COLLECTED SLADE INTERVIEWS AND FEATURES-
With grateful acknowledgement to Mickey Parker, Chris Selby and others who have unearthed them for this site.

1970 - 1986 | 1987 - 1999 | 2000 to 2011
| 2012 - 2017 | 2018


JIM LEA TALKS TO THE GET READY TO ROCK WEBSITE
MAY 2018

Online here


Jim Lea, the former Slade bass-player and one half of the mega-hit Holder-Lea song-writing duo, has a brand new six-track EP out: Lost In Space. I catch up with Jim to discuss the inspiration behind the title track and the other songs on the EP, to talk about his appearance at Wolverhampton’s Robin 2 venue last Autumn and, of course, to hear a few recollections from the old Slade days as well as the challenges that life throws up outside the world of music.

“Lost In Space was written deliberately as a pop song. Of all the songs I have come up with, this is one of my favourites. The ideas portrayed in the song are of someone spending their life living in an inner world, virtually oblivious to normal life. Some might say I have unwittingly written about myself,” states the press release accompanying the EP.

So often, introspection is portrayed as being sad and angst-ridden yet Lost In Space is a very uplifting song with a great catchy chorus. Jim has certainly lost none of his knack for writing catchy uplifting choruses. For such an upbeat song I put it to Jim whether there is a subtle inference here that being caught up in your own world can actually be a pretty happy place.

JL: “It is when you’re happy yeah but you have to find yourself first. You have to be happy with it. I think a lot of people do it to escape. It’s one of the autistic symptoms when people are being diagnosed. They don’t connect. I’ll tell you who came out and spoke about it – Chris Packham from Springwatch. Millions of people must have seen that programme about it. I’m sure I’ve got grains of autism in me but I’m nowhere near as bad as him. He just lives in a tiny little cottage in the middle of a wood with his animals. But to be quite honest for a big part of my life I was not a big communicator. I didn’t really do interviews at all. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I began to look at myself and went into psychotherapy and completely changed my personality. I almost changed my DNA.”

Is that partly why we are hearing more from Jim recently, I wonder. A new DVD, a live appearance at the Robin in Wolverhampton last Autumn and now a new EP. Are we seeing a new Jim?

JL: “Yes, yes. This is the new me. I’m obviously not bothered about talking to you at all. You seem quite a nice chap! I’m a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. Whereas back in the day with the band for a long time I wasn’t. I was better off in the eighties and going into the nineties, but in the seventies I couldn’t cope with all that. If you look at the band there were two who wanted to get their face in the camera and two who didn’t. The idea of fame is very nice. You think that’s what you want but when it comes – well it took me all of a couple of weeks to think hang on I haven’t got a life here. You couldn’t go anywhere. You couldn’t do anything. So a lot of people want that and they want that attention, whereas with me I wanted to go back to how I was before going on television.”

With that in mind I suppose when Slade were less in the spotlight in the late seventies that was OK for you, as long as the band were still gigging and recording?

JL: “That’s right. That was a good blueprint for me. That was great. And, of course, when we started having hits again in the eighties it was much easier to cope with because it wasn’t that mad teenage chasing-you-down-the-street type stuff.”

Lost In Space is a great catchy pop song. But the rest of the EP really rocks out. For me it seems to channel some of the spirit of Slade in the early 80s when the band had a comeback thanks in part to the heavy rock crowd post-Reading. Was it a conscious decision to go for a more rocky approach here compared to Therapy, your previous solo album?

JL: “No. The songs on this EP – I don’t know whether you know I had cancer – and these songs are from pre-cancer. They’re quite old. You can probably tell I’ve got a frog in my throat and I’ve never been able to get rid of that since I’ve had my cancer treatment. I’m not on the treatment any more but it just doesn’t go away. Luckily I’ve got some vocal tapes from god knows how many years ago that I just re-recorded quickly. Because my brother, who’s looking after me from the record point of view, says do you fancy doing an EP. He’d been talking to the record company. I said yes – four tracks? He said no, it’s six tracks for an EP these days. I said that’s half an album, when do you need it for? He said next Monday! But I did it because the songs were there. I had a vocal. I just slung everything at it and came up with what you hear.”

Live at the Robin

You took the stage at the Robin last November for a Q&A session to launch your new DVD (a live recording of his 2002 solo gig at that same venue) but at the end you surprise everyone when you come back on stage with your guitar to blast out some old Slade classics.

JL: “When I went off – we had a bit of a scam me and Paul Franks (radio presenter and interviewer that day) and he said Jim wanted to share something and he’s just going off. But when I got down there the people who are looking after the stage side of things they’re all chatting together. And I said what are you doing I need my guitar. Where’s my guitar? I was shouting at them and I was really in a bad mood and I said to the sound guy get out the front and get on the desk…. and it was at least three or four minutes before I came out. And there is some fan footage (and we are going to put that out) but just before I come on you can hear people saying ‘where’s he gone?’ Just coming over the microphones you know. And the audience I could hear what they’re saying. And this one female voice says (adopts exaggerated Yorkshire accent) ‘Do you think he’s gone for a lie down?’ Oh dear, it did crack me up that did. And to be quite honest that’s what I do a lot of these days. I have to go and have a sleep.”

It was his brother Frank who had encouraged Jim to do a few songs at the end of the Q&A.

JL: “You’d see these old singers like Frank Sinatra when they’re past it and their voice just cracks up and I said I can’t do that. And then I got this idea of knocking a few backing tracks up and I did some vocals to see what it sounded like. But I only did four tracks and then I thought hang on I could play along. And in this day and age that was my justification. I would have loved to have had the same line-up as the Robin in 2002 – just a drummer and bass player and really thrash it out. But that whole complicated thing with equipment for four songs meant we wouldn’t have even got the balance sorted out.”

Playing along to backing tapes it may have been but that didn’t dampen the outpouring of emotion from fans at the event, seeing Jim Lea playing on stage again, fifteen years after his one and only solo gig and some thirty-four years after Slade’s final UK tour. Jim only became aware of just how emotional the event had been for the audience, however, when his brother finally caught up with Jim and the rest of the family some time later that day.

JL: “All the family went for dinner and my brother was an hour late and we were all starving. Well he said he stayed ’til the end. Nobody wanted to go. People were crying. And the boss of the club came over and my brother asked him why is everybody crying? Why won’t they go? And as the boss was walking towards him he saw that he was crying as well!”

While he is thoroughly bemused at the emotional audience reaction it has clearly made him ponder on how much he enjoyed playing on stage.

JL: “I wish I could find some way of getting on stage again. That would be really good. But you know I was very tired when I played the Robin in November.”

Coz I Luv You

From recent ventures we then delve back into the early days. I mention that he was one of the first to bring the electric violin into a pop-rock setting. Given that this was around the same time the folk rock thing going on I ask if he was conscious of what people like Dave Swarbrick were doing with Fairport Convention around the same time as Jim was putting a violin solo on Coz I Luv You.

JL: “Well I used to play the violin on stage. Really it was the band trying to stand out and I think it was about the end of the sixties and you are quite right about Fairport Convention and Dave Swarbrick and there was East of Eden and Dave Arbus. And that guy played on The Who’s Baba O’Riley on the Who’s Next album. In the studio Pete Townsend came walking through. I was there messing about with my violin and he said here mate can I look at your violin. And I said I’m not giving it to you. You’ll smash it up. No mate that’s just stuff on stage. I don’t do any of that. Can I have a look? I want to play a violin. And the next thing I know it’s on Baba O’Riley with Dave Arbus playing. But with Coz I Luv You we’d had Get Down And Get With It as our first hit and it was about coming up with the next one. Because Get Down And Get With It was an everybody-join-in type thing I thought to write something like that is just going to be a cop-out. So I thought about bridging the fact that we were going to make a pop single with trying to make it a bit gritty as well. So I came up with (sings melody) and I got my acoustic guitar and I went over to Nod’s.

I’d never written with Nod before and really it was like trying to get the singer on board so it’s kind of political in case it was a ‘well I don’t want to do anything with a violin’. That’s what could have happened but it didn’t. And we worked on the ‘I just like the things you do’ bit and obviously I knew that this was going to be really big. And it was and it got to number one within three weeks. And it’s only recently where people have said I saw Jim Lea from Slade with an electric violin playing on Top Of The Pops and that’s why I started playing violin. And you know it’s really edifying to think that you might have set some trail for something that happens in the future.”

While Jim is not exactly comfortable with his former band’s often outlandish image, there is clearly pride at what the four of them achieved together back in the day.

JL: “And the other thing with the band was because of our sort of wacky image which we kept going on with for too long. Well not we but Dave did. You know look at Quo back when they did Ice In The Sun and they changed the way they looked to do a different thing. Same as the Beatles changed but you know that never happened with us. But there was something from the wacky side of it and because we were having hit singles.

