Slade are an English rock band from Wolverhampton/Walsall. They rose to prominence during the glam rock era of the early 1970s with 17 consecutive top 20 hits and six number ones. The British Hit Singles & Albums names them as the most successful British group of the 1970s based on sales of singles. They were the first act to achieve three singles enter at number one; all six of the band's chart-toppers were penned by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea. Total UK sales stand at 6,520,171, and their best selling single, "Merry Xmas Everybody", has sold in excess of one million copies.
Following an unsuccessful move to the United States in 1975, Slade's popularity waned but was unexpectedly revived in 1980 when they were last minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne at the Reading Rock Festival. The band later acknowledged this to have been one of the highlights of their career. The original line up split in 1992 but the band reformed the following year as Slade II. The band has continued, with a number of line-up changes, to the present day. They have now shortened the group name back to Slade.
A number of diverse artists have cited Slade as an influence, including grunge icons Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins, punk pioneers the Ramones, Sex Pistols, the Undertones, the Runaways and the Clash, glam metal bands Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Poison and Def Leppard and pop-rock stalwarts the Replacements, Cheap Trick and Oasis.
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Music tells of Holder's powerful vocals, guitarist Dave Hill's equally arresting dress sense and the deliberate misspelling of their song titles for which they became well known.
The band members of Slade grew-up in the Black Country area of the West Midlands: both the drummer Don Powell, and bass guitarist Jim Lea were born and raised in Wolverhampton, lead vocalist Noddy Holder was born and raised in the nearby town of Walsall, and lead guitarist Dave Hill was born in Devon and moved to Wolverhampton while a child. Writings by and about Slade frequently mention The Trumpet public house in Bilston as a band meeting place, especially in their early days. Slade have released over 30 albums, three of which reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart. Their releases have spent a total of 531 weeks in the UK charts and they have earned 23 top 30 UK hits as of 2013.
Slade dominated the UK charts during the early 1970s, out-performing chart rivals, such as Wizzard, Sweet, T. Rex, Suzi Quatro, Mud, Smokie, Gary Glitter, Roxy Music and David Bowie. Slade achieved twelve Top 5 hit singles in the UK between 1971 and 1974, three of which went straight to #1. Of the 17 Top 20 hits between 1971 and 1976, six made No. 1, three reached No. 2 and two peaked at #3. No other UK act of the period enjoyed such consistency in the UK Top 40 and this feat was the closest any group had come to matching the Beatles' 22 Top 10 records in a single decade (1960s). Slade sold more singles in the UK than any other group of the 1970s. In 1973 alone, "Merry Xmas Everybody" sold over one million copies globally, obtaining gold disc status. They toured Europe in 1973 and the US in 1974.
Slade moved to the US in the mid-1970s, in an attempt to break into the American market and although this was largely unsuccessful, they left their mark on a number of US bands who have since cited Slade as an influence. During the late 1970s, the band returned to the UK following years of commercial failure both at home and abroad. Slade's career was unexpectedly revived when the band were asked to perform at the 1980 Reading Festival when Ozzy Osbourne pulled out at the last minute. For the next two years, the band produced material tailored towards the heavy metal scene and by 1984, they finally cracked the American market with the hits "Run Runaway" and "My Oh My." This new-found success did not last long, however, and despite a top 25 UK hit in the early '90s the band split shortly after in 1992.
Early years (1966–70)
In 1964, drummer Don Powell and guitarist Dave Hill were part of a midland based group called the Vendors. Regulars on the club circuit, they had also recorded a privately pressed four-track EP. At the time, Noddy Holder was playing guitar and contributing to vocals in Steve Brett & the Mavericks. Signed to Columbia Records, the band released three singles in 1965. After listening to American blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf, the Vendors decided on a change of direction and name. As the 'N Betweens they gained greater recognition and began to get supporting gigs with acts such as the Hollies, the Yardbirds, Georgie Fame and Spencer Davis.
The Mavericks and the 'N Betweens were on their way to separate gigs in Germany when they met on a ferry in 1965. Powell and Hill asked Holder if he would be interested in joining The 'N Betweens but Holder declined. Later, back in their home town of Wolverhampton, the musicians met again and this time Holder agreed to join the group. Jim Lea, whose musical background and strong bass guitar skills were considered an asset, had already been recruited. Lea, who also played the piano and guitar, had been in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra and had gained first class honours in a London music-school practical exam.
By 1966, this new version of the 'N Betweens had recorded a promo single of the Otis Redding track, "Security," and a self-penned song, "Evil Witchman," released on Highland Records. A further single, "You Better Run" was released on Columbia Records and produced by Kim Fowley. This last single was reported by Powell to have topped the regional midland charts although it failed to make any national impact. Between 1966 and 1967, the band's performance centred around the R&B and Tamla Motown styles, while Noddy's flair for showmanship began to give the band a focus. During 1967, the band recorded the track "Delighted to See You" which remained unreleased until 1994, where it featured on the various artists compilation Psychedelia at Abbey Road. Although the group did not record again for roughly two years, they built up a respectable reputation on the live circuit.
A local promoter, Roger Allen spotted the group in 1969 and alerted the head of A&R at Philips Records, Jack Baverstock. The group spent a week in the Philips studio at Stanhope Place recording an album, after which Baverstock offered to sign the group to Fontana Records if they changed their name and obtained London-based management. The band were initially hesitant because of the reputation gained as the 'N Betweens' but eventually agreed to Ambrose Slade, a name inspired by Baverstock's secretary, who had named her handbag Ambrose and her shoes Slade. Baverstock also found the group an agent, John Gunnel, who had previously worked with the entertainment entrepreneur Robert Stigwood.
The band's debut album Beginnings, released in mid-1969, was a commercial failure as was the instrumental single "Genesis" and follow up single "Wild Winds Are Blowing". While the album was being recorded, the band were visited by Gunnel and his business partner, Animals' bassist, Chas Chandler. Chandler was impressed with what he heard in the studio, and after seeing the band live the following day, offered to manage them. As Chandler had previous managerial experience with Jimi Hendrix, the band accepted.
Chandler was not pleased with the debut album and thought the band would benefit from writing their own material and a change of image. The band adopted a skinhead look as an attempt to gain publicity from what was a newsworthy youth fashion trend but this also added an unwelcome association with football hooliganism. Noddy Holder and Don Powell were particularly tough individuals already, and the skinhead look exacerbated the disturbing effect of having "toughs" in the band. In 1970, the band shortened their name to Slade and released a new single, a cover of Shape of Things to Come which despite a performance on United Kingdom music show Top of the Pops, failed to chart.
Chandler moved Slade to Polydor Records, believing a higher profile label would boost sales. The instrumental "Genesis" from the band's debut album, had lyrics added and was released as "Know Who You Are," but again, the single failed to make any impression on the UK chart as did the album Play It Loud, released in late 1970 and produced by Chandler himself. Later though, the album would be retrospectively well received by fans and critics.
Success and peak (1971–74)
Chandler had been managing the band for almost two years without success when he suggested releasing a version of the Bobby Marchan song, "Get Down and Get With It", originally performed by Little Richard. Slade still enjoyed a good reputation as a live act and the song had been used in their performances for many years. Always popular, the song's lyrics demanded audience participation and it was hoped that the feeling of a live gig would be projected into the studio recording. The song was released in mid-1971, and by August the single had entered the top 20 in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 16.
The band members grew their hair long and allied themselves to the glam rock movement of the early '70s. Hill's stage costumes also became notable during this period. Many of Holder's costumes during this period, including the trademark Mirror Top Hat, were made by Dorothy "Dolly" Annakin - a sister of Holder's friend Ron Annakin. Chandler now demanded the band write a follow-up single themselves which led to Lea and Holder writing Coz I Luv You. The song was written in half an hour and started a writing partnership which would continue throughout Slade's career. Upon hearing the track played to him acoustically, a pleased Chandler predicted the song would make number one. While recording, the band felt the song's sound to be too soft and so clapping was added. The song's misspelled title also became a trademark for Slade while causing a furore among British school teachers. The attendant appearance on BBC Television's Top of the Pops brought Slade to a wider audience as well as pushing "Coz I Luv You" to number one in the UK charts. In November 1971, NME reported that Slade had turned down a multi-million dollar campaign, including a television series and a heavily promoted tour of the US. "But", commented Holder, "acceptance would have meant the cancellation of many commitments here – and the last thing we want to do is to mess around [with] the people who have put us where we are".
A second single entitled "Look Wot You Dun", was released at the start of 1972, peaking at number four and a live album was released in March. The album Slade Alive! proved to be successful, spending 52 weeks in the UK Album charts, peaking at number two. It also did well abroad, topping the Australian charts and giving the band their first chart entry in America. The album was recorded over three nights at a newly built studio in Piccadilly in front of 300 fan-club members. Today the album is regarded as one of the finest live albums ever made.
Two months later, the band released "Take Me Bak 'Ome". The single became Slade's second UK number one and charted in a number of other countries, including America where it reached number 97 in the Billboard singles chart. Slade achieved their third number one when "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" was released later that year, pushing the band towards greater recognition. The song became a popular live number and is today, one of Slade's more recognised singles.
Released in November 1972, the album Slayed? peaked at number one both in the UK and Australia, where it relegated Slade Alive to the second spot; and reaching number 69 in America. Both Slade Alive! and Slayed? are widely considered to be two of the finest albums of the Glam Rock era. The final single of 1972, "Gudbuy T' Jane", was released shortly after, peaking at number two in the UK being kept from the top spot by Chuck Berry's single "My Ding-A-Ling". The single was a big worldwide hit but only managed to reach number 68 in the American Billboard Chart.
In early 1973, "Cum on Feel the Noize" was released and went straight to number one, the first time a single had done so since The Beatles' "Get Back" in 1969. Another worldwide hit for Slade, the single again failed to impress in America where it made number 98. The follow-up single "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me", again went straight to number one but reports were later made that the song was recorded as a joke and was not intended for release. Slade quickly disowned it and have not performed it live since.
A car crash in Wolverhampton on 4 July 1973 left Powell in a coma and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Angela Morris, dead. The band's future was left in the balance as Slade refused to continue without their drummer although Lea's brother, Frank, covered Powell's position at the Isle of Wight Festival to avoid disappointing Slade fans. Powell, who'd suffered breaks to both ankles and five ribs, successfully recovered after surgery and was able to rejoin the band ten weeks later in New York, where they recorded "Merry Xmas Everybody" – in the middle of an August heatwave. Powell still suffers with acute short-term memory loss and sensory problems as a result of the accident. The band's hit single "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me" was never performed on Top of the Pops because the producers of the show would not allow Slade to perform as a three-piece band. A promotional video with dancers was shown instead.
Whilst Powell was recovering, and in an attempt to keep up momentum, the band released a compilation album Sladest, which topped the UK and Australian charts in the first week of its release. A new single, "My Friend Stan", was also released. It marked a change from previous records, being more piano based and sounding more like a novelty song. During the recording sessions, Powell who was walking with the aid of a stick, had to be lifted up to his drum kit. The single was successful, peaking at number two in the UK and number one in Ireland.
The Christmas-themed song "Merry Xmas Everybody" was Slade's last single of 1973 and became the band's last ever number one in the UK. Based on melodies from discarded songs written six years previous, it became Slade's best-selling single ever, selling two and a half a million copies in the UK that year alone. The song has remained popular and has been released many times since, charting on a number of occasions. It was around this time that one of the band's singles managed to survive six continuous months in the Polish charts.
The band began to experiment with different musical styles, moving away from their usual successful rock anthems. Following the success of "My Friend Stan", Slade released the album Old, New, Borrowed and Blue, in February 1974 which went to number one in the UK. Re-titled "Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet", the album was another disappointment in the US, failing to break into the top 100. The following month saw a new single released. "Everyday" was a piano led ballad which made number three in the UK charts. The next single, "The Bangin' Man" saw a return to a more guitar-based sound, again reaching the number three position.
