British rock band Slade was hugely successful in England in the 1970s, but despite consecutive hit singles and albums, they never went beyond cult status in North America. Between 1971 and 1974, Slade had 11 top five hits in England, catapulting them to the top of the new glam and glitter rock scenes with other British groups like T. Rex and Sweet. Glam rock took catchy guitar rock and added glitzy showmanship and a theatrical presentation; glitter rock, the more camp side of glam, was a bit catchier, and Slade became one of the genre's biggest names.
Slade's humorous misspellings of song names, big shiny boots, flashy outfits (they were known for wearing tartan clothes, and singer Noddy Holder's famous top hat with mirrors), and glitter rock anthems made the group a legend in the early to mid-'70s British rock 'n' roll scene—some even called them the British KISS. But towards the end of the decade, the change in popular music, shifting towards punk and new wave, scaled down Slade's popularity. The group's career was given a lucky, albeit short, revival in 1983 when American heavy metal band Quiet Riot covered Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize." British magazine NME commented on Slade's legacy in a review of a greatest hits album. "They embodied the glorious absurdity of the greatest pop, in the sideburns, the mirrored top had and Dave Hill's pudding bowl haircut. As such they were the simplest, most effective possible riposte to prog rock's bloated pretensions and pseudo-intellect."
In 1966, with military-style haircuts, black Dr. Marten boots, and sweater vests, Slade was known as the N' Betweens. Sporting a skinhead-style look in their early days, the N' Betweens gigged around Wolverhampton, England, playing mostly R&B covers—a sound that contradicted their look. A few rare recordings were released in France. Later that year, after a chance meeting with future Runaways mastermind Kim Fowley, the N' Betweens recorded "You Better Run," a single penned by Fowley. This marked the beginning of the band's change in sound. Near the end of the decade, after moving to London, the group teamed up with Chas Chandler, a musician turned producer/manager. Chandler, who had discovered Jimi Hendrix and played bass for the Animals, became the N' Betweens manager/producer, helped the group signed to Fontana Records, and encouraged them to change their name to Ambrose Slade.
1969 marked the release of the debut full-length album by Ambrose Slade. Released in the United Kingdom as Ballzy and with the title Beginnings in the United States, the record was mostly reworked versions of songs by rock bands like the Amboy Dukes and The Beatles. As time went by, Chandler encouraged song-writers Holder and bassist Lea to write more of their own material. As such, the band began to develop an original style that married hard rock melodies with a catchy pop aesthetic. When the group signed to Polydor in 1970, they released Play It Loud, and changed their name to simply Slade.
When they released the 1971 single "Get Down and Get With it," a cover of a tune Little Richard made famous, Slade got their first taste at stardom. The track went to number 16 in the United Kingdom, and prompted an appearance on the famous television show Top of the Pops, where the United Kingdom was formally introduced to the outrageous fashions and foot-stomping rock songs of Slade. It would be a steady stay at the top of the charts for the next few years, with Slade releasing its second single, "Coz I Luv You," which stayed in the Top 20 for four weeks.
In 1972, Slade released the live album Slade Alive!, which debuted on the United Kingdom charts at number two, and stayed on the charts for an entire year. The band began their first headlining tour in the United Kingdom with support from Status Quo when the single "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" debuted at number one. But the album only made a minor dent in the United States market, entering at number 158, while the single, "Take Me Bak 'Ome" entered at number 97.
Within months of the live record, Slade released the studio album Slayed?—an instant hit in England. Meanwhile, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" entered the United States charts at number 76, while the album Slayed? hit number 69. In March of 1973, Slade released the single "Cum On Feel the Noize," which topped the charts and gave the band the distinction of being one of the most successful hit singles group in the United Kingdom since The Beatles. Cutting their celebrations short, in July of 1973, drummer Don Powell was in a serious car accident that killed his girlfriend and put him in the hospital for weeks.
For the Record …
Members include David Hill (born on April 4, 1952, in Fleet Castle, England), guitar; Noddy Holder (born Neville Holder on June 15, 1950, in Walsall, England), vocals, guitar; Jim Lea (born on June 14, 1952, in Wolverhampton, England), bass, key boards; Don Powell (born on September 10, 1950, in Bilston, England), drums.
Group formed in Wolverhampton, England, c. 1966; released debut album Ballzy/Beginnings under the name Ambrose Slade; signed with Polydor records, changed name to Slade and released Play It Loud, 1970; recorded a cover of Little Richard's "Get Down and Get With It," Polydor, 1971, which topped the charts in England and began the band's foray into glam rock; released chart topping albums Slade Alive! and Slayed?, 1973; released consecutive top 10 album and singles; filmed movie Slade in Flame, 1974; disbanded, late 1993.
