Slade ~ The Seventies ~ Pt 2
The second half of the decade started with Slade about to dominate the UK music press for months with the release of their feature film 'Flame'.
Set in the late 60's Flame tells the story of a small time band being groomed for stardom by a group of men in suits whom would market the group as easily as they did cigarettes. The film was given due regard by the serious film press and was hailed as a masterpiece by the teeny mags. The accompanying soundtrack LP was released and incidentally was the first LP to feature all tracks being self penned.
The band were to tour briefly at home before departing for what was reported widely (and wildly) that the band were in fact quitting Britain for America. Indeed, manager Chandler reported that the band needed to concentrate on other markets and that fans would understand it. At the time, in the UK, those super rich high earners across all walks of life were being taxed at an extortionate rate of 95%, many artists and executives had left the country as tax exiles and Slade were to be no exception.
Almost instantly the music press rounded on the band and snidey reviews started to appear where the journalist's concerned seemed to be reporting that Slade were certainly a spent force and were more worried about the reaction of the audiences in the UK than actually trying to break the US. It was true that we were beginning to see a drop off in popularity in clearer ways....while their three single releases of the year 'How Does It Feel, Thanks For The Memory and In For A Penny' had all been chart hits but suffered by having the lowest chart positions for some time.
News filtering back from the States wasn't great either, it was always the same, the partisan Slade writers telling of success after success, but each and every time the US charts were scanned no mention could be seen of a Slade LP or single making it there. With not much information coming back from America Slade were in danger of losing their fan base in the UK, a gamble that was not to pay off in the coming years.
Their continuing exile in America carried on through 1976 with the band making brief sorties back to the UK for television work to suppliment any promotion for whatever they released. The hits were still coming in the shape of single 'Lets call It Quits' but the follow up Nobody's Fool' whilst having some airplay and publicity bombed. The writing that had been on the wall was now being read out aloud and by the time their LP 'Nobodys Fools' was released they were barely getting a mention as wave after wave of US Disco hits swamped the UK airwaves and night clubs.
The US experiment in itself was to prove a failure of enormous proportions in terms of success. Slade were a little more known but were complete nonentities to mainstream American ears. No matter what they tried they were continually thwarted by America just not liking Slade's sound. it was obvious that they would have to return to the UK and pick up whatever pieces they could. During the long hot summer of 1976 the UK charts changed and featured predominantly various disco 'greats' from America, Slade were going to have a hard time selling their brash and boozy rock n roll to a new demoographic of music buying public that now wanted to dance the night away to a disco beat as opposed to Slade's wall of noise.
Returning home to a less than enthusiastic welcome, the band quickly announced a new LP 'Whatever happened To Slade' and a full on concert tour to promote it. For many many fans the 'Whatever Happened To Slade Tour' of 1977 was a real highlight in their lives. The band, for the few thousand fans that still remained were reclaimed back from the arms of the uninterested Americans and returned to the top of the tree. After not seeing their heroes for a couple of years the fans were rabid for anything new and the chance to see them once again on a UK stage was nothing short of orgasmic.
The Press however were a little less easily pleased, a short tour of Denmark was hastily aborted following a disasterous performance in Copenhagen to which the band had invited the cream of the UK music writers. Slade were bad, and they were reported as such by just about all who had been invited.
Undeterred and not seeming to want to take any notice they carried on regardless and the releases of the years singles ' Gypsy Roadhog, Burning In The Heat Of Love and My Baby Left Me' all failed to add to the bands fabled catalogue of hits. By now it should be pointed out that Slade had been ditched by Polydor and were now releasing their product on the Barn lable.
With their career floundering Slade decided that the only way back was to start all over again. 1978 saw them back on the road with an extensive tour that took in the smaller club and university venues they had last played at way back in 1971. Unable to sell out the concert halls as they used to be able to do with consumate ease, Slade took their very special brand of bludgeon rock and performed their set with renewed enthusiasm, always guaranteed to give a great night out, the band were now such a tight unit on stage that it was decided to release a second live album in an attempt to replicate the route they had gone down a few years before.
Then Slade were brash and new. The nation greedily gobbled them up. Now Slade were old hat, Punk was the fad of the day and in full swing, Slade were considered dinosaurs and were treated with complete distain by the majority of the hip young music press corps eager to score points with their spikey haired readership. It didn't help their cause that they released some pretty dire singles in the coming years. Give Us A Goal being a case in point, a banal record which did nothing at all to sway anyone unfortunate enough to hear it. The follow up 'Rock 'N' Roll Bolero' also sank without trace but at least saw them trying to put some distance between it and the dire 'Give Us A Goal'
Still a fantastic live act Slade were struggling to make any headway with anyone other than the 500 or so stoicly loyal fans that had stuck with the band. Known as the Slade Old Guard these fans would support the band through thick and thin, we were there to show them that some still cared. For the first time in over half a decade the members of the band were suddenly accessible to the fans, it was nothing to see the band on most nights of a tour, and at each gig you would see the same faces in the audience. The music writers and concert hall promoters may have been giving the band short shrift, but those loyal 500 or so fans would never give up. In many many instances the fact that Slade were being treated with disrespect by the music industry only enhanced the fervent nature of those fans individual devotion to them.
When no one else gave a shit..we did.
Nothing was going right. In january of 1979 drummer Don Powell was convicted of drink driving and was duly banned from driving. Holder was to have his favourite Gibson SG stolen and in a seperate incident later in the year he was to have his nose broken by a bouncer at a gig in Wales. They seemed directionless, unsure or at times oblivious to the fact that what they were producing on vinyl was so completely out of step with what the record buying public were wanting.
Slade had lost their audience, save the Old Guard. The band seemed to be running around headless desperately trying to do anything at all that could get them back into the big time. They of course carried on touring, anywhere that would have them. We saw them at really ropey clubs playing a weeks residence in front of the locals all more concerned that the imported Old Guard fans were over rowdy and would spoil their evening meal....the era of Slade playing at 'Chicken In A Basket' clubs was in full swing.
Again, their records proved instantly forgettable and despite gaining some kind words from some reviewers the LP ' Return To Base' and the single 'Sign Of The Times' while being slightly better than some of the clunge they would produce a few years hence were quickly passed over plumbing the nefarious depths of Slade's 'rubbish' record collection.
In the final month of 1979 however, Slade committed musical Seppuku with the bewildering release of 'The Okey Cokey'
Time for a new decade.