Decline in popularity (1974–75)
In the latter half of 1974, the possibility of making a film was being discussed. The band considered a number of screenplays before settling on Slade in Flame, a gritty tale of the rise and fall of a fictional 1960s group called Flame, the story was based on true music business events involving Slade and various other groups of the time. "Far Far Away", a track from the film was released, reaching number two in the UK and topping the chart in Norway. Noddy Holder has cited the single as his favourite Slade song.
The soundtrack album was released in late November and despite a positive reception from the critics, the disappointing chart position of number six was seen by some as an indication of the band's decline in popularity. The film, released in January 1975, received a somewhat mixed reception. It was thought that its bleak, sour atmosphere confused Slade fans who were used to Slade delivering a good time. Directed by Richard Loncraine and written by Andrew Birkin, the film featured Tom Conti in his first major role.
The number 15 position of the film's main theme song, "How Does It Feel", was seen as further proof of the band's decline. The ballad, featuring brass instruments and flute, was at the time thought to be too far from the fan's expectations. Noel Gallagher of the British band Oasis however has claimed the track to be, "one of the best songs written, in the history of pop, ever". The follow-up in May "Thanks for the Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam)" fared slightly better, peaking at number seven in the UK and doing well in a number of other European countries. The single became Slade's last top 10 hit of the 1970s.
By mid-1975, the band had become disillusioned with their lack of success in America. Feeling that they were becoming stale and had achieved all they could in Europe, Slade decided to a make a permanent move to the States and try to build a solid reputation from live performances; just as they had previously done in the UK. According to the Slade Fan Club newsletter of August and September 1975, the band took twelve tons of equipment, worth approximately £45,000 at the time. Throughout the remainder of 1975 and 1976, Slade toured the US, often with other bands such as Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath, only returning to the UK for TV performances of new singles. The live performances were generally successful although not all cities took to the band.
Between tours Holder and Lea began writing for a new album which was heavily influenced by American artists and aimed at an American audience. The group booked themselves into New York's Record Plant Studios in mid-1975 to record the album Nobody's Fools. Featuring backing vocals from Tasha Thomas, it contained elements of soul, country and funk music.
The first two singles from the new album, "In For a Penny" and "Let's Call It Quits" were released in November 1975 and January 1976 respectively, both made number 11 in the UK charts although the latter made no impression outside of the UK. The album, released in March 1976, failed to make any impact in America and was also a disappointment in the UK where it peaked at number 14 and dropped out of the charts completely after only 4 weeks. The final track from the album was the title track "Nobody's Fool". Released in April, it failed to chart at all, the first to do so since the band's rise to fame in 1971. Fans within the UK accused the band of 'selling out' and forgetting about their fan base at home.
Wilderness years (1977–80)
Overall, Slade's American venture was seen as a failure, although the band felt improved and rejuvenated. The live success in cities such as St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York was not translated into US airplay, however, and the band returned to the UK at the beginning of 1977 to find that punk rock was the new popular style of rock and that they were largely forgotten and out of fashion. Chandler decided not to renew the band's contract with Polydor Records, instead signing them to his own record label, Barn Records.
The band's first release with Barn Records was the single "Gypsy Roadhog", in January 1977. The track was performed on the children's show Blue Peter, but complaints arose due to drug references and the record was subsequently banned by the BBC. This in turn led to the single's stalling at number 48 in the charts. The title of the subsequent album was taken from a piece of graffiti seen in London, and made reference to the band's current position in the public eye: Whatever Happened to Slade was released in March and ironically, failed to make any chart appearance in the UK. Chandler was reportedly disappointed in the material that Holder and Lea were writing, claiming that the album was not commercial enough, but despite its lack of mainstream success, the album was met with critical praise and support from the English punk movement of the time. Since their return to the UK, the band continued to tour but mainly in smaller venues such as universities and clubs. The spring tour had shown that Slade could no longer fill large venues.
"Burning in the Heat of Love", released a month later, was also banned for suggestive lyrics and failed to chart as a result. In October, the band released an amalgamation of two Arthur Crudup songs, entitled "My Baby Left Me But That's Alright Mama" as a tribute to the recent death of Elvis Presley. The single proved to be a moderate success, peaking at number 32 in the UK. Slade was unable keep momentum for the next single, "Give Us a Goal", released in March 1978. Based on English football chants, it was intended to appeal to fans of the sport but failed to make any impact whatsoever.
In August 1978, Noddy Holder was involved in a brawl with a bouncer backstage at a club in Porthcawl, South Wales. The bouncer was later jailed for three months for instigating the fight. Holder showed his mettle by performing the next night as planned, at a club in Cleethorpes, South Humberside. The event would later be written into the 1981 single "Knuckle Sandwich Nancy".
In late 1978, the band released "Rock 'n' Roll Bolero" featuring the electric violin, not used on a single since the band's 1971 hit "Coz I Luv You". The single failed to chart in any country. As the band were still a respected live act, and because the 1972 album Slade Alive! had been so successful, the group decided to release another live album. Slade Alive, Vol. 2 consisted of performances recorded during the 1976 Autumn tour of America and the 1977 Spring tour of the UK. The album was, however, another failure, making no impression in the UK charts.
In 1979, the band released a further three singles: "Ginny, Ginny", "Sign of the Times" and a cover of the party track "Okey Cokey". All failed to chart. The Slade newsletter of the time announced that "Ginny, Ginny" had made the top 200 in the UK but not the official top 100. In October 1979, the band released a new studio album Return to Base...., the first album not to have Chandler as producer. Disagreements between Lea and Chandler, centring around Lea's desire to produce Slade's material, had been brewing since the recording of Whatever Happened to Slade in 1977. Lea no longer believed in Chandler and as a result, Chandler offered to sever his association with the band. Slade, not wishing to be rid of Chandler entirely, asked him to stay on as their manager, which Chandler agreed to do. The album was a failure in the UK but the following year it topped both the Telemoustique chart and the official album chart in Belgium. Released exclusively in Belgium, the album's version of Chuck Berry's "I'm a Rocker" also made number 1.
