Record Mirror - May 1980
Return Of The Wanderers - Slade Alive Again
I can remember when 'Top Of The Pops' was fun to watch. Every Thursday you had the sight of Rod Stewart and The Faces playing football and swapping instruments mid song. You could smirk while watching Sweet attempt to get credibility while dressed as tastelessly as the three flying ducks on Hilda Ogden's wall.
There was Marc Bolan, vamping, pouting and strutting his star spangled face with his guitar lead tucked neatly in his back pocket. There was the infamous lead singer with , the thankfully forgotten, Chicory Tip who managed to inspire mass hatred and contempt for his hamfisted attempt to do a Rod Stewart impression while dressed as an extraterrestrial being from Blake's Seven on a budget of two 15p luncheon vouchers.
Then there was Slade. Don Powell sat on his drums, impervious to all around him, chewing Wrigley's with his, seemingly, pneumatic molars, pumping out the stomp rhythm with his candy striped sticks.
Bassist Jimmy Lea rocked and swayed as he careered around the tiny podium which is festooned with streamers and hoardes of pubescent revellers.
Dave Hill had his chubby face permanently fixed in the grin position as he teetered dangerously on his, seemingly, telescopic platform boots while wiggling his silver lame buttocks at the cameras.
Finally, there was Noddy, the true leader of the gang. A real nutter who commanded attention, if not by his authority, then by his sumptuous foghorn of a bellow that was loosely called a voice. He told us when to stomp, when to clap, when to feel the noise, and got us all crazy then.
So whatever happened to Slade?
In many ways Slade are back to square one. They made their reputation long before 'Get Down And Get With It' battered its way into the charts in August 1971 as one of the best nights out in the country with their forceful brand of rock.
After five years of hard slog they were rewarded with a Polydor recording contract and the miscalculated image of being Britain's first skinhead band. They decided to release a stage favourite 'Get Down And Get With It', an adapted Little Richard number, recorded where they sounded best, on stage. It was a song that they claimed summed up in three minutes what the band was about, sweat, booze and aggression tempered with the good time spirit.
The single crept up the charts with only the diligence of John Peel and Radio Luxembourg keeping the song on the airwaves and their solid touring schedule to keep it afloat. The single reached number 16 but that was just the beginning.
"We consciously thought of going for three minute hits, obviously when you've had a smell of the charts you don't want to be a one hit wonder." claims Noddy Holder.
For the follow up Noddy wrote for the first time with Jimmy Lea, a combination they've stuck with ever since.
"We weren't convinced with 'Coz I Luv You' as a hit but Chas Chandler, the ex-member of The Animals and manager of Jimi Hendrix and our manager since then, told us that it was a great song and it had our stamp on it. We thought it was a bit wet." says Noddy.
The 'wet' song made number one within two weeks of release.
The band then started on an impressive string of hits including 'Take Me Bak 'ome', 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now', 'Gudbuy T' Jane' and 'Cum On Feel The Noize'.
"We stayed on a level in terms of fame," says Jimmy Lea. "Marc Bolan was getting big articles in all the Sunday papers. We just couldn't crack it the size that he was at all. The only thing that cracked it for us was live apperances."
The live appearance in particular was the Lincoln Festival, purported to be the last great festival with most of the big names like Rod Stewart And The Faces, Beach Boys, Joe Cocker and even Monty Python. The press descended on it as if it was a wake for the Woodstock nation, as it seemed to be, with the likes of Stanley Baker and high powered city magnates involved in the organisation.
"They booed us when we went on stage," recalls Noddy. "They all thought 'What are you doing on this festival with Cocker and the Beach Boys?' But we built and built and built. At the end we did 'Get Down And Get With It' which had been a hit by then and the crowd went beserk and we stole the show. We had all the music press front covers the next week and that cracked us to the masses."
"People now don't give us credibility because usually they haven't seen us live. We still pack out everywhere we play but people think we were off the scene for two years even though we were working solidly around the world."
"People think we've split up and they think it's all old hat so it's a matter of breaking down that barrier again which is a good buzz for us," he adds optimistically.
After the hits and the moderate success of their movie 'Flame' they tackled the United States Of America.
"People were saying we died a death out there because of a few measly write ups that came back and I have to tell them that you can't survive two weeks, let alone two years, there if you're crap," asserts Jimmy.
"Our albums all made the top 100 which is good considering we never had a hit single to carry the album along with it."
But back home they found that absence had cooled their hit making potential.
"When we came back in 1977 the climate had changed and the New Wave was happening. We enjoyed it but we didn't realise that we'd become semi-heavy metal and very Americanised with the big arena rock thing. We wrote the 'Whatever Happened To Slade' album and it was totally the climate," explains Noddy, adding that the correct time for release would be now with the resurgance of the haevy metal wave.
"Because it didn't take off we decided to work solidly here to get a firm foothold again.
"It was a blow to the ego, you think that you can come back and everthing will be as it was and it's not like that," continues Noddy.
They took nine months off trying to decide on a direction until a one-off gig made them realise that Slade have only one direction and that's to play to their strength on the live stage.
Now with many of the new bands acknowledging them as inspiration, Slade find themselves on the threshold of a new recognition. A recognition that should start with the recent release of their good value six track EP at the bargain price of £1.49 called 'Six Of The Best'.
"We think our time will come again. We wouldn't carry on if we didn't think we could. When we get in front of an audience and they're still going crazy we know we've still got it.
"All the success we've had we've had to fight for and it was never an easy run the first time round. We were together five years before we even got a record deal. We've learned that if we stick at it our day will come again."