Glam rock icons – the story of Slade

Parodied by Vic Reeves, covered by Oasis and forever known for screeching "It's CHRISSSTMASSSS ..." Slade have been a part of British cultural history for 30 years.

Parodied by Vic Reeves, covered by Oasis and forever known for screeching "It's CHRISSSTMASSSS ..." Slade have been a part of British cultural history for 30 years. With a new book out on them, Hannah Davies finds out about the boys from the Black Country.

With androgyne creatures such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Brian Eno turning music into an other-worldly, truly beautiful experience, many were surprised when a group of blokes from Wolverhampton became glam rock's leaders.

With their boot-camp looks, Slade cut a strange dash in glitter, lamé and feathers.

Yet they were one of the best-selling bands of the 1970s.

GET DOWN AND GET WITH IT

Slade's path to stardom began as The 'N Betweens in 1966 when drummer Don Powell, guitarist Dave Hill, singer/guitarist Noddy Holder and bassist Jimmy Lea came together.

They started the hard way, and during the late 1960s built up a good reputation in the Midlands playing pubs and working men's clubs.

After an apprenticeship in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, the band re-christened themselves Ambrose Slade, and in the early 1970s attracted the attention of former Animals bassist, Chas Chandler.

Chandler, as well as being a seminal member of the Newcastle supergroup, had discovered Jimi Hendrix at a club in New York. In 1973 he told Rolling Stone magazine: "I was as impressed when I first saw Slade as I was when I first saw Jimi Hendrix."

After a frustratingly unsuccessful first album, Play it Loud, the band decided to record one of their crowd pleasing tracks, a cover of Little Richard's Get Down and Get With It.

John Peel immediately picked the single up and it reached a respectable 16 in the charts. Meanwhile Slade, formerly a skinhead band, had been growing their hair longer and Dave in particular was experimenting more and more with his clothes.

Chandler told Slade they needed to write their own music and decided Noddy and Jim had the best talents to do that. The lads sat down in Noddy's mum's house and over a cup of cocoa wrote Coz I luv You.

Chandler said: "I think you've written your first number one."

He was right - 500,000 copies were sold in two weeks and it went straight in at number two behind Rod Stewart's Maggie May at number one. One week later, Slade were celebrating taking the number one slot from Rod.

MAMA WEER ALL CRAZZEE NOW

Hysteria began to follow Slade as they became a permanent fixture in magazines such as Patches and Jackie.

The band's image began developing as well. Noddy became obsessed with wearing tartan and Dave would seek out anything metallic or glittery to wear on stage.

At one Liverpool gig, Dave Hill's platform shoes were so high that he fell off them and broke his leg.

In 1972, the band wrote Mama Weer All Crazee Now. Slade already had two hit singles under their belt, and this was another big 'un.

Backstage at Top of the Pops when Dave was dressing, Noddy would call out, "Come on H reveal," so the band could see what his next ridiculous outfit would be.

In 1973, both Cum on hear the Noize and Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, reached the top chart slot. But disaster was about to strike. In July of that year, Don drove his white Bentley to pick his girlfriend, Angela Morris, up from the nightclub where she worked.

On the way back, he lost control of the car, hit a wall and the couple were thrown through the windscreen. Angela was killed instantly and Don suffered horrific injuries. He slowly began to recover but permanently lost his sense of taste and smell and suffered amnesia.

As Don recuperated, the band recorded Merry Xmas Everybody in a sweltering New York September. With an amazing 800,000 pre-orders, the song went straight to number one and ever since has been known as that Christmas single.

FLAME

Chandler - who had always based the band's career path on the Beatles - decided Slade needed to get a rock 'n' roll movie under their belt.

Flame was released in 1974. It was surprisingly hard-hitting for a group thought of by many as a pop singles band. It has since been heralded a classic, but it also marked the breaking of Slade's singles success.

After two years of unsuccessfully trying to break into the US market, the band returned home to find the UK had changed. Punk was on the rise and Slade were now the old men of music.

The band instead found continued success in Europe - especially Poland. But in 1979 their album, Return to Base, sunk almost without trace.

Slade were on the verge of splitting up when Chandler said: "I've had an offer ..."

The band were asked to play the Reading Festival after Ozzy Osbourne's band Blizzard of Oz had to pull out at the last moment.

Nervous about how they would be received, the band were delighted when they were a resounding success, and on the back of that gig there was renewed interest in Slade.

In 1982, Slade on Slade, a live album recorded at Newcastle City Hall, was released to critical acclaim. The band finally split in 1987 after their final burst of success fizzed out.

* Cum on Feel the Noize: The Story of Slade, by Alan Parker and Steve Grantley is published by Carlton Books on September 4 at £14.99.

Ballroom Blitz - The Sweet

Cum on Feel the Noize - Slade

20th Century Boy - T-Rex

Starman - David Bowie

The Boys are Back in Town - Thin Lizzy

The band had 17 consecutive top 20 hits and six number ones.

Three of their albums topped the LP charts in an 18-month spell between 1972 and 1974.

Slade's chart success ran from 1971 with Get Down and Get With It to 1991's Radio Wall of Sound.

Merry Xmas Everybody has re-entered the charts six times.

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