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Slade / Genuinely thrilling, the past has never sounded so good

For some, the Glam Rock movement was never meant to last and was viewed as a flash in the pan bit of shiny pop that would have soon lost its lustre. Whilst its peak was just for a few years, its echoes have long outlasted those mid-’70s heydays and continues to influence rock and pop music with artists as diverse as Sex Pistols and Lady Gaga under its thrall.

Slade – Limited edition splatter vinyl reissues

Slade Alive! – 28 January 2022
Slade in Flame – Out Now
Old New Borrowed and Blue – Out Now
Slayed – Out Now

Words: Paul Monkhouse

The key in both the success and longevity of glam was that it was so incredibly well written, feel-good terrace anthems played by real musicians. Leading the charge were the kings of misspelt titles, Slade.

Forgetting the seasonally ubiquitous Merry Christmas Everyone, even the most cursory scan through their back catalogue reveals numerous gems that defined the era, their transition from skinheaded R&B’ers to all-conquering Princes of glitter and stack heels hard-won. After years on the road, the band had already built up a formidable reputation as a live act, drawing good-sized crowds even before their cover of Bobby Marchan’s Get Down and Get With It saw them crack the Top 20 in August of 1971.

Slade - Alive!
Slade 8211 Alive

Two months later, the band went into Command Theatre Studio, London, for three consecutive nights and recorded the legendary Slade Alive!, not only confirming their place as one of the hottest acts on the scene but also producing something that remains a visceral record of just how exciting live albums should be.

A mix of covers and original tracks, it’s a truly blistering set from the first notes of Hear Me Calling, the Ten Years After classic never sounding so raw and vital, dripping with rock ‘n’ roll spirit. In Like A Shot From My Gun highlights the raucous and distinctive vocals of Noddy Holder, the authentically live feel confirmed by a bum note by Dave Hill at the end of the song, before their delicate take on Lovin’ Spoonful’s Darling Be Home Soon shows they were more than capable of slowing things down nicely.

Jim Lea’s bass and the drums of Don Powell drive Know Who You Are like a locomotive, Hill’s wild guitar solo a revelation to anyone who had not seen them truly live before. Side two of the disc is a blast of pure, rough edged street rock ‘n’ roll crackling with life as Keep On Rocking, Get Down And Get With It and an extended and positively feral Born To Be Wild tear the place apart. As a stout riposte to anyone saying chart bands were fey, you couldn’t get anything louder or better than this as your answer, the Wolverhampton quartet captured in full, adrenaline-soaked, flight.

Slade had hit a gold streak following this, with the third album Slayed? and compilation album Sladest both hitting No.1 and managed the hat trick with Old New Borrowed And Blue.

Slade - Old New Borrowed and Blue
Slade 8211 Old New Borrowed and Blue

Seen as when the band had finally truly come of age, there was a maturity shown here that had only been hinted at before, the song writing stepping up a level or two from the rabble-rousing of previous releases. This isn’t to say that Slade had gone soft, far from it as the Led Zepp’ish Just A Little Bit proved in crushing terms, but with tracks like When The Lights Are Out mixing American blues-rock with some touches of mid-period Beatles, there was more sophistication than ever here.

Alongside some of the hard-rocking material like My Town, We’re Really Gonna Raise The Roof and Good Time Gals, there’s the piano-led barroom romp of Find Yourself A Rainbow and the country vibe of How Can It Be. Listening through the assortment on the album, it’s clear why they chose the title they did, and it’s a great journey to see how they can go from the pure ’50s rock ‘n’ roll of Don’t Blame Me to the touching but knockabout fun of single My Friend Stan.

It is though with the superior ballad Everyday that the band knock it out of the park though, not only showing that Holder and Lea could write something that could be sung from the terraces, Noddy’s vocals being particularly impressive in their range, but also incredibly heartfelt and pensive. It was a triumph.

Riding on a wave, Slade’s next move was a natural one for the time but done in their own, very unique way. According to many, the film Slade In Flame should have been a fun, comedic tour de force, the larger-than-life personas of the band brought in their full technicolour glory to the silver screen.

Slade - In Flame
Slade 8211 In Flame

But what they chose to do instead was a gritty and downbeat, true reflection of the life of an upcoming band in the tempestuous world of the music business. Now considered a classic, it wasn’t what the hordes of teenage fans were expecting at the time, but the film and accompanying soundtrack album saw Slade yet again not rest on their laurels.

With a distinct ’60s feel in the writing and production, the soundtrack captures the fire and the fury of the film perfectly, building on the work done on the previous album. Certainly, there are some rabble-rousing moments like the suitably abrasive rock ‘n’ roll of opener Standing On The Corner and the frenetic drumming of Powell matched with the slide work of Hill on Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing but also some more stretches into newer areas. Throwing back to their original love of R&B, stabs of brass pepper the album, adding colour and the downright funky, psychedelic work out of This Girl is a hitherto unseen side of the band.

Throughout, the writing is outstanding, and the lyrics as evocative as anything written by master wordsmith Ian Dury some few years later. Whilst superb tracks like Heaven Knows is perfect ’60s fare, Summer Son’ nails the vibe of those lazy, hazy days, and So Far is high octane, shuffling boogie, the album also contains two of the best things Slade have ever released.

In How Does It Feel and Far Far Away Holder and Lea created their very own Sistine Chapel ceiling, each note and word perfect, including Holder’s throwaway, tongue-in-cheek “I’ve had a red light off the wrist, Without me even getting’ kissed” follow up lines to Lea’s beautifully redolent opening pair on the latter. The first song that Lea wrote for the band, How Does It Feel, still has the power to drop jaws, its power and heart wrapped up in a shell that’s both tender and ballsy as it goes from the gentle piano-led intro through to its big, brassy outro. Like the whole of Sergeant Pepper compressed into six minutes of perfection, the track is often cited as a favourite by many musicians and Far Far Away is equally feted.

Whilst the film may have missed its key demographic at the time, this bold move by the band was an immensely satisfying one that saw them appreciated way beyond the bubble gum glitz and glamour of the charts, reiterating them as both fine writers and musicians who would stand the test of time.

With all three reissues put out in their original covers and in gorgeous splatter vinyl, there’s never been a better time to reintroduce yourself to this trio of ’70s masterpieces and get lost in the heady nostalgia they provoke.

One of the greatest live bands ever to grace a stage, Slade were the leaders of glam rock, their reputation built on constant touring and a string of some of the finest albums of the era. Genuinely thrilling, the past has never sounded so good, and these are vital purchases for anyone with more than just a passing interest in the history of rock music.

Slade: often imitated, never bettered.

To pre order Slade Alive! go to: slade.lnk.to/sladealive-splatterPR
To order Slayed? go to: slade.lnk.to/slayedPR
To order Old New Borrowed And Blue go to: slade.lnk.to/onbabPR
To order Slade In Flame, go to: https://slade.lnk.to/sladeinflamePR

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