Slade's failures and lack of airplay led Lea to wonder if their material would be better received if recorded by another band. In late 1979, Lea formed 'The Dummies' as a side project, with his brother Frank and wife Louise. The group released three singles, which received plenty of radio airplay but sales suffered from distribution problems. In February 1980, following the death of Bon Scott, Holder was approached by rock band AC/DC with a view to becoming their new vocalist. Holder turned the position down, despite Slade's current situation. In mid-1980, Slade released their first extended play titled "Six of the Best" which featured three tracks from the Return to Base.... album and three brand new rock tracks. Even though it was being sold for a lower than usual price of £1.49, it still failed to sell enough to make a chart appearance. As a result, the band stopped working together and Hill started driving couples to their weddings in his own Rolls-Royce, just to make money to provide for his family.
Comeback and heavy metal following (1980–82)
Ozzy Osbourne, during his Blizzard of Ozz tour, was due to play the Reading Festival in August 1980. Osbourne cancelled at short notice, leaving the organisers searching for a last-minute replacement. Slade were suggested, but Hill, still demoralised, had effectively left the band and initially refused when asked by the other band members. Eventually, Chandler convinced Hill to play what should have been a farewell performance in front of 65,000 rock fans, instead of Slade's disbanding and disappearing without a trace. To Hill's astonishment, the band stole the show and quickly became darlings of the music press. Highlights of their performance were broadcast on BBC Radio 1's Friday Rock Show Reading special. Afterwards, the band signed to Cheapskate Records, owned by Lea and his brother Frank, which gave the band more control of their material and products.
The band's new-found success led to a hurriedly released extended play the following month. "Live at Reading", reached number 44, the band's first chart action in the UK since 1977. Another extended play followed in November, titled "Xmas Ear Bender" which peaked at number 70. Polydor Records also saw an opportunity to capitalise on the band's new success and released the compilation Slade Smashes! at the beginning of November. The album was given plenty of promotion and spent 15 weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number 21. The album was certified UK Gold in December, having by then sold over 200,000 copies.
Keen to keep momentum with their new fans, the band set out to write a song with hit potential. The idea for the new track came after a performance in Amsterdam at the Paradiso Club. An enthusiastic audience who would not go home were overheard chanting by Lea, who was downstairs in the dressing room. Realising the potential of the chant, the song "We'll Bring the House Down" was written and released in January 1981. Aimed at the new audience which consisted of mainly heavy metal fans, it showed Slade's heavier rock sound. The single hit the number 10 spot in the UK, becoming Slade's first top ten hit since 1976. In March, an album consisting of four new tracks and six tracks from the previous album Return to Base.... was released. Also called We'll Bring the House Down it peaked at number 25.
"Wheels Ain't Coming Down", which originally appeared as the opening track on the album Return to Base...., was released in March 1981 and reached number 60 in the UK. Although not a hit, it served to keep Slade in the public eye while they were writing new material and planning a European tour. Slade's success at the 1980 Reading festival was helping them fill larger venues and led to their being asked about a return in 1981. The band refused, however, as they thought they would not be able to better the 1980 performance and a second performance so soon would be a disappointment.
In May, the band released "Knuckle Sandwich Nancy". Although eagerly wanted as a single by the band, Chandler was not entirely convinced and thus it was half-heartedly released and failed to chart. The band blamed Chandler for the failure and began to manage themselves. Chandler sold his share of Cheapskate Records and negotiated a favourable deal for the band with RCA Records The new deal meant that Slade's records would get worldwide release except in the USA and Canada. UK singles would still be released under the Cheapskate label but with RCA pressing and distributing the records.
The band's first full release on the RCA label was the European hit single "Lock Up Your Daughters" in late 1981. The track continued to follow a more heavy metal sound and made number 29 in the UK. The album Till Deaf Do Us Part followed in November 1981 and peaked at number 68. It remains Slade's most metal-directed and heaviest sounding album to date. An article in NME shortly after release, claimed Slade were in trouble over the album cover, which featured an 'offensive' picture of a nail piercing an ear drum, and that many dealers were refusing to stock it. The cover was later changed on the CD reissue to a picture of the band in flames. In December, RCA released "Merry Xmas Everybody" for the first time since its initial outing. This time, however, it only managed to get to number 32.
By early 1982, the band had released a new single from the "Till Deaf Do Us Part" album, "Ruby Red". Although a gatefold release with two extra live tracks, it only managed to reach 51 in the charts. The opening track from the album, "Rock and Roll Preacher" was released exclusively in Germany in April. The first Slade single to have a 12" single version, it peaked at number 49. The song also became Slade's new show opener. In November, the band released a new single, "(And Now the Waltz) C'est La Vie", which was aimed directly at the Christmas market. It only made number 50 in the UK but was a hit in Poland where it reached number two. The band's version of the party track "Okey Cokey" was also re-released that year but failed to make an impact, much like the original release in 1979. Lastly, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was again re-released, this time only managing to get to number 67. December saw the release of Slade's third and final live album, "Slade on Stage" which peaked at number 58 in the UK and received a positive response from critics. Lea continued working on solo projects throughout despite the upturn in Slade's fortunes.
American breakthrough (1983–84)
Although Slade enjoyed some minor success, RCA Records had higher expectations and sent them away to write songs to be considered for release in 1983. The band came back with two possible singles, "My Oh My" and "Run Runaway". A raw demo of Holder singing "My Oh My" over Lea's piano, was received with particular enthusiasm by RCA. The label was delighted with both the tracks and hired outside producer John Punter to work with the band to record them. This was the first time the band had another producer since Chandler. Punter's methods differed to those Slade were used to, in that the band recorded their parts separately. This method eventually met with the band's approval. The power ballad "My Oh My" was released in November 1983, where it slowly climbed the charts and by December, Slade found themselves competing for the Christmas number-one spot. The single peaked at number 2 behind acapella group The Flying Pickets with their cover of Yazoo's "Only You". The single was a huge success across Europe and topped the charts in Norway and Sweden. "Merry Xmas Everybody", again re-released, made number 20 that year.
