SLADE /READING ROCK 80' - 24/AUGUST/1980
The crowd continued to swell through 'When I'm Dancing, I Ain't Fighting ' and was now probably around the 20,000 mark, all crammed into the immediate area around the stages and beyond, all jostling and already forgetting that a quarter of an hour before Slade were a Micky Mouse Xmas novelty band.
As far as I am concerned, by the end of 'Wheels Ain't Coming Down' or maybe halfway through the 'Somethin' Else' Medley, Slade's audience was the whole festival, all 65,000...75,000...85,000 depending on which reports you believed, but for me, everyone who was there was watching Slade, not just watching, that would be painting the wrong picture, they were all joining in....big hairy dirty bastards, multiple tattoos, all seemingly wearing denim jackets weighed down with a zillion enamel badges featuring HM bands, all were jumping up and down, stomping, waving their hands at Holders behest, he had them all in his pocket, Holder and his chums had turned an apathetic crowd into a frenzied mass of dancing whirling dervishes, the one thing that struck me while crowd watching was....Fuck Ozzy Osbourne...he couldn't do this to a crowd...
Holder, was, as always, in complete control, from the top of his hat through the tailcoat, down the slippery black trews to his favourite blue suede boots, he cajoled and coaxed those in attendance to pay homage to him and his band of men.
And what a band they were, Jimmy Lea, as ever, was all over the place, using the huge Reading stage to good effect, criss crossing with H in a never ending spectacle of goofy pogoing and pirouetting while belting out thunderous bass lines and dirty little guitar riffs, all held together by Powell's drumming and up front by Holders murderously crunching SG.
Orchestrated By Holder...
The crowd forgot it was Slade, forgot that Slade were that shit Merry Xmas band, forgot that it wasn't cool to have a ball at a gig.
By the time we got to Get Down With It EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE as far as the eye could see were stompin' and a clappin' ...really they were, no one stood with their hands in their pockets looking at the stage trying to be cool, everyone lost it and it was just one huge party, a celebration of unabashed enjoyment by all in attendance
With the party in full swing, off they went to an appreciation unheard of, we knew they were coming back and do the one encore that the name bands were allowed...they did, and after a brief run through of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' orchestrated by Holder but sung by the Reading crowd, it was straight into a 100 mph version of 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now' and then once again they left the Reading stage to a fabulous ovation, that was it...game over.
But not quite. For the first time that weekend, a band returned for a second encore, the crowd demanded it, and so, once again, back they came, the crowd wanted 'Merry Xmas' and so they were dutifully asked to sing it themselves, which they did, all of them, every last man and woman there that night sang Merry Xmas Everybody, at the end of August in a field in Berkshire!
With the juices flowing the band then launched into a double encore of 'Cum On Feel The Noize' and that old festival favourite 'Born To Be Wild'. Crash, bang, wallop....it was finally over and the band left the stage, arms aloft acknowledging the Reading crowd who they had won over completely with their masterful set.
As the band waved their goodbyes Gene Kelly's 'Singing In The Rain' gently wafted from the PA...as an afterthought, Holder took two steps back toward the microphone and ordered the crowd to sing along.....'Sing It' he commanded...and as one....thousands and thousands of voices joined together to sing along..a sea of smiling faces, arms gleefully waving in the air...it brought a tear to my eye!
We Want Slade..
Just as the band finally vacated the stage, it did actually start to rain, not a lot, just a few spots of drizzle before it evaporated away...leaving the huge swirling entity that the audience had become to ponder what they had just witnessed and been a part of...knackered...exhausted and thoroughly entertained.
Def Leppard tried manfully to follow on, but the adrenaline coursing through the bodies of those watching could not be dampened down by their limp wristed (by comparison) Heavy Metal and for a large part of their set the chants of 'We want Slade' could be heard from small enclaves within the mass.
I never thought that following their Festival stealing performance that year they capitalised on it properly, bad management and poor decisions squandered what serendipity had brought their way.
But, that day, for nearly an hour, they were without doubt on top of their game, a tour de force..nay..a force majeure, simply unstoppable, as tight as a ducks arse. They stole the show, blew all the other bands and acts that weekend into oblivion, it was a priviledge and pleasure to have witnessed it first hand, until the day I die I will never forget the sight of all those people turning as one and rushing back to the stages to join in..that crackle in the air as the excitement generated by the band fed the crowd, and the crowd fed the band...a perfect symbiotic relationship.
Slade, long may they be remembered and revered....
Slade In England