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Jim Lea | Don Powell

Slade guitarist Dave Hill: ‘I’d come out of work, put on my costume and suddenly I’d be Superman!’
Simon Hattenstone for The Guardian
Mon 8 Mar 2021

Half a century after his first hit single, Hill has survived a stroke, depression and the departure of all three of his former bandmates. The glam rock ‘yob’ relives the days of glittering faces, mighty stacks and timeless anthems.

It’s half a century since glam rock first dazzled Britain, and Slade had their first hit, Get Down and Get With It. All four members of the original lineup are alive and kicking, but Dave Hill is now the only one who trades under the name Slade. As is the way of rock bands, there have been sulks, tiffs and the odd tempestuous row. But today Hill is the very picture of Zen calm.

While singer Noddy Holder is remembered as the one with the rasping voice, bassist Jim Lea as the creative one (he was classically trained and wrote the songs with Holder), drummer Don Powell as the one who had the terrible car crash that killed his girlfriend and left him in a coma, lead guitarist Hill was always the crazy one. He was famous for his pudding-basin fringe, glittering face, gold capes, mighty stacks (disguising his diddy, 5ft 4in stature) and ray-gun-shaped guitar called Super Yob. In his heyday, he drove a silver Jensen Interceptor and a gold Rolls-Royce with the number plate Yob 1. Hill was marketed as the yob’s yob.

He may not have sung the songs, but Hill was very much front of house as Slade became huge in the 1970s – six No 1s, most of the titles deliberately misspelt; the first band to have three singles enter the charts at the top spot (Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, Cum on Feel the Noize and Merry Xmas Everybody); more than 20 Top 30 hits. They were as famous for their inane feelgood lyrics as their raucous pop-rock. Later on, they wrote a number of poignant ballads (Everyday, How Does It Feel, In for a Penny) that weren’t quite as successful, but may well be their finest songs.

Hill, 75 next month, is still as Dave Hillish as you could hope for: thick Black Country twang, buck-toothed, grinning, garrulous, long hair covering his ears, though the fringe has receded into yesteryear. He Zooms from the studio at his Wolverhampton home. I can see eight guitars on the wall and a keyboard to his side. This is where he has been creating throughout the pandemic. He is working on a solo album, writing a book on glam fashion to mark the genre’s 50th anniversary, and waiting for the relaxation of lockdown rules so that he can get Slade back on the road – even if it will be without Powell, with whom he acrimoniously parted company last year.

I show him an old, faded photo: me at the age of nine, with two framed pictures of Slade behind me. “Do I take it you’re a fan?” he asks, delightedly. For many people in their 50s, Slade were the band. Noel Gallagher is a huge fan. In the afterword for Hill’s anecdote-packed memoir So Here It Is, Gallagher wrote: “No Slade = No Oasis. It’s as devastating and simple as that. The Beatles? Well they were undeniably great … but Slade? I felt their songs could’ve been written at the end of our street … in a house just like mine.”

The Slade boys were quite different from their uncouth image. Holder and Lea were upwardly mobile working-class boys, while Hill had a fascinating background. “I was certainly not a yob,” he says. “We all came from very good families. Each one of us had mums and dads who stayed together.”

Hill’s mother, Dorothy, came from a refined middle-class family (her father was a doctor of music and classical pianist), was supremely bright and had a very successful secretarial career. At the age of 17, Dorothy became pregnant, and had a girl called Jean. The father was never named, and Jean was brought up by the family’s housekeeper. Dorothy ended up living on a Wolverhampton estate with Hill’s father, Jack, a mechanic, and it was here that the young Dave grew up. He says that his mother never overcame the shame of having Jean out of wedlock, had severe depression, spent time in psychiatric hospitals and died in her 60s. After her death, Hill discovered she had kept another secret. “We didn’t know she was a war-cabinet minister’s secretary.” Your story is made for the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?, I say. He grins. “Jean’s father was a married man, we believe – it could be a politician for all I know.” The cabinet minister? “It could be.”

Hill learned to play guitar at 13, dossed at school, and at 15 got an office job at Tarmac that he hated. A couple of years later, he left to become a professional musician, and played with Powell in a band called the Vendors. Hill and Powell met Holder and Lea, invited them to join the band (by then known as the ’N Betweens), which was renamed Ambrose Slade in 1969, and then simply Slade.

It was when they discovered glam that things really took off. But this was glam with a difference – working-class, cloth-capped glam. Why does Hill think they became so big? He says they were the perfect contrast to what had just gone before – the introspective, dark end to the 60s. Slade were loud, extroverted and happy. “When you think of the essence of Slade, it’s more about a smile than looking at the floor and being super-serious about politics. Our songs reflect the audience – Cum on Feel the Noize, Mama Weer All Crazee Now.” They peaked in 1973 when three of their four singles entered the charts at No 1. “I remember being driven through London in 1973 and thinking: life cannot get much better than this,” he says.

Was this his happiest time in Slade? "No", he says. "Success is wonderful, but it brings problems – you’re too busy in TV studios and jet-setting to actually live your life, and there is the pressure of expectation. Success is not natural to any human being. It is a learning curve of coping. A songwriter can be miserable when he can’t write a song, or can’t come up with the one that sounded like the one that worked.”

His best memories go back to the beginning: his last days at Tarmac and first as a professional musician. “I used to come out of Tarmac dressed in a suit then this J2 van comes round to pick me up to take me to a show, and I’ve got my change of costume in there. So I’ve suddenly become Superman. I’ve suddenly become an extrovert.” Growing his hair was a life-changer, he says. “When I had short hair, my ears used to stick out like Spock. I had a complex about the size of my ears. So when the Beatles made it, I felt confident that I could grow my hair, and suddenly you felt more attractive. Girls noticed you. I didn’t get girlfriends before that. I was a little bit odd at school. I was shy, believe it or not. My sister said I was a loner.”

What does he think was his main contribution to Slade’s success? Well, he says, he was a decent guitarist, but the unique thing was his personality. “I let Nod and Jim get on with the writing and concentrated on my playing and my appearances. We used to have a saying in the group: you write them, and I’ll sell them.”

In 1974, they tried to break the US. Their record label, Polydor, thought it was inevitable – after all, they were the biggest band in the UK. They were presented as the new Beatles, which was overegging it somewhat, and the US didn’t buy it. “America was getting over Vietnam, and a lot of the hit songs were post-Woodstock.” The Americans were mid-existential crisis, and weren’t ready for good-time glam rockers singing badly spelled songs about noise, squeezing and craziness. They did have their fans, though. Bruce Springsteen turned up at one of their shows and tried to meet them backstage, Hill says. “One of our roadies didn’t have a clue who he was, and escorted him out. He wasn’t that well known at the time in England.”

When they returned in 1975, Britain had moved on. Their tunes were more melodic, the lyrics more mature, but only one of their four singles reached the Top 10 that year. In 1976 only one song reached the Top 30, then none in 1977. And that was the end of Slade. Or so it seemed.

Was it a shock when they fell out of fashion? “No, it was inevitable. Towards the end of the 70s, punk came along.” Actually, Hill says, he was perfectly content when they stopped making the charts. It just presented a new challenge. “We played the difficult gigs, the gigs where people have chicken in a basket and then go on the dancefloor. People might say: ‘Oh dear, that’s a big decline,’ but we had an armour of fantastic songs so nobody was going to argue with us. We managed to survive that.”

Then, in 1980, they were invited to play the Reading festival as a last-minute replacement for Ozzy Osbourne. While the headliners turned up in their Rollers, Hill says, they turned up in a Ford. Had he lost his money by then? Well, he says, he was never super-rich because he didn’t write the songs (Holder and Lea are said to earn £250,000 a year for Merry Xmas Everybody; in 2009 it was estimated that 42% of the world’s population had heard the song.) Did it bother him that he and Powell earned so much less than Holder and Lea? “It didn’t bother me in the slightest. We were a team, and Nod and Jim were doing the work on the songs, we were getting on great together. There was no issue.”

Nobody thought they stood a chance in front of the heavy-metal audience at Reading. But they were received rapturously, the crowd demanding Merry Xmas Everybody and singing along in the middle of summer. It heralded a mini Slade renaissance, with new hits, such as My Oh My and Run Runaway.

