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Slade: a box set that questions whether punk really needed to happen at all

All The World Is A Stage is a five-CD set of live albums from the mighty Slade, three of them previously unreleased

Slade: All The World Is A Stage cover art
(Image: © BMG)

All The World Is A Stage is as you like it: Slade banging it out with loose, licentious ferocity, so brutish and raucous that you begin to question whether punk needed to happen, and you keep checking that a fleet of jumbo jets hasn’t landed in your ear canals. 

There’s Noddy Holder defying the laws of biology with a larynx made of sandpaper; Dave Hill convinced that if the same guy signed Hendrix and him then he himself must be a mean guitarist (at one show he bursts into a blast of Purple Haze); Jim Lea just about holding the gang together musically, bringing violins to thrashing mobs; and Don Powell somehow both keeping it grounded and racing ahead so the others have to turn it up from 11 to 9,000. 

What a racket. What a riot. Arguably, nobody did adrenalin better. 

Of the five furies here, 1972’s Slade Alive! and, from a decade later, Slade On Stage have burned before. The former was recorded in a small theatre-studio but, famously, sounds like it took place in a war zone. On one night they’d come straight from doing Top Of The Pops, with Coz I Luv You at No.1. 

There are no concessions to pop, though, as they blaze through Get Down And Get With It and eight minutes of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild. The rather good take on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Darling Be Home Soon is mostly sincere, the big soppy wets. Slade On Stage sees a band back in favour after the crash-and-burn glory days, bringing the house down in Newcastle.

The new coup here is Alive! At Reading, capturing their 1980 headline set – they subbed for Ozzy Osbourne at the last minute, and delivered a performance that converted 80,000 sceptics – and from the opening of Take Me Bak ’Ome to an incandescent Cum On Feel The Noize they’re the sultans of stomp. 

From the same year, Live At The Hucknall Miners’ Welfare Club is as earthy as its title. Nottingham gets happily knocked out. Finally, Live At The New Victoria is a recording from a show in London in 1975, at which time the band were in In Flame mode, and the likes of How Does It Feel and Everyday reveal their secret sterling songwriting skills. What an outfit. What a beautiful noize.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.