Back then if you were having hit singles you were a pop band and we weren’t a pop band. I mean we could always blow off anybody we were playing with. OK there wasn’t the musical virtuosity in the band but it was a fantastic band. And together – you can forget the recording and all that because you can always mess around with that and try to make it sound a bit more sort of credible – but there was something about the four of us playing when we were on stage. And we went to that big studio at Olympic. Get Down And Get With It was the first thing we ever recorded in that studio. And we always went to that studio because it was like doing a gig and we were comfortable with that because we were really bloody good. And I look at people now and you know big names and so on and they all came out to watch us… But we were something special right from the first few notes we ever played.”

Jim’s story?

With so many insights we then get on to the topic of autobiographies. We’ve seen tomes from all the other three members of Slade but I put it to Jim that many Slade fans would say that the most fascinating and revealing of all would be a Jim Lea autobiography.

JL: (Laughs) “At times I thought about doing it. In fact, I was probably the first one to think about doing it. That was back in post-Reading days. But there seemed to be a reaction that I shouldn’t do that and that if there was going to be any book it should be a Slade book, not me. So I just left it and then Nod did one – which I’ve never looked at and Don did one which I’ve never read either but it’s supposed to be very good I’ve heard. The thing is I’d want to write it myself rather than sitting down with someone with a tape machine. You’d have to be able to taste it and smell it. If I’m talking about the smoke-filled rooms you’d have to be able to visualise from the words what that was like. The way it used to hang in the air in these grey layers.”

Jim also emphasises that his life hasn’t just been about music, particularly in the post-Slade years.

JL: “My musical career has been punctuated by having to look after my father to save my mother because he was driving my mother mad. He’d got dementia and then there were two or three years with my (older) brother - the same thing happened and I was on care duty for both. So that’s six years gone and now my mum herself is housebound. I’ve just come from her now and I’ve always thought being of service to others is a big thing to do in life. It’s hard work because you have to give up your own wishes and your own life. You have to hand over what you want to do in order to help the person that needs the help. So being of service, it’s a big thing. So with my mother, as well it’s probably seven years gone. She became ill about a year ago and so put it all together, you’ve got a whole chunk of life that’s nothing to do with music.”

For all of his musical legacy it’s clear that family is very important to Jim and you get the idea that there is no way he would not have been there for those who needed him most. But it’s also clear that Jim Lea still has something to contribute musically and is enthusiastic about his latest EP. He doesn’t even baulk at the round of promotional interviews that need to be done these days as long as, given his current health, there are not too many of them.

“I’m alright with you today, Darren, because I’ve only got you today – but the other day I had fifteen!”

Lost in Space EP released on 22nd June 2018 by Wienerworld


Lost In Space: Jim Lea Talks

3 July 2018 Eoghan Lyng
See the interview online here

Jim Lea

Legendary Slade bassist and co-writer chats with We Are Cult about his first release in over a decade and his life in music.

“We we had two weeks to put together the songs, now people have two or three years to record an album… I was the musician, but there were no virtuosos in the band. But there weren’t in the Beatles or Stones either, we were just a great band!”.

“I watched Baby Driver and when the Queen stuff came in, I got quite misty eyed thinking about Freddie,” Jim Lea reflects. “I texted Brian May’s P.A. to tell him. I knew all of them in Queen, even before they were famous. John Deacon was always a funny one, I liked him a lot, very dry sense of humour, I don’t see him much anymore obviously. Roger was desperate to be the singer, but he was stuck behind the drums, just as Fred was behind the piano, but they did alright. My wife and I had them over for dinner, we were all good friends. My son brought me to the Queen + Adam Lambert show, terrific show. I had a conversation with Brian about continuing, he said that he and Roger still want to carry on and people want to hear the songs, so give it to them. A bit like Slade, two of the band continued on, you take your cards, I guess”.

Jim Lea is speaking reflectively, as he has every right to have. As one quarter of Slade and one half of Slade’s writing team, Lea watched the highs of seventies rock, flying and journeying with a glam rock band that bit more accessible than T-Rex and that bit more grounded than David Bowie. Although Oasis were heralded as the Beatles of the nineties, anthems Hello, Don’t Look Back In Anger and Some Might Say signalled more to the ballast-rock tunes heralded by Slade, an assortment of fiery riffs, quips and efficaciously misspelled single titles (Coz I Love You, Look Wot You Dun, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel The Noize, the last an Oasis live staple). Guitarists Noddy Holder and Dave Hill embraced the live circuit with live gregariousness and excitability in performance, while Lea (who shared a musical compatibility with Paul McCartney for bass guitar and piano) appeared with a more methodical stance on stage.

“I gave an interview once where I talked about being the George Harrison type” Lea explains. “What I meant by that was that he was more reserved in interviews, Paul is a very good P.R. guy, John had a troubled childhood and deflected by being funny and Ringo, the guy who was in the background, was by far the most popular member in America during Beatlemania. But George could make himself known. There’s that funny story where they’ve just got a two single deal with George Martin and George Harrison says “well, I don’t like your tie”. Liverpool humour that could have cost the band, but very funny! So, that was a bit like me, I guess, but I was very vocal in the band. I had to be – I joined when I wasn’t fully grown and the bass was the same size as me!”

“I always say Noddy put the laddishness in the songs, songs like Cum On Feel The Noize or even on the Far Far Away lyrics, I have the wandered lowly parts “I’ve seen the yellow lights go down the Mississippi/I’ve seen the bridges of the world and they’re for real” and Nod goes “the kids won’t know that”, so he sings “I’ve had a red light off-the-wrist”. His lyrics, my lyrics”.

Music has been a part of Lea all his life. He was a member of the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra in the sixties and though gifted as an artist as well, opted to explore music as a career, joining an early incarnation of Slade when he was sixteen. Lea’s a multi-instrumentalist, the most musically able member of Slade, delving from instruments as diverse as guitar, violin, piano, synthesisers and accordion with Slade in studio- little wonder he was Noddy Holder’s primary musical collaborator!

“I gave a Q and A recently where I was asked about my favourite song. I hadn’t thought of it but I replied How Does It Feel? which was a tune I wrote when I was thirteen, so it must be downhill from here. It was a sold out gig, but a silent one, so I had to laugh at myself. I had the tune and the “How does it feel” and the “Do you know, know, know what it’s like, to be searchin’ in your own time?” bits. The charts were starting to sound like Slade, so we changed. Dave Puttnam suggested we write a theme for a film, and I had the idea already.”

“I always say Noddy put the laddishness in the songs, songs like Cum On Feel The Noize or even on the Far Far Away lyrics, I have the wandered lowly parts “I’ve seen the yellow lights go down the Mississippi/I’ve seen the bridges of the world and they’re for real” and Nod goes “the kids won’t know that”, so he sings “I’ve had a red light off-the-wrist”. His lyrics, my lyrics. I gave an interview a few years ago about the Slayed? Album [Slade’s best regarded album] and I told him we had two weeks to put together the songs, now people have two or three years to record an album. We didn’t do Wembley gigs in those days- we might have done the Wolverhampton cinema and things like that. I was the musician, but there were no virtuosos in the band. But there weren’t in the Beatles or Stones either, we were just a great band!”.

Music remains an integral part of Lea’s trajectory. He released Therapy, a fully-fledged solo album in 2007 (re-released on vinyl in 2016) and these days he’s promoting his latest six song E.P. Lost In Space. It may sound like an extra-terrestrial journey, but in reality it is a focused and finessed rock record, thumping in riff, rocking in bite. What in the World is political in subtext and Megadrive punchy and punky in power pop panache, both likely to appeal to a rocking European audience who amass to the many rock circuits around the continent.

“This E.P. had to be put together quickly, my brother suggested it for this year. As you know, I’ve been sick with cancer, so I had to go to through my archive with pre-cancer vocals. I put together the backing tracks quickly, my brother told me to have them by next Monday or something! Talk about lack of pressure, eh?”

“I never stopped writing, even when the band stopped and I “disappeared”. It’s a lot more pleasurable now when there isn’t so much pressure like the band. Ken Scott told me that John Lennon used to say there was so much pressure on the Beatles to write A-sides, B-sides and album tracks. This E.P. had to be put together quickly, my brother suggested it for this year.

As you know, I’ve been sick with cancer, so I had to go to through my archive with pre-cancer vocals. I put together the backing tracks quickly, my brother told me to have them by next Monday or something! Talk about lack of pressure, eh? He used to head Trojan Records. I didn’t have time to ask a drummer, so I put it down, all very DIY. People are always like woah, but lots of people can put albums together. I play all the guitar, I used to listen to Clapton in The Yardbirds and Jimi Hendrix was my hero. Chas Chandler was Slade’s manager, and he knew Jimi and I would have played with him, even Noel Redding told me Jimi would have loved you! When I played at the Robin gig in 2002, everyone said I was playing like Hendrix.So, yes, I play everything on the E.P.”

Pure Power stomps with heavy metal glory (complete with romping drums and throbbing bass) and Going Back To The Birmingham, Midlands in title, is more California surf in feel than Black Sabbath. They’re rocking tracks. It’s not all rock n roll though. The title track is an esoteric pop piece of existential unfulfillment, complete with McCartney/Wings keyboard intro and soaring string arrangements tastefully throwing back to the 45’s that blissfully balladeered with disco dexterities and hopeful Beach Boy harmonies. It’s a track Lea is very proud of.

