I bought it together with a dog-eared copy of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperback (No. 3 “The Copenhagen Affair”). These were the very first things I had chosen and bought for myself, with a tanner (6d) and thrupenny bit (3d). I played the single from-time-to-time on my parents’ Dansette Record Player - its blue and white case and its BSR autochanger, which allowed you to play up to 7 singles one-after-another. My brother had a selection of The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Elvis and The Move, which he played alternating one A-side with one B-side like some junior DJ. It meant I didn’t have to buy singles, as my brother bought most of the things I wanted to hear, so I could spend my pennies on books and comics and sherbert dib-dabs. It was a musical education, and though Conway was a start, the first 45rpm single I really went out and bought was John Barry’s The Theme from ‘The Persuaders’, which I played till it crackled like pan frying oil.
As this documentary shows 45rpm singles were an important part to growing up: everyone can recall buying their first single - what it looked like, its label, its cover, the signature on the inner groove - and the specific feelings these records aroused. With interviews from Norman Cook, Suzi Quatro, Holly Johnson, Noddy Holder, Richie Hawley, Paul Morley, Jimmy Webb, Jack White, Neil Sedaka, Trevor Horn, Miranda Sawyer, Brian Wilson, The Joy of the Single is a perfect piece of retro-vision, that captures the magic, pleasure and sheer bloody delight of growing-up to the sound of 45s.
Sadly, Slade got lost somewhere in the mid-seventies. A car crash, a tour of the U.S.A., and misunderstood movie Flame, saw the band lose much of their following to Punk, Queen, Heavy Metal and Disco. A shame, as Slade were a far greater band than the critics and even the fans allowed them to be. Here, for no other reason than it is a fan-bloody-tastic cover, is Slade’s version of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Wild” - the final track from the classic Slade Alive! album - as performed live on Pop Shop from 1971.
Slade never looked cool, but that wasn’t the point. They were four young lads out for a good time, and they wanted you to have a good time too. You can hear it on their classic album Slade Alive, when lead singer, Noddy Holder encourages everyone to get up, get ripping and really let themselves go. And during the 1970s, that’s just what their fans did.
Slade were Noddy Holder, Jimmy lea, Don Powell and the sequined Dave (“You write ‘em I’ll sell ‘em”) Hill. Between 1970 and 1975, they sold over 6.5 million records in the UK alone, chalking up 6 number ones, 3 of which went straight to the top of the charts - a feat not achieved since The Beatles - and this at a time of 3-day weeks, power cuts and food shortages.
For their energy, dynamism and 4-chord songs, Slade were more of an influence on Punk than Iggy and The Stooges. Just listen to the opening riff for “Cum on Feel the Noize”, it sounds like the start of a Sex Pistols track. Or try “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. As latter-day Mod-Father and frontman for The Jam, Paul Weller noted:
“The whole punk rock thing really happened because of bands such as Slade and the like; rock bands that wouldn’t back off.”
Then there’s Noddy Holder, who may have looked like a grown-up Artful Dodger, but had a brilliant and unmistakable voice, which inspired Joey Ramone:
“I spent most of the early 70s listening to Slade Alive thinking to myself, ‘Wow - this is what I want to do. I want to make that kind of intensity for myself.’ A couple of years later I found myself at CBGB’s doing my best Noddy Holder.”
The tags were all there: Slade’s first single was produced by Kim Fowley; their manager, was ex-Animal, Chas Chandler, who had managed Jimi Hendrix; and their writing partnership of Holder and Lea was compared to the greats who’d gone before, one of which, Paul McCartney saw the future of pop divided between Slade and T.Rex, just like The Beatles and The Stones.
It should have been, but in 1973, drummer Don Powell was seriously injured in a car crash that tragically killed his girlfriend. Slade nearly split. Then, there was their film Flame, not a mop-top romp, but a long-hard look at the music business - it alienated fans though is now considered the “Citizen Kane of rock musicals”. Then, in a bid to conquer America, they spent 2 years Stateside, when Slade returned to the UK, Punk had taken over, and they were “old farts”, even though the Pistols’ Steve Jones thought that:
“Slade never compromised. We always had the feeling that they were on our side. I don’t know but I think we were right.”
It’s Slade is a well-deserved and refreshing reassessment of one Britain’s greatly under-rated bands, with excellent archive and contributions from Slade, Ozzy Osbourne, Toyah Wilcox and Noel Gallagher.
The rest of ‘It’s Slade’, plus bonus clips, after the jump…