The album The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome, co-produced by Lea and Punter was also released in December, but despite the strength of "My Oh My", had only made number 74 by the end of the year. To try to push the album further up the charts, January 1984 saw the release of "Run Runaway", a Celtic-flavoured rock-jig featuring the return of Lea's fiddle. The single peaked at number seven in the UK and was also successful in a number of other European countries. The tactic of releasing a second single appeared to work and The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome eventually reached number 49 in the UK. The album was far more successful in Sweden and Norway, however, where it peaked at number 1 and number 2 respectively. By the end of 1983, the band had finished what would prove to be their final UK tour.
In late 1983, Holder joined Lea in record production, producing among other things, Girlschool's cover of the T-Rex song "20th Century Boy" and the album "Play Dirty" which featured two Slade tracks, "Burning in the Heat of Love" and "High and Dry". Toward the end of the year, American glam metal band Quiet Riot released a cover version of "Cum on Feel the Noize" on CBS Records. It became a huge hit, peaking at number five in the Billboard charts and helping their debut album "Metal Health" to the top, selling seven million copies on the way. As a result, Slade's original was re-released in the UK but disappointingly it only reached number 98. The success of a Slade track in the US charts prompted CBS to sign Slade to their label and in mid-1984, released the single "Run Runaway. The single eventually peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a total of 17 weeks; and topped the American mainstream rock chart. It was Slade's first and only top 20 hit in the States. Its success, it has been suggested, was partly due to the accompanying music video which was filmed at Eastnor Castle in Ledbury, Herefordshire, England and was heavily shown on the MTV music channel. In August 1984, "My Oh My" was released as a follow-up, it peaked at number 37 for a total of 11 weeks, again with the help of a heavily rotated music video on MTV. Quiet Riot meanwhile released another Slade song, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", which peaked at number 51.
The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome was reworked with a couple of alternative tracks and different artwork, and was released in North America as Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply The album was a success, getting to number 33 in the US and number 26 in Canada. The final single from the album was "Slam the Hammer Down" which peaked at number 92. A tour with Ozzy Osbourne was cancelled after a couple of warm-up gigs, when Lea collapsed in the dressing room after a performance. He was later diagnosed with Hepatitis C. The band returned to the UK and did not tour again, mainly due to differences within the band and problems in Holder's private life.
Second period of decline (1985–90)
In mid-1984, Polydor released a new compilation, Slade's Greats, which peaked at number 89, and during the autumn a full European tour was announced to promote the album. Tickets began selling before the band had confirmed that the tour would actually take place and shortly after it had to be cancelled because Holder, who was facing a divorce from his first wife, was unwilling to do it. In late 1984, a new single, similar in style to "My Oh My" was released in the UK. Entitled "All Join Hands", the song made number 15 in the charts and thus became Slade's very last top 20 single. "Merry Xmas Everybody" was also re-released, peaking at number 47 in the UK.
At the beginning of 1985, Slade released the single "7 Year Bitch" which stalled at number 60 in the UK when it was banned for the lyrical content and title. The band protested that there had been no reaction to Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back" which was a hit record. The single did make number 39 in German charts however. A following single was released in March entitled "Myzsterious Mizster Jones". The single marked a return for Slade's trademark of spelling titles incorrectly, which had not been done since the 1973 hit "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me". Despite being a radio-friendly track, the single only peaked at number 50 in the UK. Neither "7 Year Bitch" nor "Myzsterious Mizster Jones" was released in America but the single "Little Sheila" was, where it reached number 86 in the Billboard charts and number 13 in the American mainstream rock chart. It was also released in Canada, where it got to number 50, and Germany.
Rogues Gallery, an album heavy on synthesizer, was released in the UK during March, and in America during May. Reported to be one of the band's most polished productions, it was expected that all the tracks would become hit singles. Despite receiving critical acclaim in both Europe and America, Slade were unable to retain their new-found American audience or rekindled British following, and the album failed to live up to commercial expectations, causing the band to largely fade from sight once more. In the UK, the album reached number 60, whilst in America it made number 132. The album was a big hit in Norway, peaking at number 5. It also charted in other European countries. Tour dates in the UK to support the album were announced and tickets actually went on sale. Once again, Holder was unwilling to tour and the dates were shelved.
In November, the band released a party album called Crackers - The Christmas Party Album which peaked at number 34 and was certified UK Gold later that month. Repackaged on several occasions under various names such as The Party Album and Slade's Crazee Christmas; it contained re-recorded Slade hits and songs that had been successful for other artists. Amazed at what Bob Geldof had achieved with Live Aid, Holder penned the lyrics to "Do You Believe in Miracles" which was also released in November. The single's earnings went to charity but it only peaked at number 54 in the UK. The final release of the year was another re-release of "Merry Xmas Everybody" which peaked at number 48 in the UK.
In 1986, two new Slade tracks, "We Won't Give In" and "Wild Wild Party", were used for the British film "Knights & Emeralds". That same year, the rock band The Redbeards From Texas released a cover of the 1972 Slade hit, Gudbuy T'Jane and in late 1986; "Okey Cokey" was re-released for the second time but failed to chart, whilst "Merry Xmas Everybody" was once again re-released, peaking at number 71. 1986 also saw Slade's first official fan convention at the Finsbury Leisure Centre, Old Street, London.
