"We didn't know we were doing this fucking
gig til' about three days ago.."
Noddy Holder ~ Reading Festival 1980
SLADE /READING ROCK 80' - 24/AUGUST/1980
Reading Rock 80' was without a doubt one of the bands finest hours, both literally and metaphorically. As far as their history was concerned, perhaps only their groundbreaking appearance at the Great Western Festival at Lincoln in 1972 had as much impact on their standing with the music going public, and the music writing press, as the Reading Festival in 1980.
Festivals all those years ago were not the well organised sanitised events of today, there was little regard given over to the various Health & Safety Acts let alone the basics such as food, water and ablutions!
The wall to wall facilities festival goers enjoy now were light years away from the spartan conditions offered by a few fields in the heart of the Berkshire countryside.
The weekend, an annual event for half a dozen of us (or as many that could pile into a battered old ex post office telecomms van) started as all previous Reading Festivals had began, running the gauntlet of Thames Valley Police between Reading town centre and the venue location. The previous year had seen a fair amount of trouble at the festival as pitched battles between Punks and Heavy Metal followers had broken out sporadically throughout the weekend. This year the police were not going to take any chances and were stopping all vehicles along the route and turning out the dishevelled occupants while sleeping bags and fans were searched.
1980's festival was to be a complete Heavy Metal event, littered with the cream of the so called New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, wunderkids Def Leppard, as well as stalwarts and old hands such as Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osborne and his Blizzard Of Oz, with main headliners Whitesnake bringing up the rear so to speak.
Arriving at the festival grounds, the usual scramble for a good parking spot and place to pitch tents was in full flow, it was sunny, hot and the feeling around seemed to be that this was going to be a great weekend of music and spectacle.
It didn't take long, it never does, for the festival rumours to start up, they abound, rumours and misinformation spread out of control and after a million Chinese whispers bear no similarity to the truth. That year, the first rumour heard was that Ted Nugent had been seen buying a burger and was going to be playing with Gary Moore, it had to be true, how could it not be, a bloke who knew a bloke who used to go out with another blokes sister overheard someone else saying so...
That rumour soon fizzled out but like sharks teeth, as one falls away another takes its place, Tony Iommi had been seen milling around 'backstage' and would be joining Ozzy onstage on sunday....it was all par for the course but as the day turned into night the main rumours became that Gary Moore had pulled out, and so had Ozzy Osborne, by 8pm on the friday night it was pretty much confirmed that Ozzy's Blizzard had indeed pulled out and that a 'name' band would be taking their place........by midnight, from somewhere, the whispers started....the name band that had been brought in to replace Ozzy's Blizzard were....Slade.
I had gone to Reading with my best mate at the time, a best mate I had converted from Kiss to Slade three years before when Slade returned from their American sojurn and barnstormed their way across the country with their 77' Whatever happened To Slade? tour, he had become as much of a fan as I was, neither of us could believe that Slade, our band, were going to be playing at the Reading Rock Festival, it just seemed so leftfield that it couldn't be true, this was Reading, 80,000 metal heads, bikers, down and dirty HM monsters...were Slade really going to be coming to town?
Bear in mind, Slade were at this time in the third year of their doldrums, they had become as relevant to the music scene in 1980 as say Adam Faith had become by time the 60's had flicked over into the 70's. The 500 old guard fans that had fervently and loyally followed the band up and down the country to the sweaty nightclubs, the university halls, the miners welfare social clubs and of course the 'chicken in a basket' clubs were all that had kept Slade Alive...we began to think that to have Slade appear at Reading could be the final nail in their coffin...the pop jesters thrown to the ravening horde...sacrificial lambs, it seemed all so....surreal.
Cans Of Piss
Despite waking up with a dreadful hangover and the sort of aches and pains that you only get from sleeping in cheap sleeping bags on hard but damp ground, we had regained some positivity.......if it were true, Slade would blitz and blow everyone else off stage, if only they would be given the chance by a Reading audience that took an annual delight in 'canning' those they didn't take to with cans of piss, it was medieval at times, but it could be funny too...the year before or maybe the year before that, a full West Indian steel band from the inner city were one of the first acts on as the afternoon kicked off....it didn't take long for the cans of piss to be seen arcing through the air to clatter into their drums...a real cacophony of noise.
That day, as the news that Slade were replacing Ozzy gathered pace not one person that I spoke to about it (with the exception of a fan called Gary Marsh from Edmonton) had a good word to say about Slade, especially hairy bearded men wearing denim jackets bedecked with a myriad of patches and badges proclaiming their affection for some rock legend or other. The worst were those proudly displaying their assorted Sabbath denims or Ozzy T shirts.....none seemed to be exactly overly enamoured that it would be Noddy and not Ozzy.......everywhere you turned, every queue for the bogs, the beer, the burgers..... "Fucking Slade?...Slade...I mean fer' fukssake........Slade...those fucking merry crissmass clowns.....blah blah blah.........it seemed that everyone was muttering the same.
No one seemed to be able to find out for definite if Slade were indeed going to be sacrificed to the HM crowd, but then again no one had heard of any other band being announced.
Some time during Saturday evening, I didn't hear it myself, but was told that whispering Bob Harris had confirmed over the PA that Slade were deffo appearing.....I was still unsure, but my fears for them seemed to subside, a few gallons of watneys party seven gave me the ability and confidence to collar hold of anyone I heard dissing Slade and tell them that Slade would surprise them...you like loud, you like heavy...you've never seen Slade? then you are in for a treat!