By the end of the 80s, they were old hat again. In 1992, Holder left to pursue a career in acting and TV presenting, and Lea to study psychotherapy. But Hill and Powell added new members to the band and continued for another 28 years. Hill says that by and large he has had a ball. “I may be with a different set of blokes, but the actual experience is the same. It’s the moment of the connection with an audience. What better way could I feel?” He talks about the last gig Slade played before lockdown, at Butlin’s in Skegness. “There were 2,000 people, and everybody was dressed up. They’ve got top hats on, they’ve got funny hairstyles – some look like me, some like Bowie, some like Alice Cooper, and all they want you to do is walk on stage and hit them with the big ones.”

He’s been lucky in so many ways, he says. He and his wife, Jan, got hitched in the 1970s, and they are still happily married with three adult children. And there’s not been a day since he left Tarmac that he’s had to do non-Slade work. Of course, he’s been through bad times. There have been sustained periods of depression, but he has always managed to climb his way out of the pit. He talks about one of his worst episodes, when he even lost his love for music, until the soundtrack of a rock’n’roll jukebox musical intervened. “I’ll tell you when the light came. One day, I put on The Best of Dreamboats and Petticoats, and it sounded great. And I went: something’s happening here. And I rang up my psychiatrist, and she punched the air and said: ‘YES!’”

In 2010, during a concert in Nuremberg, he had a stroke while on stage. “I woke up in hospital all wired up. I was tearful because I felt I’d let the band down. I thought, is this it after all these years?” He feared he would never play guitar again. “The surgeon said it would take time, but it would come back. He said: ‘Drinking coffee is really good for you; I recommend 10 cups a day.’” Sure enough Hill drank his coffee and taught himself to play the guitar again.

Last year, there was another crisis when Powell, who had leg injuries that prevented him performing at Slade’s most recent concerts, released a statement saying Hill had sacked him by email after 57 years together. Hill disputed Powell’s version. “Our parting of the ways has not come out of the blue, and his announcement is not accurate,” he said.

Today, I ask Hill whether he really did sack Powell by email, and, if not, what did happen? For the first time, he clams up. “That was untrue – that’s all I’ve got to say on it. My lawyer said: ‘Do not get involved.’ I know the reasons, and it was painful. And I still have a love for Don, I really do. I don’t really want to get into any discussions about it because it’s personal.”

Do they still talk to each other? “No.” Is there any chance of them getting back together? “No. No. No. I’d rather say to you that I’ve moved on from that. I feel happy at the moment, and I’m looking forward to getting back with the band as it is now.” Powell has since set up his own band.

Hill is keen to change the subject. He reminds me he doesn’t like negativity. One of the things that has kept him positive, he says, is discovering the Romantic poets at the age of 40, and reading Wordsworth for the first time. Ever since, he has been obsessed with him. He closes his eyes and starts talking, rather beautifully, about a poem he can’t remember the title of. “Wordsworth talks about a star that travels with you and refers to it as your soul. ‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star.’ And the poem talks about how ‘Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing boy’, but the growing boy still perceives ‘the light, and whence it flows’.”

The point is, he says, that however far the light moves, you can still see it. He pauses, and opens his eyes, smiling. “Ah yes, it’s called Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” Music, he says, is his light; his life’s star. He talks about how it helped him with his depression and then with his stroke. “I realised then that music is a healer. It’s so much a part of me. And maybe that’s my life purpose until I depart from this place.”

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Don Powell on life through lockdown and missing Slade
By Andy Richardson Published: 15.5.2021, Express & Star.

He’s travelled all over the world but Slade legend Don Powell is in no doubt that the Black Country will forever be in his heart and mind.

He emails five minutes after the interview ends. He always does.

Don Powell, Slade legend, all-round good bloke, keeper of beats, says this: “Thanks for, calling mate…. Really enjoyed it. Don’t forget, next time I’m in, Wolves, we’ll go out for a cuppa. Once again, thanks mate. Don…”

Not all interviewees engage so thoroughly. In truth, most can’t wait to get off the phone. Promo is a bore. They want to be making new music, counting their money, switching off from the madness or basking in the adulation of fans and peers.

The few who exhibit social skills seldom really mean it: ‘Come and say hello when we play our next gig,’ is a one-way ticket to an awkward encounter with a promoter who’ll refer you back to the box office.

Don, however, means every word. He does meet for a cuppa – or a fizzy water, or a steak and chips. He walks it like he talks it. There’s never any side. He is, without question, one of the nicest men in rock. And, for all of the toxicity surrounding the Black Country legends that were Slade – and as pleasant as Mr Neville John ‘Noddy’ Holder is; Don has always been the nicest of the lot.

We’ll get the fall out with Dave Hill later – or, should we say, we’ll touch on the way Dave Hill sacked him by email after a friendship/partnership stretching back 50-odd years. But first, there’s more important stuff to talk about.

Rock’n’roll has been decimated by Covid-19. The live music industry ground to a halt. With the exception of a few pilot shows in Liverpool recently, gigs haven’t taken place since March last year and there’s still no guarantee that the summer’s festival programme will go ahead. The industry used to provide a living by generating cash through album and single sales. The advent of streaming, however, means that’s no longer the case and bands end up subsidising new releases to give them an excuse to get back on the road. Except there is no road.

Don has been sitting at home during Covid. He’s worked on his new project, The Don Powell Band, which he put together with a former member of Slade (the second incarnation) after exiting that band. Don’s experience of Covid has been somewhat different to the experiences of others. He’s been out in Denmark during lockdown and that nation’s response was more organised and less error-strewn than the response in the UK.

“I can’t complain about Covid,” he says. “The vaccine is here. They started the lockdown in Denmark about a month before the rest of the world so it’s not been so bad. We’re allowed out, that’s not a problem. There’s quite a few cafes open and things like that. It’s still down to wearing masks and keeping distances. In general, everyone’s a little bit closed off, but it’s not too bad. The travel situation is still a bit iffy. The German border is still closed and the flights to England have stopped. I never thought I’d see the world like this to be honest. I’ve just been doing general things and catching up around the house. Seeing the kids and grandkids has been hard, but it’s not too bad.”

There’s been a charity project to raise a few quid for the roadies and technicians who have found themselves completely out of work or driving vans for Amazon since the pandemic began. As bad as things have been for working musicians, they’ve been even worse for the crew. They’ve had nothing to fall back on, no occasional royalty cheques and nothing in the bank – let alone the prospect of Government support. Don, typically, has done his bit. He always does.

The Don Powell Band enlisted 18 of the UK’s finest drummers to create an epic and dynamic reworking of the classic drum feature: ‘Let There Be Drums’. His old mate, ELO and The Move legend Bev Bevan, was the first to sign up.

After that, there was no shortage of other drummers, both young and old, who were excited to record their solos for the project. The result is a powerful new version of the classic instrumental featuring epic playing by drummers from The Shadows, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Jamiroquai, Nazareth, The Stereophonics, Jason Donovan, Magnum, Robert Plant, EMF, James Blunt and other award-winning drummers and percussionists.

All profits from the release will go to We Make Events, which helps studio crew, engineers and technicians.

Don put the project together with Craig Fenney, previously bass player with Don in Slade II and the man who recently helped form the Don Powell Band, a concept they discussed in their touring days together.

The production was done remotely, using several commercial studios and many home-recording studios. The drummers come from all points on the stylistic spectrum, from Prog to Funk, Hard Rock to Jazz, Classical, Pop, R‘n’B and Soul.

“Craig and I decided to do this. It was Craig’s idea because of the pandemic. We wanted to do something to all the technicians and crew who’ve been hard hit. It’s been great to work with some of the drummers who’ve signed up, even though we’re not in the same studios and it’s all done remotely. There are so many drummers who’ve wanted to help out. It’s amazing how things have changed. They recorded their drum parts in their own studios and put it together. I put my drums on and send it back.”

For all the good faith, however, sending computer files via email is no substitute for playing live in sweaty clubs with hundreds of adoring fans. Don knows that all too well.

“I can’t wait to play gigs again. It’s been great doing the drum stuff in the studio but you can’t beat playing live. There’s something magical about that, it’s special.”

Don, of course, has spent his adult life doing that in Slade. That came to an abrupt end in February last year, just before lockdown, when Dave Hill send him a “cold email” informing his that his services were no longer required. Hill claims the break-up was amicable – though, speaking to Don, it’s clear it was no such thing. The rejection clearly still stings. There were noises off that Hill thought Don wasn’t fit enough to carry on, another piece of misinformation.

“I just got an email from Dave Hill saying he didn’t want me in the band any more. I’d been in a band with him since 1963. He didn’t have the nerves or guts to phone me up...”

