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Here is a really fun interview with Noddy Holder. He talks about touring and groupies and shares some inside stories from the road. I really liked to read this one – and I hope you do too!
One chick holds you down. The other has the scissors.
Slade prepare to tour: Julie Webb hears how.
It`s little-known that a certain member of Slade`s road crew, was, to quote Noddy Holder, “called in by the police for assault” after the band had played a gig at Southampton. And if that sounds like the band are surrounded by heavies who go around manhandling Slade fans, you ain`t heard the half of it.
“The charge was finally dropped because of the circumstances”, expounds Mr. Holder, today looking respectable behind shades and a black pully.
The alleged incident took place as the band were arriving at the gig. Holder says: “It`s a major operation for us just getting in and out of places. Anyway, on this particular occasion two girls got hold of me by each side of my hair and pulled me to the ground. They would not let go. And Rob had to sock them to make them let go – they were killing me.”
After three years of major hit singles/albums in Britain, the band are well aware of the tricks their followers get up to. Back to Mr. Holder: “One of them grabs hold of you and pulls you down while another one cuts your hair off with a pair of scissors. They get a big chunk of hair and split it between them afterwards.”
And just how does one cope with scissor-happy young ladies?
“You can`t really punch them – I wouldn`t think of punching them. You know why they`re doing it and you have to put up with it. But a lot of kids just don`t seem to realise why you don`t stop and sign autographs on the way to the car – it`s simply because you can`t, because some of them go berserk and rip you to shreds. It`s dangerous. Not only that, it does hurt.”
Holder says one of their most frightening experiences was the night Dave Hill sustained a broken leg at Liverpool.
“That night I thought we`d had it. I don`t know how many people were there – probably four or five thousand – but it looked like they were all coming at us.
“We had 90 bouncers in front of the stage, and even they were finding it difficult to hold back. The stage was in the middle of a boxing arena, right in the middle – and it was a real long walk to the dressing room.
“We had to go through the crowd – we had bouncers linking arms to give us a gangway, and the crowd just broke through.
“Dave was first down the stairs off the stage and he was the first one to cop it – and when he went to the floor we all fell on top of him.”
Clearly British tours (the band start their first one for 10 months in April) are memorable. And this time round you`ll be paying more for your Slade tickets. Holder explains some of the reasons why:
“We`re not expecting to make a lot of money on this next tour – in fact we`ll probably break about even. Ticket prices have gone up but that bread isn`t going into our pockets. It`s costing more to take the show on the road – petrol`s costing more, everything`s costing more. The halls are costing more to hire, advertising costs more and so the price must go up – if only to break even.
“You have to understand the economics of a tour. In Britain we`re taking 12 ton of equipment with us, with the lights and everything, and that`s going to take a lot of getting around. There`s a crew of basically 10 people, and their wages and expenses have to be paid, and hotel bills and food on the road. Our own hotel bills, our own transport, repairs to theatres…”
Repair bills to theatres? What`s all that about?
“At Earls Court we had to pay about £5,000 in damage bills. Seats, hand-rails, that sort of thing. Balconies crack – the Palladium balcony cracked, although I think the promoter was insured against that. At Greens Playhouse, (now the Apollo) in Glasgow, the balcony cracked. We do insure against it, but the insurance people know what`s going to happen so obviously they don`t give us cheap insurance.”
So how much do they reckon to pay out for damages on a British tour?
“Works out between two and five hundred a night.”
“Oh yeah, of course. It`s money you pay out – it`s not coming into your pocket, is it? It`s an expense of the road. We don`t mind paying, but it`s one of the examples of why tour prices are going up.”
Despite the wreckage and havoc Slade fans cause at each gig, Holder maintains they rarely get banned from venues.
“Not as long as we pay the bills. We`ve been banned from a few places – like Liverpool has been very difficult to find a hall to play in. The last time we played there was when Dave broke his leg, and the damage bill to the stadium was enormous. Still we`ve found somewhere for this tour.
“It`s not that the kids go wantonly in and smash the place up. Things just get broken in the course of events. Seats get broken, lights get pulled off the wall, things like that. You have to foot the bill if you want to keep working at these theatres.”
From up on stage, is Holder aware of the chaos he and the band are wreaking in audience?
“Not really. We see the damage afterwards. Although we realise it`s going on of course.”
And with a large audience, stewards/jobsworths aren`t always that big a help.
“I don`t like them, although I realise they`re a necessity. Even so, if it was left to me I wouldn`t have them – because a lot of times they cause more bother than they stop. We`ve cleared them out from the front of the stage at loads of venues, and it`s been a lot more easy going.”
If he sees an open case of violence, Holder endeavours to stop it from on stage – “If I see somebody getting beat up by a bouncer.”
However, there are sometimes casualties.
“Oh yeah, two bouncers in Glasgow on the last tour got their arms broken. Dave got his leg broke as mentioned – but casualties like that you have to live with. Sometimes we`ve had cops bringing the Black Marias up to the door, and when you get inside you feel the kids all banging on the sides – and it feels like the van is going to go over.”
Such tight security at gigs – whipping the band in and out of venues with such speed – would I venture, mess up the Slade groupie scene.
“We`re not really into that much now. I think we`ve grown out of it. We get our fair share of women, but it ain`t the same sort of groupie scene we used to revel in at one time. At one time we used to go out of our way to pull birds. Now we just let it happen now, if we meet the chicks – we don`t go out of our way to pull them.
“But then with a lot of chicks you meet on the road, their last thought is to sleep with you. Some of them genuinely want to be mates with you. We have just as much fun with the chicks who don`t sleep with us.”
The American groupie scene, being from all accounts a very organised thing, freaked Holder out when he first came across it.
“They are much more open about it in America. If they want it they`ll ask you for it. They`ll say, `have you got a girl with you tonight?` and you either say `yes` or `no`. If you say `yes` then they`re cool enough and they`ll just blow, unless they really fancy you lot – and then they`ll try to give the other chick a hard time.”
If the U.S. groupie scene freaked out Holder, then America at long last appears to have been freaked out by Slade.
“Concert-wise we`re very big; record wise, well, the records haven`t taken off yet. The first gig of the last tour was at the Philadelphia Spectrum. That`s an 18,000 seater, and we got 16,000 in. And when we`ve gone back to places like Philadelphia we`ve packed `em out.
“On the first couple of tours it was real hard going, because they hadn`t heard of us at all and we`re probably a much more typically British group than most. That made us much harder to latch on to. So now we`ve learned to adapt a bit. We don`t do so much fooling around – it`s a much more straight-forward rock act.
“On the British tour we`ll be adding the American things we`ve learned as well as the British things. Like lights. We`d never concentrated on lighting, never had a lighting system on the road, until America. But we`ve got used to it – so we`ll have one in Britain now.”
The British stage act will of course vary considerably from their act on the last tour here, with the inclusion of several numbers from the “Old, New, Borrowed And Blue” album – which contains “Everyday”, the band`s new single.
“`Everyday` was by demand, really – like a stop-gap single. We don`t usually bring stuff off an album – we put singles into albums. But everybody wanted us to bring it out and we agreed. It is a completely different thing and we don`t really know how it`s going to do, because that album has sold over 200,000 already.”
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Mott the Hoople, Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), The Shadows, Van Morrison, Wayne County, Wet Willie and Sly Stone, Edgar Broughton, Robert Plant.
This edition is sold!