“Freddie Mercury was a bit “lost in space”, he didn’t have friends as such, he thought very highly of me, and therefore got more squirmish around me, not less. I miss him.”

“I was writing about a mate and then of course people told me it’s about me” Lea laughs. “Lost in Space, I can be lost in thought, friends of mine will ask me in the evening “where are you, Jim?” In 2010, Magnum asked me to play with them and my dad was ill, so the session was constantly deferred. On the day of the session, it was snowing and one of the engineers thought I wouldn’t come in. The manager told her “Jim won’t even know it’s snowing” [laughs]. But it’s true. Freddie Mercury was a bit “lost in space”, he didn’t have friends as such, he thought very highly of me, and therefore got more squirmish around me, not less. I miss him.

I play the violin, if you don’t play four hours a day, you’ll be crap. I haven’t been practicing, but the part’s alright. I mean, listen to some of the great Jewish violin players-amazing! I want to keep it human, so many songs these days are infantilised by punching through computers, loses the humanity”.

Lea performed boots n braces a song-set following a Q and A at the Robin on 5 November 2017. It gathered rave reactions from audience members, garnering a DVD release as “‘An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2’, currently sold through his personal website. It stands as one of the few solo gigs Lea has performed since leaving Slade in the nineties. “I would love to do more gigs, but my health won’t allow me. It tires me, I have to go to the gym to get back testosterone. I tried practicing for the gig, and it sounded terrible. I don’t know if I’ll sing again, but I may well do. So, I put together some backing tracks to play along to. It was said on the website “do not expect Jim Lea to play”, so there was great surprise when I did my four songs.

It was very highly charged and emotional. I was told it was the second coming, because it’s only the second solo gig I did after Slade broke up. It was also done for charity, which was an added bonus. People said it was the most emotionally charged Q and A they’ve seen. A little lady was trampled on the way out, sadly, while my brother took ages to meet us because of the queues. People ask me is this E.P. the last one, and I say there’ll be more in the foreseeable future. It’ll probably sound completely different to the E.P., but I can’t go into details right now”.

Jim Lea fans have much to expect.


❉ ‘Lost in Space’ – EP by Jim Lea (Wienerworld) was released 22nd Jun 2018, RRP £8.99.

❉ ‘An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2’ DVD was released on 2nd July 2017 and you can order your copy from his website.


Slade’s Jim Lea tells his own cancer story

By Kirsten Rawlins | Wolverhampton | Music | Published: 08.07.2018

Slade icon Jim Lea insists he simply ‘carried on’ when he discovered he had cancer – adding ‘I’ve not battled with anything; I was just normal’.

Jim Lea
Jim Lea

The bassist and songwriter, who was born in Wolverhampton, was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 2014.

And though the inspirational star admits the treatment has affected his voice, physical appearance and energy levels, he insists that such a diagnosis leaves no option but to ‘carry on and take what’s coming’.

“If things go wrong, we’ve all got to get on the bus at some point. It’s just a matter of when,” said Jim. “I didn’t really take a lot of notice of the cancer.

“You hear all these words like ‘remission’ and ‘battling with cancer’... I’ve not battled with anything; I was just normal. They warned it could travel to my bones, so I’ve been lucky in that sense. The cancer treatment affects my voice all the time.

“That’s what happens when they remove the testosterone – and it takes a whole range of times to come back again. But I don’t think it will for me.

Jim Lea
Jim, left, with the Black Country superstars in their 70s heydays

“They’ve said it’s best to exercise to get it to come back. I’ve been left with muscles, but no power. I’ve got what looks like a beer belly, but I don’t drink. My legs have gotten fat."

“They told me all these things would happen, and it started just two weeks after the treatment. It also left me very, very tired.” Since Slade released the band’s last single Universe in 1992, which was written and produced by Jim, the members have had little contact with one another as a group.

The 69-year-old artist, who co-wrote the majority of Slade’s catalogue of hits, says he does not ‘feel any real loss’ over the lack of communication. “I sometimes bump into Dave or Don. But Don lives in Sweden, so it’s rare I get to see him,” added Jim. "When we met up as a band it was not good. There was a bit of screaming and shouting. In the end, we just had to talk about other things about business. But there you go. “To be honest, I can’t think of any band that didn’t happen to in the end.”

Jim’s latest solo EP Lost In Space went on sale on June 22 – his first mini album release in more than 10 years.
For more or to buy the record, see jimleamusic.com


Interview with writer, musician and British rock legend, Jim Lea [Slade]
Interview with Jim Lea by Adrian Hextall for myglobalmind.com

James Whild “Jim” Lea (born 14 June 1949) is an English musician, most notable for playing bass guitar, keyboards, piano, violin, guitar, and singing backing vocals in Slade from their inception until 1992, and for co-writing most of their songs.We caught up with Jim to talk about the release of a new 6 track e.p. called Lost in Space. It’s a great collection of music that brings to mind multiple musical genres from straight forward pop music to the glam rock sound both T.Rex and Slade were known for in their heyday. For fans of Jim’s music with Slade, this is a must have. We arrange to speak via phone on a cool summer morning only for me to be unable to log on, Jim to call and me miss him before he’s left me a voicemail.  Thankfully a few minutes later he calls back only for me to discover that the slightly late kick off has inspired him;

JWL: I just wrote a song whilst waiting to speak to you [laughs] I wrote a song about writing a song.

AH: I like that. Well, there you go. Hopefully I’ve managed to inspire you if only for the last ten minutes.

JWL: You did inspire me, yeah.

AH: What’s likely to happen to it? Do you just do that or do you manage to then turn to something you’ll put together in the studio?

JWL: No, no. Everything is used. It’s always used. It’s not yet become, you know a finished song. But obviously I’ve just got the idea of what it’s going to be at so there you go.

AH: Fantastic. Fantastic. Are you on a bit of a creative spurt at the moment? ‘Cause obviously this is the first collection of new material for quite a while, isn’t it?
JWL: Yes, well – I mean you’re saying new material. I mean, it’s quite funny ’cause there was a review recently on the Lost in Space EP and the guy said, I suppose Jim there has just come up with his while sitting in his armchair having a cup of tea. I think he thinks he knows what I’ve been up to for the last 16 years, but in fact I permanently write. So whatever is going- just like now, things just come on and the thing has been mostly difficult to find a local studio because they all tend to be booked up now for some reason. But then years ago it wasn’t like that, so that it’s a bit more difficult to put them down now.The e.p. is named after the opening track which you can tell is nothing like the other tracks.

AH: Well that was going to be my point actually. You actually throw a curve ball on the very first track, don’t you?

JWL: Yeah.

AH: It’s a mellow start to a fairly rock sounding e.p. the rest of the content really ups the ante. What made you decide to pull it all together?
JWL: Well, I did a question and answer thing on November the 5th last year which was really something else. It was not anything that anybody expected, it was sold out – the audience were extremely passionate, very emotional. We gave all the money we raised that night to charity. We raised about eight grand in just in about three hours.I didn’t charge, nobody charged, the club didn’t charge. It was the Robin Hood RNB Club in Bilston, so all the money, everything went to charity but among the things the ideas that came up was to have a picture with me for a fiver. Well, there was a queue all around the club which nobody expected. We thought it’d be like 20 people, you know, who on earth would want to do that? But the queue went all around the club.

People who were coming just to get in, they actually – they couldn’t get in the club because the queue for the selfie was too big.Now that was a really strange thing to do but when my brother Frank said to me for this Q and A, he said, “You’ve got to play at the end, James.” And I said, “I’m not going to play,” and I said please tell them, “If we’re expecting Jim to play, do not buy a ticket,” I haven’t got the energy in me anymore. But, at the last minute, I made some backing track and this is where the idea for the EP came from. I just shoved them together and I did Cum On Feel The Noize, We’ll Bring The House Down, and a couple of others. It’s all I could manage and then, then I went off then afterwards my brother said, you know what James? He said, “What about doing an EP? The record company I’ve been talking to while the Q and A was on is interested.”And I said, “Well, judging by the reaction here. I think I’d better do a bit of Rock and Roll,”So that’s where it came from the Q and A, here’s what I’m finding. I do one thing then that points the way to something else, like I put the phone down for – ’cause you weren’t there and I go on the piano and I’m writing a pop song. So it’s strange how life one thing just joins onto another these days.

With the idea for the e.p. there, we looked through some material that I had because we get – I said to my brother, “When would you want that? If we’re going to do this. When would I need to finish it all?” He said;“Next Monday,”After the shock wore off….  I mean I can’t sing now, whether my voice will ever come back, I don’t know. But as soon as I start to sing, it just goes all over the shop.  But I’d got these tracks, I’ve got loads of tracks so I just picked these out, just randomly, I didn’t even think about it. There was no time to think and so Lost in Space just seemed to be the commercial one and then the rest was more rock. You know you get up on stage and thrash it out.

