THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES ~ GEOFF LAKE
'Came up to you one night, noticed the look in your eye.' So sang Noddy Holder back in 1972. I was 12 years old. The record was Tak' me bak ome. My brother bought it and I hated it. Crap I thought. Please dear readers, remember, I was brought up on Jim Reeves, Julie Andrews and George Formby. My mums record collection is still not worth noting even to this day. Marc Bolan was all I can remember. Yes, he did look like a girl, but compared to Slade that night on a television programme called, ‘Set of Six', at least he scrubbed up nice.
Several weeks pass, my opinion is to change to ''Who is Marc Bolan?. Slade is the band, the band with bollocks. A vocalist, who in my humble opinion, is rock and rolls best ever since Lennon, a drummer who can reduce his kit to matchwood and I still can't look at ‘Animal' in The Muppet Show without thinking of Don, a lead guitarist who knows he's no Hendrix but makes up for it in showmanship and finally a bass/keyboard/violin player with a song writing talent to boot. BOOT! Being the operative word.
I spent the next six months back tracking Slade's catalogue, well, what I could get of it. Fine until Get down and get with it, anything before that was, and still is rare. Where the hell was I when Get down and get with it, Coz I Luv you and Look wot you dun was broadcasting through every radio and television set? God only knows.1973 is a very good year in terms of success. Little did we know but it would never be this good again. Cum on feel the Noize, Skweeze me Pleeze me, My friend Stan and a bloody Christmas record, that to this day they can't shake off. Three number ones' and the biggest Christmas record since Bing sang White Christmas. It was not all good, Don is nearly killed in a road accident, and his girl friend dies in the same tragic crash. He was to survive, but he was to lose his sense of taste and smell. The band can give him the plain crisps and fart in his company without him knowing according to reports years later. It is this sort of typical response that warms me to the band. The band had a sort of down to earth working class approach.
I would have to wait until 1974 to get to see this band live. I missed them at Liverpool stadium in 1972 (Dave check date.....((18th nov!!))) but now they were back in Liverpool. playing Liverpool's Mountford Hall. The date is May 4th 1974. I still remember the pink ticket. I think I paid £2 for it. The tour was called Slade's Crazee Nite, and if you dressed up like the band you could win a prize and meet them backstage. I tried but failed to impress. Never mind, the concert is still to this day, clear in my mind. The venue is a student hall, no seats. I'm right at the front. I clasp too many mementoes bought by the rip off merchants outside, but hey, I was only 14. The support band does not last long, well with a name like Becket, what do you expect?
Finally the wait is over. Slade are there on stage, five foot away from me. Noddy is wearing a black and white checked suit complete with the now famous mirrored top hat, Jim is in yellow, Don can't be seen except for a pair of blared hands and finally Dave is in some sort of green thing, with a bit hanging down one wrist. Don't try to get me to describe it; let's just say, if I saw it I would know it. This is the Everyday tour. The new album due out is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. What a night, nothing can go wrong ever again, surely?
My God. Slade are to make a movie. It's The Beatles all over again. Well, not quite, the movie was not the monster success that everyone thought it would be. Still, it gave us a good album, Slade in Flame and another tour. Funnily enough for me, it was a year and day since the last one, May 5th 1975. We get Far Far Away, surely one of Slade's best. We also get How Does It Feel. The single, from the movie titles, is not a top ten hit. Why the hell not, it still is one of the best compositions from Holder/Lea. ‘The honeymoon is over' claim the press. ‘The writing's on the wall' the tabloids shout. Oh yeah, want to bet on it?
By now the Slade fever has taken a grip on me like no other band before or since. Sure, I liked other music but Slade seemed to move with the times. I was never happy with Slade's Glam tag. I don't want Slade remembered along side Gary Glitter, the Glitter Band, or the Sweet. Glam was Bolan not Slade. Dave Hill may have sold them some records by dressing like a metal nun, but was I the only one who thought that Slade was not just visual? Slade had substance. Listen to Play it Loud, and then listen to the Flame album. They progressed man! Can you imagine Standing on the Corner on the Play it Loud album?
‘Slade too rich to be working class' claims The Sun, a so-called British newspaper. Don Powell forgets he once said 'To hell with America' and they set off on a concentrated effort to break the States. Slade are in the papers with an American flag. Boo Hiss! Chas Chandler, the bass player from The Animals, the man who brought Hendrix to Britain, and the man who steered Slade to the limelight was now giving Slade probably his worst advice ever. Two years in the States, just as their careers in this country was fading. Did Chas have an ulterior motive? If Slade crack the States, maybe Don Powell will find himself saying “To hell with Britain.” We get a few appearances on Top of the Pops, and new album, Nobody's Fools.
The honeymoon is over. The hits stop. Slade return to Britain just as Britain decides to find it rock 'n' roll roots . . .unacceptable, anti establishment music. Punk rock, gobbing, swearing, ripped clothes. Dave Hill as the metal nun has had it. His answer? Shave his hair off, well, what was left of it. Slade are back with an American sound. A brand new album and nobody is interested with the exception of a few diehards like you dear reader. The album, Whatever Happened to Slade, I like it, Chas Chandler hates it and so do the press.
