Slade Biography

Originally recording as the ’N Betweens, this UK quartet was formed by Noddy Holder (Neville John Holder, 15 June 1946, Walsall, West Midlands, England; vocals/guitar), Dave Hill (b. David John Hill, 4 April 1946, Fleet Castle, Devon, England; guitar), Jim Lea (b. James Whild Lea, 14 June 1949, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England; bass) and Don Powell (b. Donald George Powell, 10 September 1946, Bilston, West Midlands, England; drums). During the spring of 1966 they performed regularly in the Midlands, playing an unusual mixture of soul standards, juxtaposed with a sprinkling of hard rock items. A chance meeting with producer Kim Fowley led to a one-off single, ‘You Better Run’, released in August 1966. Two further years of obscurity followed until their agent secured them an audition with Fontana Records’ A&R head Jack Baverstock. He insisted that they change their name to Ambrose Slade and it was under that moniker that they recorded Beginnings. Chaff on the winds of opportunity, they next fell into the hands of former Animals bass player-turned-manager, Chas Chandler. He abbreviated their name to Slade and oversaw their new incarnation as a skinhead group for the stomping ‘Wild Winds Are Blowing’. Their image as ‘bovver boys’, complete with cropped hair and Dr Marten boots, provoked some scathing press from a media sensitive to youth culture violence.

Slade persevered with their skinhead phase until 1970 when it was clear that their notoriety was passé. While growing their hair and cultivating a more colourful image, they retained their aggressive musicianship and screaming vocals for the bluesy cover version of ‘Get Down And Get With It’, which reached the UK Top 20 in 1971. Under Chandler’s guidance, Holder and Lea began composing their own material, relying on distinctive riffs, a boot-stomping beat and sloganeering lyrics, usually topped off by a deliberately misspelled title. ‘Coz I Luv You’ took them to number 1 in the UK in late 1971, precipitating an incredible run of chart success that was to continue uninterrupted for the next three years. After the average ‘Look Wot You Dun’ (which still hit number 4), they served up a veritable beer barrel of frothy UK chart-toppers including ‘Take Me Bak ’Ome’, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ (also a hit for Quiet Riot in 1983 and a concert favourite for Oasis) and ‘Skweeze Me Pleeze Me’. Their finest moment was 1973’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, one of the great festive rock songs and a perennial favourite. Unpretentious and proudly working-class, the band appealed to teenage audiences who cheered their larynx-wrenching singles and gloried in their garish yet peculiarly masculine forays into glam rock. Holder, clearly no sex symbol, offered a solid, cheery image, with Dickensian side-whiskers and a hat covered in mirrors, while Hill took tasteless dressing to marvellous new extremes. Largely dependent upon a young, fickle audience, and seemingly incapable of spreading their parochial charm to the USA, Slade’s supremacy was to prove ephemeral.

They participated in a movie, Flame, which was surprisingly impressive, and undertook extensive tours, yet by the mid-70s they were yesterday’s teen heroes. The ensuing punk explosion made them virtually redundant and prompted in 1977 the appropriately titled Whatever Happened To Slade. Undeterred they carried on just as they had done in the late 60s, awaiting a new break. An appearance at the 1980 Reading Festival brought them credibility anew. This performance was captured on the Alive At Reading ’80 EP which pushed the band into the UK singles chart for the first time in three years. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ was re-issued and charted that same year (the first in a run of seven consecutive years, subsequently in its original form). Slade returned to the UK Top 10 in January 1981 with ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’, and in 1983 shot to number 2 with ‘My Oh My’. The following year’s ‘Run Runaway’ also reached the Top 10, and became their first US Top 20 hit. The hits subsequently dried up and in the late 80s the original quartet, while never officially splitting up, began working on other projects. They last appeared together in February 1992.

Slade are one of the few bands to have survived the heady days of glitter and glam with their reputation intact and are regarded with endearing affection by a wide spectrum of age groups. However, it appears that their creative peak is way behind them, as highlighted by the emergence in the mid-90s of the derivative Slade II (minus Holder and Lea). In stark contrast, the 1997 compilation Feel The Noize received outstanding reviews in the UK, heralding a mini-glam rock revival. Lea has released several singles under various pseudonyms, while Holder has become a popular all-round television personality, co-starring in the ITV sitcom The Grimleys, and also hosts a regular 70s rock programme on Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio. He was awarded an MBE in the Millennium New Years Honours List.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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