The 6 tracks on the e.p are: 
Lost In Space, What In The World, Megadrive, Pure Power, Going Back To Birmingham, Through The Fire

Jim Lea

There was one of the tracks which is Going Back to Birmingham which I played, which I wrote for the Robin Hood – I only did one gig on my own, as a solo gig in my life. And that was in the Robin 2 in Bilston.

AH: Oh yeah.

JWL: In 2002. There’s a DVD out of some of that, some fan footage which we’re putting out. Yeah, and they do this song Going back to Birmingham. So there’s no record of it, I just wrote it and showed the guys I was playing with. There’s only two guys, have you seen that DVD? [ You can find it here: ]

AH: Ah no, it was more a case of I noted, you’d got it on your discography and I did wonder where that had originated from. So that was the 2002 show that you did. 
JWL: Yeah, and so we had some fan footage and there was you know, I thought people should see this. I know its fan footage but – and we did it just – that’s what the Q and A was about, launching that. We raised a lot of money for charity that was the idea. No more than that, but then somebody reviewed the DVD and this guy has reviewed the Therapy [Jim’s solo album from 2007] album so that once again pointed the way for doing the EP.  During the Q and A, I played along to what I’d recorded, I actually played the guitar for real and sang along. But believe it or not, the fans, the people that were there were all crying. I thought, “Is it that bad?” and you know, and–

AH: It’s that opportunity for them to see something that they probably thought was never possible.
JWL: Yeah, never going to happen and I’ve done a few interviews, a few of the people who’ve interviewed me have said, “Yeah, we were all crying,” I said, “We were all crying? Were you there?” they said, “Yeah.” I said, “Always crying?” A few of the blokes you know, “What? Everybody was crying?” When you walked on everybody was crying. And I don’t why it was sort of a risen from the dead type thing, but I’m trying to get over this, the treatment from the damn thing which has just fogged me out completely–

In 2014, Lea was diagnosed with – and treated for – prostate cancer, which he revealed publicly the following year.AH: I’m not surprised.
JWL: I have to get my testosterone back, which is not easy to do. So I’m going to the gym but you know, it’s not happening I mean. I had an interview and I dropped to sleep before I got in the car to go to it. And my wife came, said, “What? You’re supposed to in the car going to the interview?” So that’s how it affected me really. You know I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping.

AH: Yeah. And just on that, I mean is it all going in the right direction? 
JWL: Yeah, yeah. I was very sanguine about the whole thing. I didn’t freak out and people use this word remission. I really don’t know what that is, I’ve never heard that word mentioned. I just thought, well I’ve got it , I’ll just do the treatment and then just carry on. I didn’t – I wasn’t flustered at all.

AH: That’s a very positive approach isn’t it? I mean if it doesn’t, if you don’t let it get to you. I mean your body’s natural defense mechanisms if in your mind you’re sort of trying to fight it. It’s got to be a good thing.

JWL: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and people use that you know they all battling cancer and all this. I didn’t battle cancer but I did continue going to gym on a regular basis while I was all the way into the treatment. But strangely enough when I came off the treatment after three years where they remove your testosterone, I got a lot worse and I really was dragging myself around. I’m hoping that that’s going to disappear and that – whether how I ever get back to normal and put weight on. I’ve got a bit of a tubby belly now and I’ve a bum. I had legs before the treatment that females would have been jealous of, they often used to say, you’re out in the summer. “Oh your legs are any woman’s dream. My wife would love that……” [laughs] The statue of David you know, that sort of thing, they’re not like that anymore within two weeks of taking that treatment. Oh my God, I looked at and I said to my wife, “They beat off my legs.”

AH: All that hard work you’d put in and it’s disappeared so quickly.
JWL: So this treatment, it’s just you know.. I got some fat around on my umbilical, just sort of dropped down my legs. Christ, I have legs that joined together at the top.

AH: It affects people in so many different ways. Some will look so debilitated by the whole thing and shadow of their former selves and whatever, but it sounds like you’ve approached it with totally the right sort of mental attitude.
JWL: Yeah, well. I didn’t really take it as, I sort of – when I went to the doctors I thought there’s something wrong here. It’s liable to be prostate cancer and then they did the test. The score was through the roof. It’s the scale when you’re okay. If you’re over four, you’re in trouble. Mine was in the sort of, round the 60 or something like that. It was high risk but then, when they did the biopsy and they told me. I just said, “Fancy that.” Because I did 20 years of psychotherapy I can turn myself inside out and I became a completely different person. It became a lot more easy with who and what I am and taking my place in the scheme of things. 

AH: I would imagine there’s a lot of musicians in the world that could do with that approach that you have taken there in terms of dealing with yourself as an artist and a musician and just being comfortable with whatever place you are at in your musical career. Because it’s got highs, lows, dips, troughs, everything, hasn’t it? It’s never a straight life as a musician.
JWL: No, no. I don’t think life in itself is ever straight forward and that would be really boring if you just carried on the same, wouldn’t it?

AH: Oh goodness yes. Yeah, you end up in the rat race like me then, doing the same thing day in and day out. Same train, same suit, same office, same seat.

JWL: What do we need to do that for? And planes, I had enough of that when I was young. So I became anti-travel, so and because I’m at peace with myself and there is a danger of that becoming boring, but anyway the thing is by doing this music thing which came about because my brother. He went to this little record company called Wienerworld and they listened to a couple of tracks. They said, “Oh, this is good,” Now when Therapy came out some 10 years ago. It sold for about 8 and a half years and then finally dwindled. I asked the guy at the label, I said, “So, who else has had this sort of phenomenon? Where we sell for years.” He said, “We’ve never seen it before, he said, “Well, you know I think we’re still finding out about that album.” And then we put the Robin Hood mix off the sound desk with it and reissued it.

Jim Lea

And the guy I mentioned earlier, just wrote this review and it was the most fantastic review I’ve ever seen of anything in my life. And he ended up by saying, “This gig must have been the greatest thing that happened to Wolverhampton ever since Billy Wright was captain of the England squad. Love it,”  So you can imagine what the rest said?

AH: Oh goodness yes. And I mean for you to say that as well in terms of the best review you’ve ever read. The output that you’d got with Slade and the like over the years. The number of singles that did so well. You must have seen a thousand positive reviews if not more, so for this one to really resonate. It must have been something.
JWL: With the Slade ones, because obviously we were top of the pile and there were some people out there that would have knock at us. But stuff like this was 100% and daubed with wonderfulness. I never expected that, so I said to my brother, “Why don’t we print up some more copies and try, just get a broader audience for it?” And he said, “Well, we can do that if you want.” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “I’d love to,” and then came the idea of the EP out of the question and answer at the Robin Hood.At the Q n A, there people were coming up saying, “Hello, my name Maria, I come from Moscow. Hello, my name is so and so. I’m from Switzerland, and all this.”

AH: And these guys had all flown over specially for that?
JWL: Yeah, yeah and I was literally almost crushed to death. Unbelievable, unbelievable. And my granddaughter, she saw it all going and she said, “Gosh,” she said, “I would have loved to have had that done to me.” I said, “No, it’s quite scary!” They’re all pushing and you can’t breathe, they’re trying to get a bit of you. You know they all want something writing, you know pictures and so on. 

AH: Quite overwhelming I would imagine.
JWL: Yes, yes. I never liked that back in the day and but yeah, but for Slade there was always the crowds and of course the journalists that were around at the time would have been probably say the Melody Maker or something like that, which of course doesn’t exist now. But can you imagine it?  When the band stopped, I never stopped writing. It just gets – it’s a bug that gets you and if you don’t do it, there’s something missing in your life. When it came to getting the tracks for the Lost in Space EP, it took me ages to go through it all. But I just had a quick listen to each single and then we said it was going to be Rock and Roll. I added some bits to it and it was re-mastered.

Jim Lea

But, when you’re a teenager, looking back at it all, you’re just getting into like you want something that nobody else knows about. So, it started off The Shadows and that’s what got me playing and then, Beatles came along then, I didn’t like girls screaming at bands– get rid of that you know like, as bands came along they’re screaming. The band that I joined which was to become Slade– they’re called The In-Betweens, there were five in the band, Nod wasn’t in the band. The bass player, he was a really good bass player, left. I mean, they had a great sound and they had a great presence on stage and then the singer, he was really good, he left and we got Nod, they knew Nod and so, he came in.And then, once the singer left we just left to his voice really and then we all just sort of, with Nod singing, Dave and myself were vocalists in the background, you know?

AH: Around that time you were getting a lot of interest from some big names? You as a musician rather than just Slade the band. 
JWL: That’s it, yeah– Eric Clapton. So, yeah and he said, “We have worked together before,” you know? I said, “We’ve never played with you guys.” He said, “No, no,” he said, “Many years ago at the beginning of Cream.” He said, “We all came out to look at you,” he said, “We all came to watch you,” and I said, “Oh, yeah.” He said, “Even Jack came out.” Jack, you know, he’s got a big ego, he said, “He came out to have a look as well.” He said, “We thought the band looked great.” He said, “We thought you were great,” and he said, “The way you played the bass,” he said, “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” He said you know, “Even Jack was going to want you.” 

