A night with the skinheads..
It's june 1980 and the de industrialisation of Thatcher's Britain was beginning, on the day that a post war high unemployment figure of over a million and a half was released a little light entartainment was more than needed.
Slade, that behemoth of 70's glam rock were in town at the Rock Garden, a scary place at the best of times. A fight or two was usually part of the evenings entertainment, if the skins didn't get you, the burgers would, and a visit there was an experience not easily forgotten.
It had been in the past a faux bierkeller which had variously become the haunt of punks, skins and bikers as the 70's morphed into the 80's and had hosted gigs by all the top bands of the day...Sex Pistols, The Clash...Damned as well as the NWOBHM bands that were doing the rounds at the time...Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Magnum...Saxon et al.
It was a perfect venue for Slade who had been the biggest band in the land a few years before, but were now seemingly on a never ending tour of clubs, chicken in a basket pubs, cabaret and ballroom venues in an effort to regain their place at the top table. In the fickle world of rock music in just two months Slade would steal the show at the Reading festival and give their flagging career a major boost, but for now the band were down on their luck. Their records were no longer selling in sufficient quantities to trouble the charts, but live they were a tour de force.
The Rock Garden had a capacity of around 400 and was completely sold out, packed so that you couldn't move, many of the audience on the night were skinheads who pelted the support act off stage by throwing handfuls of ice at them!
The skins had come to see Slade, they loved them. They were after all 'of their own', working class blokes who had never succumbed to their status and distanced themselves from their fans. Now here they were right in front of them larger than life feeding off of each other.
Slade kicked off their set with 'Dizzy Mama' quickly followed by 'My Baby Left Me' and that old favourite 'Take Me Bak 'Ome ' It was mayhem as the skins 'danced' and sporadic scuffles broke out, no matter, Noddy Holder managed to keep everyone in order, an old hand at controlling the fans at Slade gigs a few well chosen words were all that was needed to keep the 'hard men' behaving themselves.
The stage at the Rock Garden was tiny, as usual the band came with their legendary back line stacked to the ceiling with huge PA speakers at each side of the stage that meant Nod, Don, Dave & Jim were limited to playing in a tiny area, the claustrophobic nature of it all only added to the excitement and they were loud, deafeningly LOUD, I swear my ears were ringing for days afterwards!
The set consisted variously of new tracks (When I'm Dancing, I ain't fighting, Wheels ain't coming down, Lemme Love Into Ya) as well as old favourites such as 'Everyday' and the show stopping 'Somethin' Else' medley which included Jimmy Lea's violin solo.
Finishing up with 'Gudbuy T' Jane and 'Get Down With It' they were never going to be allowed to leave the venue without the requisite number of encore's and they duly obliged with the usual two, first up 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now' followed with 'Cum On Feel The Noize', Keep On Rockin' and of course 'Born To Be Wild'
All in all, it was Slade at their best in front of a very rowdy and receptive Rock Garden crowd...just like old times....Happy days!
Photo Slade In England
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