An impressive run of hits conspired to turn Slade into a national treasure, but their heritage as a rock band remains sorely under-explored. Noddy Holder and company notched up no less than 23 UK Top 20 singles during the 70s and 80s, six of which reached No.1. But many of the Midland-based band’s most rewarding moments are tucked away on an extensive album catalogue – which in 2006 was given a thorough 40th-anniversary overhaul by Salvo Records.
Mentored by former Animals bassist and Jimi Hendrix manager/producer Chas Chandler, singer/guitarist Noddy Holder, ‘superyob’ guitarist Dave Hill, bassist Jim Lea and drummer Don Powell burst out of the glam-rock era and ended up giving plenty of work to the compilers of the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles.
Later, after the Top Of The Pops appearances dried up, Slade stubbornly refused to follow suit, and took root in the university circuit. Then came their miraculous, near-legendary comeback at the Reading festival in 1980.
“Honestly, it felt as though we had no competition,” Lea told Classic Rock two years ago. “On our day, like at Reading, we knew that we were unbeatable.”
Granted an unlikely reprieve – the band were approaching bankruptcy – Slade’s second wind lasted six further albums and the additional, better-spelled hits My Oh My, Run Runaway and All Join Hands.
In the mid-80s Holder walked away from Slade in order to pursue a career in broadcasting and acting, though the band didn’t dissolve formally until 1991. Holder, awarded an MBE in 2000 for his services to music, continues to resist all Slade reunion proposals.
The consensus among Slade aficionados is that this, the group’s third studio album, is their definitive work. Two enormous hit singles – Gudbuy T’Jane and Mama Weer All Crazee Now – are here swelled by partyhard album tracks like The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy and I Won’t Let It ’Appen Again, and even something approaching a ballad with Look At Last Nite, ensuring that Slayed? inarguably ticks all the right boxes.
On the other side of the pond Twisted Sister would later incorporate Let The Good Times Roll/Feel So Fine into their live act, while Slade themselves tip Noddy’s mirrored top hat at Janis Joplin’s Move Over.
In contrast to the mostly fan-based popularity of Slayed?, In Flame is the album that critics tend to cite as the band’s best. Although it fell short of following in the footsteps of its predecessors Slayed? and Old, New Borrowed And Blue by topping the British chart, In Flame – the soundtrack to a dark, semi-autobiographical feature film – confirmed that by 1974 Slade’s music had moved away from glam-rock that had made them a household name.
The band were still capable of being loud and yobbish, of course, but the wistful maturity of the album’s singles – How Does It Feel? and Far Far Away – began to show evidence of a new versatility.
Released nervously after two studio albums that had flopped, Slade Alive! was (much as Alive! was for Kiss) the live record that saved Slade’s bacon. Completely devoid of any overdubs, and reportedly recorded for the paltry sum of just £600, this distillation of Slade’s live show of the time, including the show-stopping Get Down And Get With It, took them to No.2 in the UK chart.
Those with a nose for a bargain might like to know that the 2006 reissue is an expanded, two-disc edition that adds 1978’s Slade Alive Vol Two, Slade On Stage from 1982 and six songs from their performance at the 1980 Reading festival.
Old New borrowed And Blue (Polydor, 1973)
With this album (re-titled in America as Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet) Slade capitalised on the opportunity opened up by the single Merry Xmas Everybody to top the UK album chart for the second (and final) time.
If the wistful ballads Everyday and Milez Out To Sea were harbingers of the growth that would follow next time around, the album is crammed with mouth-watering commercial, hard rock nuggets including We’re Really Gonna Raise The Roof, My Friend Stan and When The Lights Are Out (the latter later covered by Cheap Trick).
Whatever Happened To Slade? (Barn, 1977)
Viewed with hindsight as the band’s ‘lost’ album, Whatever Happened To Slade? was buried by punk yet praised by many punk musicians. But however marginalised, a world-beating band doesn’t become shit overnight, and Whatever Happened To Slade? tempers their established qualities with righteous indignation.
Be is an ode to individualism, while Gypsy Roadhog and Big Apple Blues are wide-wheeled, turbo-powered throwbacks to the prized US market with which the band had just lost their life-or-death battle.
We’ll Bring The House Down (Cheapskate/RCA, 1981)
Heralded by Don Powell’s frantic drum tattoo and the football terrace cry of ‘Woooah-oh-oh-ohohhhhhh!’, Slade’s ninth studio album brought their wilderness years to a close.
WBTHD was cobbled together quickly after the band’s Reading triumph, largely from the contents of their previous (overlooked) album, Return To Base, but When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’, Dizzy Mama and Wheels Ain’t Coming Down cleverly transported the band’s live show into the living room, also endearing them to the mushrooming New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement
Nobody’s Fools (Polydor, 1976)
At great cost to their popularity at home, during the mid-70s Slade had wasted 18 months courting the USA. The experience appears to have rubbed off on Nobody’s Fools, a surprisingly slick-sounding album that saw them out of the charts for five years.
The singles In For A Penny and the throbbing, suggestive Let’s Call It Quits (‘I got something here that’s big enough for two’) are among its most immediate moments. A dalliance with reggae on Did Ya Mama Ever Tell Ya? proves very regrettable. The reissued edition is all the richer for the inclusion of the non-album single release Thanks For The Memory.
Like several of their rivals during the 1970s – notably The Sweet – as staunch believers in value for money Slade almost always delivered fabulous flip-sides to augment their anthems that appeared in the charts. That is, until they simply no longer had the time to do so.
Comprising 40 tracks from 1969-71, most of which never previously appeared on CD and were also largely unavailable on the group’s albums, this two-disc set was greeted as something akin to manna from heaven by Slade fans. Some tracks, such as the jazz pastiche Kill ’Em At The Hot Club Tonite, are real eye-openers, although duffers are in exceedingly short supply.
Live At The BBC begins with a fruity cover of Delaney & Bonnie’s Coming Home before delivering selections recorded during sessions for the BBC radio programmes the Jimmy Young Show, John Peel, Sounds Of The Seventies and Dave Cash’s show, and this album even includes the jingles Slade recorded for Radio 1.
A second disc collected 12 songs from a typically unruly 1972 date that had only previously been available as a bootleg. And although some of them appear in different form on Slade Alive!, Look Wot U Dun, Move Over, Mama Weer All Crazee Now and Take Me Back ’Ome are all now added.
And one to avoid...
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Crackers – The Christmas Party Album (Telstar, 1985)
Cunningly repackaged several times afterwards in no less excusable form (Slade’s Crazee Christmas!; Crackers: The Rockin’ Party Album!), this turkey was very much a nadir for Slade.
The combination of re-recorded hits and festive fare (Okey Cokey, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Here’s To The New Year, Auld Lang Syne, worst of all, Do They Know It’s Christmas?) achieved its commercial goal, peaking at No.34 in the UK, but the album’s very existence slammed the credibility of HMS Slade amidships like some unforgiving German torpedo.