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"Now let me tell you a story......................."

Once upon a time, there was this great little band from Wolverhampton, a medium sized industrial area, just outside Birmingham in England. There is no doubt that this lot grew up listening to pop music from Buddy Holly and the Everlys through Cliff and The Shadows right through to the biggest icons of the 1960's - The Beatles. Their influence would show up as clear as day in nearly everything that the group did later on. Yes, this turned into a career.

It started with a group of kids who had messed around in schoolboy bands that practised in each others kitchens and annoyed various parents, spending their time dreaming of being famous one day, perhaps even once, just once, playing on a big show at the Civic Hall in town, like the many bands they had been to see, so that all their friends and families could see them. It's what guys in bands want to do.

They grouped and re-grouped, swapped bands and lost musicians along the way, to other bands and the conflicting demands of jobs, girls and studies, like always happens in bands (the last 'casualty' being their main lead singer and front man, a local lad called Johnny Howells, who was a great singer, but he lost interest when the band stopped being as bluesy as he would have liked and it soon became apparent to him that he would fit in better and be happier with another band).

One day there was just the four of them left standing there, looking at each other.

They had all been in a few different bands before then. The Vendors, Brent Ford and also The Memphis CutOuts to name, but a few. One of them had even been in a band that had made three singles and had been on TV. He wasn't the singer in that band and he had had to wear a suit on stage and play stuff that wasn't quite his thing, but it beat working for a living. And anyway, a lot of people wore suits on stage in those days, so it could have been much worse. If it was alright for The Beatles to wear suits, it had been alright for Steve Brett and The Mavericks. They just did the gigs, counted the dough and went home to bed and get some sleep.

Steve Brett and The Mavericks was over now and these four, Neville, Jimmy, Dave and founder Don were in a locally known group called the N'Betweens, who may have been quite good fun to watch at that time as their set was so radically different to anyone elses. The youngest of them had been classically trained and had played in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra and a local knockabout band called Nick and the Axemen.

They gigged and gigged, wherever the Astra Agency would send them. Soul music, played quite hard, Zappa, Beatles songs - but not the run of the mill ordinary stuff. They had this guy on violin, you see. And he could really play it.

The other thing he played was this very fast bass guitar. This bit of a kid turned up for the audition carrying the damn thing in a plastic bag! That was funny, but his bass playing was great. He knew how to work out songs from records. Being a bit of a boffin, young James was also a bit of a natural on the good old piano, too.

Their singer was this odd bloke with gingery red hair and bog eyes and this ENORMOUS bloody voice. Neville had to have an enormous voice to get himself heard over the racket the rest of the band were pumping out. Everyone else was playing the same riff in unison, just in different octaves.

It sounded enormous, so he had to learn quickly to make a vocal racket. He knew exactly how to get a crowd going from long years spent on the club circuit as one of the backing musicians in Steve Brett's band.

It came in handy, that apprenticeship.

Donald (lest we forget) had started the band that now had the four members that would become its best known and most enduring line-up. They were called The Vendors back when he met the flash little guitarist with the long hair and they played quite a few pubs and parties. He played the drums well and was all in all a very happy bloke. He had a good day job as a metallurgist and made a few quid on the side pounding the hell out of his drums. Good for taking the frustrations out on at the end of the day!

The other member of the band had, as mentioned, been in The Vendors with Don. Dave played guitar right-handed even though he was left handed. Cash was tight in those days and right handed guitars were readily available and much cheaper than left handed ones. His folks weren't that well off, but they did what they could to support him in his hobby.

He would one day be able to afford to have his guitars made to order, in weird and wonderful designs. He had the longest hair of the lot and he dressed very flambouyantly on stage and off it. The young lad with his bass in a plastic bag thought Dave was gay 'til he saw how many girls he was getting through. He was (to some degree) the class clown of the band, but no-one could laugh at his guitar playing. He was damned good at it. You had to give him that. Once seen, you never forgot him, either.

They plugged away in lowly pubs, a few good clubs, the odd good support gig to bands who turned up in vans and flash cars and they gradually got better and better jobs from their agents. They even had a tiny fan club going amongst local girls and got regular mentions in their local paper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star.

The N'Betweens cut a record for Columbia called 'You Better Run'. It was a cover version of an American hit record and it wasn't startlingly original, but who was in those days? It got you more work if you had a record out and it was something that certainly helped you pull the birds!

Even if it had sold particularly badly except for in a couple of shops over a couple of days, it was still something to get out and show your kids one day in the long distant future - if you ever had them - when all this guitar nonsense had subsided and you were one of these sad old guys in a proper job, like your Dad, going bald with pipe and slippers, talking about your "old rock and roll days".

More gigs and months went by. A season in the Bahamas that should have been a good laugh and a good earner, ended in a typically catastrophic style, when the club that they were playing a residency in changed hands. They suddenly had to repay all of their accomodation costs, which had originally been included in their fees, going back some months. They were so skint that they rationed their food and even bottles of coke to survive as cheaply as they could, just to pay off their bills. They actually had to flee clutching their gear when the club was closed late one night. They said that one day they'd be able to laugh about it and by God, they did.

They came back to England ready to do something new - one step up from what they had done before.... Somehow, they got a deal with Phillips records and a few singles and an album appeared on the Fontana label. They sold marginally better than the records they had released as The N'Betweens. The name wasn't doing them any good, it was dated and they felt like a change.

They (fortunately) ejected the idea of calling themselves Nicky Nacky Noo, as suggested by this wacky American bloke called Kim Fowley, when he recorded a few tracks with them. The tracks didn't get used. Dear God, the man was completely off his head! It could have all been so very different if they had taken that name... Kim Fowley was later quite well known for putting together groups like The Runaways, who borrowed a little from our N'Betweens.

Calling themselves Ambrose Slade, after a character in a cowboy film they had watched didn't make a lot of difference of course, but it went better with the beads and colourful clothes. The music was played with the same approach, but they got a bit rockier and had even managed to get a couple of their own songs onto this new album of theirs.

They went up to a 'local beauty spot', Pouk Hill to have their pictures taken in the middle of winter, stripped to their waists and then, according to popular urban myth, all of them promptly got colds. Whether that's true or not, the singer almost certainly had a cold at the time they recorded the album. 1969, that was, and the thing even still sounds quite fresh today, despite its increasing age. Not perfect, but it was their first album.

Then one night they were playing this little club, 'Tiles' on Oxford Street in London, and this hulking great Big Geordie bloke wanders in off the Street. Half filled the place by himself, God bless 'im.

He stood to one side of the room and listened to what they were doing, looked at them, clocked how the singer got all matey with the crowd and even got them to sing along with all these obscure tunes that surely they'd never heard, which were mixed in with the classics and chart hits. They played with what we now call a good bit of bollocks - meaning they didn't faff about with these songs at all, they played the Hell out of them.

Very lucky for them that was, when he walked in on them......... They got talking to the big Geordie. He could do big things for them.

They weren't called Ambrose Slade anymore, as that was a bit of a dated name to use in the 70's, too. The name got shortened to Slade as the newer records came out. They needed a gimmick. Something to help sell records. To set them apart from all the other groups. What could be different about them? They were just an extremely loud bunch of Brummies with long hair. Everyone and his dog had long hair at that time. The Beatles had made it popular, so everyone was doing it. What other look was there?

Oh yes. Of course. The skinhead look. It was suggested to the band, who were mortified. But they went out and did it. Anything for the big guy. Allegedly, the Big Geordie saw them and freaked. The suggestion was not entirely serious.

They then made another long playing record with this Geordie bloke that was even better than their first one. It took years to sell enough to get any sort of award to stick on any of their walls. It probably got a silver disc after several years of being in the shops, which is a lot more than any of them would ever have expected in their wildest dreams. Pub bands don't think about getting silver discs.

Another single, 'Know who you are' was released on the far more prestigious Polydor label. This new manager, this Big Geordie had some contacts. Mind you, he had also been the manager of the hottest guitarist in the world. Jimi Hendrix. He had even come across him in a nightclub, too. The Becks, Townshends, Claptons and Pages of this world worshipped at this guitarists feet and stood awestruck and open-mouthed, watching his fingers do the work. Trying to see exactly how he did it.

Yeah. This Big Geordie bloke knew a good thing when he saw it. These four Brummies had a cracking live act, big on the college circuit and all that, but for all of that, they simply couldn't get arrested in the record shops as far as sales went. No bugger wanted to know at all. 'Know who you are' remains a very rare record to this day.

But once The Manager decided to pick a big stomping beat number from their set and produce it with dollops of handclaps and all the enthusiasm and atmosphere of one of their live shows and release it as their next single, things suddenly started to happen for them.............

The record was an old Little Richard track, one of these obscure songs that they liked to find when they went browsing down at The Diskery in the afternoons. The Big Geordie thought it would be a good idea to put that one out. He had a nose for these things. He may have been big, but he was far from daft. He knew what he was doing. It was a good job the record started to sell. Polydor wouldn't have hung onto the band forever. They were a business not a charity. 'Sell records or clear off' was the attitude, even back then.

