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Slade (1966-1993, 1992-present): a Glam Metal band from Wolverhampton, UK.


riginally dubbed as The Vendors, Slade featured only Don Powell and Dave Hill as members in 1964 and recorded only a 4 track demo; the following year they changed it to The N'betweens with Johnny Howells (vocals), Mickey Maston (guitar), Dave Hill (guitar), Dave Jones (bass) and Don Powell (drums) to record a set of 7" singles. In 1966 the membership changed to Noddy Holder (Real Name: Neville Holder; ex-Robert Plant/ex-Listen/ex-Steve Brett Band; vocals/guitar) and Jimmy Lea (bass) replacing Howells, Marston and Jones collectively.

In August 1966, after several regular gigs in England's Midlands region, they released the single You Better Run; it was a complete flop. It would be two more years, however, before a real full-time recording contract would arrive by 'Fontana Records'. The A&R man (Jack Baverstock) insisted that they change their name to Ambrose Slade, and it was with that new name that their first album release, Beginnings, was offered (Ballzy was its title in America). With the advice of former Animals manager Chas Chandler they abbreviated their name to just Slade, but his attempt at turning them into a skinhead band complete with Dr. Martin boots, almost skin-short hair, and the singles Wild Winds Are Blowing and Shapes Of Things To Come, received unkind press, as did the follow-up early 1971 album Play It Loud. This shtick continued until late 1971 when they decided it had become dated.

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With the release of the single Get Down Get With It (originally done by Bobby Marchan) they re-appeared growing their hair and adopting a more colorful outlook that got them a UK 20 and a Top Of The Pops appearance.

Holder and Lea decided to construct their own songs and lyrics, relying on strong beats, catchy lines, and deliberately misspelled titles. Cuz I Luv You gave them their first #1 in late 1971 and stayed in the charts for 4 weeks, the accompanying album of same title in early 1972 failed to do as well. They followed up with a single for Look Wot You Don (a 4 charter). They were now moving quickly into the ranks of the "glam metal" and glam rock genres. The string of funny titles wasn't done yet, Take Me Bak 'Ome, Mamma Weer Al Crazee Now, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me (a song released apparently by accident and done as a spoof on their own career) and Cum On Feel The Noize (received a chart 1 position but would later become and even bigger hit when re-done by 1980s glam metal act Quiet Riot) gave them the longest string of hit singles since the The Beatles. Their albums during this period were no less chart inspiring with Slade Alive! (1972) starting the string off by being a landmark album of sorts; Rolling Stone Magazine called it the greatest live album of all time, and Kiss would try to mimic its format later in the decade. Slayed? (1972), Sladest (1973; which featured most of the above mentioned singles among its playlist), Old, New Borrowed And Blue (1974; released in the US as Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet would follow, the last two featured less booze and raunch, and more of a pop feel. But as the decade moved on, the albums drifted to the rear of record collections with the likes of Mike Oldfield and Genesis now taking center stage. It started in America with Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet not delivering what the Americans expected from the title and went on from there; the album would haunt Slade for the rest of their career.

While on tour they took bizarre dressing to new extremes with loud flashy colors, their black boots went sci-fi silver, Holder donned tartan trousers, sideburns, a gravelly voice and a mirrored top hat. Holder once declared, "The fans are tired of paying to sit on their hands while watching musicians who clearly couldn't care less about their customers. What's wanted is a more party atmosphere". This quote summed up what so many felt towards so-called "progressive rock" of the 1970s; the idea being that old men with beards and long hair put their heads downcast from the audience and played long dull solos; and so the idea of glam was born. Marc Boland (of T. Rex) was probably the first glam rocker, but Slade shifted that fad into heavy metal, which caught on by the early 1980s...

Their road to stardom was not without a few speed bumps, however, for as stunning as Slade Alive! was it could have been the last for drummer Don Powell who was seriously injured in a car accident, forcing the band to release the premature compilation Sladest while he recovered. The album was nonetheless a hit, as was the Merry Xmas Everybody single later that year that had oddly been recorded during a heatwave in New York City.

Slade In Flame was a movie (later soundtrack Album) they were featured in; a fictional tale of the rise and fall of a 1960s group called Flame and based on real music business events involving Slade and others of the time. It was cast in the style of "film noir" and left many viewers baffled by its dark and serious mood; unlike the Slade they have grown to know and love. It would be followed closely by the Beginnings Of Slade (1975) compilation and Nobody's Fools (1976) album. The Story Of Slade (1977) would be another attempt to cash in on their past.

In 1977 when the What Ever Happened To Slade album was released, it would be the last year where Slade's fame was foolproof. It was becoming painfully clear that they were being seen as yesterday's heroes, and the follow-up album, Return To Base (1978), by its title (and that of its predecessor), seemed to indicate that they knew it. The follow-up, Slade Alive II (1978), didn't fare any better.

The 1980 Reading Festival offered them hope when they were last minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne; the subsequent release, Slade Alive At Reading 1980, put their Merry Xmas Everybody back in the charts for seven Christmases, and had enough momentum for the release of Slade Smashes (1980), and 1981's We'll Bring The House Down single (later album) to put them into the spotlight again. Till Deaf Do Us Part (1982), their next effort, tried to capitalize on this but failed. They then toured extensively, and in 1983 got another hit with My Oh My at #2 in the UK, and the next year they repeated it with Run Run Away at a UK 7 and US 20 (Run Run Away would later be re-done by a Newfoundland folk band and is played by DJs in pubs all over North America). The last hooray would be a #15 with We All Hold Hands a year later. The associated albums of the time, Slade On Stage (1982), Slade Alive (1983), Slade In Flame (1983), The Amazing Kamakaze Syndrome (1983; dubbed Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply in the US), On Stage (1984), the compilation Slade's Greats (1984), Rogues Gallery (1985), Crackers - The Slade Christmas Party Album (1985) and You Boyz Make Big Noize (1987; a title suggested by the tea lady at their recording studio who was known to utter those very words) were less spectacular commercially.

During the 1990s Slade would have much of their catalog re-released on CD with little new to contribute to their history; their catalog now resembling a "best of..." list of compilations including Slade Story I & II (1990), The Slade Collection '81-87 (1991), Wall Of Hits (1991), The Slade Collection Vol. 2 79-87 (1993), Feel The Noize - Greatest Hits (1997), and The Genesis Of Slade (1997).

The original line up split in 1992 but the band reformed the following year as Slade II to release Keep on Rockin' in 1994 and returned to using their original name, Slade, there-after. The band has continued, with a number of line-up changes, to the present day. Keep on Rockin' was re-released in 2002 as Cum on Let's Party.

Slade was one of the original glam rockers and survive still, with a number of line-up changes, with their style and image respected, with more recent acts like Oasis re-making blasting versions of their tunes. Even though their best creative time is behind them and they rarely record, they continue unconcerned with the fashion trends of the day.

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Slade at Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway in 1977.
Photo by: Helge Øverås
(CC BY 3.0)

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