Slade Go Rocking On
Chester Chronicle - 5 December 1980
A rock band regarded by many as 'yesterdays men' was the surprise hit of the Reading Festival this year.
Heavy metal freaks congegated in the open air to pay homage to current idols of the genre like Whitesnake and Angelwitch - and ended up cheering for Slade, who had not had a major hit for four years.
In the early 1970's there was no bigger band than Slade with it's distinctive good time style and gravelly Noddy Holder vocals but, by 1976, it seemed that they had had their day.
They have continued to work and get a good response, but the records haven't sold too well and the media interest was nil. They were slotted into the Reading Festival only because another, more trendy band - Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard Of Oz - pulled out.
"Some people said we shouldn't risk it, that we would be laughed off the stage,"
said Jimmy Lea, one of the same four midlanders who are the unchange line-up of Slade,
"but we knew different. We knew we could take that audience.
"Sure, on the face of it, it seemed unlikely - a band which had had all its hits years ago going down a storm with a heavy metal audience - but I'll tell you something even more unlikely.
"In the middle of Summer that audience demanded our number one hit 'Merry Christmas Everybody' - and we got them to sing it instead. We led a yuletide singsong at a rock festival.
"I felt sorry for the band that had to follow us - but I bet they learned something from it. I bet they are a better band for having suffered that night."
Slade - apart from Holder and Lea, the members are Dave Hill and Don Powell - is very proud of it's professionalism and seems genuinely to believe that it is a more polished and exciting band than it was in it's hey-day. Their hit EP 'Slade Alive At Reading' bears out that theory, though they realistically doubt that they will ever regain the idolatry they had in days of yore.
"I don't think we would want it." said Lea. "We have been through that phase, and it got to the stage where audiences weren't listening to the music."
Slade had it's origins in Wolverhampton, the home town of all four members and the place where three of them still live, and the quartet is getting close to it's 15th anniversary. They were discovered by Chas Chandler. then a member of the supergroup The Animals, but had years of slog before finding the success formula. They were the In Betweens, they were Ambrose Slade, they had a totally false boots-and-braces skinhead image - but in 1971 they owned up to solid Rock 'n' Roll by recording an old Little Richard song called 'Get Down And Get With It' and having their first hit.
Their stage performances were, and are, characterised by a kind of democracy which removes the distinctions between performers and audience. They don't just give the audience a good time, they actually have a good time with the audience. Between songs, Holder's bawdy humour rings out, speculating on what kind of knickers the girls are wearing or encouraging the lads to have 'a bit of a feel' during the slower numbers.
With a new collection of hits about to reach the album racks, Slade will soon find themselves out of the chart wilderness.