The lean years were long but gave me the best Slade gigs ever. Small shitty fleapit clubs were more personal. It was easier to get closer to the band. Jim Lea says he liked it when the band was struggling; he liked the fight he claims. Well his fight back includes some bad decisions. Slade are by now are desperate, they release some of their worst efforts ever. Things like Give us a goal, Burning in the heat of love and a suicidal decision even sees them releasing a version of Okey Cokey. I persist and still follow the band, I still buy their records even though it is virtually impossible because shops won't stock them and Slade don't have a proper record company deal. No company would sign them.I hear Give Us A Goal, what is this shit? Never mind at least they are playing live in Buckley, North Wales. It was to be a bit of a journey from Merseyside but what the hell. I arrive early afternoon by bus with my fiancé. It's not a theatre but a club. The place is called the Tivoli (Is it still there?). I have a few bevies and find myself a seat. Slade are not on stage until very late. I meet up with an old Slade follower called Mugsy and his girlfriend. We chat, we drink and I take a visit to the little boys room. When I return, my fiancé informs me that one of my friends was in the club. She can't remember his name. Then suddenly, she shouts, 'There he is.' My friend, I wish, was Don Powell. Mugsy and I are soon out of our seats. Don goes through a door at the side of the stage. We are blocked entry by Graham (Swinn) Swinnerton, Slade's road manager. He knows my face from other gigs and suddenly we are in. Standing there, looking at Nod, Dave, Jim and Don.
All those years of dreaming, dreaming of meeting them. All those years of questions I was going to ask and now I can't remember one. I lift Nod's drink, pinch his beer mat and tear the thin paper on the top and thrust it around for the band to autograph and I finally calm down. Nod writes ‘To Geoff, Keep on rocking! Noddy.' The band let us stay for a bit and we talk like we known each other for years. We don't think of our girls still sitting out side the small dingy dressing room, wondering where we are. The band then ask us to leave, it time for the show. We ask if we can come back after the show. Yes, they say.After the show, we are back sitting with the band only this time our girlfriends are in tow. The band allows fans in for autographs two at a time as we, sit, and lord it up like we have known the band forever. I stand up to leave, hand out stretched to say my farewells. I shake hands with the band and they turn one at a time, to kiss my fiancé. First Nod, then Jim, then Don, then. . . .Dave Hill leans forward, my fiancé says “I'm not kissing him with that ‘orrible baldly head, you can see all the veins sticking out.” Oh my God. I want the floor to open up and so, I think, does Dave Hill. Time to go. To coin a phrase we have to Return to Base. I am stuck in North Wales with no money, cigarettes and no matches. My fiancé and I start walking and thumbing for a lift. We don't get one until we reach Bromborough, which is about six miles from home. My feet hurt, I am gasping for a smoke, my fiancé is moaning at me but I don't care, I just spent an evening with Slade.
Slade continue with more fleapit clubs, the bands are still a great live act but I am never to meet them again. They play my hometown, Birkenhead, twice in one year and I try to convince punk fans that Slade are still cool. They mock me but I don't care. Over the years I did go to see other bands, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, Nazareth and even Marc Bolan. They were all good live but a Slade gig is just that little bit special. Am I being biased? Well maybe, but those who know, like you dear readers, will know what I am on about.
Slade are on the verge of calling it a day. We have Mr Ozzy Osborne to thank for Slade re-emergence. That one decision by Ozzy to pull out of the Reading festival to and make room for a better band gave us another 12 years of Slade. Live at Reading, was an event and it was also an EP. It saw Slade back in the charts but it was not quite the same. Suddenly Slade were back in the press, Nod is saying they never went away. Slade were big again but not as big as before. The Reading festival won them a new audience, a hard rock audience. The Return to Base album is re-hashed as the We'll bring the house down album, but do hard rock fans appreciate tracks like Hold onto your hats? More hits follow, Lock up you daughters and then ten years after THAT Christmas record they are fighting the Flying Pickets for the number one spot. They have to settle for number two, the record was My Oh My. They follow with Run Runaway. The next Christmas it's, All join hands. They continue to play live. I get to see them at Liverpool, Manchester, Southport, and Salford etc.
Then it's quiet again, Slade have their first hits in America, thanks to Quiet Riot doing a cover of Cum on feel the Noize. Slade play Liverpool Royal Court, little did I know, this was the last time I would see Slade together live, in fact this was the last date of Slade's last tour. The 90's, Slade like a yo yo, are back up again with Radio Wall Of Sound, but it's a brief return, Universe flops. We all know the rest. Slade head back to the States, Jim get hepatitis and Nod calls it a day.
The result, Nod get lots of radio and television action, Jim goes all serious, and Don and Dave form Slade 2. Pardon? Slade 2? What Slade? Without Nod and Jim? Okay, let's give it a go........................... I finally get to see them, with The Glitter Band and Brian Connolly's Sweet at Liverpool Empire. It was torture. Bad enough that they tour with the Glitter Band, well one member of the Glitter Band, whose claim to fame is he co wrote Angel Face. Brian Connolly is so ill; he does not make it to the stage. Then, Slade 2, it great to see Dave and Don but . . .It's not Slade. Their new vocalist is good but he's not Noddy. I go home and play the CD of this new Slade. Ho hum, I even see the vocalist play with his own band in a local pub in my new hometown of Shrewsbury, and then again the next night, in Wem. He‘s got a great voice and he NOT doing Slade stuff. So why, is he pigging around with Slade 2?
Present day, I have Slade to thank for some of the best years of my life. They rock like no other. Hard to believe in 1973 Lea/Holder were compared to Lennon/McCartney as songwriters. Nod as a vocalist was compared to Lennon. Slade were called the new Beatles, to which Slade said ‘ No, we are the 1st Slade.
Now, I like new bands, I like Oasis, I like Manic Street Preachers and I like Travis. I like the lyrics of Elvis Costello and Paul Weller. I have new CD's to buy, new bands to listen to. My music is now broader and it's because of Slade, the best roll 'n' roll, kick arse, in your face band who ever walked a stage.
If Nod, Dave, Don or Jim ever read this, unlikely, but you never know, I just want to say thanks for good times, drunken days, loud nights, opening my mind, in fact Thanks For The Memory.