To avoid becoming a 'Christmas' hit band, Slade did not release the single "Still the Same" in December 1986 but left it until February 1987. The single was not a hit, reaching only number 73 in the UK, leaving RCA wondering whether it might have been a better idea to release it at Christmas. Released in April, "That's What Friends Are For" suffered a similar fate, peaking at number 95. Slade's final studio album, You Boyz Make Big Noize, was released a week later. It was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, Lea and Punter. Like Rogues Gallery, it featured a large amount of synthesiser. The album was poorly promoted with no accompanying tour or music videos and spent just one week in the UK chart, peaking at number 98. Like much of Slade's later material, it fared better in Norway where it got to number 12.
Following the album's failure, RCA agreed to let Slade return to their own Cheapskate Records label, although RCA still continued distributing. A new single, also called "You Boyz Make Big Noize" was released in August. Influenced by the Beastie Boys' musical style, it lacked the synthesiser sound of the album. It was another commercial failure, just creeping into the top 100 at number 94. The single did not feature on the European version of the album but became the title track for the American version which was also released in August. The album was not successful in America, neither was the single "Ooh La La in L.A." despite receiving a fair amount of radio play in the city of Los Angeles. In late 1987, "We Won't Give In" was released as a single in the UK, where it missed the top 100, peaking at #121. The band's 1987 official fan convention was held at The Royal Standard Convention, Walthamstow, London.
In 1988, Slade released a cover of the Chris Montez song "Let's Dance"; a re-mix of the track from Crackers – The Christmas Party Album. The band held their third official fan club convention at Drummonds Convention, King's Cross, London. In late 1989, after what was initially supposed to be an 18-month break, Holder announced plans for a new album. Due to be released in 1990, the album never materialised, nor did the tour that would have followed had the album been a success. 1989 saw "Merry Xmas Everybody" make another new chart appearance, this time reaching number 99.
In 1989, Hill formed his own group Blessings in Disguise with Holder, Ex-Wizzard keyboard player, Bill Hunt, Craig Fenney and Bob Lamb. During 1990, Lea released his own version of Slade's "We'll Bring the House Down" under the name The Clout. At the end of the year, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was again re-released and peaked at number 93.
In late 1990, both Holder and Lea produced a cover of "Merry Xmas Everybody" by the band The Metal Gurus, known mainly as The Mission. The single peaked at No. 55 in the UK and both Holder and Lea appeared in the song's music video, whilst Holder provided lead vocals on one of the single's b-sides, another Slade cover, "Gudbuy T'Jane". All artist royalties from the sale of the single were donated to Childline.
Short comeback and break-up (1991–92)
In April 1991, the Slade fan club-organised a 25th anniversary party. The band, who were invited, played one song, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" which turned out to be their last live performance. In that same year, Lea produced the single "Where Have All the Good Girls Gone" for the Crybabys, which was not a success. Later, Polydor Records contacted Slade about a new compilation album. It was hoped that Slade would promote it by releasing two brand new singles and, if successful, would record a new studio album. The first single, "Radio Wall of Sound", written by Lea and originally intended for a solo project, was released in October. The compilation album, Wall of Hits was released the following month, along with a video compilation under the same name. Both the single and the album were moderately successful reaching number 21 and number 34 respectively. The album later went certified UK Silver and in an attempt to promote it further, a second single, "Universe" was released in December. Despite a number of TV performances, the single failed to reach the top 100 and as a result, Polydor withdrew the idea for a new album.
By 1992, Holder had become weary of the constant touring and effectively managing the day-to-day running of the band. He left after 25 years with the band to explore other career paths. Believing Holder to be an integral member of Slade, Lea also effectively retired from the band, preferring to work alone in the studio. Powell entered the antique business but Hill decided to remain in music and form a new band.
Aftermath and recent years (1993—present)
Slade II was formed in 1992 by Hill with Powell and three other musicians. The suggestion to call the group Slade II came from Holder but Lea was not happy with the Slade name being used at all. The group's name was later shortened to Slade. Working solidly on the UK theatre circuit during the winter months and throughout Europe the rest of the year; the band released one studio album in 1994 entitled Keep on Rockin' which featured Steve Whalley on vocals. The album was not successful and nor were the singles "Hot Luv" and "Black and White World". The band have seen many line ups but Hill and Powell have remained constant throughout.
Slade were reunited for two events during 1996, the funeral of long time Slade manager Chas Chandler and an episode of the television show This Is Your Life which featured Holder as the subject. During 1997, a new Slade compilation, Feel the Noize – Greatest Hits reached number 19 in the UK while the following year, a remix of "Merry Xmas Everybody", released under the name Slade Vs. Flush, made number 30.
In 1999, BBC One broadcast a newly made documentary on the band, titled "It's Slade", which featured new interviews with all four members of the band, along with various other musical artists and celebrities such as Ozzy Osbourne, Noel Gallagher, Status Quo, Toyah Wilcox and Suzi Quatro. It was narrated by Radio One's Mark Radcliffe. In 2000, a compilation entitled The Genesis of Slade was released which contained rare and some previously unreleased material from The Vendors, Steve Brett & The Mavericks and The 'N Betweens. 2000 also saw Holder appointed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to music and his voice was famously recorded for lift announcements at the Walsall New Art Gallery.
In 2002, Slade II shortened their name to Slade and re-released their album Keep on Rockin' with a handful of new tracks included, retitled Cum on Let's Party. The band also released two new singles titled "Some Exercise" and "Take Me Home". Both singles were released in Belgium through Virgin Records. An American compilation was also released titled Get Yer Boots On: The Best of Slade.
In 2003, bassist Dave Glover announced his engagement to incarcerated serial killer Rosemary West. The engagement was called off shortly afterwards and Glover was fired from Slade.
In 2005, original singer for Slade II, Steve Whalley left the band and was replaced by Mal McNulty who has sung for the band since. In November 2005, Polydor released a new Slade compilation The Very Best of Slade which featured two discs with included the majority of Slade singles for the first time on a compilation. The compilation was a moderate success, peaking at number 39. A DVD was also released for the first time featuring a collection of Slade videos and promos.