Instead of clearing off, they got on the Roger Whittaker Show and plugged their record. All the little old ladies must have gone out and bought the thing. it went to number sixteen in the charts and hung around for a total of fourteen weeks in all. They played gigs in Holland and the like. They actually did something on the charts there very early on. The UK were a wee bit behind the door as far as Slade were concerned. One minor hit in the UK and they were getting work abroad. They started to grow their hair again and favoured the feather cut that Rod Stewart would take to the rest of the world.

Gigs, gigs and more gigs on the back of one hit record. That number 16 entry probably sold more copies than a few number ones do today. People used to buy records back then. You had to sell lots to get in the charts. Lots of gigs to lots of people - all buying Slade records. Their next problem was following up that success. No rock band wants to rely on covers of other people's stuff for the rest of their lives. That wasn't where the money was.

The Big Geordie was reasonably pleased with the songs the group had put together themselves - in various combinations. The drummer came up with lots of stuff back then. Some of it was the best the group would record. The crazy looking guitarist plotted further outrageous stage antics and custumery. The bass guitarist (who by now had his bass guitar in a proper case) was a bit more serious in his outlook and wanted to be a properly respected musician and not just some here today - gone tomorrow, transient tinsel-covered pop star. He was totally apalled by this bizarre imagery and loud, strong words were frequently exchanged. The crazy looking guitarist laughs about it to this day and says "They wrote 'em and I sold 'em." True.

Neville and James were paired off in Nod's Mum's kitchen one day and they did their best Lennon and McCartney impression and sat opposite each other, noodling away on two acoustic guitars. They were trying their damndest to come up with something. The Big Geordie was quite insistent that they were capable of writing their own tunes. One of their favourite pieces to jam away to pass the time on was the old John Dummer Band's song, 'Nine by nine'. A modification of their jams around the general feel of this song came to be their next release. The record was originally called 'Because I love you'.

The group later said that they hated it, as it was 'dead wimpy'. The big Geordie made them clap in the background and stamp their feet on the studio floor ajd whoop and holler away 'til it sounded like there was a party going on in the recording studio.

Re-titled 'Cause I love you' and produced to the hilt by the amiable Geordie (Let's call him by his proper name - Chas). The record was only short of one thing. A better title. There wasn't really much else it could be called - at least not without rewriting and re-recording it, so the spelling was altered to the more phonetic 'Coz I luv you'. It was going to do very well for the band.

It should be pointed out that by this time, the singer of the band was quite well known to the record buying populace, not by the name of Neville, but rather as Noddy, like the cartoon story character created by Enid Blyton.

Of course, it is widely murmured these days that 'a Noddy Holder' was a Midlands nickname for a condom. He was to be seen sporting clothes in primary colours and headgear as in the controversial 'Clockwork orange' movie. He had also cultivated rather bushy sideburns (sideboards, he called them, for effect) and his voice was getting demonstrably stronger by the day. Lots of gigs saw to that. This was one very busy band. They would live out of suitcases on the road for years.

Around the same time as the new single was released, the band went into a converted theatre just off Piccadilly in London, which was now functioning as a recording studio. They invited members of their growing fan club to come down - and bring their mates with them - over the course of three nights, all of which were recorded for a live album. The results of these three nights shows could not have been more different to their new single, which flew up the charts at a storming rate.

It was a source of some astonishment to the band and perhaps even to big Chas, when the new single reached the number one spot in the UK charts. The press latched onto them in a big way all of a sudden and these four lads who they had always thought were just a loud, odd, weird band that was never going to get anywhere at all, whether Hendrix's manager was tied up with them or not, suddenly had to be reported on in the dailies and the music press.

They were four decent working class lads with no great pretensions and the kids loved them. All of them. They would become one of the few groups where every member could be named by the public. The press came to see them on the road at their ever more impressive shows and in the hotels they stayed in, where the bar would be paid for by .... well, it wasn't the press, that's for sure. They got some really good, if slightly hazy write ups over the years and should have been given shares in some breweries as a result of their efforts.

The band hit on a songwriting formula. The violinist and the singer became the two main writers of all the group's songs. There were quite a few hits. There was lots of TV. There was a lot of money came in and all of the group, except for the drummer, got married. Big houses, farms and so on were bought. Don't ever forget how hard they worked for these things though. Take me bak 'ome, Mama weer all crazee now, Look wot you dun: gloriously mis-spelt song titles, designed to work the kids into a frenzy and to upset the establishment. What other group had teachers on TV talking about how they were corrupting the nation's youth with their phonetic spellings? And it was noisy, raucous music too. They made a point of telling you that.

Who the hell knew the meaning of the word 'raucous' before Slade appeared? Not me. The hits kept appearing. the boys were on top of the Pops so often, they may as well have had their own dressing room specially built. With a cupboard for Dave Hill to go into to get changed into his ever-more-stupid stage costumes. "RE-VEALLLLL!" as Nod would say.

Jim Lea was the conservatively - dressed bassist who wanted to be taken seriously for The Great Musician that he had decided that he was. There was little chance of respect from the masses for him as being the great composer he knew he was either, what with all this damned dressing-up type tomfoolery going on around him. Words were exchanged, but the little guy's response was always "You write 'em, I'll sell 'em." The formula worked and the self-declared genius of the group grudgingly lived with it.

Two of the band were in bed with anything with a pulse. The other two were the more mature married types and they went home after gigs in the same car. One was the genius, who spent the late night trips from town to town nursing his resentment at the thought of the other guy in the car's awful stage clothing and how badly it reflected on him, even though he was only sharing a stage with him. He could be at the other end of the stage, but dear God, what an apparition! Words being exchanged made very little difference. Especially when they started getting records going straight in at number one in the UK charts. The results of clever marketing and planning release dates.

And they WERE good records. Album sales were encouraging.....even their album 'Play it loud' went silver. They had a Christmas hit record everywhere except America with 'Merry Xmas Everybody'. It was still in the top ten in France the next February. Everything was champagne and roses .... until Earls Court.

The Earl's Court dates were the biggest indoor UK gigs Slade and groups in the first division of British pop had ever played. They were all complete sell outs and if they had taken the trouble to book the hall, they could have probably added a whole bunch of extra nights and sold those out with very little effort. It didn't get any better than this. This was REAL success. Bowie spotted what Slade were doing and promptly booked a couple of dates at the venue.

In the midst of all this though, here's a little tale to remind you what ordinary guys Slade were. Theyhad had a few hits and they went to some awards party in their hire car and they are just about to get out, when they see Rod Stewart roll up in a rather flash swanky limo, so they drive round the block, as their car is a bit of a shed in comparison. To cut a long story short, this kept happening with other people, so they had to park elsewhere and trudge for ages to turn up at the bash. Once at the bar, they would then be heard to cry "A QUID FOR A DRUNK??? PISS OFF!!" Ah what nice lads they were!

Back to the story itself....  Of course when things get that good you know something is going to happen to spoil it. All the fame and money you can attain doesn't protect you from absolutely evil bad luck.

Straight after those enormous gigs, Don Powell had a car crash and his friend Angela was killed outright. Don himself was left in a particularly bad way. Doctors feared for his life at the time. No-one apparently knows to this day who was driving.

The group met with Chas to discuss what they were going to do. It was said when Don was recovering that it would not be the same without him and there was a possibility that if the worst had happened, God forbid, there would no longer be a Slade to follow. There is little doubt that the group were very anxious indeed about Don's condition. It could have gone either way. It was that bad. The surgeons actually had to drill into his skull to ease the internal pressure. Stunned fans kept up a loyal vigil outside the hospital and frequent news updates were issued.

He eventually pulled through and started working his way back to a good recovery. In the meantime, Jim's brother Frank depped on drums to honour two gigs on the Isle Of Man. This was said to be because people had booked holidays around the two gigs in order to see Slade. The band were said to not want to let all these people down. This was the only time - ever - in Slade's career that they went on stage with a deputy. As is well known, Don has problems with his memory and senses of taste and smell to this day.

Don, happily, was finding the best therapy after his accident to be work - and lots of it. They recorded, they toured here and there and everywhere, then they made a film about a group found struggling along on the 60's club circuit. The film was a natural vehicle for Noddy. The singer just became larger than life on the big screen exactly like he was on record, but with a thicker Midlands accent.

Dave Hill played Barry - a reasonable caricature of his own self: loud clothes, fop haircut, prancing and posing on stage - a very effective showman, and far less annoying than in his worst Slade excesses.

Don played a normal happy-go-lucky bloke from the foundry who was hitting drums (that weren't quite paid for yet) at night - and lumps of molten metal during the daytime - to earn his living. Quite close to the real thing, truth be told.

