Knickers and bras and the ethics of Slade
Julie Webb - New Musical Express 9/3/1973
SLADE / HARD ROCK MANCHESTER, ENGLAND 27/3/1973
"ERE NOD, give us one of yer bleeding mirrors," the young lady screamed as she beat her painted fingernails against the dressing room door.
"Nod", the voice took on a more authoritative note, "gis that badge off yer arse."
"Ain't got a badge on me arse" Holder replied and laughed. It appears in Manchester at least, we have to report the sad demise of the autograph book.
"Nod" demanded the voice, a trace of aggression starting to creep in, "gis a string." Slade were backstage at the Hardrock in Manchester, prior to their first gig in Britain for well over a month. There was bedlam in their dressing room as four photographers pushed lenses in every conceivable direction. Slade pictures get printed, so Slade mean money to them, even the sight of Holder pouring a drink is enough for the cameras to click. And when one of the lens men discovered that the quiet guy talking to Jim Lea was his brother, well, he was beside himself with joy. Dave Hill disappeared into the loo at the back to put his stage regalia on, and emerged looking like a reject Christmas tree fairy. Again the cameras flashed, until Swinn, the bands personal roadie, ushered everyone out.
In the main hall things looked frightening. The stage at the Hardrock is high, but the crash barrier and the bouncers did nothing to deter the already hot - sticky crowd. The temperature prior to the band taking to the stage was incredibly high, despite the fact that it was Brass Monkey weather outside - and for one evening the Hardrock became a semi circular sweat pit.
The sound was lobe blowing as Slade strutted on stage wearing clothes that made Gary Glitter look like a beginner in the glamour business.
Two Young ladies at the front, dressed in yellow, had delight written all over their faces. But it was replaced seconds later with fright. The steaming pushing mass was too heavy for anyone to take.
"Are You Alright?" Holder yells, and thousands of waving arms and screaming lungs answer yes, they're all right. Even the two birds at the front, despite considerable discomfort. managed a smile. "I wanna see everyone with their hands in the air, Holder screams down the microphone as the band play "Hear Me Calling'." and Before he's completed the word 'wanna', there are the hands - not just those at the front but amazingly those right at the back. "Really let yourselves go," Holder commands, and the hypnotised crowd obey. "There are a few people down the front getting pushed "Now we don't want anyone getting hurt" he adds, trying desperately to do something to help those at the front from getting crushed under feet.
"Gudbuy T 'Jane" the second number. was 'obviously the cue for bra and hat throwing. Very easy really - you hold your right arm back, give an almighty thrust and if it doesn't reach the stage, the person who catches it will make sure it reaches the correct destination. "Move Over Baby", third in the set, sees Holder strutting across the stage like a turkey at stud. And as if the words or the title influence them. the crowd move over, getting dangerously close. The bouncers have a look of terror on their faces. Holder temps the crowd ..."It's getting a bit hot here now. so if anyone fancies stripping off, we fancy seeing some tits ...
"Eek", the audience scream. Next more titillation in the form of the new single, "Cum On, Feel The Noize", the fastest-selling Slade single to date. It's a Signal for the crowd to push once more, breaking the crash barrier en route. The bouncers are worried and start hitting out at those near the front and immediately Slade's action man, Swin, is down at the front urging them to stop the rough treatment.
Slade carry on. "If we stopped," Hill told me later, "it a only be worse." "There's no need to get rough," Holder announces before the next number. "Can you move back?" he inquires solicitously, adding tactfully, "the fellers down the front are having a hard time." .During "Darling Be Home Soon", one of the yellow ladies starts to cry. Eyes fixed firmly on Holder and then on Lea. Hill and Powell, ( it's all a bit too much to) take. Cheeks covered in mascara, her face going blotchy she still musters enough energy to sing all the words.
"Are there any Manchester United supporters 'ere?" Holder inquires, and is deafened.
"Any City supporters? " Again, the response is deafening. "Right, I want everyone with their hands in the air" - immediately thousands of hands reach towards the ceiling, the whole steaming mass starts to sway together as they sing the cup final song "You'll Never Walk Alone." By the time "The Whole World's Going Crazee" was announced. there was an invasion at the side of the stage. First hands then bums were placed at the side until Mr. Big, one of the roadies spotted a couple of them sitting dangerously near the wires, and merely by indicating, and not by force, he 'suggested' they get down to their seats.' It was perhaps a mistake to mention that dreaded word 'football' in Manchester, because every pause between numbers was punctuated with the "United" chant. "Take Me Bak 'Ome" was the closing number -- the lady in yellow by this time being held up by her boyfriend. Four more girls started weeping with excitement, pleasure and fright, and were positively shell shocked when they realised it was the finish. Slade were beginning to look bushed but they responded to the audience and came back for an encore, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now".
Minutes after they left the stage that young lady was there banging on the dressing room door.
"Gis yer string Noddy", she demanded. Hill retired to the loo to change back from fairy to feller and was greeted with loud thumpings from the window. The window broke and Hill beat a hasty retreat. Swin went to the rescue, to make sure the girl hadn't hurt herself.
"I'd rather go outside and face them than have' them cut themselves," Hill commented.
Slade gigs, apart from being more successful, are proving more of a danger than ever. I spoke to Hill on the subject.
"It's basically the construction of the halls. You can't stop young kids from leaping, but 1 don't like to see them getting hurt." How does Hill feel when an obviously overbearing, grasping fan demands an' "autograph, hug. kiss or whatever?
"I don't think about it really. They're fans whatever they're like. I've had blokes say 'I love you', and they aren't queer. I never look at them in that way." And as for fans throwing themselves at the band or such like ... "That's the last thing we want - a reputation for groping young girls. It's just not on - you can have fun back stage, but it's never like that. If it was, there'd. be some. guy backstage writing about It or something. No, the four of us are very strict about that."
But doesn't their stage' act suggest a big sexual thing to the audiences? They do after all, throw underwear at the. band.
"Sure, we get knickers and bras thrown on stage. But it's funny - saying the word knickers is funny, nothing more. Four letter words aren't funny that's why we don't use them.
It could be argued that 'tits' is a four-letter word, still, the sincere note was there.
"Fans feel a part of your life, so it doesn't worry me if they want to break a window to get at us."
The most frightening thing, apart from the crush, heat and Jobsworths at a Slade gig, is the obvious power the band wield over the crowd. Power, it appears, the band are completely unaware about.
"We've never actually sat down and said, 'boy we are powerful'. Basically we are yobby at heart - we still think cheap, still argue over petty things. We won't be flash; it's senseless buying drinks for everyone and throwing your money around. We've always gone for respect as people, not just as stars on stage."
JULIE WEBB, NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS