Slade: Whatever Happened To Slade - Album Of The Week Club review

Having failed to break the US, Slade made Whatever Happened To Slade, an album influenced by American bands. It also failed

Whatever Happened To Slade cover art
(Image: © Barn Records)

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Whatever Happened To Slade

Whatever Happened To Slade cover art

(Image credit: Barn Records)

Be
Lightning Never Strikes Twice
Gypsy Roadhog
Dogs of Vengeance
When Fantasy Calls
One Eyed Jacks With Moustaches
Big Apple Blues
Dead Men Tell No Tales
She's Got the Lot
It Ain't Love But It Ain't Bad
The Soul, the Roll and the Motion

Viewed with hindsight as Slade’s ‘lost’ album, Whatever Happened To Slade? - released in March 1977 - 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 the band's 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.

"The Whatever Happened to Slade album came out of us touring in America," said bassist Jim Lea. "There were a lot of bands over there that had got this guitar identity. There was the Allman Brothers with Duane Allman, there was ZZ Top coming along, and the guitar player was a big thing."

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Other albums released in March 1977

  • Max Webster - High Class In Borrowed Shoes
  • Quiet Riot - Quiet Riot
  • Foreigner - Foreigner
  • T.Rex - Dandy In The Underworld
  • The Band - Islands
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Works Volume 1
  • Iggy Pop - The Idiot
  • AC/DC - Let There Be Rock
  • Paice Ashton Lord - Malice In Wonderland
  • Jesse Winchester - Nothing But A Breeze
  • Can - Saw Delight
  • Procol Harum - Something Magic
  • Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
  • Starz - Violation
  • Status Quo - Live!

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What they said...

"Whatever Happened to Slade? is the band's extremely loud reply to the news that they were has-beens. Whereas Slade had been a huge influence on Kiss, the favour was now returned, as Whatever has a bit of the Hotter Than Hell, early-Kiss sound, which the band has acknowledged. It's still pure Slade, though. The songs and playing here are pretty much out of sight, with monster riffs and a different production style." (AllMusic (opens in new tab)

"Legendarily titled after a genuine piece of graffiti, the album is a return to the band's skinhead roots. It was also their first album since leaving Polydor. Some rough Slade style rock'n'roll, but gone was the glam (largely) and the kitsch. Still very much Slade, but if you're only familiar with the early 70s hits this is a very different beast." (Get Ready to Rock (opens in new tab))

"Gypsy Roadhog' was a wee bit reminiscent of the classic Slade style - it roared in with the trademark barroom boogie sound and a really nice riff, but then the riff went away and the excitement followed suit. Then came all the generic heavy metal stuff, and my brains followed suit. What can possibly be said about tripe like Dogs Of Vengeance except that you may headbang to it if you got nothing better to headbang to?"(Only Solitaire (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Oscar Rigby: Great album. No million-selling hits, and it was a bit different from their other releases. I doubt When Fantasy Calls was played on the radio back then. BBC and other "normal" radio stations probably wouldn't play it today either. 

UK/Ireland had so many great bands in the 60s/70s and Slade were unique. Nobody sounded like them. Mostly because of Noddy Holders voice, but they had a different sound and melody to them that no other band had. I have to give credit to a lot of the bands from that area. They did it their way. Slade, Nazareth, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Uriah Heep, UFO... and about a 1000 other bands, nobody sounded exactly like them.

Alex Hayes: A commercial flop at the time of it's release, Whatever Happened To Slade has since come to be regarded as a bit of a 'lost Slade classic' by many of the band's long term aficionados. It's certainly not that, but neither is it a bad album. What you get for your money here are 11 solid, but workmanlike, Slade rockers. It all ambles along nicely enough, but Slade have recorded much more memorable material than this.

Case in point, 1972's (ever so slightly more successful) Slayed? album, which I also caught up with again this week. There is far more of Slade's rambunctious personality present there than on Whatever Happened To Slade. Slayed?, Old New Borrowed And Blue, the first Slade Alive, the compilation Sladest and Slade In Flame are the albums that constitute essential Slade for me personally. Whatever Happened To Slade is a fair enough listen, but doesn't sparkle in the way those other recordings do.

Released in 1977, long after the glam rock frenzy had died down, Whatever Happened To Slade not only had to contend with the advent of punk rock, but also the likes of Hotel California, Bat Out Of Hell and the first Boston album. Not raw enough for punk, but not slick enough for AOR either, the album had no chance of standing out at that particular time. That is a shame, as it honestly is a decent selection of songs. I would recommend this album, but only after all the others listed above. Cheers, or perhaps that should be chierz.

Mike Canoe: Coming to this album more than 40 years after its initial release, Whatever Happened to Slade sounds a whole lot like, well, a Slade album - probably because Noddy Holder's rough and tumble vocals are what I mostly identify with Slade. Granted there is a lack of singalong choruses and an excess of relentless jackhammering, but it's still Slade. But it also makes sense that Dead Man Tell No Tales is my favourite song since it's the only one with a sense of light and shade.