Jim Lea played the seriously moody Paul. Much emphasis was placed on his composing talent and his outstanding musical ability on stage. His wife - at home with her pinny on and piles of ironing and washing to do was always ticked off with him and it is the film's one major weakness that he never pulled himself up to his full height and told her to cheer up a bit and stop moaning at him. She had a face as long as Jim's fiddle bow for its duration. Her utter misery was quite infectious, if you watch Jim's performances. Oh for some prozac. She did not appear throughout, the film fortunately.

Jim Lea later admitted to putting his own wife, Louise, through seven shades of hell by method-acting his way through the entire period. Yes, he got right into the character that he was playing (based on his own slightly removed self) and sulked his way through the film. Apart from the quite enjoyable earliest live stage scenes, he was quite true to his written 'Paul' character and remained resolutely and unmoveably miserable throughout.

The film itself starts with Jim, Dave and Jack Daniels (Alan Lake) in one band, Nod in another and Don is recruited after Dave's band's drummer gets his kit trashed at a wedding reception which they ar% playing at. Dave uses his guitar neck to hoist aloft the brides skirt and get a flash of her tiny white knickers and all hell breaks loose. Not the done thing when playing at a wedding. Exit one drummer after the premature demise of his drum kit.

Don turns up to the audition with the kit that the hire purchase people are trying to reposess, due to the non-payment of the weekly cash. He naturally gets the job, as he is the only drummer around the Midlands with a full drum kit. Then, as now, the clubs are not a place to earn a real living and when they go to collect their dates from their agent's office, Don is slightly crestfallen when he finds out that the date list they pick up isn't actually a for good week's work, more like a rather indifferent month. The group soldier on and eventually they part company with Jack Daniels. Jim eventually goes to see Nod and talk to him about joining them.

The group spend an amount of time in two halves and it takes a while for Nod to join. When he does, they are naturally discovered playing in a nightclub by a talent scout who searches the clubs for a promising act to be shaped and developed and sold. They could be anyone, really. Devlin (played by Tom Conti with his usual hesitancy and understatedness, which was put down good-naturedly by the group to him not really knowing his lines) can sell fish fingers, cigarettes and pop groups. Just get a product stick a label on it and sell it. Result: profit.

Paul, played by Jim, is furious that the new manager doesn't care about the quality of their (his) music and has a quite amusing strop about this, where he declares rather seriously that He is not a fish finger. He comes across as a sulking bass player with delusions of competence. The rest of them however, get visible dollar signs in their eyes and swoon adoringly at Seymour. Paul is dragged along in their wake, visibly dischuffed as per usual, but not quite kicking and screaming.

Various awful stunts relating to the groups new name, 'Flame' were devised, each more awful than the last, culminating in another 21st birthday party for the admittedly not-geriatric Barry, in which friends, mates and business associates are effectively wheeled in to be ignored as mere unwitting extras, for what is just another photo opportunity.

The publicity pays off and, as far as can be shown in a film of such a short length, Flame's rise is meteoric, to say the least. Of course there is always a fly in the ointment in such a story. Yes, they are under an unbreakable contract to a small time agent for the rest of their days. Alan Lake, who was their lead singer before Nod (sorry, Stoker) joined the other three, is sent off to 'borrow' their contract from their old management's office and gets very severely beaten up for his trouble.

The scenes showing his treatment are far more graphically illustrated in the book that was published than they were in the film itself. They were never actually filmed fully, as they would never have got past the censor. Hardly anything that was filmed ended up on the cutting room floor. There were a few re-takes, but the hardened pros that Slade were by this time, learned their lines, went to bed early, got up at 5am, got their breakfast and then lurched round the hilly cobbled streets of old Sheffield, pretending to be 60's popstars instead of 70's popstars, well before the locals got up. The film was made to a very tight schedule and budget.

The latter management who have built the group up to be huge stars, see that their investment is falling apart, and after a series of threats and some qiute severe intimidation from their previous manager, the new manager decides to let them go. He has proved his point and has more to the point, made a lot of money, so he can let them go without getting egg on his face.

Just before they get round to letting the band go, however, the most credible performance in the film is given by Russ the roadie, who gets sacked for wanting to tell the group when he finds out exactly what shocking and violent stuff is going on behind their backs in order to regain their contract. Tom Conti's cursory dismissal of him for failing to find the correct type of fizzy pop for the group to drink is either lamentably written scripting or a very badly delivered piece of acting.

Of course, this is a rock group, so as in real life, all sorts of stuff goes askew, the moody bass player is seen smashing up his bass in the dressing room, egos are huge and spilling out everywhere, arguments take place in the studio, when they are supposed to be recording an important album, the drummer misses obvious cues to start songs at live shows, the singer shouts at everyone he can, takes over custody of Barry's girlfriend and everything starts to look very bad indeed for them.

They come to hate each other and the moody bassist gets even moodier and decides to take his ball home. They break up quietly in the hotel lift (just like in real life, only Stoker and Paul are privy to the actual important discussion) while an old lady amusingly cowers in one corner of the lift, visibly worried about these two guys dressed up as rejects from the Sgt Pepper sleeve, in their shiny jackets .

And of course,just the second that they break up, the old manager comes along to reclaim them. The bad news for him is that there is nothing left for him to reclaim. Ah well, hard luck. Roll credits. The End.

With a killer soundtrack of original songs to accompany it, the film was released to eager anticipation from both the waiting critics and the public. It could have been savaged, but it was quite well accepted. Noddy later said that people expected a jolly slapstick film like The Beatles' 'A hard day's night'. It was only vaguely funny in a few places. There were a few comic scenes, mainly involving Don and Dave on the train (see 'A hard days night') and in the posh car showroom, where they are eyeing up their first Rolls Royces. The overall mood of the film remains almost black. It really doesn't help in the slightest that a lot of the film is very poorly lit.

It remains one of the very few films of its type that remains a great watch so long after being made. Only the clothes really date it. The music is superb (if a bit a la Beatles in places) and fits in very well. The soundtrack album sold very well. 'Far far away' became one of their best loved and most enduring songs. 'How does it feel' - the first tune Jim Lea had ever written, years before the film - showed the group streching out musically, regardless of whether or not this single sold less than they were used to (mainly as a result of the huge soundtrack album sales).

The group undertook another effortless sell out UK tour, during which Nod repeatedly reassured the audience that Jim wasn't leaving the band and that they all loved each other. They weren't splitting up. It was only a story. So that was alright.

They then decided to move on to the next big thing.The next big thing was, of course, conquering America.

America was BIG, very BIG. They based themselves in New York. They didn't have hit records, so Slade couldn't immediately get onto the TV in America. Over in Europe it was a matter of course that Slade were on TV all the time.
There was no MTV at that time to help them out. It would have broken them in the USA fairly quickly had it been there for them.

Radio stations found it really difficult to find a place to fit a singles band like Slade within their album-oriented regimes. They just weren't like everyone else. If they had been more like the Eagles, they would have been huge in America (but perhaps not anywhere else!!!!).

However, despite the easily-recognised strengths and the unique features which made them so successful elsewhere in the world; Noddy's voice and accent, the general bad-taste dress sense and the fact that they rocked like utter nutters, everything seemed to end up working against them.

The one thing they had going for them was, of course, their live show. With the minimal radio play they were getting, plus some good, well placed advertising, they did fairly well and could fill many of the 3000 seater halls that top promoter Frank Barsalona had put them into. So they slogged away in these venues, relying on word of mouth to build up a good following.

It was proving to be a very slow process indeed. The band recorded a new album, Nobody's Fools, in America.

The album was recorded with the US radio stations in mind and it without doubt contained some of their most melodic and tamed material to date. It also sacrificed a lot of the guts that they usually played with that you came to expect on a new Slade recording. They had, in effect, totally changed their sound - a bold, but risky move that lost them a number of fans in their home country. Mutterings about 'Wolverhampton reggae' didn't totally convince the rocking masses. Support slots with major bands followed: ZZ Top, Kiss (musically a very pale imitation of Slade, who sold records based on the fact that they had 'borrowed' Slade's earlier sound, but dressed themselves up as cartoon comic-book heroes to sell it). Bands like Aerosmith took Slade out with them.

This was a complete reversal of fortunes for Slade. Aerosmith had been Slade's support act a couple of years earlier. Slade toured relentlessly in the USA for over a year, in the hope of better record sales and more radio plays.

The video footage of Slade on the 'Bill Graham Presents' TV show depicts a band struggling to defeat the hecklers there to see that evening's main act.

Slade turned in a fairly creditable performance, but Noddy's exhortations to join in and clap and stomp and participate baffled many of the audience. Nod was quite persistent that the audience WOULD join in and the point got slightly laboured. A few hecklers decide to do verbal battle with Nod and it has to be admitted that he spoils the show somewhat by taking them on and getting into a one-to-one with them. The familiar crowd pleasers are not familiar to the foreign crowd, so they don't do the band any good at all on the whole, no matter how well they are played.