But what happened with Dave doesn’t matter, in a sense. Dave Hill wasn’t – and isn’t – Slade alone. Slade was Nod, Jim, Dave and Don. And for all the work that people have done in the intervening years – from Steve and Steve and Trevor and Dave to Craig and Mal and John and Russell on to Alex – there’d never come a time when the hearts and minds of fans would change. Because Slade was Noddy, right? Hollering into the mic stand like some tormented banshee; it was Jim, the guy who made good on the maxim that you have to look out for the quiet ones; it was Dave, with his lunatic fringe, rock star cars and stream of conscious babble and it was Don; the keeper of the beats, the man who escaped death in an horrific car accident and the guy about whom nobody has a bad word to say.

An indelicate email from Dave, therefore, doesn’t really change all that. Nor does the ending of an enduring friendship. Stuff happens. But Don does miss the band. He’d been an ever-present since 1966. He’d invested his entire life into making the band the biggest since The Beatles and he’d loved the gipsy lifestyle, being in a different town every night.

“It doesn’t matter what happened with Dave. I just miss the band. We’d been together since 1966 and I have lovely memories of being back in Wolverhampton. A lot of places are closed down now but I remember those places so well.”

One of his old haunts was the Connaught Hotel. “We used to play there on Sunday nights. It’s amazing how small that room looks now, it’s like a front room. The history with the band will never go away.” Though communication between members of Slade is patchy – a position that Noddy has spoken about with considerable regret – there’ll always be the memories. “Occasionally me and Nod get together in London. There used to be a big lunch for about 35 of us, which I really enjoyed.”

Slade went through numerous eras. From 1966 to 1970, they were getting themselves together. “At that point, it was juts the fun of playing. You always think you want to be successful but it’s a different world when it happens; it’s a different life. In them days, we didn’t know the pubs and clubs beyond Wolverhampton and Bilston. When we started to make a record, that was another step up the ladder. We were lucky to meet people like Chas Chandler, who managed us. We moved up and up and up.”

The hits came from 1971 to 1974, when they were the biggest band in Britain. “It was absolute mayhem with the touring and recording. It was amazing. I always quote this one: I think people in bands will understand. We’d just done a 6-week tour of Europe then we were off to America to do 8 weeks. It was non-stop. The states was flying every single day to meet the schedules, because the cities were so far apart. At the end of each show Nod always gave the town or city a namecheck: thank you Chicago. We’d been on tour for eight weeks and I can’t remember where we were and we got to the end of the show. Nod shouted ‘thank you very much’ to the audience – then he turned round to me and said: ‘Don, where are we?’ We’d been on the road so long that we literally didn’t know where we were. But it was amazing. I always say I have the best job in the world, travelling and doing what I’m doing.”

There were wilderness years, a comeback, an American breakthrough, another comeback, a break-up, an aftermath. Slade was an episode of Eastenders, with more ups and downs than a yo-yo. Eventually, Don and Dave came back with Slade II. Nod and Jim had had enough. Nod was onto pastures new; acting, broadcasting as a DJ, still making music, hosting his own radio shows. The world was his rock lobster. Jim didn’t fancy it if it meant replacing Nod – because, of course, nobody ever could. Besides, he’d written most of the songs and was the musical polymath able to continue his own musical journey.

“When me and Dave went back on the road it was great because we played places like Russia. They’d been starved for so long of western bands that the reaction was incredible. We’d play a small club in Moscow and then play the Olympic Stadium. The whole situation was fantastic. We flew from Moscow to Vladivostock, which was 13 hours. That place was huge.”

It wasn’t all good times, of course. In 1973, at the height of the band’s popularity and when Slade were number one in the singles chart with Skweeze Me Pleeze Me, Don was badly injured in a car crash on Compton Road West. His fiancée, 20-year-old Angela Morris, died, after his car hit a hedge and smahed into a wall. Don fractured his skull, broke both his ankles and five of his ribs. He was unconscious for six days.

“After the accident, it was pretty hard to get back. I remember being in hospital in Wolverhampton. The surgeon looking after me said he wanted to kick me out and get me back on the road. That was the last thing I felt like doing. I had two broken legs and a broken arm and a fractured skull. It was the last thing I wanted to do.” But he did. “It was hard work. They used to have to carry me on stage and carry me off and put me on my drums – it was painful. But telling me to get on with it was the best advice that the surgeon gave me. If he hadn’t said that, I don’t know how I’d have got back on the drums again.”

He’d hung around with so many other stars, including fellow Black Country legends Led Zeppelin. “Robert Plant was great. I remember doing the Queen Mary Ballroom at Dudley Zoo. Robert came in one night and we hadn’t seen him for ages. We’d used to hang out, we’d buy hot dogs at Snow Hill Station, in Birmingham, at the caravan. Anyway, Robert came in and told us Jimmy Page had asked him to join The Yardbirds. The rest is history.”

Zeppelin drummer, the late John Bonham, was another pal. “He was in a cabaret band before Zep. But he used to play in the cabaret band the way he later played in Zeppelin. He was wild. I remember the one night, Slade were in Dallas on an American tour. We were doing a gig and people were throwing fruit at us. Afterwards we found out who it was – it was Led Zeppelin. They were in the States at the same time as us and they were throwing fruit at us for a laugh.”

There’s time for one final refection: home. “The Black Country is everything, It will never leave me. That’s where we started. I still see a lot of my old school mates when I get back to Wolverhampton. We always have a good laugh about the early days of playing The Ship and Rainbow. I was in Canada once, in Toronto, and one of my old pals came up and asked me what I was doing there. The same happened in Australia, when my old mate, Alan, came up and said hello. People from the Black Country never forget a friend.”

They don’t, Don, nor do they forget a drummer and rock star who’s one of their own.

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Will Slade reform? 'A miracle would have to happen' says ex-singer Noddy Holder

BANDS normally blame a mix of money, drink, drugs, ego and musical differences when they split, says glam rock legend Noddy Holder. With his own outrageous act, it was ALL of them...
By John Earls for Express. Mon, Jul 12, 2021

As the singer with chart-topping ’70s rockers Slade, Noddy Holder is used to spreading cheer. His band’s colourful glam rock image means Noddy’s trademark outfit – a tartan suit and huge top hat with outlandish mirrors stuck to it – remains one of the most popular outfits for fancy-dress parties. At Christmas, Noddy and his band’s classic 1973 smash Merry Xmas Everybody is as much a part of British life as fish and chips, curry and a pint. At 75, Noddy has earned his happy semi-retirement. Having enjoyed six No 1 singles with Slade, he now spends half the year in Portugal with his wife Suzan. The only cloud is Slade themselves. Since he quit the band in 1992, Noddy has stopped performing – and the four members of the heavy metal Slade are virtually guaranteed never to get back together.

Sadly for fans, even the potential lure of a lucrative reunion tour would be unlikely to do it, admits Noddy. “I doubt it’ll happen again with the band. A miracle would have to happen for all four of us to start peace and loving together. You never know, but we might be falling off our mortal coils by then.”

After Noddy walked out, guitarist Dave Hill, bassist Jim Lea* and drummer Don Powell carried on in various line-ups. But they ended up playing holiday camps rather than the huge arenas Slade starred in during their heyday.

A bitter split between Dave and Don last year finally called time on the band, which formed in the West Midlands in 1966. Explaining the break-up, Noddy reveals: “Every band splits up for one of five reasons: egos, money, drink and drugs, women or musical differences. With Slade, it was all five.” Noddy wrote Slade’s hits, including crazily spelled chart-toppers such as Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel The Noize and Coz I Luv You, with bassist Jim. He recalled: “Jim wanted to take over in the studio. He kept telling us he could write better songs on his own. In the end, I got tired of hearing it. I said I’d get out of the way, so that Jim could take the band in another direction. It was tiring, and I never wanted to be part of a band that was just treading water.”

But neither did Noddy want to be a solo performer. Instead, he’s become a TV and radio presenter. He also acts, having played classical music teacher Neville Holder in five series of hit ITV sitcom The Grimleys alongside, among others, Amanda Holden and Brian Conley. That was written by Jed Mercurio, creator of BBC1 smash dramas The Bodyguard and Line Of Duty.

“I follow Jed’s career and I knew he was a brilliant writer,” says Noddy. “He’s a proper Midlands guy with a great Black Country humour. Everything Jed does is superb.”

Mostly, Noddy is happy to focus on his family. He and Suzan live in Cheshire when they’re not in Portugal. Lockdown has been tough because Noddy misses his two young grandchildren, a 10-year-old granddaughter and three-year-old grandson. He dotes on his grandkids after missing his own two elder children, daughters Jessica and Charisse, when he was away touring with Slade.

