slade Don Powell Earls Court 1973It was never easy being a Slade fan, in particular when the band were suffering their worse popularity crisis since they hit the big time. we all had to put up with good natured jibes and banter from friends who just didn't get Slade at all.

I had last seen Slade live way back in 1975 at their two New Victoria Theatre shows in London. Two shows and then they were gone, off to America to find that the streets were not paved with gold after all. By 1977, they had been gone for two years trying, and failing to conquer the American's.

The long hot summer of 76' came and went, bands like The Eagles, 10 CC and Peter Frampton ruled the airwaves. Mainstream radio held no interest for me, and Radio Caroline, transmitting from the good ship 'Mi Amigo' anchored off the coast at Harwich played wall to wall Zeppelin and Stones records.....Slade were gone, out of sight, out of mind.

Each week I would religiously visit W.H.Smiths and scour the weekly music press searching out any snippet of information or news about the band, there was nothing, save the odd two line mention of them from America. It really was a bleak and desolate landscape in which to be a Slade fan, it really did feel like we had been abandoned. Too old to like the chartsters that had usurped Slade from their throne and too young to be interested in the pomp of the Zeps and their ilk it was left to bands like Thin Lizzy and AC/DC to tickle my fancy.

slade Don Powell Earls Court 1973I had been listening to the likes of Streetwalkers and Boston just before 'Whatever Happened To Slade' was released in 1977. It was a rather brilliant album and I could not wait to see them once again on the tour that was promoting the LP release, they were even coming to the Ipswich Gaumont which was for me the local venue. The day of the gig arrived, but Slade didn't, seems that Noddy Holder ( 'Nobby Hooker' as the aged doorman at the Gaumont described him) had lost his voice and the gig was being rearranged for a couple of weeks hence. What a let down...but we did steal most of the LP covers that had been stapled to a billboard inside the theatre foyer once he had disappeared, a mixture of WHTS covers and some rather nice ones from the support band 'Liar' that featured a stockinged thigh being branded with the groups name.

The gig was re-arranged for the end of the month and in the ensuing two weeks I eagerly lapped up the reports in the music press, although all seemed to be saying that Slade were basically crap and too old to rock and roll anymore, the press generally had always given Slade good copy, but now, some of them couldn't wait to lay into them. Regardless, I managed to convince two of my 'Kiss' loving friends to come along to the Gaumont to give them a chance to be converted! As for me, the iffy press just re-galvanised and enhanced my affection and loyalty for the band and I could not wait to see them live again after a two year absense.

The day of the gig came and me and my old China Dave Wyllie, an arch Kiss fan and complete sceptic accompanied me to the Gaumont in the early afternoon where we managed to waltz in through the side doors and sit quietly in the shadows as we watched the roadies setting up the stage equipment. No one bothered us and after 20 minutes or so one of the roadies came over and gave us two £1 notes (remember them?) and asked us to nip out and buy a load of chips which we did!

That gave us the opportunity to walk about inside the Gaumont and mingle until all of a sudden H and Jim appeared on stage and started running through parts of 'One Eyed Jacks'. We scuttled off to one side of the stage just in case we were chucked out now that some of the band were there. It was incredible to be inside an empty theatre smack bang in front of Slades huge stack of equipment with Lea's Bass lines leaving his huge speakers and physically hitting you in the chest.

After a while Noddy arrived and walked down the centre aisles from the back of the hall, being beckoned on stage by Jimmy who said into the mike..."Hello ...come and have a wank Nod!" All four were soon on stage running through various bits and pieces and we stayed as long as we could. With the soundcheck over and the band free, we managed to get to chat with them all and get autographs signed although Jimmy tried as hard as he could not to have to chat with us, and the sum total of Holder's contact was a quick 'hello lads' as he signed whatever we had thrust in front of his nose to be autographed. Dave and Don chatted properly and told us they had been touring in Germany since the last show was cancelled but that it was going to be a great show tonight as they were fresh after having a week or so off since returning and it would be better than it would have been at the end of the tour just a few weeks before.