Nod's accent is as thick as treacle on this showing. Jim's backing vocals are badly out of tune. This was probably far more the result of a bad onstage sound and not being able to hear themselves, than anything else. No wonder the crowd didn't get it. Slade trooped off somewhat dejectedly after almost an hour, no better off than they were when they went onstage. I'm quite surprised that this performance got onto TV at all.

The band never admitted that this long sojourn working their tails off in America was in any way a mistake.
The accepted knowledge within the band was, and is, that Slade have never made mistakes.

1 - The public have perhaps not caught onto what they were trying to do.
2 - The public were out of step.
3 - There had been no option but to take over a year out to try to crack America.
4 - "It was the next thing".
5 - "We had to do it. We were going stale."

Slade returned home to the UK, if not with their tails between their legs, slightly put out that America hadn't taken them to their hearts and recognised what a great band they were. In their absence, things had changed just a little.............

Slade had never dabbled with safety pins as a part of their stage wear. They were for the kids nappies. The UK scene had changed beyond all recognition. Boring Old Farts were being banished by the outbreak of punk rock, led by The Damned - the first punk band to release a single, on Stiff Records, and also the Sex Pistols and The Clash.

A new stab at the UK charts, 'Gypsy roadhog' (whatever that was about) only made number 48. The band put in drug reference lyrics, and after one appearance on the kids TV show, Blue Peter, that was just about the end of the TV and radio exposure for that single.

Without going into a history lesson, in that climate, it was miraculous that the next Slade single did any business at all. A spirited (but fashion-wise, it was just redundant) cover of 'My baby left me' and 'That's alright', as made famous by the just departed Elvis Presley scraped to number 32. Slade were not exactly boring, maybe not that old either, but the punks were not having any of this 'old fellers music' chucked at them.

Slade recorded a new album ('Whatever happened to Slade') which had its merits and remains a favourite of many fans to this day. Compared to what was on the radio at the time, however, it was arguably not very commercial. It was the most riff-driven album they had come up with to date and didn't sound remotely like anything on the charts, nor like a 'normal' Slade album as the fans were expecting. The group were clearly changing their approach.

'Whatever happened to Slade' wasn't released at all in the USA, who had relievedly washed their hands of the problem of Slade for the time being. It also didn't bother the compilers of the UK album chart. It is fairly scarce in its original vinyl format these days, especially with the lyric sheet that came with the first copies.

With nothing doing chart-wise, Slade decided to go out on the road, using the sure fire hit method of a concert tour to remind their fond public of their continued existence. The 1977 tour hit the major cities and some nice big halls. Not all the dates sold out, though it has to be said the band played a cracking live show, despite some of the set comprising the best few songs from the new album. Playing in the States had obviously done them SOME good, as they were a far tighter and a lot more punchy live group than they had been before.

A couple of singles followed on the Barn label. They died ignoble and unlamented deaths. The fans tried to like 'Rock and roll bolero', while not understanding much of it. 'Burning in the heat of love' sounded like a Gary Glitter record and not a single copy of the 45 was remotely like a good pressing. The band stiffed completely with their version of the 'Okey Cokey'. It was almost impossible to like. 'Sign of the times' was a poorly recorded, soppy ballad. Most of the copies of these singles went back to be melted down.

All that was good about the singles were the B-sides. Just about all the B-sides made the A-sides sound like the crap that they plainly were. Did no-one have a clue what to do with Slade?

The lack of chart success made Slade plug away by necessity on the road in clubs and large pubs, universities and, of course, the Civic Hall at Wolverhampton, where they could still hold their heads up high.

Another album, 'Return to Base' was far more in the traditional Slade mould, but was quite subdued and lachrymose when compared to their previous efforts. It had little of the stomping atmosphere of yore. It was mature, God help us. The best tracks from the sessions were taken for B-sides. It died another humiliating public death and the band became even more despondent. Never in public, though. Slade didn't do self pity.

But the midweek night that they played the Cavendish nightclub in Blackburn in front of a couple of dozen people and said they would toss off a quick hits set to get it over with, was the beginning of the end for Dave Hill, who spoke to the others of quitting.

The band were slowly also coming to the conclusion that the ever-loyal Chas was surplus to requirements, after a 12" six track EP failed to do much in the way of business, even priced at a miserable £1.49. The band were by now virtually producing themselves and were over-riding Chas Chandlers decisions.

Punk royalty were turning up at their London gigs and they had a fair number of fans, but no great sales and no prestige. The value of the Slade name was better than some, but for them it was at what seemed an all time low. With no prospect of chart success, and Nod and Jim propping the band up with their old royalty payments, it became a bit costly to even keep Slade on the road. so that stopped too, after a tour in June 1980.

This was the start of the first roaring silence..................

In 1980, Slade's profile could hardly have been that much lower. They were working fairly solidly on the university circuit, where it was expected that they would trot out the old hits. The desired mainstream of the concert hall circuit (where the real money was) was out of their reach, as they were not getting any significant amount of radio play or achieving chart positions with their singles. TV appearances had come with their past success, not what they were up to now. Their albums were literally dying at birth, despite their being of a generally good standard.

The band at least still had a hardcore of fans who could be relied upon to turn up at shows all around the country. They called them 'the Magic 500', as that was how many tickets it took to make the live show viable.

After the June 1980 tour and the miserable failure of the bargain bin priced 'Six of the best' six track ep, Nod kept the diary clear, while the band took some time off and took stock of where they were up to. Chas Chandler had made the offer to Nod and Jim to put together another band without Dave and Don, but they found the idea totally preposterous and refused straight away. Slade wouldn't be Slade with anyone missing, not after all these years. The prospect of starting again was just too hideous to contemplate. The name had some value and it wasn't going to be changed. Everyone would have just said, 'Oh look it's Slade' anyway. The mention of that idea festered within the band and their relationship with Chas was suffering. Jim was basically producing all the records now and they were gradually moving away from Chas.

Nod and Jim still had some money coming in from the sparse record plays on world-wide radio and from song writing and so on. They sat back and pondered what the answer was. Everyone and his dog seemed to have an answer to what Slade should do next. It was generally the fans idea that they should keep trawling round on the road 'til something happened. To be fair, they'd tried that quite extensively over the last two years or so, and they were still waiting for that something to happen.

What was going on in their heads at the time will never be known unless a proper book comes out, but Nod and Jim simply took it a bit easier and wrote a few songs together, with no particular purpose in mind for them. They could write for other acts - there was nothing wrong with their songwriting. Jim went into the studio with his brother Frank on the drums to make some demo standard versions of old songs and cut a couple of variations on original songs, plus a couple of newies and covers.

Don just went radio silent and Dave got increasingly worried about the whole thing......... He decided to use his Rolls Royce (still sporting the YOB 1 numberplate) to drive couples to weddings for an 'appearance fee'. That way, Dave could still 'perform' and be paid for it. With the band off the road, Dave might as well have signed unemployed. He had a family to support and he had to do something.

The band had hardly spoken to each other for about 6 weeks when Chas Chandler approached Nod about filling a gap that had come up at the Reading Festival that year. Ozzy Osbourne had dropped out and the Marquee club in London picked the acts for the three day festival. Jim readily agreed and Don went with the flow. Dave reportedly turned the offer down, as he was totally demoralised with the idea of going out with Slade anymore. He wanted to make some ready money and do some more normal work with the promise of a steadier income that he had more control over.

Slade had been doing their normal show in venues that were, in his opinion, quite beneath them and he was afraid that they would just get laughed off at Reading. All the new bands were younger, metal type bands. Where did Slade fit in with all that, except as light relief - a bit of comedy stuck in between some more important bands?

Dave declined the offer, when Nod rang round.

Nod duly rang Chas back and told him what Dave had said and the Big Geordie steamed round to Dave's house and knocked on the door. The resulting conversation changed Dave's mind a little. Basically, Dave was offered the option of Slade having just died out practically unnoticed on some little stage in a provincial backwater, or going out with the loudest bang they could deliver at Reading, in front of 60,000 people, with a live BBC radio broadcast of their set in the pipeline. Chas appealed to Dave's pride and his loyalty to the others in the band, so Dave caved in and said he'd do it.

Just a couple of rehearsals over in the scout hut brought the well-drilled band back into shape.

The band turned up at Reading and - in typical Slade fashion - did everything their way. Their modest hired Ford Granada went in the public car park. The other artists limos went in a special enclosure. They carried their own guitar cases and waded through the punters in the customary six inch deep Reading mud to locate the way into the artists backstage area. Where, of course, they were promptly told they weren't on the admissions list. Well, they SHOULD be on the list as they were onstage in a couple of hours, so it needed to be sorted. They eventually got in and found their trailer to get changed in.

The backstage atmosphere was quite pleasant and a lot of the new bands found out that SLADE had arrived and called round to get autographs, have a quick word and so on . A bit of attention was nice (and thoroughly deserved, thought Jim).

Slade took to the stage for what was probably going to be the last time. It must have been quite emotional for all of them.