AH: To get that sort of commentary from Jack Bruce and also Eric Clapton I believe? That’s high praise, isn’t it?JWL: Yeah, I mean I don’t know whether Eric would remember. He wanted me to go around his house with a guitar. I was asked many times to go and do things with other people, big– really big names as big as you can get really and the people like The Zombies and even Rod Argent and Russ Ballard, a great songwriter Russ Ballard, and they talk in really reverential terms about when they saw Slade and about the way I played. This is pre-hits.And then, who else? Oh, yeah– Noel Redding, do you know about Jimi Hendrix connection?

AH: A little but this is fascinating so please.. go on.
JWL: Noel had come down with drummer Mitch Mitchell and had seen us play and Noel was saying, “It was fantastic, absolutely fantastic.” And “Bloody hell you know, I can’t compete with this,” And I said to him, “What are you talking about?” I said, “You’re the bloody Jimi Hendrix Experience. What are you talking about?” And “You’re worldwide famous you know, and respected and revered,” and Noel said, “No, no,” he said, “We’ll be humiliated.” I said, “Humiliated?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “We weren’t that good.” He said, “The other band was fantastic, he said it was you.” I [Noel] said to Mitch, I said, “Fucking listen, if Jimi sees this bloke I’m out of a fucking job.” So, what I’m saying is over the years this is what’s happened then you bump in to your heroes and they tell you great things about yourself, you know?That you didn’t think there’s a lot more respect that I have there than I thought we had and I thought that I had. I’m treated really people in a revered way which I never knew anything about until I started sort of getting after a bit old, you know?

AH: Yeah. Presumably, the buzz around this– has it caught you by surprise as well that you’ve had so many people obviously wanted to review it, wanted to talk to you about it. Did you anticipate you just sort of excitement?
JWL: No, I didn’t think anybody would be interested? 

AH: It’s your music I’m listening to on all of those tracks and that’s what sticks in the mind.

JWL: Yeah, I would always do the what they call the, “The song.” I always say the music came first but then, I would always have lyrics as well. And then looking back on it I mean, Nod (Noddy Holder) really put this sort of, laddishness into it, a bit cheeky with the lyrics.That’s what it’s all about. Now of course people say to me you know, “Jim, where are you? What you’re doing? What you’re thinking?” I can be in a roomful of people and we’re all talking about the same thing. I’ll be no good in X-Factor or something like that to be sitting there and I’d just would be off in my own world. I just live in another world altogether.

AH: So, that point where the individual’s finished their little piece and you’re supposed to provide a commentary from the judges chair and you’re like, “Oh, are you done? Sorry, I missed that.” Yeah.
JWL: I’d be ‘lost in space’, yeah!

AH: Very good. Very good.

LOST IN SPACE can be purchased here
and here

Jim Lea 

And I thought you might like to know – the Jim Lea interview
Posted on July 13, 2018 by   View online here
Jim Lea, Slade
Piano Forte: Jim Lea, still the quiet one, but happy to talk over old, new, borrowed and blue times.

It’s not, erm, everyday you get to talk to a childhood hero, but Jim Lea definitely falls into that category for me.

I was barely four when his band scored the first of six UK No.1 singles with ‘Coz I Luv You’ in late 1971, but my older brother was soon blasting lots of Slade out in our bedroom. What’s more, teen magazine coverage and Top of the Pops appearances ensured the megaphone-voiced guitarist Noddy Holder, lead guitarist/garish clothes-horse Dave Hill, gum-chewing drumming legend Don Powell, and multi-talented bass player/ violinist/ pianist Jim were as good as housemates to me.

The latter was always deemed the best musician, but also the quiet one. And that never changed. He never looked to stand out, and I guess that was relatively easy when Messrs. Hill and Holder shared the same stage. In fact, that’s why he chose to play bass rather than guitar, in a bid to just get on with it and put the music first. So I was mightily surprised when word reached me that he was up for an interview, plugging new EP, ‘Lost in Space’.

That release comes barely eight months after a triumphant return to Bilston’s Robin 2 in the heart of the band’s old Black Country heartland, Jim starring in an emotional Q&A session at the R&B club where he also staged a rare live appearance in 2002, a decade after the Lea-Holder songwriting team finally called time on the band that made their name.

What’s more, we ended up on the phone nearly an hour, Wolverhampton-born Jim proving to be one of my most engaging and definitely entertaining interviewees over the years.

It had been a shaky start, mind, my ice-breaking opening question met with a jocular response by this talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Perhaps it was just early nerves, but he quickly homed in on a rather awkward, ‘Where do I find you today, Jim?’ In essence, I might as well have said, ‘Hi Jim, when are you, Nod, Dave and Don getting back together again?’

He was parked up outside his gym – ‘just down the road ‘ from his rural South Staffordshire base – after a work-out, part of his on-going mission to regain full fitness after treatment for prostate cancer, having been diagnosed in 2014. And his energy levels appear to be on their way up again, Jim throwing my initial enquiry back with exaggerated quaintness, asking, ‘Where do I find you, kind sir?’ He was soon rolling though. And rocking.

Jim Lea, Slade

“I just ate a couple of boiled eggs with spinach, and there’s an article I’m reading about creepy-crawlies, how without them we wouldn’t exist. So there you are, that’s how you find me, Malcolm!”

“I’ve got to get my testosterone back, so have to come to the gym, push myself to the limit so I don’t keep falling asleep all the time.”

Does music help you on the path towards recovery?

“Music? Well, not really. That’s just something that’s been around the whole of my life. It’s just there, you know. Especially songwriting. Once you’ve realised you can do it, I don’t think you can really stop. It’s essential.”

For some older musicians – Jim recently turned 69 – live performance helps keep them young, I suggest. But he’s – how can I put this? – hardly been a gig regular since quitting Slade.

“Ha ha! Well, the thing is, Malcolm, I don’t know how much you know about me, but I was always very low-key in the band, but did do one gig in 2002 that I can’t get away from, at the Robin Hood R’n’B club in Bilston.”

I butt in there and tell him I have my copy of the CD of that performance in front of me, part of a rather splendid gatefold version of his defining 2009 album, Therapy, billed under his Sunday name, James Whild Lea. And there’s a lot of energy on that recording, I suggest.

“I only ever played with energy. I was always loud .,.. and proud. But that gig – they still get phone calls at the club 16 years later, seeing if I’m coming back.”

Jim Lea, Slade

You did go back for a recent Q&A session, didn’t you?

“Ah, you do know your stuff … yeah, I did. But that was a bit of a strange thing. I’d never done anything like that in my life. The only thing I’d done was stand up and talk to the crowd 16 years ago. Funny thing is that I’ve found some more footage, not great, but you can hear what I’m playing. At the end, I say to the audience, ‘I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been since Slade split. Well, it’s to get away from you lot! They then laugh, and I say, ‘You think I’m joking?’ So I said to the audience when I walked on this time, ‘Guess what? I said that 16 years ago and here I am again, talking to you lot again!”

Did you recognise some of the faces out there?

“Yeah, and I was mobbed on the way in and on the way out.”

They’d probably been queuing out in sleeping bags for 16 years, just in case you changed your mind and put on a repeat-performance.

“Ha ha! I tell you what, I wouldn’t be surprised with some of them. It’s amazing. They were about 30 deep. I was properly mobbed … more than I was in the days of the band. They were shoving things to sign in my face and all that. I had to get my arms in the air to sign anything, I was getting so squashed. They were from Moscow, Sweden … all over.”

Perhaps they got a flight over from Denmark with Don Powell.

“Ha! I didn’t see Don there.”

Jim Lea, Slade

Maybe he was hiding at the back, chewing gum in the 31st row.

“Yeah. Well, some of them had come from a long way away.”

Far, far away, to be precise (I didn’t add). When Slade finally split in 1992, after more than a quarter-century of sterling public service, Noddy Holder went on to an array of media engagements, from radio presenting to writing (notably 1999 autobiography Who’s Crazee Now) and TV cameos, including his memorable acting role as Mr Holder in cult ITV comedy drama The Grimleys (1997/2001), Coronation Street (2000), Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere (2004), and even Bob the Builder (2001). Listeners to Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe’s BBC radio shows also got to hear him a lot, and Nod’s occasionally out on the road talking about his illustrious career with the latter.

Meanwhile, Dave and Don, both previously interviewed on this site (see links at the end), have also written accounts of their story (Dave with So Here It Is last year and Don with Look Wot I Dun in 2013), still touring as Slade and remaining as busy to this day around the world, having been out there without Nod and Jim longer than they were with them. Yep, there’s a  staggering thought.

As for Jim, he seemed to just happily step back to the South Staffordshire countryside to write and record on his own, away from the spotlight. But there seems to have been a slight shift of late. Does he keep in touch with his old bandmates?