While the album isn't likely to be one of my favourites, it's still a great example of why I joined this club in the first place - the chance to have a curated guide to the back catalogue of a band that I have read more about than I have actually heard. 

Gary Claydon: The ironically titled Whatever Happened To Slade (taken from a piece of graffiti spotted by manager Chas Chandler) marked the band's return to the UK after a, largely unsuccessful, sojourn in the U.S. lasting almost two years. By that time the musical landscape had changed markedly.

To be honest, comparisons with Slade's hit-making heyday of the likes of Slayed or Old, New, Borrowed, Blue are somewhat redundant. These were different times, the glam swept away by the grit of punk, and, to an extent, Slade were a different band.

Whatever Happened To Slade is an out-and-out hard rock album. The time spent touring the States might not have brought any commercial benefits but you can discern its influence on some of the song writing here. Gypsy Roadhog and One Eyed Jacks With Moustaches have a feel of the kind of 'blue collar rock' that bands such as Foghat made a career out of. 

Incidentally, the former was aired on kid's TV programme Blue Peter, somewhat bizarrely given it's obvious drug references, which led to a blanket ban on the BBC after a raft of complaints. Dogs of Vengeance is a stone-cold hard rock stomper while Be has always made me wonder if Billy Squier might have given it a bit of listen while working on his debut album. The chorus of Burning In The Heat of Love (originally a non-album single) displays the sort of 'gang-vocals' that Def Leppard would make their signature and was later covered by Girlschool, complete with slightly risible lyrics.

Whatever Happened To Slade was something of a last hurrah at the time. Well regarded by the punk community, as well as many Slade fans and later name-checked by some of grunge's main movers, it nevertheless made minimal inroads commercially. 

The next couple of years was truly the band's nadir but, to their immense credit, they never threw in the towel. They would regularly pop-up in some real dives and they remained a superb live act. Their never say die approach was ultimately rewarded with their brilliant appearance at 1980's Reading festival which, in turn, signalled a career revival which saw them find a place in the hearts of a new generation of rock fans. 

The sight of Noddy Holder conducting the crowd through a rendition of Merry Xmas Everybody in the pouring August rain at the 1981 Monsters of Rock at Donington Park remains an abiding memory.

Nigel Mawdsley: A very good album from Slade, but you can imagine that their record company and management, in 1977, saying 'we can't hear a single'.

Sadly, IMHO, the weakest song on the album, Gypsy Roadhog, was released as the single. Not only was the song 'insipid', by Slade's musical standards, the dodgy lyrics got them banned by the BBC. Be would have, er, been my personal choice for a single.

Despite the lack of 'hit' melodies this heavy album has some very well constructed songs. It's possible that AC/DC were listening to Slade (or vice versa) on songs like She's Got The Lot or One Eyed Jacks With Moustaches.

I am aware that Slade toured with ZZ Top in America so maybe it isn't a coincidence that Big Apple Blues has almost identical riffs to ZZ Top's later work in Gimme All Your Lovin or Sharp Dressed Man. Who learnt from who?!

There's some great bonus tracks on the extended edition of WHTS; the b-side O.H.M.S. would have made a great single in a UK market swamped by punk rock. The excellent Give Us A Goal, despite numerous TV appearances, failed to chart yet if it had been released at Slade's 70s height it would have been top 5, at least.

If you like/ liked Slade, this album is worth checking out, but may require a number of plays to 'get into'...

Dale Munday: A contender for one of Slade's best albums. Certainly one of their heaviest.

John Reddy: Their best album bar none. Dead Men Tell No Tales, Big Apple Blues and One Eyed Jacks are the stand out tracks…. but saying that there are no fillers here at all.

Jim Husk: When ever we needed to liven up the party a Slade album went onto the turntable. This album is chock-full of rockers which is a nice departure from the Top Of The Pops songs they were known for. It was a welcome change. This album might not be their best, but it's still fun to listen to. They were an underrated band that had a number of great tunes.

Greg Schwepe: This is the week I thought it might happen. I thought at some point as a Classic Rock Album of The Week Club member I would finally write down the following words in a review; “This album is total crap!” Even with bands and albums that aren’t my cup of tea I always listen with an open mind and try to be diplomatic and find something good to say. And somehow Slade managed to pull it out of the fire with the last half of Whatever Happened To Slade. I will save my ‘This album is total crap’ line potentially for something we review in 2023!

Here in the Midwest of the ol’ U, S, of A we were not fed a steady diet of Slade on FM radio. In fact, we weren’t thrown any Slade scraps on the radio. Remember flipping past their albums in the “S” rack at the record store. And first actual listening exposure was when their stuff finally made it to MTV (and a little radio at that point) after Quiet Riot covered their songs. There was Slade waving their hands wildly to the public “Hey, it’s us! We did these songs first! Check us out now! Please!”