The show got underway. Instead of being laughed off, as Dave had feared, the crowd treated them and their songs, old and new, like long-lost best friends. The crowd even sang a couple of choruses of 'Merry Christmas everybody' along with Nod, on an August bank holiday weekend.

When the band came off stage, they weren't left alone. The whole backstage area seemed to be there to congratulate them. Except of course for Def Leppard, who had to hustle on stage and get their set underway. An unenviable task. Def Leppard had supported Slade only the previous year and were now higher on the (rearranged) bill. The crowd had used all their energy during Slade's set and Def Leppard couldn't get the crowd going at all. The Lepps came off bemused by the whole experience.

Slade went home feeling slightly more cheerful and slowly began to realise that they had possibly done something to their good, but the reality of it sunk in when the next set of music papers unanimously agreed that they had stolen the whole show. Pictures of the band were in most of the articles and they suddenly didn't looked tired and washed up to a lot of people. Some of their sternest critics had a new, benevolent attitude to Slade. The band had done it in front of so many people in such a big way that it was utterly futile to deny it.

The band have since described this as a 're-birth'. To be quite blunt, this idea is utter rubbish. They had played the same set at Reading as they had on their last tour, give or take ten minutes worth of songs. What happened was that for once, the group's luck was in and they had been put in front of a receptive and very large audience. The crowd had loved them, to their disbelief. The radio broadcast showed how powerfully Slade played that day. It is one of the BBC's most repeated and requested (and bootlegged) live concert broadcasts.

With no major label behind them, Chas helped put an ep of the songs from the BBC recording out on the Cheapskate label, a venture with Frank Lea. Despite the lead track being the unfamiliar 'When I'm dancing I ain't fighting', rather than a safer known hit, the single reached number 44 in the UK singles chart.

Slade were back, after a fashion. All they had to do now was capitalise on it.

Capitalising on Slade's sudden return to favour gave Chas something of a new challenge. It wasn't quite as much of an uphill task as it had been for the last few years, with the intense industry press disinterest and hostility now removed, but there was some degree of disquiet within the band for him to deal with, too. Chas' suggestion of dumping Dave and Don would never ever really be forgotten or forgiven and at that stage, the loyalties in the band were unbreakable.

Their production company was not named ‘Perseverance' without good reason. It was always the four of them against the world. While Chas was a trusted friend and their biggest ally, they sometimes had to argue with him too. Although it always seemed to be Nod, with his ‘business head' that got the really unpleasant jobs, like severing the ties with Chas later on.

Jim Lea was now effectively producing all of Slade's recording sessions and becoming an increasingly dominant creative force within the band. It was not uncommon for him to handle Nod's guitar parts on record . . . . . and sometimes some of Dave's too.

Polydor – who proved never to be slow to miss the opportunity to make some easy money - released a timely ‘best of' album, ‘Slade Smashes' which reached #29 in the UK. Slade were onstage at the cavernous Hucknall and Linby Miners Welfare Club in front of about 2000 rock fans on the evening that this news came out. The crowd were overjoyed and so were the band. Back in the album charts! It would have been better to have been in the charts with new songs, but it would open people up to the band again.

The vinyl issue of the ‘Smashes' album is extremely interesting to Slade collectors, in that Polydor let their quality control slip totally and they inadvertently included non-master recordings of a few songs in error (a far longer ‘Coz I luv you', an alternate mix of ‘Gypsy roadhog', with far more guitar on it, a take of ‘Look wmt you dun' with an additional and radically alternative lead guitar part, plus what can only be an early publisher's demo of ‘Take me bak ‘ome'). The group would have stopped these being issued straight away of they had known. Even years later, Noddy Holder was astonished to hear that the above content included on the album, which shows the band had no input whatsoever into its release.

While Chas hunted for a lucrative new deal for the band, he released a quick stop gap follow-up to the Reading EP – again on the Cheapskate label. The ‘Xmas Earbender' EP once again featured tracks from the festival show, plus a grafted on version of Okey cokey. This song was the band's most lamentable ever release. A chart position of #70 for this re-release was far more than it deserved. The consolation of a rip-roaring version of ‘Get down and get with it' made up for the re-release of Slade's greatest dud as an A-side.

The next release, produced by Slade and recorded innovatively in various other parts of the Portland studio than the main band room, was cheerfully heralded in the press blurb as being the first example of ‘Bog Rock'. The vocals had been recorded deep in the cavernous echoing gentlemen's toilets, for a real echo that you could never get with an echo device. If Slade had really been on the ball, they would have issued the single in a ‘scratch and sniff' sleeve. Oh well.

‘We'll bring the house down' was Slade's REAL saviour release following Reading. It became their first top ten record in the UK since the 70's. Starting with an immense barrage of loud, busy drums and using Slade's catchiest chorus for many years, it was a sure fire hit. It was extremely radio friendly and using the borrowed ‘Quo – oh – oh – oh – oh' signature singalong was a real inspiration. Quo, being great mates of Slade, must have been highly amused.

UK tours were selling out quicker and the band continued to work as hard as ever, but in larger and more prestigious theatre venues. They could not sit back and wait for money to roll in from record sales. They hit the ground running and got on with the task of seriously promoting themselves to a more willing new audience. Their live set had hardly changed at all in this period. The main body of the show was the hits with a good sprinkling of tracks from the musically impressive, but commercially failed ‘Return to base' album.

Nod generally had ‘fun' with singing the new hit live – there was no cue note for him to get the key he had to sing in. He came in straight off the drums. One night, at the Victoria Hall, Hanley, Nod started singing the song way off key and was visibly quite disturbed by how it was going. However he sang the intro, it didn't sound right to him. He took the drastic step of stopping the band mid intro, got his correct pitch sorted and re-started the song.

Interviews from this period depicted a band slightly unsure of why they had fallen out of fashion and bemused by the utter simplicity and the pure chance of their successful comeback. The press wrote so many ‘back from the dead' stories about the band that Slade must have almost choked on the irony of it all. They simply continued to do what they had always done and one show had turned it all round for them. The band didn't take the chance to retaliate against the more hostile press they had received in recent years – they remained good humoured and took it all in their stride.

The ‘Return to base' album was again pillaged for their next single, ‘Wheels ain't coming down'. This was the story of an eventful plane ride in the States, where they had the misfortune to travel on a plane with a failed undercarriage. Complete with sound effects tapes of planes flying overhead, this song had become a favourite in Slade's live show and it sold moderately well in the shops. A #60 position was not great, but also not to be sneezed at, either.

The last album would continue to be used as a source of A and B-sides, much to the annoyance of fans, but they just didn't have new material to put out and they certainly weren't going to write off a good set of songs, when they could get some financial return on them. Seven Slade singles (not counting the live efforts) had contained tracks from the album between 1978 and 1981.

The ‘Return to base' album was effectively re-packaged with the new name 'We'll bring the house down' and it sold extremely well (UK #25).

A new album was recorded and was proceeded by the most bizarre choice of single Slade could have wished for. ‘Knuckle Sandwich Nancy' was, on the whole, a tuneless rant against a nightclub bouncer (Desmond Brothers) who had seen fit to break Noddy Holder's nose after he had made a comment from the stage about the rough handling of fans during one of the band's shows in south Wales. The bouncer got a short jail sentence and the matter made the national papers. Nod got it all off his chest in this song.

Sometimes it's better to go away and stew on things quietly. This song should never have got past the demo stage. There are several catchy sections that could have fuelled further hits – all wasted when thrown together in this mish-mash.

Nod was insistent on its release. It was a personal matter to him. The record buying public showed their lack of approval with a clear demonstration of their purchasing power. The last release on their independent Cheapskate label didn't chart.

This could have been taken as a really bad omen for their new deal with RCA, a major worldwide record label, if the new album had not been so strong, well produced and full of excellent content. An attempt to stir up some press controversy regarding the ‘Til Deaf do us part' album sleeve art (the ‘nail through the ear' sleeve) didn't really work, and the threatened withdrawal of the ‘ear and nail' sleeve to replace it with a photo of some blown PA speakers never happened.

The album sold moderately well (#68) for a band re-building a following and the inclusion of the hit single ‘Lock up your daughters' (UK #29) – based on Whitesnake's ‘Fool for your lovin' single and a very well attended theatre tour must have all helped build Slade's confidence.

An appearance at the 1981 ‘Monsters of Rock' one day show at Castle Donington must have really boosted Slade's credibility among rock fans. A huge audience witnessed their fabulous live set and, in places, the crowd swayed dangerously in a wave, moving about 15 - 20 feet side to side as they played. The reaction to Slade was immense and perhaps only surpassed by that of headliners AC/DC. The press picked up on how good Slade were, how bad Whitesnake were and how Blue Oyster Cult were just furious at having to follow on from Slade on stage.