“What I’ve hated most about lockdown is not being able to see my grandkids,” says Noddy, who also has a 26-year-old son, Django. “I missed a lot of my two elder kids growing up, as I was on the road all the time. I thought: ‘Oh, I’ll make it up with the grandkids. The pandemic has slowed all of that down. It’s good that we’re starting to come out of lockdown, but the grandkids’ Christmas presents are still here.”

Noddy’s sadness about missing a normal Christmas is why he’s starring in a hilarious new ad for Pret A Manger. The sandwich chain has put its popular Christmas Sandwich, filled with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, back on sale until the first week of August. Pret says it’s to compensate for customers who couldn’t buy the sarnie during lockdown last Christmas.

“Christmas was hard on everyone last year,” says Noddy. “Making up for it with their Christmas sandwich is a fun idea by Pret. I like that it helps raise money for the homeless too. Plus, me and Django are huge fans of that sandwich.”

Although it’s the middle of summer, Noddy still can’t escape Christmas and his famous shout of “It’s Christmaaaas!”, which he bellows at the start of Merry Xmas Everybody. He laughs: “There’s not a day goes by when I don’t walk down the street and have somebody shout: ‘It’s Christmaaaas!’ at me. In December, it’ll be 40 or 50 people shouting it at me every day. It’s a bit weird, but I’m used to it after nearly 50 years. It’s very funny, because I only shouted ‘It’s Christmaaaas!’ as an ad-lib near the end of us making the song.”

Merry Xmas Everybody is the nation’s favourite festive anthem, but it was actually written partially as a protest song. On its release in 1973, Britain was in economic turmoil. High earners like Slade had a staggering 93 per cent of their income taxed. Noddy recalled: “The economy was in chaos and there were strikes all the time. Loads of other bands became tax exiles. Silly us, we wanted to support the country, so we paid our 93 per cent tax, which the government totally wasted. I came up with the line ‘Look to the future, it’s only just begun’, because the country couldn’t get any worse. At the time, Merry Xmas Everybody brightened Christmas up because we were going through such a hard period. The song still does that for anyone having a tough Christmas, I think. None of us expected that song to still be going strong 48 years later, but I’m very proud that it still sounds good today. It’s the band’s pension plan, as we still make money off it every year. And it’s nice when little kids tell me they’ve sung it at their Christmas carol concert.”

Although his hair is shorter now, Noddy still sports his famous sideburns and wears a colourful patterned red shirt for our interview. Slade were famed for their outrageous stage clothes, which Noddy feels also helped cheer everyone up. “The country wanted exciting records that put a smile on people’s faces,” he explains. “We were spearheads of that, and it’s why glam rock happened. It was a bit of fantasy for everyone.”

Even before they found fame, Slade set out to catch everyone’s eye with their stage wear. Noddy remembers: “When we formed the band, me and Dave wanted Slade to have a colourful image. My tartan suit came from the music hall artists I loved, like Max Miller. The top hat with mirrors was thanks to Lulu. In the late 60s, I saw Lulu on TV wearing a sparkly dress. Whenever the cameras caught it, dazzling lights came off her dress. I thought, ‘If I could somehow do that on stage…’”

He bought the giant top hat from Kensington Market in West London, while his bandmate Jim’s wife found the mirrors which Noddy stuck on. The hat dazzled audiences and was so important to Slade’s look that it had its own flight case. Noddy laughs: “Our roadies were under strict instructions not to let the hat out of their sight, or they’d face the guillotine.”

Also at Kensington Market, Noddy and Dave bought shirts from another stall – run by future Queen superstars Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor. “We’d had a couple of hits by the time we bought our gear from Freddie and Roger,” said Noddy. "Freddie would tell me: ‘I’m going to be a big rock star like you one day.’ And I’d tell him: ‘Oh, f*** off, Freddie, that’ll never happen.’ "I was very pally with Queen, and Freddie always remembered me saying that. He’s such a loss.”

If Noddy is unlikely to get back on stage, he doesn’t mind. He summarises: “My attitude is, if it looks like fun, I’ll do it. If not, why bother? I’m happy with my lot.”

The Christmas Sandwich is available in Pret A Manger nationwide until the first week of August, and can also be ordered via Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. 50p from each sandwich goes to The Pret Foundation.

* The Express writer makes a mistake in the article, saying that Jim Lea stayed on to play with Slade after Nod left. Nod doesn't actually say this.

Check it out

Wolverhampton Express & Star
25th October 2021

Andy Richardson: It’s wrong to ignore the elephant in the Slade room

The email pinged. It was Dave Hill’s PR. The man who no longer plays in a band with Don Powell wanted to talk. Except he wouldn’t talk about why he no longer plays in a band with Don Powell. Which is funny, because Don’s talked about it at length. He told everyone he’d been excommunicated, dropped from the group he’d played in for 50 years via a cold email.

It seemed not unreasonable, therefore, to flag the blindingly obvious to Dave’s people, namely, that he might like to give his side of the story.

The email pinged again. Dave wouldn’t talk about the elephant in the room. He wouldn’t acknowledge it. He wouldn’t squeeze past it in his stack heels and mirrored hat. He wouldn’t drive past it in his £29,000 Yob 1 Rolls Royce – actually, he sold that to a paint company years and years ago. But no elephants. They don’t exist.

The email was politer than that, of course. Dave has an exceptional PR who wrote daintly: “Ahead of next week’s interview, Dave won’t be discussing anything to do with Don, my lovely, just wanted to let you know.”

Talking to Dave without talking about Don would be like interviewing John Lydon and not asking about the Sex Pistols, talking to Tyson Fury without mentioning boxing or interviewing Michael Parkinson and promising not to ask about any of those pesky celebrity interviews he once did. Perhaps we ought to go the whole hog – not elephant – and agree not to talk about Slade, too.

No. That would be a step too far. Dave did want to talk about Slade, the band that no longer features Don Powell for reasons Dave won’t explain. Perhaps we could transfer him to the advertising department instead. Or should we focus on Don’s drum teacher replacement, Alex Bines, who now hits the sticks?

Who knows. It all got a little complicated. Conveying our apologies and excusing ourselves from a walking, talking advert seemed the only sensible course.

The last time we interviewed Noddy Holder he lamented that it was no longer possible to get the four members of Slade in a room. Egos, squabbles and more had prevented what ought to be friendship in the winter of their years. It was his biggest regret, that four old mates who’d lived through a whirlwind no longer wanted to communicate.

Though Dave’s refusal to talk about Don provides a window into the world that Super Nod has spoken about. You imagine it would be a pretty tense dressing room if all four had to share.

There are two sides to every story and while Don has made his clear ‘Dave fired me via email, ending a 50-year-friendship, and his narrative about my health is nonsense’, Dave hasn’t responded. Which is a shame. Because there’s been every opportunity to. Both then, when four wheels on Slade’s wagon became one, and now, when the dust has settled and there’s time for a pleasant, convivial chat about his version of events. But no. Having reformed Slade in 1991, Dave and Don are no more. They are just Dave. It’s like Ant with no Dec. Or Dick with no Dom.

Dave, sweetheart, if you’re reading. We’d be more than happy to reminisce about the old times, about Coz I Luv You, Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel The Noize, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me, Merry Christmas Everybody and more.

We’ll happily listen to your tales of shows in Germany, Poland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Spain and France.

You can tell us about hitting the road in 1966, touring throughout Great Britain and Europe and becoming a regular concert attraction. And we’ll delight at your remembrance of joining forces with the former Animals bass guitarist and Jimi Hendrix Experience manager, Chas Chandler.

But, well, it would be wrong to ignore the elephant that is the present line-up.

Noddy, Jim and Don all talk about what went right and what went wrong. We’d be thrilled to hear you do so too. Until then, Thanks For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam) – or, perhaps, Let’s Call It Quits.

Reproduced from here.

Check it out

‘Everybody wants to know how much I make’: Noddy Holder on Merry Xmas Everybody.
The Guardian 22.12.2021.

With the 1973 No 1 back in the charts, Slade’s original frontman chats sideburns, custard pies and royalties.

I’m about halfway through my interview with Noddy Holder – as in Slade’s “It’s Chrissstmass” Noddy Holder – and I really need to ask him that question. Except, isn’t it a bit rude? A man’s finances are his own personal kingdom …

“I bet I know what you’re going to ask,” laughs Holder. “You’re going to ask me … how much money do I make each year? Everybody wants to know how much money we make!”