From 2006 to 2007, music label Salvo remastered and released all of Slade's catalogue including, a four disc anthology set entitled The Slade Box (Anthology 1969–1991) and a package of all live albums in one Slade Alive! - The Live Anthology. The remastered series also included the release of a new compilation called simply, B-Sides which featured all of the band's b-sides.
In late 2006, UK chart rules changed to allow downloads of old singles eligible to chart which allowed "Merry Xmas Everybody" to return to the chart. It has re-entered the UK Top 75 every Christmas since then, most successfully in 2007 when it peaked at #20.
In 2009, a new compilation was released, Live at the BBC. It featured songs recorded for BBC sessions between 1969 to 1972, Radio 1 jingles recorded in 1973 and 1974, and on the second disc, songs recorded live at the Paris Theatre, London, in August 1972. In November 2009, Universal Music released a new compilation entitled "Merry Xmas Everybody: Party Hits" which peaked at number 151 in the UK.
At the beginning of 2011, Classic Rock magazine gave ten predictions for the year. Number seven featured the statement "Slade get back together one last time, and do a farewell show." In 2011, Salvo released a remastered version of Sladest which included a previously unreleased studio version of the live track “Hear Me Calling”. On the evening of 21 December 2012, BBC Four held Slade Night which consisted of a showing of the 1999 documentary "It's Slade", "Slade at the BBC" and the band's 1975 film Slade in Flame respectively. "Slade at the BBC" was a new programme – a compilation of the band's performances from the BBC archives throughout their career from 1969 to 1991. The programme was introduced by Noddy Holder himself and featured various new interview clips with him throughout. According to BARB, the viewing figures for "It's Slade" was 608,000 whilst "Slade at the BBC" had a total of 477,000 viewers.
On 14 October 2013. Don Powell published his autobiography Look Wot I Dun - My Life in Slade.
In November 2013 the Slade track "Everyday" was used to advertise the Google Nexus tablet on UK television. The track subsequently recharted into the top 75 British singles chart the following month, reaching a peak of number 69.
Slade have been associated with a number of genres including: progressive rock, heavy metal, glam rock, hard rock and pop rock. Many Slade songs were written specifically for audience participation, such as "Get Down and Get With It", "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", "Cum on Feel the Noize", "Give Us a Goal", "We'll Bring The House Down", "Rock and Roll Preacher" and "My Oh My". In the days before Slade, Holder, Lea, Hill and Powell were influenced by American blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf but then became interested in the work of Little Richard. Later they were to draw artistic influence from contemporary rock acts including the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Joe Brown, Cream, the Kinks, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, Rufus Thomas, the Who, the Pretty Things, and Screaming Lord Sutch. Chas Chandler's connections with The Animals and Jimi Hendrix also had an influence.
The 1969 album Beginnings, released under the name Ambrose Slade, featured many musical influences with covers of songs by Steppenwolf, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, The Moody Blues, The Beatles and Marvin Gaye. The album contained elements of psychedelic rock and classic 1960s rock. Play It Loud (1970), was also influenced by 1960s classic rock but also showed leanings towards a harder rock sound. Their 1972 live album, Slade Alive!, featured cover versions of songs by Ten Years After, The Lovin' Spoonful, Bobby Marchan and Steppenwolf and although the album contained strong elements of classic rock it also hinted at the glam rock sound to come.
The 1971 single "Coz I Luv You", was inspired by the guitar styles of Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grapelli. Slayed? (1972) merged glam rock with classic rock, and whilst the 1974 album, Old New Borrowed and Blue, continued in this vein, it also featured pop-rock, rock ballads and novelty tracks. The next album was the 1974 soundtrack Slade in Flame which saw a return to 1960s classic rock, in order to fit with the theme of the film. The single from the album, "Far Far Away" had an acoustic rock sound, whereas the following single "How Does It Feel?" featured the use of brass and woodwind instruments.
In 1975, while residing in the States, Slade was influenced by Southern boogie rock bands and as a result, Nobody's Fools featured a wide mixture of styles including soul, country, rock, funk, folk and blues. The album also featured some soulful female backing vocalists. After the band returned to the UK in 1977, they began to merge their American influences with a classic, hard rock. The resulting sound, in turn, became an influence to American grunge artists. Return to Base.... (1979) featured elements of classic rock, acoustic rock, rock ballads, ambient rock and rock and roll. Two albums, released in 1981; We'll Bring the House Down and Till Deaf Do Us Part adopted a hard rock and heavy metal sound, as a result of the band's revival amongst heavy metal fans, following their success at the Reading Festival.
The 1983 album The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome featured a change in musical direction, with a more commercial-friendly rock sound on some tracks, mixed with hard rock and glam metal influences. Some of the tracks hinted at a motor racing theme. One single from the album, "My Oh My" followed a power ballad sound, whilst the next single, "Run Runaway" was reminiscent of a Scottish jig. Slade's next album, Rogues Gallery featured a strong use of synthesisers, which were a popular instrument in the latter half of the 1980s as did the band's final album You Boyz Make Big Noize, although this album had a slightly grittier hard rock sound.
Slade have influenced numerous artists including: Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, the Clash, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Poison, Def Leppard, Oasis, Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister, the Undertones, the Replacements and the Runaways. Other artists include Hanoi Rocks, Queen, Kirka, Hot Leg, Candlebox, Cock Sparrer and Girlschool. Their anarchic attitude was adopted by the Damned, the Wonder Stuff, and Oasis, the latter of whom covered "Cum on Feel the Noize". Comedians Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse and Mark Williams affectionately parodied the band in a number of what the band called 'hysterically accurate' "Slade in Residence" and "Slade on Holiday" sketches, in their The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer television programme in the early 1990s.
Joey Ramone stated "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 was at CBGB's doing my best Noddy Holder."
"Slade never compromised. We always had the feeling that they were on our side. I don't know but I think we were right." – Steve Jones of Sex Pistols
NME commented on Slade's legacy in a review of a greatest hits album, "They embodied the glorious absurdity of the greatest pop, in the sideburns, the mirrored top hat and Dave Hill's pudding bowl haircut. As such they were the simplest, most effective possible, riposte to prog rock's bloated pretensions and pseudo-intellect." In 1981, Adam and the Ants' lead guitarist and co-songwriter Marco Pirroni stated that he was greatly influenced by the first gig he ever attended which was Slade at Wembley Pool in 1973.