Sounds showed an embarrassing photo of Eric Bloom from BOC jumping up and down angrily on the commemorative mirror plaque given by the organisers to all of the artists appearing that day. BOC practically died on stage. Hampered by the departure of their drummer hours before the gig and the bungling of intro tapes to songs, they were in real trouble, as they played a set of utterly lumpen songs no-one knew or cared about, except ‘Don't fear the reaper'. And they had to come on straight after Slade………….

A follow-up single, ‘Ruby Red' only scraped a meagre #51 in the UK, despite a free bonus single and a gatefold sleeve showing Slade playing to the Donington masses.

Their UK tours in 1981 and 1982 were all sell-outs and the group ploughed on, on the road, to promote their new records.

Their latest single was a new song ‘(And now the waltz) C'est la vie' which didn't do much business (UK #50), being almost a soul-styled power ballad, it probably confused everyone. On the short December 1982 UK tour, they used backing tapes to boost the vocals at the start of this song, as they had overdubbed it far beyond their live capability on the record, in order to get a huge and authentic sound.

Most of 1983 was basically a write-off as far as visibility of the group to the fans was concerned. Slade beavered away quite industriously behind the scenes, working hard on writing a set of songs for the new album, making demos and then getting them approved by RCA, in order that they could proceed with the new album.

The new album was interesting in a number of ways. The title (probably dreamed up by the massively huge intellect of Jim Lea) was purely incomprehensible to all concerned. ‘The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome' doesn't just trip off the tongue. A lot of the album content was based on the lives and achievements of various heroic figures (such as the racing driver in ‘Ready to explode').

This album was quite a radical departure for Slade, who usually wrote a selection of good time rock and roll songs about making a big noize, boozing with the lads, grabbing and skweezing and pleezing the girls, good old fashioned love songs and so on. Much more mature music to some degree, which hardly resembled the Slade of old.

It was quite lavishly produced – mainly by Jim Lea, but with John Punter working specifically on the tracks chosen in advance as being the best options for singles.

The 1983 tour was announced for December – and it was a case of back into the Universities, where the best crowds were, and also back to a couple of selected theatres, where the band were sure to sell out all of the tickets. The album was only released towards the very end of the tour and the band only played one solitary track from the new album - their new single, a slickly produced piano-led power ballad called ‘My oh my' - during the tour.

Dave Hill now sported a beard and it emerged that he and his wife Jan had embraced the Jehovah faith. However, the song ‘Merry Xmas everybody' featured strategically – to great effect - at the end of the set as part of the big finale every night. Something for him to wrestle with privately and to explain down at the Kingdom Hall.

Dave Hill also toned down his visual image significantly at this time. Stetson hats and brightly coloured tailored stage jackets were the norm now. The beard made the big grin look more mature than before and the group's overall image was much improved. You'd never fail to know it was him, though. Noddy, meanwhile, had been sporting a far more sober look since the 1978 - 79 tours, with a plain but bright stage jacket and black trousers and often some form of hat.

Jim was into the skinny biker look onstage, with head-to-foot leathers, odd shoes and a red bandana. Offstage, he was always clad for comfort in the same flying jacket, rugby shirt and a pair of jeans. Don was, as usual, hidden behind his drums. Vest and jeans were the order of the day for on stage.

Caught at the soundcheck before the Manchester show, mid-tour, a relaxed Jim said how pleased he was with the new album and let slip a number of ideas for the presentation of the songs on the next tour : a keyboard player behind a curtain, back projections for the big number, 'Ready to explode', and a wholly revamped and improved stage presentation.

As the tour rolled on, the ‘My oh my' single climbed steadily up the charts. As it did so, many TV appearances were offered, but some of these would have disrupted the band's crammed schedule, though they would have increased record sales. Faced with a very stark choice, business considerations possibly ruled and a few shows went. The band appeared on Top of the Pops when they should have been playing in Cardiff. The reason given fot the no show was Nod's voice going. Slade were all over the TV that December.

Another night, Jim was genuinely very ill indeed and their show in Wakefield was cut. Promises were publicly made to reschedule the lost dates for early in the next year. A show at Liverpool Royal Court Theatre was moved back a number of days to the 18th, rather than being lost, and it become the very last night of their successful and sold out 1983 UK tour.

The last thing Slade's fans saw on the last night of the 1983 UK tour was the roadies final joke on the group. A fully lit Christmas tree was lowered to a point just over their heads. Nod, Jim and Dave didn't see it for a few minutes and they must have wondered just what exactly the crowd were laughing at.

The gig was filmed by a fan sat up in the balcony and is now some of the only live footage of the band in existence.

The relentless pace of promoting the single only hotted up further when the tour ended. Instead of putting their feet up, the band plugged away at appearing on all the TV shows they could get themselves to, both at home and in Europe. Russell Harty and David Frost, among others, hosted rousing Slade appearances in front of bemused old ladies given black and white SLADE and MY OH MY scarves to wave for the cameras, when they were not too old and infirm to do so. Surreal.

Jim Lea made a surprise one-off guest appearance as bassist with Status Quo on Top Of The Pops, when they performed their current hit, ‘Marguerita time'. Alan Lancaster, Quo's bassist, objected to absolutely everything about the song and refused to appear to promote it in any way. Slade were great mates of the Quo, so Jim was invited to mime along on the show. Jim practically wet himself laughing as Rick Parfitt unexpectedly clambered onto Pete Kirschner's drum kit, causing it to collapse at the end of the song.

In a neck and neck battle for the much-coveted Christmas #1 slot, Slade went up directly against the acapella comedy group, The Flying Pickets, who, to be fair, had a charming cover version of Yazoo's hit ‘Only you' rising up the charts, just as Slade were. Due to the way the chart information was collected that year, considering how holiday dates fell and the way that the following weeks chart info was collected, the chart positions therefore remained static, with The Pickets holding the #1 spot for about three weeks, though Slade allegedly outsold them massively. Despite being so narrowly deprived of a Christmas number one, so many years since their last chart-topper, Slade were not totally dejected to have spent a few weeks at number two, with massive sales.

The ‘Run runaway' 45 did some really brisk chart business for Slade, with the help of a rather well-shot video promo film, directed by Tim Pope. The rather splendid Eastnor Castle at Ledbury was used as a most suitable backdrop to Slade's spirited performance of the new song, a direct, obvious, but great fun, steal from the collected works of Big Country. Dave and Nod both hammed it up for the cameras severely, while Jim and Don did the actual ‘musicians' bit.

‘Run runaway' was just a good, fun, bouncy Highland reel, driven by a solid, insistent drum beat and guitars and violin that sounded like bagpipes and a simple, nagging power chord structure on the verses that Pete Townshend would like returned to him, please. The chorus was a typical Slade ‘call and response' stuff – you'd have to be a real cynic to have sat down and analysed it closely at the time, it was too much fun for that. The extra two tracks on the ‘Run runaway' single both made the rearranged US version of the album – wisely re-titled ‘Keep your hands off my power supply', after one of the tracks titles.

The American version of the album, released on the CBS label, is far superior to the UK RCA version in many ways. Firstly, at least the US cover is music related, with a poor picture of a guitar, rather than a poor picture of an Oriental gentlemen about to press a suicide button. The US version loses the weaker tracks and picks up the finer songs from the sessions, starting with ‘Run runaway' and ‘My oh my'. Soundwise, the production is identical on both albums.

The UK version of the album suffers from the inclusion of tracks like ‘Cocky rock boys', and ‘Razzle dazzle man' - songs which on the whole, pandered to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) trend and were perhaps arguably below Slade's usual standards.

To recap, just slightly….. 1984 had started promisingly enough for Slade with the high final chart position of ‘My oh my' and soon afterwards, the release of 'Run runaway' as a 45. It made a very respectable number 7 on the UK singles charts and both the group and the record company must have been pleased with that placing.

The ‘Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome' album had only reached a high point of number 49 in the UK , possibly due to its incomprehensible title and dreadful cover art. The lack of a tour didn't help matters at all.

Polydor were quick enough to stick another ‘Greatest hits' type release – ‘Slade's Greats' – in the shops. Having come fairly close after ‘Slade smashes' and bearing a virtually identical track listing, it did little business at all.

However, under Sharon Osbourne's management for the USA territory, Slade did two live shows as support act for Ozzy Osbourne, who was then quite a big act on the live circuit. This was a truly great opportunity for the band, but their luck ran true to form and Jim collapsed with hepatitis and the rest of the dates were reluctantly pulled. Ironically, the 'Run Runaway' single actually did some chart business in the USA in Slade's enforced absence.....

After the debacle of a final badly organised US TV appearance, which Nod described in his autobiography as one of the most miserable appearances of his life, as the band were forced to mime and could hardly hear themselves, the group wearily trudged to the airport and flew home, ill, utterly deflated and defeated. The tour that was a foregone conclusion as a triumphant US breakthrough for them had gone up in so much smoke.

Slade's live career, though not all of them knew it, was now finally over. There was no eagerly anticipated December UK tour, but some consolation for the fans came in the form of the number 15 placing for the ‘All join hands' single. As with ‘My oh my' a video was made for this single, which has rarely been seen at the time or since.