We also found out from 'Charlie' Newnham, the bands long time sound engineer that the show was going to be recorded through the mixing desk for possible inclusion on a double live album that the band were thinking of releasing the following year, he told us to make sure that we made a lot of noise as they wanted a great crowd sound for the evening!

slade Don Powell Earls Court 1973The Gaumont was a 1500 seater, and at the time, was just about the only venue this side of London that any bands played at, so no matter who was playing it was always a sell out, you had to be pretty bad not to sell out the Gaumont. The first thing that was noticeable was the audience queuing to get into the venue. the last time I had seen Slade live in 1975 the audience contained a lot of teeny bopper girls who semed unsure whether to still be following Noddy and the boys, or the then new kids on the block 'The Bay City Rollers'. This time around the majority of those patiently waiting for the doors to open were male and older. I was older, we all were, and when the doors opened it was clear that the bouncers employed were not going to have it their own way, we were not only an older crowd, we were bigger and not so easily pushed around anymore!

Once inside the Gaumont the crowd gradually filled the seats both in the circle and stalls. Each seat had a flyer on it advertising 'The Slade Papers' on sale in the theatre at a knockdown on tour price of 75p, a must have item!

The original gig was to have had 'Liar' supporting, this time they had been replaced by a ridiculously dodgy band called 'Cock Sparra' a bunch of psuedo punks from London who did themselves no favours by swearing AT the audience and telling us all that Slade were shit...needless to say their set didn't go down to well and they were roundly booed off when they finally ( mercifully) left the fray.

With the stage now empty and in darkness all that could be seen through the gloom were the three mike stands and Don's kit, draped in a huge black sheet of material. Rocky Mountain Way was booming out from the house PA as the assembled throng, salivating with nervous anticipation, readied itself for the arrival of Slade On Stage.

As Joe Walsh picked out the last few notes of Rocky Mountain Way, the house lights went down completely and the noise from the audience rose in a cresendo as the dark shadowy figures of the roadies could be seen on stage removing the black cloth covers from the wall of amplifiers and Don's gleaming silver custom built Ludwig kit.

slade Don Powell Earls Court 1973The crowd were going bonkers, really mental and were generating enough primal electricity to power East Anglia and the band hadn't even walked on stage yet, it was truly incredible to be a part of it, the air crackled as the silver chrome of Dons kit picked out every scrap of available light. The red LED lights on the front of the equipment were glowing brightly in the blackness of the stage and then it happened.

First up through the murk came Don Powell, dressed in white, taking up his position behind his kit, a couple of taps on the bass drum followed by a paradiddle on snare confirmed he was really there. It was pandemonium in the crowd as row after row of seats were vacated as fans piled into the aisles and ran to the front of the stage completely taking out the half a dozen or so bouncers that tried manfully to hold us back in the darkness.

Without further ado, the rest of the band entered the stage, plugged in and we were off. The opening bars of 'Hear Me Calling' boomed effortlessly from Holder filling the theatre with malevolence as a pink/purple spotlight picked out just his head and shoulders. The sound was so crisp, perfectly mixed as first Hill and Powell joined in...this was really it, the two year wait was over as the opening bars gave way to an explosion of noise and pyrotechnics as lights, strobes and dry ice meant it was well and truly game on!

It was hard to know where to look first, Holder was the man, dressed in a blue satin coat and sporting a tri quarter hat he stood square in the middle of the stage looking like an effeminate Napoleon armed with that phenominally loud and dangerous sounding cherry red Gibson SG junior which disgorged chordage so powerfully it almost melted your bone marrow.

To his right was Jimmy Lea, unusually sporting a gleaming white fender Jazzmaster bass, bouncing around and involving his bit of the crowd in the show and to his left Dave Hill, completely bald and sporting a gigantic hooped earring was already leering and gooning around as he stormed through 'Hear Me Calling' . The man at the back was wearing a white vest and was just smashing the shit out of his kit as he always did.....the combined effect was awesome, really, there is no other word for it. America may not have warmed to Slade, but from the first minutes of this show it was clear to see that America had turned them into an incredibly finely honed rock machine. Tight as a cod's arsehole, they tore through 'Hear Me Calling' in front of a manic and heaving mass that had by now completely absorbed the bouncers who gave up trying to manhandle people back to their seats and seemed to be enjoying the show as they sucked in the remnants of the cold dry ice that was still swirling around.