British presenter Gareth Jones, also known as Gaz Top, is a known Slade fan who hosted the 1986 Slade documentary "Slade Perseverance". Jones also appeared at the 1986 and 1987 official Slade fan club conventions. Other famous Slade fans include, English ex-football player Gary Lineker and Welsh football player Nigel Vaughan, whom Lea and Hill visited on Boxing Day, 1989 at the football grounds of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Ozzy Osbourne commented during a Slade documentary, "Noddy Holder's got one of greatest voices in rock ever." On his show, 'Breakfast With Alice' on Planet Rock, Alice Cooper stated "I love Slade. One of the oddest looking bands of all time..... Twisted Sister lived on Slade, and so did Quiet Riot pretty much. They wrote the catchiest songs around." In 2008, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe said, '".......like with Alice Cooper and Bowie and Slade – those fucking bands gave 150 percent. It was about fashion, it was about music, it was about pushing the envelope". Status Quo bassist John "Rhino" Edwards stated in a 2010 interview, "I thought the best violin player was Jimmy Lea out of Slade. Oh, he's just brilliant. He's a brilliant musician, that guy. He's a serious bass player. That band (Slade) are so under-rated as players. So original."
Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider once described Twisted Sister as Slade meets the Sex Pistols. Twisted Sister's guitarist Jay Jay French stated "I would say our direct lineage these days is a bit of Slade and Alice Cooper." On the 2011 final Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie BBC Radio Two show, Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire stated that he believed Slade's post-Reading material was very underrated.
Kiss bassist Gene Simmons admitted that his band's early songwriting ethos and stage performance was influenced by Slade. In his book, Kiss and Make-Up, Simmons wrote ".....we liked the way they (Slade) connected with the crowd and the way they wrote anthems... we wanted that same energy, that same irresistible simplicity". Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick said that his band went to see Slade perform, and that they (Slade) used "every cheap trick in the book", thus inadvertently coining his group's name. Cheap Trick covered the song "When the Lights are Out" on their 2009 release, The Latest. Quiet Riot had US hits with covers of "Cum on Feel the Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now". The origins of Slade's influence on Quiet Riot date back to the early 1970s, when Kevin DuBrow photographed Slade during their first Los Angeles appearance at the Whisky a Go Go.
In 1971, Record Mirror magazine voted Slade number 10 in the top UK groups based on singles for the year. During 1972, the then popular teen magazine, Fab 208, voted the band "Group of the Year" whilst in the Record Mirror magazine that same year; Slade were voted number two in the most promising British groups list, number five in the top 18 groups list and number 17 in the male groups category. Also in 1972, Slade were voted number one top band and leading recording act in the NME magazine chart points survey, and number one top live band. Radio Luxembourg presented Slade with the award for "Britain's act/group of the year" in 1973.
In February 1973, Slade were voted Best Live Band by the Disc Music Awards. The same year, the band were again voted the world's top group in the NME Poll and top group in the BBC World Service Poll. In April 1973, Record Mirror magazine ranked Slade at number three of top 10 in both the album and singles band chart. Record Mirror's exclusive chart survey was based on a point system allocated according to position and length of time in UK charts for the first three months of the year. In July 1973, Record Mirror magazine ranked Slade at number six of 10 in the UK group singles chart and number 3 in the UK group albums chart. In 1973 and 1974, the band received the Carl-Alan award for Top Group.
In early 1974, the band were voted the number one foreign group by Spain's biggest music magazine of the time and were voted best overseas group in Finland, Belgium and Ireland. The Disc Music Awards rated Slade as the best live group and top British group. Slade made number four in the "top groups in the world" category. Individual members were also acknowledged; Noddy Holder was number five in the best British male singers whilst Jim Lea made number nine in the top songwriter list. In the Record and Radio Mirror poll results of 1974, Slade were voted top British group, with Holder number two in the top British male singer list. Dave Hill and Jim Lea made the top British guitarist list at number one and seven respectively. Lea also appeared at number nine in the top British keyboardist list and number two in the miscellaneous instruments list. Don Powell was voted top British percussionist. The band collected the 1974 Belgian award for Best World Group.
In February 1976, Record Mirror magazine voted Slade the third best UK group with Noddy Holder number eighth in the best male singer and number six in the best songwriter categories. In 1980, Record Mirror voted the band number one for the most inspired comeback of the year.
- Slade by George Tremlett. Mid 70's
- Slade, Feel The Noize by Chris Charlesworth in 1984
- Cum on Feel The Noize! The Story of Slade by Alan Parker & Steve Grantley, published in 2006
- Who's Crazee Now by Noddy Holder
- Look Wot I Dun: Don Powell of Slade by Lise Lyng Falkenberg and Don Powell (to be published Sept 2013 by Omnibus Press)
- Beginnings (as Ambrose Slade, 1969)
- Play It Loud (1970)
- Slayed? (1972)
- Old New Borrowed and Blue (1974)
- Slade in Flame (1974)
- Nobody's Fools (1976)
- Whatever Happened to Slade (1977)
- Return to Base (1979)
- We'll Bring the House Down (1981)
- Till Deaf Do Us Part (1981)
- The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome (1983), re-released in 1984 as Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply
- Rogues Gallery (1985)
- Crackers - The Christmas Party Album (1985)
- You Boyz Make Big Noize (1987)
- Keep on Rockin' (1994) (as Slade II), re-released in 2002 as Cum on Let's Party
Certified albums and singles
In the UK, the band has sold a certified 520,000 albums and 1.8 million singles.
- List of songs by Slade
- List of glam rock artists
- List of artists by total number of UK number one singles
- List of performers on Top of the Pops
- Official Slade website
- Original line-up website and forum
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