1985 saw another UK tour scheduled and then pulled, shortly after tickets went on sale. Debate about whether this tour was ever agreed to by all of the members of the band was rife. Noddy Holder certainly had no intention of doing it. Noddy was privately getting to be more of the opinion that they could sell records without Jim and himself having to lay out their money on the expense of touring. Little or nothing was communicated to the fans about all this for a number of years.

A further single, supported by another excellent, but rarely seen video, came in the knockout form of Myszterious Miszter Jones. The group duly trotted round to various TV stations and mimed to the record. Jim Lea took up the anarchic habit of pulling half of Don's drum kit away from him mid-song, while a guitar-less and obviously uncomfortable Nod looked on in horror. Despite being possibly the strongest track on the album and being available in three formats, the single only clawed its way up to a poor number 50 in the UK charts.

A new album, ‘Rogues Gallery' was released without much fanfare. For whatever reason, it scraped its way up to number 60 and then decided to exit the album chart before anyone was too bothered by its presence.

The album was very studio-bound. The live sound was completely gone, in favour of very strictly controlled sounds. Jim Lea was obviously dominating proceedings and playing more of the instruments. There was less emphasis on Nod's muscular rhythm guitar, which was such a prominent feature of older classic Slade records, and far more emphasis wqas placed on greatly arranged and built-up sound-scapes of keyboards and synthesizers. There were some songs that would never work on stage, some songs that arguably were inferior and should have stayed as demos.

A single ‘7 year bitch' was poorly received by the public and, in keeping with their other recent releases, peaked at number 60.

Nod had desperately wanted the tremendous ‘Walking on water, running on alcohol' to be a single, but he was outvoted by the people at RCA and by the rest of the band – which rankled deeply within him. Relationships within the band had been difficult for a while and this was a blow to Holder.

A sneak release on the Trojan label by Jimmy Lea was the ‘Citizen Kane' / ‘ Poland ' single, which is oddly the only record he has ever put out under his own name. It disappeared without trace, probably because the radio stations were fed up of the ‘Ghostbusters' theme riff (a fairly obvious comparison) that ran throughout the song. The single was an extremely impressive production, which failed to be heard by anyone except a few hard-core Slade fans, who had been given little or no info about its release, until it had been out a good while.

Another Slade single came in the form of the excellent ‘Merry Christmas Everybody (extended remix)' This version, released on Polydor – with handclaps dropped in from the master tape of ‘Coz I luv you' - was a significant, but rarely heard piece of work. No promotion, no results.

A final RCA label 45 for the year came from the new Crackers album; ‘Do you believe in miracles?' – written about Bob Geldof and the entire Live Aid phenomena, supported by yet another well-designed video and a number of fairly passable TV show appearances, only reached number 54. Royalties from the single went to the charity.

Slade fans were baffled by the release of a Christmas party album ‘Crackers' on the Telstar label, but they dutifully went out and bought it. An album that was to all intents and purposes nothing more than just a quick cash generator for the group went to number 32, as compared to their own album's number 60. A most worrying prospect.

The Christmas party album could have been a total embarrassment. As it turned out, they had recorded some very spirited versions of some of the more lively Christmas classics. ‘Santa Claus is coming to town' and ‘Do they know it's Christmas?' being good examples. A new and definitive new version of ‘Cum on feel the noize' was included, as well as a live ‘Merry Christmas Everybody'. Whoever played this album at a Christmas party, I'm not sure, but it sold well…

It also tied Slade firmly to Christmas and mince pies in the eyes of the public once again.

At fan club conventions, members of the group turned up to meet the fans, but instead of being well-received two-way question and answer meetings, they dissolved into chaos with a few of the assembled fans unreasonably expecting some sort of live performance and the majority of the rest badgering Nod constantly about why the group wasn't touring anymore. His short, closed answers of ‘personal reasons' were evidently not satisfactory for a number of the fans.

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If 1985 was frustrating on the live front, it was nothing compared to the total silence of 1986.
Quietly and without any public announcement, Noddy Holder gave his advance notice in to leave the band.
He wanted them to continue working with a new singer.
They pretended to themselves that he hadn't done it, in the hope that if given time, he would change his mind.

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A totally misleading re-issue of the Crackers album, re-sleeved as ‘Slade's Greatest Hits' was quickly withdrawn. The labels on the record were for the Crackers album, which suggests that a lot of copies of that were left over.

1987 saw Slade's last release on the RCA label. The album was apparently named after a cleaning ladies comment that ‘You boys make a big noise'. Whatever. The ‘You boyz make big noize' album and the singles taken from the sessions didn't do fantastically well. Nod was apparently absolutely incensed at the cost. Dave and Don couldn't afford to waste huge amounts of money. Jim thoroughly enjoyed the laboriously slow pace of work with Roy Thomas Baker and his Queen stories, but his Queen stories did not sell new Slade records in1987. Neither, sadly, did RCA....

The first single, ‘Still the same' - released to coincide with the group's 21st anniversary - was a fine, mature piece of work, with one of Nod's best ever vocals and some over Jim's cleverest left-over production tricks from an impressive collaboration with Gary Holton.

The next single released was ‘That's what friends are for', which seemed rather a lightweight piece of pop fluff and sounded awfully tinny on the radio. Its poor performance was the last straw for RCA, who did not renew Slade's contract.

The title song from the album (not included on the album, due to the tight deadline they had to work to) was released on the Cheapskate label. RCA were not interested in a rather obvious Beastie Boys pastiche at all. They appeared on the TV show ‘Get Fresh' to promote the single and the track ‘Ooh la la in LA', which was also a hopeful US single release (which didn't happen).

A final single from the album, also put out on the Cheapskate label, was the aptly titled ‘We won't give in'. RCA had obviously given up on the recordings, which had cost the group a fortune in studio time for little reward and which had divided the group internally.

In a slight diversion from what else was going on in 1987, 10 records released the soundtrack album from the film ‘Knights and Emeralds', which contained two new Slade songs, later released elsewhere on b-sides. Slade did not appear in the film and it was not a very high profile release.

1988 saw one single on the Cheapskate label – a version of the old Chris Montez hit ‘Let's dance' pulled from the Crackers album which was now about three years old. Despite having a couple of Slade's better known singles tracks as bonus inclusions on the CD single, it did nothing. There were no albums, no tours, no TV, nothing.

1989 saw a one-off single on the Mooncrest label from Nod and Dave using the name ‘Blessings In Disguise'. Their version of ‘Crying in the rain' was excellent (as was the b-side, ‘Wild nights') but it was relegated from national radio play-lists by higher profile versions from Status Quo and Aha.

1990 was largely silent, except for continued communication with the fans via the quarterly ‘Perseverance' newsletter and phone hotline. This had been going for a few years and was a truly vital lifeline for Slade fans before the Internet and the message board grapevine took over. To be honest, it was the only sign that the band was still breathing at all.

Jim Lea did almost put out a single as ‘The Clout'. His new version of ‘We'll bring the house down' was a total remodelling of the original and was despatched to radio stations only, making it another quite scarce Mooncrest release.

There was much speculation about what was going to happen next with Slade and the group were quite open and frank with the fans about there being no tours to look forward to (though Dave Hill quite openly fought against this notion) and missed deals and their negotiations with a major label, who had to remain un-named until the ink was dry on the contract.

A second ‘Blessings in Disguise' single (not featuring Nod at all this time) ‘Chance to be' escaped by mail order on the Gotham label, but made no great impression.

1991 saw a CD ‘best of' compilation of sorts from RCA – ‘The Slade Collection Volume One' rounded up some of their finer RCA moments into one very well produced package.

The group's 25th anniversary celbration in April 1991 was put together primarily as a fan club convention.

There was a staggering exhibition of Slade's own memorabilia, fan competitions, videos, quick walk-on's from the band with other members of their previous groups, live appearances from two Slade–related acts and finally, Slade came onstage, despite Noddy Holder's serious reservations (observed by a few people backstage) about doing so, and played what turned out to be their last live song together (a romp though Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode, of all things) in front of those fans gathered in the cavernous Walsall Town Hall. Backstage, afterwards, Holder was absolutely furious to be been 'set up' to perform live without any preparation. the others were elated.

The rumoured contract eventually led to the next significant record release which was the new Polydor hits album, ‘Wall of hits', which should win a prize for the second worst Slade sleeve ever. It sold, but not in immense quantities, aided by the progress of a brand new Slade single, the impressive ‘Radio Wall of Sound' A video version of the ‘Wall of hits' compilation was much prized by Slade collectors, despite several glaring omissions and its short playing length.

Jim Lea had mentioned a song called ‘Radio Wall of Sound' in a fan club interview, some time previously, as part of an ongoing solo project of his. When Polydor gave them a two single option to accompany the hits album, they had nothing ready, so Jim brought his solo songs in for consideration. It was an obvious and quite contrived hit song that he had been keeping for himself. The majority of the guitar and drum work was already done on the track.