It’s certainly a valid question. Merry Xmas Everybody was released in 1973 (Slade’s third No 1 of the year after Cum On Feel The Noize and Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me) and has charted eight times in the 80s, twice in the 90s and every year since 2006.

It’s currently number 30 in the charts, has been streamed 88m times on Spotify and has been released for the first time this year with a video, an animation that has had more than 150,000 views and counting. Surely the royalties must keep Holder rolling in top hats, platform shoes and luxury sideburn shampoo?

“Well, I can’t put a figure on, because it’s just different every year,” says Holder, cryptically. “Some years it’s used in an advert or movie. There’s been all sorts of cover versions, from the Spice Girls, Tony Christie and Oasis” – Noel Gallagher recorded an acoustic version for The Royle Family’s 2000 Christmas special. “I’ll get my annual PRS [Performing Right Society] statement and the cross-section of artists who perform it on their Christmas tours is amazing. All four of the original Slade share performing rights but it just happens that Jim [Lea] and me were the main writers, so we earn more.”

Oh, go on, give me a figure, I plead.
“It’s like having a hit record every year. So it’s a nice pension plan, I’ll say that,” Holder smiles. The PRS has quoted £512,000 annually, but the Daily Mail reckons it’s more like a cool £1m.

Merry Xmas Everybody came about after a challenge from one of Jim Lea’s elderly relatives, and was written in one sitting after a night down the pub.

“Jim’s mother-in-law said: ‘How come that you’ve never written a song that could played every year for a birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day?’ The first song I’d ever written, in 1967, was this hippy, psychedelic song called Buy Me a Rocking Chair to Watch the World Go By, but the rest of the band said it was rubbish. Jim had this melody knocking around, so he put my hook and chorus into his verse and played it to me round his house. That night, I was drinking with the locals and my best mate, our tour manager, Graham Swinnerton – Swinny – at this jazz pub called the Trumpet in Wolverhampton. I went back to my old bedroom at my mum and dad’s, rather merry, and wrote the lyrics in one go.”

Slade had just finished a big European tour in July 1973; the first ever band to play Earl’s Court. Four days later, Slade’s drummer, Don Powell, was in a car crash, killing his girlfriend and putting him on life support for six weeks.

“The doctors said if he’s ever going to play the drums again, he needs to get behind a drumkit as soon as possible,” says Holder. “Our manager, Chas Chandler, decided we should head to New York, out of the limelight, to record Merry Xmas Everybody. The studio was within an office complex, so we went out on to the staircases to add echo to the choruses. People were going about their business with these four mad Englishmen screaming at the top of our voices about Christmas. It was a boiling hot New York summer in August, so hardly Christmassy. Plus Don couldn’t remember the drum part, so we had to record it in tiny pieces.”

With pre-orders of 600,000, Merry Xmas Everyone went straight to No 1 for six weeks, selling over a million all over Europe.

“So we did TV shows in Scandinavia, Germany, France and Belgium,” continues Holder. “The big one was Christmas Day Top Of The Pops 1973. We beat Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday to Christmas No 1 – fellow Brummies and good mates – so they snuck into the audience and pelted me with custard pies. So that’s the performance I remember.”

So is Holder surprised that Merry Xmas Everybody is still as loved nearly 50 years later?

“We never dreamt that it would still be so popular. I came up with the line ‘Look to the future now, it’s only just begun,’ because the country at the time was in a terrible state with electricians, bakers, miners and gravediggers all on strike. It’s just as valid today because of the state the country. Look the future, it really has only just begun."

“People associate me with Christmas, like I’m Santa’s little helper. I’m sure they half expect to see me walking down the street in platform shoes and a top hat shouting “It’s Chrissstmass!” They forget we had about 40 other hit singles. A day doesn’t go by without someone shouting “It’s Chrissstmass!” at me at the top of their voice. When I’m doing my Christmas shopping, I probably get it 40 times a day. But after 50 years, it still makes me smile.”

Check it out

Slade at Glasto
(The Sun, 23.12.2021)

SLADE’s 1973 No1 song Merry Xmas Everybody made sure of their place in the history books. Now lead singer Noddy Holder has big plans for the original group behind the smash. In an exclusive chat, he revealed he wants to get back with Jim Lea, Don Powell and Dave Hill to play the legends slot at Glastonbury. And while he’s got a mountain to climb persuading the festival’s organiser Michael Eavis to say yes, it’s going to be even harder to reunite his ex-bandmates following their split in 1992. Especially after Dave sacked Don from his revamped version of the group over email last year.

Noddy said of the prospect of playing the coveted slot: “It would be amazing if we could work out our differences. I think we’d probably all have to go in on a coach each. Or we’d all have to have a changing room or caravan each. And maybe we’d have to have glass barriers between us on stage so that there would be no fisticuffs on stage.”

The band had six No1 singles and five No1 albums. But Noddy said their egos tore them apart.

As for Dave and Don, he added: “I think it’s a long time before they get talking again. But that happens in rock ’n’ roll bands. If it’s not one crisis, it’s another.”

(Not to be taken entirely seriously)

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Noddy Holder details why he and bandmate earn more than rest of Slade for Christmas song.
By Chloe Govan
Fri, Dec 24, 2021 (

NODDY HOLDER holds a writing title on one of the most classic Christmas songs in the world, but now he has explained exactly why he and one of his bandmates receive more in royalties than other Slade members.

For Noddy Holder of Slade, it's Christmas all year round, as "not a day goes by without someone shouting 'It’s Chrissstmas!' at me at the top of their voice". However he has now revealed the secret that few knew - that he and Jim Lea are the top earners from track, Merry Xmas Everybody.

"All four of the original Slade [members] share performing rights," he revealed. "But it just happens that Jim and me were the main writers, so we earn more."

Slade hit the glam rock scene in the mid 60s and by the time Merry Xmas Everybody was released, their line-up consisted of Noddy as lead singer and guitarist, Dave Hill as guitarist and vocalist, Jim Lea on bass, keyboards, violin and vocals and Don Powell on drums.

Since the 1973 release of the unbelievably catchy Merry Xmas Everybody, the song has charted consistently each Christmas. It has hit the charts every festive season since 2006 and now shows no sign of dropping out.

"Everybody wants to know how much money we make!” Noddy laughed in a new interview with The Guardian.

However he has refused to divulge a figure, claiming that the amount is different each year.

"There’s been all sorts of cover versions, from the Spice Girls, Tony Christie and Oasis," he added. "[And] some years it's used in an ad or a movie."

Some sources have speculated that the annual earnings Noddy receives from the track could be in excess of £1 million, but he refuses to be drawn , simply describing it as "a nice pension plan".

It first came to fruition after an enquiry from band member Jim's mother-in-law.

One evening she asked incredulously: "How come that you’ve never written a song that could played every year for a birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day?"

"The first song I’d ever written, in 1967, was this hippy, psychedelic song called Buy Me a Rocking Chair to Watch the World Go By, but the rest of the band said it was rubbish," he elaborated.

"Jim had this melody knocking around, so he put my hook and chorus into his verse and played it to me round his house."

Then after a night of drinking at a jazz pub, despite it being the height of summer and nowhere near the Christmas season, he returned to his old bedroom in his parents' house "rather merry" and wrote the lyrics in one sitting.

Check it out

Noddy Holder: ‘You can’t evaluate how much I made from Merry Xmas Everybody’
Slade's Noddy Holder on paying more tax than he earned and branching out from the band
By John Wright 4 September 2022 • 12:00pm. Original article here.

Neville “Noddy” Holder MBE, 76, is the musician who found fame in the early 1970s as the lead singer of Slade. The group had 13 UK Top 40 albums and 24 UK Top 40 singles, including six No 1 hits, among them Coz I Luv You, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum on Feel the Noize and the million-plus seller Merry Xmas Everybody.

Since he left Slade in 1992 he has branched out into acting and radio presenting. He lives in Cheshire with his wife, Suzan.

How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?
I grew up in Walsall, in the Black Country, in a terraced house where three families shared a backyard toilet. My mum was a school cleaner, my dad a window cleaner. Bartering went on: for cleaning the butcher’s windows he got bits of meat. I’d help in the holidays.

My uncle built me a puppet theatre. At seven, quite the entrepreneur, I’d put on puppet shows and charge kids a penny to watch – then save it for buying records. My parents never had a bank account. I had a piggy bank and they bought me £2 worth of Premium Bonds, which I still have.

My dad had a greenhouse and sold tomatoes and potatoes near the bus stop. So making money whichever way was instilled in me. In bands, I went through everything with a fine-tooth comb, budgeting for tours to keep our heads above water.

