Slade Alive! 1971 and 1972
Slade were, no question, one of the best live acts out on the road in the early 1970s. I saw them twice, maybe three times at Sunderland Locarno in October/November 1971 and January 1972. The first time I saw them was just as they released their No 1 smash hit “Coz I Luv You”. The ballroom was packed for these guys. They had played Sunderland Top Rank for the Sunderland Poly students union freshers ball a few weeks earlier, at the time “Get Down and Get with It” was in the charts; a few of my mates had gone to that gig and were raving about how great this band was. Support was Steamhammer, who are perhaps best known for their track “Junior’s Wailing” which was covered by Status Quo. We all sat crossed legged on the floor (as you did, back in the day) watching Steamhammer; I think they reminded me of Man. But when Slade came on stage, Noddy wasn’t haven’t any of this sitting on the dance floor. Slade were a loud rock band. “Come on, up on your feet, everybody”. The crowd jumped up and crushed to the front of the stage. The opening number was their cover of Ten Years After’s “Hear Me Callin'” (it always was in those early days) and it was amazing. It started quietly and slowly with Noddy singing in (for him) quite a low voice, then after a few bars the pace picked up, and Dave Hill’s guitar, Jim Lea’s bass and Don Powell’s drums came crashing in at an amazingly loud volume, so loud that I thought my ears would go. BY then Noddy’s voice was his normal raucous scream. And the crowd went crazy; completely bananas. Slade were a force to be reckoned with. They played wild, fast and very very LOUD. The set was short, probably around an hour, but furious and by the end we were all ringing in sweat and totally whacked. Slade were juts coming out of their skinhead phase; their hair was starting to grow, but you could still see signs of crew cuts. Except for Dave, whose hair was already growing right the way down his back. Nod was wearing a cap, a checky shirt, braces and jeans. The set included all of the tracks form “Slade Alive!” and quite a few covers; favourites of mine were “In Like a Shot from My Gun”, their excellent cover of John Sebastian’s “Darling Be Home Soon” which took the mood and the pace down a notch, the rocking “Get Down and Get With It” during which we all had to follow Nod’s instructions and “stamp our feet” (as long as we had our boots on 🙂 ), their new single “Coz I Luv You, with Jim soloing on his violin, their cover of Janis’ “Move Over”, and they closed with “Born to Be Wild”, an ear-piercingly loud cover of Steppenwolf’s classic. It was all over too soon, but it was amazing.
I saw them again a few months later. By that time they had released “Look Wot You Done” and were becoming chart heroes. But the live set remained as wild, raucous and loud as before. After one of the gigs, I think it was in early 1972, The Groundhogs were playing the Rink (Top Rank) on the same night as Slade at the Mecca (Locarno). We went to see Slade (who were excellent as usual) at the Mecca earlier that night, and came into the Rink just as The Groundhogs took to the stage, having missed the support act Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. I managed to make my way right to the front, and stood right in front of Tony McPhee as he soloed on Amazing Grace and Split II. Seeing Slade and The Groundhogs in the same night, when both acts were on top form 🙂 Happy Days.
The next time I saw Slade was at the Lincoln Festival in 1972. Slade managed to change a difficult situation into a major success. Chris Charlesworth writes of the event in his book “Feel The Noize!” (1984): “They were terrified of that audience…..completely overawed by it all … it was an underground audience and Slade had become a pop band…
Their fears were justified. When John Peel announced Slade’s imminent appearance there was an outbreak of booing from the large crowd….” Jim Lea :”Chas did everything he could to delay us going on stage…He was waiting for the sun to set so we could benefit from the stage lights and the big screen projection they had. When John Peel announced us he was very unenthusiastic. We just did a fifty minute set … bang, bang, bang … all rockers. We had the crowd in the palm of our hand after ten minutes and in the end we walked away with it.”
Noddy, from his book Who’s Crazee Now? (1999): “….we got a big break. We were invited to play the Lincoln Festival, which was being put on…by the actor Stanley Baker…The other acts were all much hipper than us….Joe Cocker, The Beach Boys, The Faces, Status Quo…we were only asked to be on the bill because Stanley Baker was a Slade fan…It had been pissing down with rain…the audience was drenched and the ground was all muddy…..We got booed when we walked on stage…the first time that had ever happened to us….. We carried on regardless…two minutes into our set, the rain went off. Then all the lights came on. Suddenly, the whole audience stood up. They had been sitting down all day…..people began going berserk. The place just exploded. We took everyone by surprise……My mind was racing about what we should do for a second encore. We had nothing planned. Then I saw Stanley Baker standing with Chas at the side of the stage….Suddenly, a mad idea popped into my head. I went up to the microphone and thanked Stanley for putting on the festival and invited him to come on and take a bow. As he was walking on, I started doing the Zulu chant, from the film Zulu that he had starred in. The rest of the band joined in, then the entire audience. Stanley absolutely loved it. It was the perfect end to our set…..The next week, we were on the cover of every music paper in the country….The impact of that gig was amazing.”
Slade were, indeed, simply epic that day, and the buzz after the Lincoln set helped cement their position as a top rock and pop band. They surprised a lot of people at Lincoln; but then those who had already seen them “Alive!” knew just how great they were.
I saw Slade several more times and will reflect on those crazy nights over the next few days.