In attempt to spread the Slademania that was rampant in England worldwide, the group released the compilation album Sladest in the United States in October of 1973. A collection of the band's hit singles, it was the first time many North American fans were able to hear the band's popular sound. Ken Barnes, a writer for Rolling Stone, reviewed the record in 1973 and stated the group's importance. "'Cum on Feel the Noize' has the best tune of the batch, 'Mama Weer All Crazee' is the quintessential rocking anthem, and the series as a whole generated raw excitement paralleled only by the colossal crush of Stones, Who and Small Faces singles of 1965-6," he wrote. At the time Sladest was released, Slade was riding high in the United Kingdom, and they continued their reign with another number one single in December, the holiday track "Merry Xmas Everybody." Recorded during a stop in New York, the song became the band's biggest selling single ever, selling a quarter of a million copies in its first day of release.
In 1974, Slade released their third consecutive number one United Kingdom album Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. Released in the United States under the title Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet, it debuted at a modest 168. Riding high on their popularity, Slade was convinced to film a movie in the same vein as The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night. Thus, 1974's Slade in Flame had Holder and company playing a fictional band called Flame who endured the ups and downs of the music business. The acting wasn't terrible, and it spawned an impressive soundtrack that gained momentum on both the United Kingdom and the United States charts with the help of the ballad "How Does It Feel."
By the time Slade's next album, Nobody's Fool, came out in 1976, punk and new wave were beginning to emerge, and the band's flamboyant style and arena-rocking songs weren't pertinent any longer. Their successful reign took a nosedive and the band soon parted ways with Polydor. They signed on with manager Chandler's label Barn Records for 1977's aptly titled Whatever Happened to Slade? and 1979's Return to Base. RCA signed Slade for 1981's Till Deaf Do Us Part.
Despite music and society changing all over the world, and especially England, the band continued to record and play small clubs during the early 1980s. 1981's We'll Bring Down the House, released on the band's own label Cheapskate, actually had a hit single, but the band's sound was a far cry from their finest days.
While playing around the United Kingdom in the now smaller scaled tours, popular American heavy metal band Quiet Riot released a cover of Slade's "Cum On Feel The Noize." The track became such a hit all over the world that by the time Slade released 1983's The Amazing Kamikaze (titled Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply in the United States), the '70s rockers were somehow back in the spotlight. With big rock riffs, less glam, and more '80s hard rock sound, the new album gave Slade their biggest United States single when "Run Run Away" made it into the top 10, while the album marked at 33 on the Billboard charts. The follow-up single, "My Oh My" (already a hit in the United Kingdom), became their second biggest United States single. In 1984, Quiet Riot covered another Slade tune, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now."
To capitalize on their new American fan base in 1985, Slade was set to go on a tour of the United States with Ozzy Osbourne. Unfortunately, before the tour began, Lea became ill and the tour was cancelled. Slade may have lost their old glam-rock fanatics by then, but the group had gained new hard rock and heavy metal fans in America, many of whom purchased more Slade records than ever before. Slade's toned-down sound captured the '80s big metal/hard rock style that was popular at the time.
For the remainder of the '80s Slade continued to tour, releasing 1985's Rogues Gallery and 1987's You Boyz Make Big Noise. It became obvious that the band's time had past, and at the end of 1988, the members went their separate ways. Holder hosted a radio show, Hill recorded a solo album, Lea produced an album for Chrome Molly, and Powell became an antique dealer. In 1993, the band reformed and put out the single "Radio Wall of Sound," but then quickly disbanded. Shortly after, Powell and Hill formed Slade II with a new singer, but the group didn't last long. Hill allegedly left the group to became a Jehovah's Witness, and Powell charged on to release Keep On Rockin' under the moniker Slade II. Singer Holder stayed in the entertainment business with a relatively successful career as an actor on the British TV show The Grimleys.
Ballzy/Beginnings, Fontana, 1969.
Play It Loud, Polydor, 1970.
Slade Alive!, Polydor, 1972.
Slayed?, Polydor, 1972.
Sladest, Polydor, 1973.
Old, New, Borrowed and Blue, Polydor, 1974.
Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet, Warner Brothers, 1974.
Slade In Flame, Warner Brothers, 1974.
Nobody's Fools, Polydor, 1976.
Whatever Happened to Slade?, Barn Records, 1977.
Slade Alive, Vol. 2, Barn Records, 1978.
Return to Base, Barn Records, 1979.
Till Deaf Do Us Part, RCA, 1981.
We'll Bring the House Down, Cheapskate, 1981.
Slade on Stage, RCA, 1982.
The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome, RCA, 1983.
Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply, Epic, 1984.
Rogues Gallery, CBS, 1985.
You Boyz Make Big Noize, Columbia, 1987.
Slonimsky, Nicholas, and Laura Khun, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Schirmer, 2001.
Larkin, Colin, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Macmillan, 1998.
Strong, Martin C., The Great Metal Discography, Canongate, 1998.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, VH1 Rock Stars Encyclopedia, DK Publishing, 1999.
Rolling Stone, December 6, 1973.
"Slade," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 22, 2005).