Before Slade (in the late 1960s the band were called the ’N Betweens), we had no business manager. We weren’t earning a lot doing clubs; after paying for petrol or new tyres on the van, we’d split the rest four ways. We were five years touring like that before we had a hit. When we started selling records, we had to take on managers, accountants, lawyers; you’d lose control. Suddenly, it’s too big and you’re touring the world.

What was your first job?
I got six O-levels and left school. The teachers banged my ear to stay on and go to university or teacher training, but I was spending a lot of time in a band. My dad sang round the working men’s clubs and dragged me up on stage at age seven to sing with a guy on piano – my first taste of applause. I had brought the place down and that was it.

My dad was the school’s window cleaner and the teachers went berserk at him for letting me leave school to become a musician. For five years, before I had chart success, they went on at him. When we had our first hit he said: “I’ve just had a postcard from our Neville. He’s in Tokyo this week, then Sydney and New York.” They replied: “Well, you still should have made him stay at school.” My parents didn’t know if I’d make a living out of it but didn’t stand in my way.

How did you spend your first Slade money?
My first record royalty pay cheque was £5,000 [£48,000 today] in 1972, and I blew £4,500 on a blue Mercedes open-topped sports car. I hadn’t got a house, mostly lived on the road, and when home still lived with Mum and Dad on the council estate, where I parked it outside their house. Everyone loved it because I was the local boy on Top of the Pops.

How did you manage increasing wealth?
In the 1970s we made money from millions of record sales around the world. But what hits us? 93pc tax. One year we paid more tax than we earned, because we paid tax on assets as well. If we’d spent a year sitting on a Jamaican beach we’d have been financially better off. But we couldn’t: the UK was our base and you had to keep momentum going. You were on top of the tree and the record company and management were on your back to make more money, sell more records.

How many records have Slade sold?
I know in the 1970s we were at more than 50 million.

Have you invested in property?
In the 1970s we bought nice houses in the Midlands. Now I have the house I live in and a couple of other properties as investments. I’ve recently sold 10 acres of forest in the Midlands, which I bought in the 1970s for conservation. I made a profit, but it was never about money; it’s staying as forest.

Have you had trouble paying bills?
Lots of times. In 1968 the band I was in before Slade went to the Bahamas to play. The promoter put us up in this posh hotel with Frank Sinatra’s yacht outside, and after the six weeks he went bust and did a runner from the island. The hotel told us he hadn’t paid them. We had run up horrendous room service bills and had to stay 16 weeks – all four of us in one room – giving them half our money to pay off the debt.

Have you done adverts?
Many. In 1992 the band wasn’t getting on as well as before and I went to try other things such as acting. My main revenue, other than residual Slade earnings, was from voiceovers: radio and TV adverts. The most lucrative paid hundreds of thousands of pounds. I was also the voice of lots of animated characters, like the boy Dudley Sidebottom in an ad for Cadbury’s, which people didn’t ­realise was me.

Do you earn a lot from Merry Xmas Everybody?
You can’t evaluate it. It’s used in TV shows, adverts, all sorts. It sold a million just in the UK when it came out in 1973 in the weeks before Christmas and has been a steady stream of income ever since – so quite a lot of money.

A couple of the band who didn’t write it say they earned no money from it, but they earn the same as myself and Jim [Lea], the other writer, for performing on it. They don’t get the writing royalties, as they didn’t write it, but a big chunk of our writing monies paid a lot of touring expenses.

How have your earnings changed since Slade?
I’ve done very well, mainly through voiceovers and adverts. And I’m still getting my residual royalties as a songwriter and performer. You could have a good year if somebody uses songs like Merry Xmas Everybody. We had 40 other hits and two or three, such as Cum on Feel the Noize, get used regularly in adverts.

Slade’s new live five-CD box set, All The World Is A Stage (with three previously unreleased concerts), will be out on Friday

Check it out

Dave Hill /
Legendary live shows of Slade shows All The World Is A Stage

Original interview here

There were always two sides to Slade. They were the glam rock chart sensations in the seventies with a string of hit singles and outrageous tv appearances. At their core, though, was the fact that they were a hard-working live act, with skills honed through a lifetime on the road.

From their time as The N’Betweens in the sixties through their days of mega success, the wilderness years that followed and their eighties resurgence, the foundation of who they were on a stage was what carried them through.

As Dave Hill told MetalTalk’s Ian Sutherland, in the early days before success, Slade always had a thing about the show.
“We always had to think about playing live,” Dave says. “We learned a lot of songs by other people, and we travelled a lot in the sixties. I think we formed in 1966 and were called The N’Betweens then, and there was just certain magic about the thought of us playing live. We always concentrated on performing well but also touring a lot.”

Slade honed their craft at clubs, Mecca ballrooms and universities.
“All sorts of stuff we were doing in those days,” Dave says, “but there was always this impact about the strength of the band within as a rock and roll band. We got good together. We had great songs, even other people’s songs before we started to write ourselves. But we were always keen to perform live, get a reaction and dress up. I did a lot of that. It was always visual, and I think that’s always been with us.”

To celebrate the Slade legacy, the box set, All The World Is A Stage (BMG), will be released on 9 September, featuring five shows over eleven years that shows their live genius and versatility.

Chronologically, this set is bookended by two well-known releases. Slade Alive was recorded in 1971 and released the following year. The album that put them on the map is still a vital, vibrant listen now. Slade On Stage is from 1982 and is them at the peak of the excitement generated by their revival.

What will interest Slade fans, though, is the previously unreleased shows that accompany those recordings.

Live At The New Victoria is from 1975 and shows the band ready to hit the road promoting their movie soundtrack Slade In Flame. The thoughtful Everyday and How Does It Feel sit nicely against their usual, more raucous fayre.

Live At The Hucknall Miners Welfare Club is from June 1980 and has a more bootleg feel to the sound. The venue illustrates that their fortunes had wavered, but that bombastic, good time, no matter what joy just shines through the limitations of the time.

Finally, for the first time, there’s a complete official release of Alive At Reading, the gig which catapulted them back into public consciousness in August 1980. It’s one of those live albums that just crackles with atmosphere and really shows this legendary outfit at their very best.

“Even through the mega success, the live situation has always proved worthy to us,” Dave told MetalTalk. “There’s been many situations where performing at the right festival or something has been a positive career move for us.”

The Reading Festival is a prime example.
“Well, of course, that was a big deal in 1980 for us,” Dave says. “We were not having hits at the time we played Reading. We weren’t announced at first because we weren’t on the bill. But Ozzy Osborne pulled out. We got a call, and we had never played there before. Our manager Chas Chandler, who was Jimi Hendrix’s manager as well, said this festival would really be great for you, and he talked us all into doing it because we weren’t sure.

“But he said the thing is you’ve got great songs, and you’re a great live act, and I think this is what this box set is saying. There are very poignant times in our career where the live thing has really helped us. That’s what I personally feel.

“Playing for years, and we knew each other so well. We could work together, and we were tight. We only had a little equipment in those days, no stacked amplifiers and things like PAs.

“We didn’t have any monitors in the early days. Not until the seventies did we have any monitors on the stage. We just heard each other. I think the unique thing about it was we traded off each other live and I think this box set highlights that with five shows that we did.

“I remember one thing we did was Donington Festival, and I think there’s a picture on there. That was another great live show, although it wasn’t recorded. But the picture tells me it’s Donington. So you can imagine what that was like for us?”

The Donington show is something I don’t have to imagine, as I was there. That was the first time I saw Slade live. I have been going to gigs for 45 years, and I tell Dave I still can’t think of a crowd reaction bigger than that one for a band.
“When you listen to this box set,” Dave says, “you realize how we were playing. These are our records and the way we were playing in those days. I mean, you’ve got the miner’s welfare club, some great tracks realized at the time, and I think this collection is really nice for loyal fans because you stick it on, and it’s what you get. You get us with our strength at the time? I’d love more of it.”

As for other shows that Dave wishes were included, Lincoln Festival is a great memory.
“Sometimes you can’t always be in a position to record,” he says. “There’s been so many concerts. Lincoln Festival, for instance, was an extraordinary concert that Stanley Baker, the actor, put on in Lincoln, and we just had one or two hits then, you see.

“We weren’t known as a big live act, but that was another one of these opportunities. There were all sorts of bands on it, and it was raining. But when we went on it stopped raining and we went down an absolute storm. Some recordings don’t sound that good because the mix is not quite right, but these do. It’s having control over it sometimes, you know.