“We’ve all lost contact with one another, which is by the by, really. It’s okay for me though, because I‘ve always been writing and sticking things down on tape recorders or whatever was there at the time – computers and what-not. And I always play all my own instruments, so I’m self-supporting!”

What do you head for first when writing songs? Piano? Guitar?

“I used to write on the piano … but then I found it was much better to use some paper.”

I fell for that. But while he’s a joker, he’s also an amazing musican, first shining on violin in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra. Did that very different world provide a good grounding for him?

“To tell you the truth, with the violin playing, my Grandad was the leader of the orchestra at the Hippodrome in Wolverhampton, mainly in the variety days. He died a horrible death of throat cancer, and I was born nine months to the day after. Actually, I was a month late coming out – I must have been gripping on the womb walls. I was reluctant even then!

“Anyway, my Mum said to me when I was about nine, ‘Your grandmother and I have been wondering if you might want to play violin’. I wasn’t bothered really, but went along for lessons. and though I didn’t really like them, I kind of picked it up, and was later in the youth orchestra.

Jim Lea, Slade

“But I always felt I was a bit out of place there, listening to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and The Yardbirds – a bit of (Eric) Clapton. I was thinking, ‘How does he get his guitar to sound like a violin? Because he was really the first who came along in Britain who was able to bend strings to play the blues. I didn’t know anything about that. I was still at school. But I was talking to him about it at the Tommy premiere (1975) and told him I’d wanted to come down to The Marquee but was only a little kid and didn’t know how to get to London and find him, ask how he got his guitar to sound like a violin.

“He said, ‘Well, you should have come down, I would have shown you. You’re shy, like me, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not very forthcoming’. He then said, ‘Why don’t you come around and have a play?’ But I never did.”

Well I’m sure the offer’s still there.

“Erm … I don’t know, he seemed a very nice bloke. He said he was also shy and could understand me, and how Chas ( former Animals bass player Chas Chandler, the Slade and Jimi Hendrix Experience manager) had told him what I was like. But he said, ‘You’re writing all those songs and doing a great job of it’. That was wonderful, but I wanted to get away. I didn’t want to get dragged into anything. I didn’t know if there’d be any follow-up to that, but whoever you talk to …. I’ve blanked so many people! Big names, you know.”

Well, I doubt if anyone could properly take exception. At this point I tell Jim how another band I grew to love, The Undertones, also turned out to appreciate Slade and that glam-rock era. What’s more, like Slade they came over as boys-next-door, with no hint of pretentiousness, and a little wary of other musicians, occasionally turning down encores with others nosing around backstage. And that inspired another Jim anecdote.

“Yeah, it’s really strange, because the band I joined … when I was at school, I didn’t have any equipment, but I played in a little band, and …”

Was this Nick and the Axemen?

“Yeah, it was, then we changed our name to The Stalkers, and were really into stuff like The Yardbirds and that whole burgeoning scene with John Mayall at the forefront, and the Graham Bond Organisation with Jack Bruce, and I loved all that. But I left that behind and got into Dylan, then left that behind and went into Memphis Slim. When I was that sort of age, I was moody and a bit angry, wanting people to piss off and leave me alone. I wanted to find somebody who nobody had ever heard of, and Memphis Slim was my man. I wasn’t fully grown, and looked like a child, with rosy cheeks and a bass as big as me, and in the ’60s you couldn’t go into pubs if you were a child, and I couldn’t have got away with it. But I went to see a concert where the ’N Betweens were playing.”

Jim Lea, Slade

Fine Tuning: The pared-down ‘N Betweens in ’67.
From the left – Dave Hill, Don Powell, Jim Lea, Noddy Holder (Photo: http://www.donpowellofficial.com)

They were local heroes at the time, weren’t they?

“They were, yeah. They were really fantastic. And getting back to what you were saying, the backing sounded like The Undertones. I always felt when ‘Teenage Kicks’ came on the radio, it sounded like the early ‘N Betweens. It was really pushed forward … it’s difficult to explain, but it was exciting, and the sound was really great.”

Do you remember well your ‘N Betweens audition at the Blue Flame club (on premises which later housed Club Lafayette, less than half a mile from Wolves’ Molineux base) as a 16-year-old?

“Yes, I went along with no equipment, my bass in a polythene bag, and I was the last to be  auditioned.”

Did that add to your nerves, that pressure of being last up?

“Yeah, because unbeknown to me, when I walked in there was … they had this singer, then …”

Jim Lea, Slade

Was that Johnny Howells?

“Johnny Howells! Bloody hell, you have done your homework! He was a good singer and a really good harp player as well. They were doing all that sort of blues stuff, but it really didn’t sound like blues. It sounded very English, and this big, ‘Waahhhh!’”

Was that the Mighty Wah? I’m not sure. It sounded more like a big cat announcing himself, Jim getting into the part. And he’s still going.

“A bit like that, but a lot louder, y’know. But anyway, I walked into the Blue Flame Club and they were on stage and there was a guy who looked like a blond Mick Jagger, playing, and he was singing ‘My Girl’. And it sounded fantastic. So I was thinking, ‘Oh my God’. He went home, but unbeknown to me they’d told him he’d got the job. But then I walked up there. Don told me later, ‘We looked out there and said, ‘Is there anybody else out there?” Because when you’ve got the lights on stage, all you can see is the light and anyone right down the front. He was told, ‘There’s a little kid out there with a bass as big as him, in a polythene bag. And they agreed, ‘we’ll get him up and let him play a song, then we’ll send him home.’ Of course, they didn’t reckon with what they were going to get!”

Well, you clearly impressed.

“Yeah, well, Dave broke a string and Don said, ‘Hey mate, come over here.’ He’s got this quick wit and he said, ‘It says here you play the violin, is that right?’ I said yeah, and he said, ‘Do you play anything else?’ I said, ‘Well, a bit of piano and err ..’ and I just lied and said, ‘Oh, and the cello’, which I’d never even played. He said, ‘Ooh, cello as well?’ and I said, ‘Well, I didn’t get very far with that.’ And he said, ‘Did the spike keep sticking in your neck?’

“And I’m not kidding you, Malcolm. Imagine all the tension in me, and the nerves… whenever I tell people about this … do you know that wonderful thing when you get one of those big hour-glasses and just turn it upside down, with all the sand just coming through, going the opposite way to what it was? That’s exactly what I felt like when Don said that. It just calmed me.

“Then Dave said, ‘Hey mate, we’re just going to check out this string, and it’ll be you and me playing – quiet, no band. I wanna see if you’re bluffing, ‘cos you play really fast. But then, I wasn’t nervous at all, and just thought, ‘Bring it on, what you’ve got.’ And I think I was auditioning Dave rather than the other way around. I was playing nothing like a bass player, playing really fast, doing riffs, doing chords, doing drum parts, doing sax parts. You name it, I was doing it. But I got the job!”

I gather your Mum wasn’t so pleased at you turning down offered places at art college and the youth orchestra to join.

“Oh yeah, my Mum and my Gran didn’t like it at all, because I was really turning my back on the youth orchestra and anything like that. I got into loads of art schools. Big ones. But again, I was really nervous when the acceptances came through. I was just a little kid at those interviews, really out of my depth. But as the years went by, you’d meet all these people, in a bar somewhere, or having come to see Slade at a meet and greet. Someone said, ‘I saw you when you came to Hornsey Art College and we felt, ‘We’ve got to have this lad’. But that was a long way from home. They’d have around 200 applicants but only be taking around 20. And if you lived at a distance you’d have even less chance. So I said, ‘But you said at the time my work wasn’t any good. And he said, ‘It wasn’t that. It was just you – you were so different. We said we’ve got to have that lad here.’ And all the people I bumped into said the same thing. So I must have been scared, but must have come across in some esoteric way.”

Jim Lea, Slade

Glammed Up: Slade in their pomp. From the left – Dave Hill, Noddy Holder, Don Powell, Jim Lea.

How long did it take your Mum to forgive you? When did she finally realise you had a ‘proper’ job after all?

“Oh, I think about two years ago! I played her something I’d written, with me playing cello, double bass, and my Mum said, ‘That sounds great, James. Do you know, you could have done something with yourself.’ So does that answer your question?”

I think it does. And what age is your Mum now then?

“She’s 93. She’s had a lot of trouble with osteoporosis and became housebound earlier on this year, out of the blue. But I’m always down there. I looked after my Dad, and I looked after my elder brother, who died of dementia.”

I saw you’d been raising funds for the Dementia UK charity – which provides specialist dementia support for families through its Admiral Nurse service – through recent events, not least through sales of the limited-edition An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2 DVD.

“Well, my dad died of it and my older brother had vascular dementia, becoming difficult and violent with it. I think we’ve all been touched by it, but it’s the managing of it. Before they go into places where they can’t be managed anymore, it’s the controlling of it – giving them a life, walking around with them and all that. My Mum did it with my brother and I did it with my brother with her, because the rest of my family were all working.