As soon as Hear Me Calling was over they were straight into 'Be' the first new song of the evening and the opening track from 'Whatever Happened To Slade' It was incredibly powerful and I tell you, when Holder got to the 'Stand Up' bit those that were left seated at the back of the hall all seemed to get up and run down to the front of the theatre on command, even some, quite a lot actually from upstairs had also made their way down into the main theatre, it was really really wild. 'Get On Up' was next which gave Jimmy the first opportunity of the evening to wow us all with his fretboard prowess on the white Fender bass he was sporting this particular evening.


slade Don Powell Earls Court 1973As soon as Get On Up was finished Holder took a few moments to survey what was going on underneath him before "Good to be back in Ipswich again" and then immediately the band launched into 'Take Me Bak Ome'......cue more complete mayhem from the crowd as the familiar strains of this well known band classic began bludgeoning everyone present. Hill, grinning, pogoing and goofing around the stage was no longer the perambulating Christmas tree of old, but a shiny domed whirling dervish lapping up the adulation and devotion of those assembled who had come to pay homage.

Take Me Bak Ome' gave way to 'One Eyed Jacks' from the new album before Holder and the band took a breather and a bit of banter with his adoring fans. Time enough for both Hill and Lea to strip off to the waist and for Holder to discard his coat and show us all his frilly shirt. Once the interlude was over and the new album plugged we were treated to a storming rendition of 'Gypsy Roadhog' followed, as on the LP immediately by 'Lightning Never Strikes Twice' which was brilliantly played live.

Fuck me, what a band this lot had become, they were a tour de force, an unstoppable juggernaut who were feeding off the audiences pure unadulterated joy at being in the same space as them. There was definitely something in the air that night, the band, the crowd, we were all in it together, it was becoming a joyous night of balls to the wall rock and roll being dished up for all by the best rock band ever to play live, no band ever could walk on to a stage to the same manic reception as Slade had done without playing a note...I know I keep saying it, but it was abnormously mental, magical.

Time to slow it down a bit and let us all gather our collective breath as 'Far Far Away' and 'How Does It feel' were given an airing before 'An Oldie but goodie' "Gudbuy T'Jane" was blasted out at a thousand miles an hour before we were treated to a heavy heavy version of ' Burning In The Heat Of Love' featuring 'grasshopper' as Noddy was now referring to Dave Hill.

It was relentless, " The Soul, The Roll and The Motion" followed before the band finally gave us 'Get Down With It' before leaving the stage to an absolutely enormous ovation. As soon as the band had walked off the stage the chants of 'We Want Slade' were echoing around the theatre as I am sure everyone, EVERYONE in attendance was baying for their return.

The band returned for three encores that night, and each more appreciated than the one before especially a seemingly unending rock 'n' roll medley featuring a run through of Holders favourite Little Richard tracks, it truly was a show to remember, and today some 36 years later it is still as fresh in my memory now as it was the moment it happened.

When it was over and they had finally gone for good, with 'Singing In The Rain' blasting out and the house lights on the scene of devastation down the front of the house at the Gaumont was plain for all to see, at least the first three rows of seats were mangled with many broken, it really had been Bedlam at the sharp end!

We made a dash for the side stage doors and were allowed backstage by Swinley, the band were in a rush to get away, but did sign some autographs for those that had managed to get that far. Jim asked us what we thought of the show, Nod and Don were looking around for cigarettes before all four left by the window and were driven off into the night. Because the band had played three lengthy encores and we had gone backstage for half an hour or so we had managed to miss the last train home to Colchester, so we waited for the milk train at Ipswich station and read every word at least three times in my newly acquired, but creased Slade Papers.

My ears were ringing, a ringing that was to last three full days as Slades mind numbingly loud volume completely discombobulated my ears for that long. It was great though.

In my time I saw Slade before, during and after their heyday, but there was never a night anywhere to rival that gig. I will always think that those first five tracks belted out one after another that night was the best opening to any gig I ever witnessed anytime, anywhere and by anybody.

That night, we loved them and they loved us. It was a different Slade for sure, but that night my lifelong affection, fidelity and affiliation for the band was well and truly cemented in place. While they had been away I had seen Priest, Lizzy, Nugent, AC/DC and even Kiss, in fact just about every new 'thing' to come along, only AC/DC and Lizzy gave shows that I enjoyed in the same way.

Slade were something else.

Slade were the Guvnors.






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