Shiela Prophet - Record Mirror - 7/5/1977
Sheila Prophet dozes off and finds herself on a trip with slade in the land of Deja Vu
SLADE / FALKONER TEATRET, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK 20/4/1977
WHAT HAPPENED? WHERE AM I? I must've dozed off and missed my stop. Last thing I remember, I was on the 73 to Marble Arch . . . and now, here I am in this funny street where the cars are all on the wrong side of the road. I know - I'll ask these kids over there. I wonder why they're all standing here outside this hotel? They're dressed really strangely . . they're wearing tartan scarves and faded denims. Flared faded denims. And the boys have long hair - right down over their ears. You know, just like people used to have. They're speaking to each other in a language I don't understand. But there's one word I do recognise - a word they're repeating over and over again. The word is Slade.
Oh, now it's all coming back to me> Of course, I'm in Copenhagen. I've come to see Slade. You remember Slade - they're the ones who used to dress up in funny clothes and spell the names of their records wrong. They had lots of hits - remember 'Mama weer all crazee now' or 'Gudbuy T'Jane' or 'Coz I luv you'? Yes, you remember.
And here are Slade now, coming across the foyer of the hotel. Whatever happened to Slade? Why, nothing's happened to Slade. They're just the same as they ever were. There's Noddy, still looking like a dirty old man, and there's Dave Hill - you still can't see the join. It's just like old times - Slade are in the hotel, the kids are outside. It's as though the last two years never happened. But they did happen. Slade have been away a long time - for a very long time. And now they're trying to come back. Can they do it? They reckon they can.
"We really needed the lay off ," says Don Powell, relaxing on a settee between me and the man from The Daily Mail. "We felt like robots. We'd reached a point where we just weren't furthering ourselves. At the time, we wondered if we were doing the right thing, but we had to do it."
And so Slade headed off into the sunset. To America - the land of golden opportunities. It seemed a logical step for the band. They'd reached deadlock on this side of the Atlantic. They'd been to the top - now there was nowhere else to go but down.
"We needed the challenge," says Don. "We needed to go out there and fight."
And at first it seemed they were winning. The reports sounded good. New York, LA, Boston. They were Slaying 'em. Or were they? As time wore on, enthusiasm wore off. the reports grew smaller. Slade's blaze of glory was fizzling out fast. At least that's how it seemed this side of the Atlantic. But is it the truth? Don skirts the question neatly and talks about how America's given the band confidence.
So you don't think you made the wrong move? "No. It was something we had to do . . . " Onto the present day, and their tour and Don doesn't seem too worried about it all. "We're intrigued more than anything," he says. "We're just curious to see who turns up. So far, we've found a whole new set of kids coming along to see us. The older ones - the ones who used to like us - are still there, but we've gained new fans as well."
Don's hustled off to pose for a photo, and manager Chas Chandler starts to tell us how well the dates have gone so far. "Just like the old times," he says.
Don comes back and we chat about what it's like to come back after a lay off. "We haven't played live since last summer," he says. it's the longest break we've ever had. We were itching to get back to work. The strangest thing was packing my suitcase, and going out to buy soap and toothpaste and all that. But now we're together again, it seems like we've never been away."
The new album is called 'Whatever happened to Slade?' Some would say the title's appropriate, even ominous. But Don's not worried. "It was a tongue in cheek thing," he says "When we got back to England, that's what people kept saying to us, so we thought we'd use it on the album."
The press meeting is nearly over. The Swedish journalists have asked their questions. The band decide to leave for a sound check.
The hall is a 2000 seater in the middle of a shopping centre. Last time Slade were here, they packed out another hall twice the size. the support group is Mabel, Denmark's top pop group, made up of four blonde boys who all look strangely like Roger Taylor from Queen. They're mediocre.
We have some Carlsberg at 80p a bottle and chat to a Danish fan. He has the regulation straight ear length blonde hair and a Slade scarf. He tells us he's paid 78 kroner for his ticket - almost £8 [tickets on the UK tour a few weeks later, were priced at £1.00, £1.50 and £2.00]. He likes Slade but his friend prefers Abba. "I liked Slade," he says, "but they went away. they brought out no more records, and I found other people to like."
Back inside the hall, the kids have massed at the front. There are no bouncers. The whole thing's like a local band at the school gym hall. The lights dim, and they clamber on seats and chant, 'We want Slade'. Yes, in English. That's Danish politeness for you.
And here are Slade - onstage for the first time since '75 and guess what? They don't look any different. Not a bit. Noddy has on a blue shiny suit and a funny hat. Dave is wearing shiny trousers and a wide grin.
The first three numbers are from the new album. The sound is terrible - a churning, muddy ear splitting noise. It's a relief when they break into 'Take me bak 'ome' This is more like it . . . a good old piece of nostalgia.
The it's 'lightning never strikes twice' - one of the stronger tracks on the album, partly because it highlights Noddy's voice, which is really one of the band's most distinctive assets.
It gets a good reception and they do 'How does it feel' from the 'Flame' album. And it surprisingly works really well. For the first time you can hear every member of the group, including Jim on keyboards, and the melody line is strong and clear.
Then it's 'Everyday', another great slowie. It turns into a swaying sing-along, with the crowd waving their arms above their heads.
"This is the new single", says Noddy. "It'll be in your shops soon - so go out and buy it." It's a new song, 'Burning in the heat of love' with the same riff as the Kinks 'You really got me' and it sounds like a reasonable number. But really, it's not a patch on their old stuff - like 'Far far away which follows it. It's the best song so far, without a doubt, with a melody that still has an instant appeal. If they released it now, would it still be a hit? I reckon it would.
For me, 'Everyday' and 'Far far away' are the highlights of the evening. From now on, it's downhill all the way. The next is 'Mama weer all crazee now', a reasonable rocker, but the sound's going again and it soon degenerates into the same, thick mess they started with.
The Danish kids don't seem to mind - they wave their flags and their Slade scarves and beg for two encores. But I still can't help thinking what the British kids will make of it. Two years is a long time in the pop world. What worked then doesn't necessarily work now. Since 1975, music has moved on, changed, developed. Slade haven't. It's as simple as that.
Reliving memories is fun . . . for a while, but sooner or later, a band, no matter how big they once were, have to prove they can move with the times and produce something new. For Slade, that time is now.
At the dinner after the show, the band seem happy enough with the concert. But as the night progresses, the talk drifts back to Wolverhampton, to the early days, to past glories. Those were the days.
But those weren't the days. THESE are the days . . . right now. Surely memories aren't all that Slade have left?