“ So you think my singing’s out of time
Well it makes me money
And I don’t know why
And I don’t know why”
While the first single I bought was by the Sweet, the first single I bought with a picture sleeve was by Slade. We were visiting my Uncle in Germany and I found a copy of “Gudbye T’Jane” in the bargain bin at the NAAFI. It was about two years old but the live picture on the sleeve summed up for me what Slade were all about – a group of guys, dressed up in ridiculous clothes, playing loud music and obviously enjoying themselves. The fact that they misspelt the title of all their singles just helped to bring out the young rebel in me!
Getting together in the mid 60s Noddy Holder (vocals), Dave Hill (guitar), Jimmy Lea (Bass) and Don Powell (drums) formed The ‘N’ Betweens and played regular gigs across the Midlands. The music they played was different and memorable with both soul standards and heavy rock numbers being played. Whilst they did release one single in 1966 they didn’t make any impression outside of their local stomping grounds.
Eventually they had an audition for Fontana and ended up recording their first LP under their new, Fontana christened name, Ambrose Slade. With a new LP and new name the group kept playing………..and nothing happened.
They then came under the wing of Chas Chandler. First he abbreviated their name to Slade and then he reincarnated them as skinhead bovver boys with cropped hair and DMs. This image change got them the oxygen of publicity and they recorded another single………………and still nothing happened.
By 1970 they decided to grow their hair back and develop a more upbeat, brighter image. This, coupled with their aggressive approach to music and singing, led to their first chart success in 1971 with “Get Down And Get With It”. Using this springboard Noddy and Jimmy started writing their own songs using stomping beats, memorable singalong lyrics all topped off with a misspelt title and began Slade’s dominance of the charts. In October they had their first number 1 with “Coz I Luv You”, they were now at the top and they intended to stay there. Their next single reached number 4 and the following 10 all made the top 3 with 5 of them making number 1! Obviously one of these hits was the mighty “Merry Xmas Everybody” that gets played every Christmas, every year and, if memory serves, was written while Noddy was sitting on the toilet.
On stage or on TV Slade were a revelation, with each outing Dave’s outfits got more outrageous (culminating in him breaking an ankle when falling off his platform boots) and Noddy’s singing got louder and stronger – on one memorable occasion the recording of University Challenge had to be halted when Noddy’s voice could be heard through the sound proofing of the studio next door! Adding yet another string to their bow they starred in the film Flame. Unfortunately, while this was a good film, there were production problems and it never became the success it should have.
With the coming of punk Slade were seen as part of the establishment and disappeared from the charts. The group however stood by their guns and went back to what they enjoyed, playing live. A subsequent appearance at the Reading Festival in 1980 (with the crowd singing “Merry Xmas Everybody” in August) reminded everyone what a good band they were and re-launched them for the 80’s bringing them another 5 hits.
The band played together for the final time in 1992 and have since gone their separate ways. While you can still catch Dave Hill and Don Powell touring with a version of Slade, Jimmy Lea is a bit more elusive and has recorded a few singles under pseudonyms. Noddy meanwhile has turned into a radio/TV personality and when not discussing Nobby’s nuts occasionally lets rip with his unique voice.
For more info visit Slade