But back to Whatever Happened To Slade. I was not impressed with the first five tracks at all. My mental notes on those five were as follows; “Sucks. Nope. Yuk. C’mon, really? Lousy.” It wasn’t until I got to One Eye Jacks With Moustaches that there was a little something I could sink my teeth into. Maybe by then I could really hear the Steve Marriott in Noddy Holder’s vocals. Now here was some UK Glam Boogie. At that point my review got a little better.

Big Apple Blues, Dead Men Tell No Tales, and She’s Got The Lot also helped to improve my overall thoughts about the album. "Here's what I've been expecting! Finally!" The guitar riffs seemed a little more hard hitting and managed to stick with me. Maybe because I heard a little more Humble Pie (but not much), and I figured I could use a slice of that Pie. Again, the back half of the album is much better than the first half.

To be fair, this is the first ever Slade album I’ve listened to all the way through, so I have no idea if this was the one clinker (or two?) that every long running band has in their catalogue or not. Even the bands I like that have been around forever have those albums that you really wonder how they made something that bad.

While I will not deem this album “total crap” I will only give this about a 6 out of 10. Which matches the number of tracks I liked!

Alan Gudgin: Slade's best album bar none, bought it on release back in the day (1977), not changed my mind since.

Chris Elliott: In reality you go buy a greatest hits album and have done. Their strength was always the single. This is simply mundane meat and potatoes rock. It's not awful - it's not Slade doing what they do well and it's simply average otherwise. Give it 10 minutes until you're bored then go stick on the greatest hits and remember why you actually like Slade.

Uli Hassinger: A very solid selection of straight rockers. Pure and simple, but full of energy. Not their best album (which is Slayed) but a good an underrated one. My favourites on it are the opener Be, Gypsy Roadhog, Dogs of Vengeance and Dead Men Tell No Tales. 7/10

The live albums of them are worth listening to as well. Saw them 1984 during their 80s comeback at a festival and they were really kicking ass.

Adam McCann: As with most glam rock bands, balls to the singles, the album tracks are where its at, heavy and decent. Although the photo of Noddy Holder makes James Acaster look like the bastard love child of Holder and Ade Edmondson

Gilbert Terpstra: Such a great album! Hard rocking tunes. One Eyed Jack With Moustaches wwwwwoaaaaah yeah!

John Davidson: It's a shame that Slade were pretty much written off as a glam rock singles band. Too much of the wrong sort of success had made them the darlings of Top Of The Pops but the problem with riding such a popular wave is that when it goes out of vogue, so do you. The only artists I can think of that managed to navigate these tricky waters consistently are David Bowie and Elton John (though not to the same extent).

This album sees Slade at their least commercial, but instead producing straight up heavy(ish) rock'n'roll .

The tracks that jumped out at me are Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Soul, The Roll, The Motion. Of the extra (non album) tracks Rock 'N' Roll Bolero is the most poppy but still entertaining - with hints of ELO despite the rasping vocals from Noddy Holder. OHMS manages to catch the vim and vigour of punk's new wave - and is the obligatory anti-taxman invective .

Overall its a decent album and I think, if I'd heard it at the time I might have really enjoyed it, but on the other hand my 14-year-old self was still working through the back catalogues of Rush, Zep, Yes , Genesis and Deep Purple at the time so maybe it never stood a chance.

Ray Liddard: Awesome album. Possibly the best they made yet it barely sold more than a few thousand copies. Glad it's gradually getting the recognition it deserves.

Patrick Warwick: One of their absolute best. They were ripping Black Keys style fuzz back in 1977! Still tons of that laddish charm, but set to a slightly rougher backing. Amazing.

Martin Bundy: This album is slam dunk. It's just fabulous. Sadly it was a few years ahead of it's time. Had this been released two or three years later it would have gained a huge amount of traction, especially after their reading appearance. Seek this out, it needs to be in your collection.

Peter Verzijl: The last great Slade album!

Andrew Cumming: Well what could be more Christmassy than Slade, right?! Great band. Very underrated and way more than a few mis-spelt hits. For me this isn't their best album. Slayed?, Old New, and, in particular Slade in Flame are all great. But the early 80s albums - We'll Bring The House Down and Till Deaf Us Do Part are amazing. What a come back. For classic rock fans I'd definitely recommend WBTHD and TDUDP

This album is part of the wilderness years and it's quite easy to see why. Be is a good song. And Burning In The Heat of Love (non album single, but available on expanded versions) is good. The rest is a bit middling I'm afraid. Skip forward to We'll Bring The House Down and enjoy this band at their best!

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Final score: 7.76 (56 votes cast, total score 435)

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