“While we were on holiday, my Mother said to me, ‘James, you said you wanted to give to charity, and dementia is just sort of left somehow at the back of all these various charities. It’s a terrible thing and we’ve had two people in our family affected. Will you give them a thought?’ And I said, ‘Mum, you know what? You’re absolutely right.’ It’s a terrible thing, but the dementia charities are so glad when you give to them. And at the Robin Hood we raised just over eight grand by the time we’d finished … in just three hours.”

At this point Jim overhears my other half talking in the background and remarks on it, leading me to telling him that at 29 years together we’re still some way behind him and his beloved Louise. Is that right it’s now 45 years of married life for him?

“Erm, probably! You know a lot, Malcolm. More than me anyway. I’d have to work it out. The thing is that we got together in 1966 and didn’t even bother about the getting married bit, because we were an item, y’know … I liked her. And I was never a womaniser.”

I’m sure you were surrounded by temptation, with a lot of opportunities over the years.

“Yeah, but I was never interested. People always told me I was different, and there you are again, I suppose. I’ve been with my wife for 52 years, which must be a record in rock’n’roll terms. And the thing is, as time goes by, you change – you’re not the same people. We got together when we were 16 and 15.”

Jim Lea, Slade

Classic Cinema: Slade In Flame, the 1975 film soundtrack

Are you suggesting it’s like meeting a new partner every few years, but staying faithful?

“Yes, my wife and I are nothing like we were when we met. I went heavily in mid-life into finding out who or what I was. And when I came out the other end, I wasn’t the person I went searching for at all.

“Did you see that documentary, Elvis Presley: The Searcher (HBO, 2018)? They’re kind of saying Elvis was always searching. And I was always searching. But I didn’t know what I was searching for, and didn’t know I was morphing into what I am now, which is nothing like I was. I now know who and what I am. And it was well worth doing. And you can hear that on Therapy too.”

Now you’re courting a few interviews, you’re bound to get those inevitable questions about band reunions, so I best not disappoint you now and miss that one out. So Jim (I drag my question out for full effect), when are you going to get The Dummies back together again?

For a short while, there’s silence at the end of the line, followed by a real belly laugh.

”That was a bit of a curveball, Malc! Ha!”

He soon composes himself again though.

“Dave Clarke, when he set this interview up, texted me and told me, ‘Malcolm will calm you on your mobile.’ So I texted back and asked, ‘Do I need calming?’ He said, ‘That’s predictive texting for you’, and I said, ‘Yeah, tell me about it!’ But that was a real curveball, and one that did more than calm me down!”

For those not in the know, The Dummies was a late 1979 side-project involving Jim and younger brother Frank (who earlier sat in for Don Powell after the tragic accident that led to his girlfriend’s death and major surgery and hospitalisation for the Slade drummer), wondering if their material would be better received if recorded by another band. They released three singles, all receiving plenty of radio airplay, but sales suffered from distribution problems. And when Slade split in 1992, an album, A Day in the Life of The Dummies, was released. gathering all the material recorded by the brothers.

“Yeah, The Dummies was just Frank on the drums and me on guitar. Of course, I played bass in Slade because I didn’t really want to be noticed, but when I did the Robin Hood in 2002 I walked on stage with my guitar, with everyone going, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be terrible!’ That night, I also had a drummer I didn’t know personally (Michael Tongue), plus Dave Caitlin-Birch, the bass player from the Bootleg Beatles and World Party. Karl Wallinger (World Party’s frontman) had rented a flat of mine. That’s how I got to know Dave. And when we cracked on … I mean, bloody hell! It almost knocked me off the stage. People have since told me that when I walked on, they thought it was going to be terrible, worrying about hearing me sing, and knowing I was so shy. They weren’t ready for what they got!”

It’s certainly a very powerful performance, judging by the recording.

“That’s all I ever did. Even going back to that audition in January 1966, and before that. I bumped into a woman a few weeks ago, who took me back. They used to put me in for these violin competitions, and because I was shy and not into the norm, there was this kind of anger coming out of me, because I didn’t really want to be there. And this was the mother of a girl who would win all these competitions, and she said how they had followed my career. I remembered her daughter and always thought if she was there, she was going to win anyway. But she told me she later gave up, got married, and that was that.

“She also said, ‘If every I saw your name on the rota, we’d say, ‘It’s that lad again!’ They used to be frightened of me. But I said, ‘What on earth are you talking about? There’d be seven people and I’d come fifth’. But she said, ‘Yes, but Jim, you weren’t like anyone else’. I told her I was really nervous and she said, ‘You didn’t look it. You played with fire. It was as if you were going to break the violin’.”

Jim Lea, Slade

I take it you never did break a violin.

“My Grandad’s violin was an heirloom and the neck broke on that, but I got it fixed, and that’s what led me – in making reparations to my Grandma, – to do this big string thing. Whether anyone will ever hear it, I don’t know, but I really like it.”

One of the tracks you re-imagined with The Dummies was one of my favourites, ‘When the Lights Are Out’, from 1974’s Old, New, Borrowed and Blue album.

“Yeah, I had a big argument with Chas (Chandler) about that. We were going to Australia, travelling first class, and there used to be this bubble in the 747s where the restaurant would be. It wasn’t posh or anything, it was just like a café, and Chas and I spent about 10 hours arguing about which should be the next single. Chas was going for ‘Everyday’ and I said ‘When the Lights Are Out’, because it was more up tempo. And we could have released ‘Everyday’ afterwards.

“But I was singing that track, and when I spoke to Chas years later he said, ‘To be quite honest, Jim, when I first saw the band I saw what you could do and saw what you were like, and then you started writing and I thought he’s going to see what he can do and then he’ll leave the band. So I didn’t give you a lot of interviews and I sort of kept you away from the press and a raised profile. But if we’d have had ‘When the Lights Are Out’ as a single, you’d have been having your face in the camera, and that to me was a danger.’

“And when I saw this Elvis documentary, I saw how Colonel Tom Parker wouldn’t let anyone who he thought was a threat to come near him. And to Chas, there was a threat that I would leave the band.”

Talking of Chas Chandler, what about his link with Jimi Hendrix? I know you were a big fan, as indicated by your cover of ‘Hey Joe’ for the Robin 2 gig.

“Yeah, and I’m sure I would have played with Hendrix. We were skinheads at the time, and Chas called us down to London. We couldn’t work out why and it took us around five hours to get there. Eventually, after lots of small talk, he told us that Jimi had rung him up and asked him to manage him again. And I said, ‘Well, I think it’s fantastic’. Jimi Hendrix was my hero, you see, and I thought I’d get to play with him. I wouldn’t have left the band but I would have loved to have played with him. I played bass like he played guitar. I wasn’t bothered about bass players.”

Come to think of it, there’s a Hendrix feel to ‘Goin’ Bak to Birmingham’ on the latest EP, a track you also played during that 2002 live show.

“Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny with the Robin thing. So many people said that up on that stage I played as well as Jimi Hendrix. But from when I rang Mike at the Robin to ask if it was a good idea – because I wasn’t going to play Slade songs, but songs that inspired me – I knew what I wanted to do, but only had about five weeks to get up to speed with a guitar.”

So tell me more about this latest release, your ‘Lost in Space’ EP?

Jim Lea, Slade

“Well, Frank, my younger brother, who is often kicking my ass, said,‘What about an EP? I’ve been talking to the record company’. And I said, ‘Fine, we’ll do an EP’. He then said, ‘When can I have the tracks?’ So I said, ‘When do you need them?’ and he said, ‘Next Monday’. I said, ‘You what?’

“Of course, I can’t sing now because of throat trouble, that lack of testosterone. But I hunted around quickly and found some songs I felt might fit the bill. They’d got finished vocals on them but only sketchy backing. So I threw something at it, and that’s what you hear, because we only had a few days to get it together. ‘Megadrive’ was already done.”

That was the song I was going to mention first. Proof, as if it needed proving, that you can still write a great melody.

“Oh yeah, there was always a melody. It’s always memorable, whatever it is. Even my string thing is memorable … but it’s beautiful as well.”

The title track, ‘Lost in Space’, has a nice kind of George Harrison and Tom Petty vibe to it, I ventured.

“Ha! Funny you say that. Not many people have compared it to anything else, but I’ve had Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty mentioned. Nobody’s said George Harrison before. Even Del Amitri were mentioned. I can’t see that, but I can’t see any of those. I just put it down and forget about it, then I’m on to the next song.”

On two of the songs, I could hear some heavy metal band coming in and having a lot of fun with them. ‘Pure Power’ has a real anthemic feel, and ‘What in the World’ is another heavy rocker. In short, you haven’t lost that metal edge.

“I can still rock out, you know. It’s just having the energy to do it. That’s the trouble.”

That got Jim back on the subject of his memorable 2002 show at the Robin 2, and then the late 2017 Q&A event.