The group went into Ritch Bitch studios to finish the song off and record b-sides. It wasn't in Nod's key. Rather than re-starting a nearly finished piece of work, Jim's main vocal rather riskily carried the main verse melody throughout, with Nod chiming in to lift the choruses. In the end the song leapt to number 21 in the UK charts, aided by a raft of TV appearances and an excellent promo video.

Dave Hill had been writing songs with Bill Hunt (formerly the keyboard player in Roy Wood's Wizzard) and it has to be said that the results were actually quite spectacular, sounding as much like Slade songs as Jim's, if not more so, in the case of ‘Universe'.

Band politics probably prevented either ‘Lay your love on the line' and ‘Red Hot', which were both arguably superior to 'Universe', from being the next Polydor single. The group's version of the Aretha Franklin song, ‘RESPECT', from those recording sessions, remains unreleased.

Whatever process decided it - the next single was indeed ‘Universe' - again a solo Jim Lea writing effort, Polydor did not offer any further contract options after ‘Universe' got lost in the Christmas rush, despite a fair number of TV appearances and a classy video made to promote it.

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What happened next to Slade is subject to a huge degree of speculation, as news never really got out of the private discussions within the band until Nod wrote his autobiography ‘Who's crazee now?' several years later.

What is known for sure is that Jim, Dave and Don waited for Nod to come round to the idea of the next Slade project. Instead of getting on with it, he had taken an amount of time to think, got dispirited by the whole thing and gave his notice to the group. He had previously offered them the option of continuing as Slade with another singer some years prior to this, but when it came to the reality of finding a new singer, Jim apparently was far from keen on the idea of carrying on as Slade without Noddy Holder at the front.

Dave Hill and Don Powell were left in career limbo and not in regular contact until Dave decided to carry on with a new band as Slade II. Fans were not informed of any outcome with Nod or Jim. The first that was known about this latest turn of events was when the Perseverance magazine carried a full-page advertisement for a ‘Slade II' live appearance at an Oldies Festival on the continent.

Dave Hill appeared outwardly stoical in Perseverance interviews regarding his belief that Slade with Nod and Jim would eventually regroup and continue, despite the sudden appearance of Slade II which was billed as ‘featuring Dave Hill and Don Powell' – no mention of Jim Lea.

Dave's alleged hope turned out not to be the case. Noddy Holder was silent on the subject for a very long time and Jim Lea was rumoured to not be pleased at the continued use of the Slade name. Being a professional, rather than a hot-head, Jim kept his opinion to himself.

Slade II continued on to release an album - ‘Keep on Rockin' – which has been repackaged a few times under different names. It's by no means a Slade album, though it's not a bad listen, as long as you don't expect it to be Slade.

A few singles have also been released on the continent, though it has to be said that a totally bizarre latin-disco single release called ‘Some exercise', written by a couple of European songwriters, was the last straw which totally alienated some of the band's UK following forever. This appears to have ended their recording career.

Slade II shortened their name back to ‘Slade' after what seemed to them to be a respectable period and they now work the nostalgia circuit, mainly in Europe. There is a huge division amongst fans about the group as they now are. Certainly Dave and Don have the perfect right to call themselves 'Slade' if Nod and Jim don't wish to continue, but the group have gone through a few extra musicians and they naturally often suffer when comparison is made to the Slade we knew and loved. They don't get any UK TV, but have appeared on a few shows on the continent. Their live act is an hour or so of greatest hits and doesn't change from year to year. If you've seen them doing this once or twice, do you ever need to see them again? Make your own mind up. It's entertainment.

Noddy Holder does TV adverts and appearances along with some acting – The Grimleys, an appearance on Coronation Street, Max and Paddy - to name but a few. He spent several years as a radio DJ at Piccadilly in Manchester, where he was generally quite good at giving time to visiting fans that met him at the radio station. He has also become a father for the third time to Django. He now lives in Prestbury, Cheshire, with his second wife Suzan. Nod lost his beloved mother at Christmas time, a very sad thing indeed for a man who has played such a part in making every Christmas a fun time for so many people.

Nod's two daughters from his first marriage, Jessica and Charisse, both work in TV production.

Jim Lea carried on releasing sporadic records under odd pseudonyms, with varying degrees of reaction. They always seemed to come out via the Trojan group of labels and they all disappeared without much trace. The most notable release of them all was probably the Dummies album ‘A day in the life of The Dummies' on the Receiver label, which neatly gathered together all of the demos and the single tracks that he recorded with his brother Frank and wife Louise. The b-side of the first Dummies single (a track called ‘She's the only woman') was by Frank Lea's old group and didn't have Jim playing on it and so it didn't make the album. The glaring omission from the album is his recorded version of ‘I'll never get over you', a song originally recorded by Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.

Jim has also studied to be a psychotherapist, though he did not seriously pursue this as a career. He has invested wisely in properties and lives with his wife in a quite beautiful Tudor Thatched Cottage in one of the most secluded areas of rural Staffordshire. He also was said to own a proerty next door to Madonna in London. He was possibly the first of the band to become a Grandfather.

Jim gave fans a small hope of further live activity by playing two low-profile shows around the Wolverhampton area. He released a new album (Therapy) of more philosophical and mature material than we are generally used to hearing from him, via his own website. This album has probably sold a few hundred copies on its initial release and was a huge step forward, though Jim remained frustratingly incommunicado as regards promoting his work via the media and fan websites at that time.

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All but the most completely foolish of fans have given up on hope of ever seeing the original line-up of Slade play together again. There was a period when the song-writing team were only talking to the Slade II camp via legal representatives, but that appears to have stopped now. The only times that all four of them are known to have been seen together in public since the end of the original band were at Chas Chandler's funeral and when they all gathered in Wolverhampton to receive their honorary Doctorates. A private meeting of all four members to discuss the Slade business broke down and they have not gathered together since.

The Slade back-catalogue remains in the control of Nod and Jim, who are one of the few rock song-writing teams from their era that own all of the rights to their songs and recordings – this is no small part due to the fact that Chas Chandler had managed them quite shrewdly and honestly.

All of their original Polydor and RCA albums were re-released on Polydor CD's, with the exception of ‘Slade Smashes' and ‘Slade's Greats'. There was very little thought put into most of the Polydor reissues, except that Jim Lea digitally re-mastered the first batch of Polydor / Barn albums. Only the reissue of their ‘Return to base' album actually contains any bonus tracks. There was said to be a great need for a collection of b-sides, but for a great many years there was no sign of any great desire from the group to release one or to alter the basic format of their back catalogue. The first CD version of ‘Slade Alive Volume Two' was quite badly re-mastered and the crowd can clearly be heard to be dubbed onto alternative versions of the songs from the ‘Whatever happened to Slade' album. The idea of one of the world's foremost live bands releasing a live album with a partly dubbed crowd is just baffling. The listener is better off listening to the original vinyl version, where you can't spot the join.

Slade remained for many years one of the few enormous groups from their era not to be represented by a CD box set. The reason for this was probably because of the seemingly endless flood of cash-cow compilation albums in recent years, issued by Polydor and RCA.

In mid 2006, however, a sudden and unexpected flurry of activity occurred on the Slade front, with all of the Slade catalogue starting to re-emerge - remastered (by Tim Turan, who did a similarly superb job on the Status Quo reissues), repackaged and with extended content, to the delight of Slade fans worldwide. A box set was finally devised to please the masses and introduce more and more people to that unique Slade sound. Finally, with the help of certain fans, a very comprehensive b-sides CD collection was assembled, including the 4CD collection that fans had said was long overdue. The 'Slade In Flame' movie was remastered and greatly improved and reissued with a number of extras including interviews with all of the group.

In 2015, Jim Lea revealed that he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in a German music magazine interview.
In 2016, he further updated us with the news that he was responding well to treatment, but that it was extremely hard on him.

In 2016, Wienerworld re-released the Jim Lea 'Therapy' album with a great deal of unheard bonus content on CD and on vinyl. He also gave a number of interviews on radio and in the press.

The excellent Salvo reissue programme of the Slade back catalogue is detailed here.

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Slade's old local, The Trumpet, on the High Street in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, is still there and doing very well indeed, thank you. It remains a favourite tribal gathering place for groups of cheerily drunken reminiscing Slade fans over the years. Opinions on where Slade could have done it all differently constantly echo round the walls. Not from the group though!

So that's how the story ends. A number of groups have taken a lot from Slade. These groups have also benefited greatly from the arrival of MTV, which was never there for Slade when they really needed it. That's just typical of their luck. You can often spot the influences almost straight away. But when a Slade video makes a rare appearance on VH1 or more likely, comes on the radio – you just have to notice it!

Hearing an original Slade song is the same breath of fresh air it always was, back when the Big Geordie (bless 'im) first happened across them at that club in London.....

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Written by Ian Edmundson.
Not to be reproduced whole or in part without written permission.

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