SLADE /READING ROCK 80' - 24/AUGUST/1980
Sunday came around a lot quicker and earlier than I managed to do, the previous evenings fare of loud music, dodgy bacon sandwiches, Watneys gnats piss ale and cheap low grade grass had kept me in my pit until midday.
I decided to try to sleep more, it seemed far too bright and sunny outside. Around 2pm I was woken by my mate Dave who was claiming to have seen Graham Swinnerton, or Swinley as we knew him, Slades road manager no less by the 'backstage area', he hadn't seen any of the band members, but he knew Swinley by sight as well as any of the 500, and if Dave had seen Swinley, then it was fact...Slade had arrived!
That was enough for me.
Slade, we found out would be appearing on the number 2 stage, Reading always had two stages, as one band walked off one stage the next band would walk onto the other while the various road crews and stage managers readied the vacant stage for the next act. Stage 2 was the right hand stage of the two, in between them there was a large jumbotron type screen, that had worked some of the time with the festival cameramen filming from the stage, sometimes there was too much sunlight shining directly onto the screen for it to be seen, at other times the screen was black despite the cameramen seemingly filming whomever was currently playing.
As their allotted time drew closer it was becoming apparent that the general concensus of opinion was that Slade would be the first band of the day to be mercilessly canned off...get rid of them as soon as possible and get the real bands on seemed to be the general feeling. Apart from a handful of people, maybe 200 or so it seemed that the massed ranks of Hairies, bikers, pseudo Hells Angels and the unwashed in general had no appetite for Slade, the masses were not impressed and nothing was going to change that.
On stage one, a band called 'Girl'...nothing more than a standard spandex and hair band, were (to me) painfully bad, a typical support band that could have pitched up at any NWOBHM gig, they laboured their way through their half hour set to little acclaim or interest. I stood and watched them regardless, just to make sure that I could be as close as possible to stage two when Slade, next up, hit the decks.
As 'Girl' droned their way to a standstill attention shifted to stage two. Now, at festivals, and certainly Reading, there are thousands of people in the crowds, for a lot of the time, especially during the day when the lesser bands are on, the crowds are spread out, no one is bunched up, and way off in the distance are the camping areas, the tent cities.
In 1980, even though a huge name band like Slade were due on next, the crowd that was thinly spread out all seemed to turn as one, like a herd of Wildebeast on the African plain, and start heading off back away from the stage area towards tent city.
Slade were up next....then Def Leppard....it was early evening and it seems that those in attendance decided now would be a good time to go and have a dump/meal/beer/shag...anything in fact that didn't involve watching Slade. Front of stage two was sparsely populated, and being a resourceful sort of chap I managed to blag my way into the press pit using a magic card that in those days I always carried with me.
Behind the barriers outside the press pit there did seem to be a few hundred more that had stayed to watch Slade, but still, the mass exodus back to tent city carried on as thousands of people turned their backs, it was the proverbial massed putting on of the kettle at half time syndrome.....
It was, as I stated previously, early evening, and although the stage lights had been used all day, it was only now, as day turned slowly to night that they could be seen properly...and then it was on. Slade, resplendently attired in stripes and yellow breezeed onto the stage. the few hundred immediately in front of stage two gave a few cheers and shouts of approval as the band plugged in and took their positions....Holder, sporting a black jacket and hat, glanced out over the whole festival site as DJ Bob Harris introduced the band to the 'crowd.
Without any more delay or due process the opening notes of 'Dizzy Mama' cut through the still evening air ..... 'We're gonna rock ya, we're gonna fuck ya up, 'We're gonna rock ya, we're gonna fuck ya up, 'We're gonna rock ya, we're gonna fuck ya up...............a one a two a one two three...........and WHAM!!
The loudest noise of the weekend blasted its way out of the Reading sound system. It was so loud, the sound waves seemed to rip through the weak and feeble bodies of those in front of the stage before travelling away off into the distance where it literally stopped people in their tracks. As one, the multitude of people, the herd of heavy metal wildebeast who had dismissed Slade as the days token jesters, started running back down the hill towards the party that was happening, and I do mean running, running to get as close as possible to the stage now being occupied by Slade, masters of their craft.
It was a sight to behold, and by the time 'Dizzy Mama' was crashing to a rousing finale of immensely powerful crunching power chords, the crowd in front of stage two had swelled from hundreds to three or four thousand, with still thousands making their way.
As the dust from the first grenade settled, Holder, showman supreme, stood centre stage, silently scanning the audience for reaction, he had seen what had happened during 'Dizzy Mama' , without further ado or ceremony the band quickly treated the still growing crowd to 'My Baby Left Me' and then launched straight into 'Take Me Bak' Ome'...the scene was set.