There is no doubt that Slade were what we categorize as a rock band. Possibly in the glam variety, but still.. Today, the notion that a rock band would get in trouble for swearing on stage, would seem quite absurd. Not so in the conservative England at the start of the 70s… read all about it here. Enjoy.
They`re not rock or pop or anything else, they`re SLADE
Dave Hill talks to RM`s Val Mabbs
“OKAY”, says the hearty bellowing voice. “We want you all to clap along with us on this one, yes, everybody, let`s hear ya…”
The familiar kind of patter used by Slade on their live performances, building the audiences up to their almost frenzied height, when all the arms will stretch out to move in the mannerisms of Dave Hill, or Noddy Holder on stage, and the feet stamp relentlessly on polished ballroom floors.
They`ve long been the centre of a cult following, the heroes who provide the safety outlet for many a frustrated teenager, often pent up in a boring daytime job, just waiting for a chance to break out. And stomping along with Slade is better than smashing up trains, anyday!
But suddenly Slade are becoming accepted by a wider audience. They`re no longer thought of as an extension of a pop band – a description which never quite fitted anyway – and even the crowd at Lincoln`s Great Western Festival rose to their feet when the thundering little band hit the stage.
“It was the first big festival we’d done here,” explained the bouncy Dave Hill still happy despite having waited around for my arrival, following a muddle-up in communications. “We expected from your reports we’ve heard before that things would run late, but everything was very well organised, especially considering the bad weather they had to put up with.”
The group used the same on-stage act that they use regularly for their college and ballroom appearances, with one addition, “Move Over” by Janis Joplin. Apart from the obvious observation that Slade produced a good, controlled but rocking set, I wondered how Dave felt he might account for their victory (though he hates the thought of bands being put into a type of competition) on being tipped as the best group of the festival.
“I don’t think we played any better or any worse than we usually do,” he told me honestly. “But we’ve always gone out to get a mixed audience, and never wanted to be in any particular bag — we don’t want the rock label either, because we’re not a rock band, we only do one rock ‘n’ roll song.
“If you think about it we write our own numbers written through many influences, and I think where you’re brought up and the way you live influences things you write.
“I’d call our music beaty music, things you can dance to. I wish there was a new word, because when you say a rock band, to me that makes you think of the past, it’s attributed to Little Richard.
We aim to keep writing and keep fresh in our music all the time, we’ve got hundreds of tracks down in the studio now, and they’re nothing like what we`re doing on stage at the moment. We want variety in the act to appeal to many kinds of audiences. I really think that’s why we’ve won out because we can do that.”
From the outset of their career, Slade have always been individualistic. As Ambrose Slade, a quiet yet cheekily happy bunch of characters, they used violin on stage — an instrument that then was not as widely used as it has become today — and their title of being the first skinhead group, goes undisputed.
Even now, finding the correct words to apply to the group is difficult… they really can’t be labelled, except to say they’re Slade, and anyone who’s seen them work will know just what that means. Their live album “Slade Alive!” also gives an excellent indication of the band.
Slade are currently working in the studio recording tracks for a new album and single – all the tracks, Dave tells me, receive the same treatment, and are not recorded on a “this is going to be the single” pre-arranged basis.
Although being able to see the obvious shortcomings of recording all singles live, I echoed a reader’s view and asked Dave if he felt it could be beneficial for the group to record more live material.
“The album was recorded over three nights and an audience was brought in every night,” he told me, looking serious. “But it would be practically impossible to set that kind of thing up every time you wanted to record. Also you might not want an audience making a noise on the recording. All we wanted to do was produce a Slade live album showing how Slade are at present, not to get into any particular thing about recording live.”
Slade themselves were particularly pleased with the outcome of their live sessions, recorded in the Command studios. But are certainly not so pleased about the current obscenity charge that they are faced with, following an appearance in Glasgow.
“As far as I know Nod didn’t swear,” Dave told me, leaning back and crossing his yellow clad knees. “We did the normal act that we do everywhere, so why all of as sudden, out of the blue, should someone come and pin that on us? I know there were a lot of hassles with people jumping on seats and running around, but nothing different happened on stage.
“The police just walked in to the dressing room and asked who was swearing, who was doing the announcing. I didn’t hear everything that was said when I was out on stage, but I don’t remember anyone swearing. We just don’t need that,” Dave’s anger at the whole situation was beginning to show, as he continued. “I might swear when I’m talking to you, it’s just part of speaking, people do swear. Girls in London swear, I’ve heard them, but if a group do they labelled as being obscene”
In the past, with their sometimes open talk on stage — Noddy occasionally will call for couples to get together, jokingly commenting “let’s see you having a fee” – the group have acquired the reputation for stepping out a little, and I pressed on to ask Dave if he felt they had been lucky in not being told to lessen their comments before.
“I’ve never thought about us being lucky, we don’t think about things like that. I hate people using the bit about being obscene, I couldn’t think of anything cornier, our music’s good enough.”
Indeed Slade are a highly successful and entertaining act who need no extra gimmicks.
“The way we are on stage is what we are,” says Dave. “I wear flashy clothes but I always wear flashy clothes, and Nod has always been the way he is. We haven’t gone out of the way to be anything different. We haven’t planned anything.”
Wouldn’t you agree that the members of Slade are good businessmen though? Dave gives a knowing grin, adding seriously: “We’re not out to con the public. We put out what we are. Now we’ll continue on as normal, we’ve always been the same.”