Jim Lea, Slade
Strings Attached: Jim Lea with his violin

“The boss there rang and said, ‘The phone’s ringing off the hook. Everyone’s saying, ‘When are you going to come back?’ I said, ‘I’m never coming back. I’m going to make an album, and it’s going to be called Therapy. And it’s gonna be psychologically-based. But he said, ‘Well, if you wanna come and play, any time …’

“When he rang the day after that show, he said, ‘I stood at the bar and thought I might watch one number. But when you walked on stage I almost felt sick. I thought it was going to be a disaster. It was so loud and powerful, and I’d never heard anything like it in my whole career, playing in bands or at the Robin. But I took a swig of my pint and looked up, and I saw you playing guitar, one-handed with one hand up in the air, and you were singing. And I thought, ‘I can’t go home’. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.’ And his right-hand man was a big AC/DC fan who’d seen all the gigs he’d put on there and felt that had to be the best.

“This last time, at the end of the Q&A, he told me everyone was crying. I didn’t have a band but had backing tracks, and played along with them. But I was very tired because I hadn’t played since the cancer. And I didn’t know the crowd were crying, because of the lighting.

“At the end, I was mobbed again on the way out, but finally got to the car and was driven off, then went to have a dinner with my family. But my brother Frank wasn’t there, and we were all waiting, starving. He only came in about an hour later. I said, ‘Where the heck have you been?’ And he said, ‘James, I stayed ‘til the death. Everybody was crying and hugging each other, people who didn’t even know each other, and then the boss of the club was walking towards me and I said, ’Mike, what’s going on?’ And he said, People won’t go home. It’s as if James has risen from the dead’. Then Frank noticed he was crying as well, asked why, and was told, ‘I haven’t got a bloody clue. It’s just all so emotional!”

“Someone also told me Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre was set to play that night, and wondered if he had the right venue. He was asking, ‘Why are all these people crying?’ He was told, ‘Jim Lea from Slade has just done a Q&A’. And he said, ‘Bloody hell!’”

Well, you’ve spoken about therapy, and you did train as a psychotherapist a few years ago. Maybe you’ve released some kind of energy in the room.

“Well, when my brother said, ‘What about a Q&A at the Robin?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay’, my wife couldn’t quit believe I’d said that. But I just thought it was another way of pushing myself forward as a person.”

Jim Lea, Slade

Noize Merchants: The first of three Slade singles to top the UK charts in ’73

So where are you at with your cancer treatment now?

“Wolverhampton’s NHS really looked after me, but then sent me to Leeds for treatment.”

Was that at the aptly-nicknamed Jimmy’s (St James’s University Hospital)?

“It was, yeah. I’d go up there a couple of times a year and stay up, and have got to know people up there, and we’re just one big happy family when we go. So although the treatment was uncomfortable to have, it’s been brilliant. In fact, we went up there for my wife’s birthday – for no other reason – on April 1st. I was up there about three months, then I had these injections. But I’ve finished those now.”

You’ve said no to a Robin 2 return, but I’m still hoping we can tempt you out for another gig at some stage.

“I tell you what, Malcolm. I would love to do it if I got the energy back. I was talking to one guitarist about that live DVD and he said, ‘You were giving it a lot of energy. I know what I do leaves me tired. You could do a gig, but you couldn’t do that again’. And I was kind of dropping at one point.”

Well, hopefully you’ll be back to full fitness soon, and we may see that day yet.

“Yeah, well, I would love to do it if I got the energy back. My brother’s got all sorts of ideas to get me up there. I’m just looking at the back of this copy of the Big Issue, and it’s got an advert for a festival (Cropredy’s Fairport Convention in Oxfordshire next month) with Brian Wilson, The Oyster Band, Police Dog Hogan, Smith & Brewer … so maybe you might be seeing me down the bottom at one of those.”

That would be brilliant. I look forward to that. And until then, there’s always that amazing Slade and solo back-catalogue.

Jim Lea, Slade

Whild Living: Jim Lea looks back on an amazing career, before, during and after his Slade years

To catch up with this website’s feature/interview with Dave Hill, from December 2015, head here. And for our conversation with Don Powell from December 2017, try here. You can also check out the lowdown on Noddy Holder’s live show with Mark Radcliffe from May 2013 via this link, and find a WriteWyattUK appreciation of Slade from December 2012 here.  

Jim Lea’s six-track EP ‘Lost In Space’ is out now, with details of that, plus the limited-edition An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2, various versions of the Therapy album, and lots more product available from his jimleamusic.com website.   


'Quiet? I was Slade’s bad boy!': Jim Lea talks The Kinks, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and living in the Midlands

By Kirsten Rawlins | Express and Star | Wolverhampton entertainment | Published: Jul 13, 2018

Rumour had it he was the quiet one in Slade, but songwriter and bass icon Jim Lea says in reality he was 'the trouble-maker' - and even had a fight with The Kinks' Ray Davies which led to the band's manager being banned from the BBC bar for 12 months.

The skirmish broke out backstage at Top Of The Pops and, one way or another, ended up with Ray dragging Dave Hill around by his hair, adds Jim.

Slade's manager, 'a big, tall Geordie' by the name of Chas Chandler, was the original bassist for The Animals and former manager of Jimi Hendrix. "We were banned from the BBC bar for a year after that. Well, we could get in, but Chas couldn’t," says Jim. "He got Ray around the neck. And Chas was a big guy.

"Ray had attacked Dave as well. I think he thought he was wearing a wig because he was dragging Dave around the place by his hair. Chas soon sorted him out. He came over and said ‘tell me what’s going on here or I’ll f***ing strangle you’. I’m actually a big Kinks fan, so it’s not something that’s ever mattered.

"I bumped into Dave Davies’ son and told him about this. He said his dad and Ray still talk about it. He said ‘dad thinks he just didn’t like you because you were writing all these number one hits’.

"When I was in Slade, everyone thought I was the quiet one, but really I was the trouble-maker. I was always saying things I shouldn’t. Chas used to go mad because I was always saying stuff I shouldn’t have. He was a big, tall Geordie… He used to say ‘you can’t go around saying things like that’. I was very blunt. To be honest, I couldn’t repeat a lot of what went on. I should make an audio book… There were a lot of things that went on which would make for a good book."

With Chas' connections to rock idol Jimi, it's perhaps unsurprising that the band had their own dealings with the guitar legend. More unexpected, however, is that the Wolverhampton-born Slade star says The Jimi Hendrix Experience's bassist Noel Redding admitted he'd been to see the glam rock stars back in their 'skinhead' days, around 1970. Jim claims Noel said he believed that had Jimi ever spotted him playing bass back then, he would have surely found himself replaced by the Midland musician.

"When Chas died, Noel Redding from the Jimi Hendrix Experience said he’d been to see us when we were skinheads," explains Jim. He said he actually felt humiliated and that we were fantastic.

"He said the band was great, but if Hendrix had seen us he’d have been out of a job. He said he’d never seen anything like the way I played bass. He said ‘that’d have been me finished’, which was a huge compliment.

"I’d have never left Slade, but I would have loved to played with Hendrix. He was my influence. I played bass because of him. In Slade I had to stick to a certain style, so I’m not known for being a fancy bass player. Back in the day, I was asked to collaborate by people who were as big as it gets. Chas was always worried about me being pulled away from the band. I do get asked by people about doing things now, but I figure I’m best on my own."

Jim, aged 69, still remains in the area, living in South Staffordshire and though he's never really strayed from Wolverhampton and Staffordshire, the star did wryly tell of the confusion caused by false information online, which leads people to ask about him being born in a pub in Codsall - something which is entirely fictional.

"It says on the internet I was born in a pub near Codsall - and even that I used to play on their lawns," laughs Jim. I was born in a pub in Wolverhampton, which we left when I was two. It was just at the top of Snow Hill. We moved to Heath Town, then into a council house in Bilbrook when I was six. Then mum and dad bought their own home and we’ve been in the area ever since."

Jim's latest solo EP Lost In Space went on sale on June 22 - his first mini album release in more than 10 years.

The six-track record features title track Lost In Space, a song which Jim says ended up accidentally being about himself. I was always very sombre and lost in space in my mind," adds Jim. "I wrote the song about someone I know, but in hindsight it was about me. It’s very autobiographical. But then, your creativity comes from who you are and what you are. The reaction to my EP has been phenomenal. My brother Frank called me saying there have been fantastic reviews. The reviews have said ‘just go and buy it’. I never expected any of that." And though Jim's last Slade song was written and produced in 1992, the star says he's never stopped writing; spurred on by a once consuming drive which fed the glam rock band's constant stream of hits back in its heyday.

"Even though I wasn’t seen for a while, I never stopped writing. People think I just went away, but I didn’t," explains Jim. "I guess it all goes back to the days of the band, when I just had to keep the songs coming. There was a great amount of pressure. When I went to parties, I’d always find myself sitting back watching everyone else, thinking about where the next song was coming from. It was a big responsibility. I’ve always been a big fan of The Shadows. Jerry Lordan used to write for them; his song Apache is what made me pick up the guitar. He used to feel the same pressure - so did McCartney. After getting used to that feeling over the years, you find you have to keep doing it, because it’s what your life has become. Joan Armatrading said the exact same thing."


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