'AR THE KIDZ OWT'VE SITE?' SHOCK PROBE
SLADE / FALKONER TEATRET, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK 20/4/1977
Bands don't readily admit to being yesterdays heroes....so Slade, not long ago one of Britain's most celebrated bands, will only acknowledge that they've been through a bad patch.
After two unsuccessful years years in America they're unable to return as triumphant conquerors, but they're putting on an optimistic face and hoping to regain lost popularuity with their new album and current British tour.
And Polydor, who once boasted Slade as one of the best sellers on their roster, are not yet cutting their losses either. That's why they've invested more than £2,000 flying seven journalists to Copenhagen for a Slade concert and interviews.
Unfortunately, however, the facts can't be surpressed. Noddy and Co's commercial decline started at the end of 75 when the single "In For A Penny" failed to enter the top ten.Two subsequent records followed a similar course, and then earlier this year "Gypsy Roadhog" only just scraped into the 40's.
In 1975 Slade could play the massive earls Court stadium, yet now they'll be lucky to fill London's Rainbow.
In a situation like this, the Copenhagen press relations gig is very important. Meaning, it's up to Slade to perform well.
Sadly, they don't.
They play a mixture of their hits and album tracks, but the sound is appalling and it's rare to hear either Jim lea's bass lines or Don Powell's drumming over Dave Hill's exuberant guitar chopping.Essentially, the fun of their special clumping brand of unpretentious rock is missing. Noddy Holder sings well, but his usual onstage ribaldry is seldom evident, and no amount of gooning by Hill, the familiar glitter clown, can disguise a basic lack of enthusiasm.
Copenhagen's Falkoner Teatret (capacity 2,000) is only half full. We are, however assured that this is because the Danish papers are on strike and it's difficult to advertise. The night before Black Sabbath suffered a similar fate only attracting 1,100 people. But even so, Slade's third gig in eight months is a disaster, and at the splendid meal afterwards we all avoid having to speak to the band about it. Their disappointment shows, and the next day they're unexpectedly on our flight back to London, having cancelled three remaining Danish dates.
Holder says the papers will be on strike a little longer and he's reluctant to admit the circumstances of their withdrawel are within their control. Slade's strongest characteristic, in fact, is their refusal to submit to decline, althoughyou might have assumed otherwise when they named the last album "Whatever Happened To Slade?"
Jim Lea just chuckles good humouredly over the title. He says it was tongue in cheek. According to him Slade's misfortunes are by no means as great as they might seem. With the sleeve featuring photos from their skinhead days as Ambrose Slade, Lea suggests that title merely alludes to the misconception people had that they were finished then, just as it's wrongly thought they're finished now.
I suggest that when Slade decided to quit Britain two years ago, presumably to concentrate on the American market, they were already slowly losing their commercial impetus. Perhaps that was a miscalculation on their part. Lea doesn't agree and instead argues that they had to leave the homeland because they had achieved as much as they could. Albums and singles went silver and gold, concerts sold out, they'd made the movie 'Flame', and then found themselves "getting stale going over the same ground"
In fact, references to the group becoming "stale" are frequent. Going to America gave an opportunity to reflect on their musical prospects, away from pressure, and to escape from the inhibiting cocoon of superstardom and experience some hard graft as a support act.
"It was somewhere where nobody was putting the finger on us," he says. "You guys were all putting the finger on us and we ourselves felt we were geting a bit lost.
"It was more than just leaving England before we went over the hill. I don't think we even thought about that - because the records always went into the charts on the first day of release"
Perhaps that's true, but the entry positions were getting lower and lower. Anyway, in America Slade spent ten months on the road without having a hit or becoming a major attraction (which seems like a protracted and ignominous way to consider their future).
Breaking America was unimportant, Lea declares rashly, adding that they didn't have any hits because their record company were not doing their job correctly.
"You could say the material wasn't strong enough," he defends, "but it was a hit everywhere else. You could say it wasn't to the American's taste, but we've made a lot of different records.
NME - 7/5/1977