"Slade Greatest Hits," NME,http://www.nme.com/reviews/3269.htm (February 23, 2005).
Slade , a hugely popular band at home in England and Europe, but barely a blip on the pop radar in the U.S. Membership: Noddy (real name, Neville) Holder, voc., gtr. (b. Wallsall, England, June 15, 1950); David Hill, gtr. (b. Fleet Castle, England, April 4, 1952); Jim Lea, bs., kybd. (b. Wolverhampton, England, June 14, 1952); Don Powell, drm. (b. Bilston, England, Sept. 10, 1950).
Slade grew out of several bands including Listen, which featured Noddy Holder and Robert Plant on vocals, and the Vendors with guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell. By November of 1966, the four had come together as the ’N Betweens. They hooked up with Kim Fowley and recorded “You Better Run” in 1968. A year later, they moved from the Midlands to London, where they signed with former Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who managed Jimi Hendrix.
In the late 1960s, Slade had developed a following among the burgeoning soul, reggae and ska crowd. Chandler suggested the band change their name to Ambrose Slade, and they released the Ballzy (in the U.S.) /Beginnings album in 1969 under that name. After that album stiffed, they dropped the “Ambrose” from their name and released several singles and the Play It Loud album, none of which attracted much attention. In 1971 Chandler had them record Little Richard’s (via Bobby Marchan) “Get Down and Get with It” —a favorite of the band’s live shows—which became their first U.K. chart single. Their next single, “Coz I Luv You,” topped the U.K. charts for a month. It became the first in a long line of hit Holder/Lea compositions with bastardized spellings. The group was proclaimed “unhealthy for the educational good of Britain.”
They released Slade Alive!, in 1972, an album Rolling Stone called one of the five best live recordings of all time. It hit #2 on the U.K. charts. The singles “Take Me Back ’ome” and “Mama, Weer All Crazee Now” topped the charts across Europe. “Gudbuy T’ Jane” hit #2, unable to knock Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling” out of the #1 spot. Later that year, the Slay ed? album was released, featuring the tracks “Cum on Feel the Noize” and “Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me”, both huge hits in Europe. Unfortunately, drummer Don Powell was in a serious car accident that killed his girlfriend and put him in the hospital for six weeks. The group issued a greatest hits album while he recovered. They also released a single, “Merry Christmas Everybody,” that has become a regular seasonal favorite in the U.K.
In 1973 Slade released Old New Borrowed and Blue. This album was issued in the U.S. as Stomp Your Hands/Clap Your Feet. Not one of the band’s better efforts, it failed to capture the attention of U.S. fans, and it would be a decade before the group tried to crack the U.S. market again. Slade continued to have massive success in Europe, however, with tunes like “The Bangin’ Man,” “Far Far Away,” and “Nobody’s Fools.” However, the advent of punk and disco in the mid-1970s squeezed the market for their brand of anthemic pop out of the charts. They moved from Polydor to Chandler’s own label, Barn, releasing the tongue-in-cheek Whatever Happened to Slade in 1977. Holder and Lea formed a punk band called the Dummies that nearly was signed to the leading new-wave label Stiff Records until the label’s executives found out the group consisted mostly of members of Slade!
In the 1980s, Slade enjoyed a renaissance. First, they aligned with the new wave of British metal. This association attracted American fans, especially musicians like the Runaways and Quiet Riot. The Runaways recorded “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” in 1980, and Joan Jett re-recorded it when she went solo in 1982. In 1984 Quiet Riot had a #5 gold hit with a cover of “Cum on Feel the Noize.” They also covered “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.” The band signed to Columbia, and in 1984, Slade released The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome. Called Keep Your Hands off My Power Supply in the U.S., the album spawned two minor hits here, including the #20 “Run Runaway.” The album reached #33 in the U.S. However, the group didn’t get the MTV exposure it took to really put them over and thereafter remained a cult band in the U.S.
By the late 1980s, Slade’s European heyday was largely over as well. Nonetheless, the group continued to play out and occasionally record through the 1990s. Noddy Holder became a radio personality and star of an English sitcom. He was named Sir Neville Holder late in the 1990s as well. Lea worked with a band called Whild that got some play in the late 1990s.
Ballzy/Beginnings (1969); Play It Loud (1970); Slade Alive! (1972); Slayed? (1972); Sladest (1973); Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet (1974); Slade in Flames (1974); Old New Borrowed & Blue (1974); Nobody’s Fools (1976); Whatever Happened to Slade (1977); Alive, Vol. 2 (1978); Return to Base (1979); Slade Alive at Reading ’80 (1980); Till Deaf Do Us Part (1981); On Stage (live; 1982); The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome (1983); Keep Your Hands off My Power Supply (1984); Sladed Alive (1984); Rogues Gallery (1985); You Boyz Make Big Noize (1987); Slade on Stage (live; 1993); Crackers (1994); Keepin’z Make Big Noize (1995).