“I would like to have recorded Sweden Rock Festival in 2018, and there are various festivals I’ve done across Germany many, many times, but they don’t always record them, and you go down a storm.

“You know, sometimes you play for 20,000 people in some outdoor venues. In Berlin, for instance, I did three nights, and there were 20,000 people there each night, but nobody was recording anything.

“There are always special moments, but Lincoln Festival was one which we weren’t thinking about recording then. We were nervous about doing it.”

I asked Dave if that was the festival the band were booed when they walked on, remembering something I had read Noddy had said. Back then, there could be a bit of snobbery from the rock press about chart acts.
“Yes, there’s a possibility of that,” Dave says. “But it didn’t work out that way, by the time we finished that set, because the press put us on the front covers, the NME and Melody Maker, Sounds. They all thought, hey, what’s this? That upped the ante because it got us into a frame where we’re more than just hit records.

“That’s the thing, isn’t it? We hadn’t had that many hits. These weren’t the Mama We’re All Crazy days. This was really early, Coz I Love You and things like that. There possibly was some snobbery about chart acts. We’ve made some really great albums, but with this, BMG shows the strength of the band.

“What’s wonderful about this is that it shows the ability of what we were. A serious group, but a lot of fun entertainers. It was a joyful time. It really was, and it’s such a pleasure to go back and listen to this and think, weren’t we playing really fast?”

No click tracks back then to keep you in check.
“Yeah, we haven’t got a timing device these days anyway,” Dave smiles. “I think if you had a click track, it wouldn’t be as exciting. Because at the time you start the show and you get to the end of the song, the song will be faster at the end.

“When you start, the excitement drives it with the audience. The audience is picking up on the energy that we’re producing. You’ve got some very, very, early songs that we were fiddling around with. Get Down And Get With It, which wasn’t written by us but nevertheless was a real crowd-pleaser.

“Slade Alive particularly sold more records than Sgt. Pepper in Australia. So we went to Australia, and we had Lindisfarne and Caravan to go on with us. Can you imagine that? We went over because nobody was going there. And this album, Slade Alive, was the one that tipped the scales and was on the radio everywhere.”

Slade toured through the seventies with a lot of top rock acts like Nazareth and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
“Nazareth were friends of ours,” Dave says. “We knew them really well. I’ve come across them in later years, too as well. They’re a good band, Nazareth. We’re all different bands, but we all do our thing, don’t we? It’s what we are.

“Watching the Stones recently doing those big gigs, and it’s Keith, and it’s all about the past. It’s all about those phenomenal years, and the seventies obviously was a very, very bright time for us all.

“There was colour television, and there was a change from black and white to colour in clothes and all things. There was so much good stuff going out of the seventies, whether it be hard rock. You had Zeppelin. You had Deep Purple. We seemed to appeal to a very broad market.

“The live thing, it’s just so important that we always went back to that even when we weren’t really happening after all the hits dried up. We stayed together and carried on because we had to get through it. And we did get through it, and in 1980, we came back and had some really good hits. Great songs. Are you familiar with Slade In Flame?”

I say I have seen the film and have the album, which has great songwriting but was a change in vibe compared to some of Slade’s previous albums.
“Yeah, definitely changing the vibe,” Dave agrees. “Well, there was definitely a change in a lot of things with Everyday, Far Far Away. As the songs developed, we started to get reflective, whereas everything earlier on was full-on driving music. We were quite capable of doing different things. Our manager was keen to try this film. A lot of bands had made a movie, so it was another step to try it. I’m not sure the American people understood the accents, though.”

But it was a great album.
“It’s a really good album,” Dave says .” We’ve had many albums, but there are always ones you particularly like, and there’s a good flow in there, and it was fun making a movie as well. We had a lot of fun doing it.”

Slade had a few attempts at cracking America. What was it like touring over there? “I think the difficulty was when we first went, we were huge everywhere else,” Dave says. “It’s a difficult thing because, in America, very enthusiastic people thought it was going to happen quite quickly.

“The thing is, The Beatles didn’t go until they had a record, and other bands went over and worked their way up to success. Whereas we went from hysteria to a population checking us out, and you got press conferences and silly questions, things like that were going on.

“So when we first got there, we were possibly unprepared for what it would be like. Plus, I think American music at the time with Vietnam and all that was going on, a lot wasn’t what we were doing. I think maybe we went too soon. But we stuck it out.

“It was hard. We were put on the bill with some extraordinary acts like Grateful Dead and all sorts of people. There was Aerosmith and more. The actual sound of radio in America was so different from British radio.

“We were listening to this high fidelity sound coming across, playing Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and things like that. And we went over with this raucous sound and a strong singer, so we’re transported from hysteria to all of a sudden being on strange bills.

“But we gave it a few years, and we did start to break through in certain areas like St Louis. You could be quite successful in one state and totally unknown in another. You didn’t have television shows like Ed Sullivan. There wasn’t anything like that in the seventies. So, working the road was how we had to work at it.

“I lived in New York for three months to actually make the effort of staying there for a while rather than flying over and doing a week or two and then going back to England because we were very much homebodies. We ended up on the bill with J. Geils Band and different groups like that. Eventually, Kiss did make it, and then we went home and worked with them, which was far better because they were pulling certain crowds.

“We toured a lot with them, and we had a good time. We didn’t make it huge. We had a second situation in the eighties when Quiet Riot covered Cum On Feel The Noize. Then the Americans wanted the original band to go on. CBS wanted us to go back, and we had a hit record Run Run Away. We went on tour with Ozzy Osborne, and that was good, but unfortunately, our bass player got hepatitis or something and became quite ill. We had to come back to England because of what happened.

“It seemed to me that we went for the second time, and there was something sweeter about it. I still meet American groups that come over here, and they talk as if it all happened for us, but we never thought that way. We just thought it was all about timing. We tried it, we gave it quality time, but you have to remember that you have the rest of Europe to think about when you’re spending too much time in America, and it can be difficult because America is so big.”

Gene Simmons from Kiss says Slade was an influence on them.
“I think they used to put Slade Alive on to get them in the mood,” Dave says. “They’ve always been very complimentary about us. A lot of bands liked us. I remember Bruce Springsteen coming to see us as well.

“We were happening everywhere else, like in Australia and Japan. We did quite well there. But America, it was probably something we weren’t quite prepared for. It seemed the obvious next step.

“Then eventually, after one or two years or more, we felt we wanted to come back and concentrate on where it was working for us. I have to say we’ve had some very, very good experiences there, though.”

Dave Hill is still touring with the current Slade.
“I’ve never, never stopped doing it,” he says, “and it works very well. We have a keyboard player because many Slade songs have a piano. So we chose a guy who could sing and play keyboards as well. We have a drummer who’s a very rock drummer, and we have a bass player who has got a very good voice.

“So we have two singers, and we have me centre stage. So that works really well, especially for the audience recognizing you when you walk in. But it’s all about the music. It’s all about the excitement, and I still entertain as I did. I don’t think that’s going to stop. I still dress up and still go on there, and I still believe in what I do, and I still enjoy it.”

There are always rumours about a reunion of the original four guys of Slade as a one-off show or as a tour.
“It may interest me, but I’m not sure that’s shared by the others,” Dave says. “I know there was talk about doing Glastonbury, but it seemed to be a bit of a hoax to me. I was at a restaurant with Noddy, and then there was a photograph and people were talking about it.

“We had a bit of fun with that. It was not going to happen, and sadly, I’ve known that for years. We’re good friends as we always have been, and we have a laugh about it, but it will not happen as far as Noddy is concerned. He chooses what he does now. He still has a really good voice. I know that.

“He probably decided many, many years ago that he just had had enough of touring and albums and wanted to do other things. It’s common knowledge he is happy for me, and I appreciate that, and I’m happy for him.

“He’s got a good marriage, and we come together and talk about some of the things we did together. That’s good. Our music is a lot different from other people’s music, and the demands on the singer are quite strong.”

With all the touring Slade did, that Noddy has managed to keep his voice is remarkable.
“He was a lot younger then, singing extraordinary notes,” Dave says. “You can’t expect him to be singing like that now, at the same age as me. The demands on it, physically. I’m sure he still can sing, and I’m sure he’s still got a good voice but maybe different.

“That’s what I think. You got to live and be happy with what you’re doing. It’s all about the music, and it’s all about people’s memories. I know that as people come up to me and compliment me and say how great it was to hear all those songs.

“Some people hear them and say, I didn’t realize how many hit records you really had because, in an hour and 15, I’m still doing hit songs. That’s how many we have to choose from. And it could go on longer.

“It’s a great legacy to have because when I play, I know what people are coming to hear. If you want to see the Beatles, you’re bound to want something that you bought when you were 14. You want to hear that again. And most of the fans are 50 or near on, 60, I suppose.

“But we still have a lot of young fans who are very interested in what we do, interested in the style. I think it’s because they seem to think that bands from that era were real bands and played real music. It wasn’t artificial, and no click tracks.

“When we used to go and record in the studio, we played several times before we decided which take. When you’re doing choruses and things like that, it’s bound to be slightly different the next time you hear the chorus because what makes the record different is the nuances in style.

“We always kept the guitar from the first take because there’s always something about it. That’s what I think with Nod’s vocals. Sometimes we kept Nod’s vocal as a benchmark, just in case we wanted to use it because he’s not under pressure. He just sang it as if he’s singing it live, but you can see him in the booth, and we saw each other in the studio.”

The three previously unreleased live shows featured on ‘All The World Is A Stage’ are;

Live At The New Victoria recorded on April 24 1975, captures the band before they went around the UK to promote their feature film, In Flame. Heard officially for the first time, it now presents a fitting snapshot of the group’s powerful live performances.

Live At The Hucknall Miner’s Welfare Club recorded on June 26 1980, shows the band unwilling to trade exclusively on their past with songs featured from their new studio album at the time ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’, along with classics ‘Take Me Bak ’Ome’, ‘Gudbuy T’Jane’, ‘Everyday’ and the perennial ‘Mercy Xmas Everybody’.

Alive! At Reading the third unreleased full live set*, captures the band delivering a sensational live performance to over 80,000 people. As last minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne, few knew they were going to be performing but their sensational set was the highlight of the festival and led to Slade enjoying a renaissance in the eighties.

Completing this raw and epic new live box set are the previously available Slade Alive!’ considered one of the greatest live albums of all time, “Sounds better, the louder you play it” – Los Angeles Times, and 1982’s Slade On Stage.

Pre-order from

* It should be noted that the Reading festival show on CD is only highlights and that Slade's Hucknall show was actually recorded by an Independent Local Radio station, RadioTrent.

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November 2023: So here it is

Dave Woodhall talks to Dave Hill of Slade about books, clothes and a song that just won’t go away. Birmingham Press (here)

There’s nothing that could possibly be said about Dave Hill and Slade that hasn’t been said before. Legends, icons and certainly much, much more than a song you’ll start hearing again any day now. Dave’s the last original member of the band and they’ll be touring next month. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.

“I went back on the road in 1991 and I got a manager who was married to Suzi Quatro, Len Tuckey and he was a guiding light. He was a bit like Chas Chandler, someone who comes into your life, he said I could get back on the road. I had to get several musicians who aren’t originals but that’s commonplace now.

“The beauty of the Christmas song is its longevity. You start thinking people would love it but it’s taken a life of its own. We made the song but the public made the success. In 1973, we all know that wasn’t a good year, not quite as bad as today but the country was certainly going through something. I would have thought they’d also bring the Christmas song out the following year and maybe the year after that but most people, you have a number one and they’re not talking about it a year later. And now we’re talking about it fifty years later because the kids of the people who bought it are playing it to their kids. It jumps the generations.

“We’d worked hard through the sixties in a young band until we found someone who would guide us and lead us to fame and that was Chas Chandler. We were fortunate to get him and nobody could have planned that because we were in the right place at the right time. We went to London to record a couple of songs and the studio boss asked us to make an album. We thought that was great, we’d got this old J2 Austin van and we started the next day, we kept going down and doing a bit until this bloke from the studio said we needed someone to help us. He introduced us to an agent who introduced us to Chas, who saw us at a club in Bond Street called Rasputin’s There was nobody there but he wanted to manage us so he bought us off the agent we were using in the Midlands who was happy to see us go off to bigger things.

“We never know how things lead to one another, some are good and some are rubbish. We went through a lot before we made it but we were young and it didn’t really matter. The M6 had only just been built and the further you went in Scotland, well. We went up there once and we played the town hall in Wick, which is about far as you could go. It took us all day to get there to play in a freezing cold hall with fifty people there. We couldn’t afford to stop the night so we had to leave right after, we got stuck on the Shapp right up on the Scottish border and we ended up burying ourselves in our clothes to keep warm. Fifty years on we’ve got better transport.”

And you’re playing bigger venues than you have for some time.

“We’ve been pretty good with the audiences, it wasn’t so good just after Covid but it’s moved on after that and we’re going back to some venues we’ve done before plus one or two others. Margate, Dreamland in Margate, everybody played there and the last time I was there we were skinheads. I was going out with this girl and she was shocked. Short hair doesn’t suit me because I’ve got large ears, I looked like Spock. I never saw her again.”

How’s Russell, your new singer, bedded in?

“Russell’s great. He’s a good singer, he’s a great keyboard player and a great character. And John our bass player has been with me for over twenty years. His voice has really developed. In fact, I’m going to use him on a solo album I’m working on.”

You’ve got some new material? Tell me more.

“I’ve got about fifty songs. I’ve got someone who helped me write my life story, he’s listened to my demos over the last three years and now we’re making strides to really do it now. We’ll get five or six really good track and we’ll get a few people in who may be interested. I’m not making a second Slade album but the main point of the album is my storytelling. I’ve got to do it, my strong point is my guitar playing and I want to do it because it’s not like I’m a pin-up anymore, it’s about an experience of writing about what I’ve been through.

“The book So Here It Is did really well and I’m hoping to do some Audience With… shows. I want to spread my wings a bit because being on the road isn’t forever so I can do something different. Noddy’s done a few, we’re great friends and really close, the pair of us together is a joy. My wife’s always pushed me to to do this and now she can’t get me out of my studio. After Covid it was difficult to get out and get back on stage. I’m really fine now but I did go through a little bit of a bad time then I got into writing. It was either that or watching Tipping Point and Bargain Hunt repeats.”

There was also talk of a book about your stage clothes.

“That’s going to be sorted in the next month or two. It’s with a publisher because it hasn’t come out and I have been asked what happened to that great book. I’ve had a fashion historian doing the words and she tracked down the people who made the clothes. It was crowdfunded so I’ve got to find out whether they’re going to do it and I think I’ll come together with the bloke who did that in January. I have some eye surgery due and I have to ease off in January and February to get that done.

Talking of books, have you read the recent Daryl Easlea one, Whatever Happened to Slade?

“I’ve heard about it. Sometimes you get these people and you didn’t give them the go-ahead but you can’t stop them writing about you, so you can a bit concerned But Noddy said to me a few weeks ago, ‘I’ve read it, it’s okay. There’s nothing bad in it’. Obviously there’s always things that aren’t quite correct but he told me there was nothing to be concerned about. He said there’s a lot about my clothes but that was always going to be a big part of it. At the end of the day the guy’s written it and hopefully fans will like it so it’s a no-brainer.”

There’s also been quite a bit of Slade material re-released or out for the first time. The Hitz album came out in 2020 and got into the top ten, then All The World Was a Stage, a box set of live albums which proved what an incredible live band Slade were.

“There’s always been a snooty side to the business. Chas believed we were one of the greatest bands who ever existed. He believed that what we did wrote a new chapter in music because he was such a great motivator and great manager, he kept us on track with what we were going to do and he knew we were capable of making more complicated music but it kept us focused to not outgrow your fans by trying to be too clever. We weren’t ready to do Sergeant Pepper but we could have gone into something like that much later in our career. We came across well on TV, we always knew what to do, especially me and Nod, the point of selling the stuff and we come from good families, it wasn’t laid on the table. We had to work for it.

“Individually we’re different but collectively we became gold. Even in the eighties we had success again, which shows we weren’t just about the seventies stuff. It wasn’t until illness arrived with our bass player that we stopped touring and eventually Nod got interested in radio and things. I wish him well, he’s done extremely well for himself and so he should. He’s still got his powerful voice. I listen to him and it’s just there.”

There’s an album on the box set, Live at the Hucknall Miners Welfare Club from 1980. It’s a matter of record that you were playing that sort of working men’s club back then, but the album shows that you were still giving it the full-on live show that you were doing two or three years later when you were back to being a big name at festivals.

“Hucknall came around at the time we were struggling, before the magic happened at Reading but I think we were playing at our best ever at that time. Hucknall, I remember that place by the name, it sounds the typical working men’s club.”

You had U2 playing with you at that time as well.

“At the Lyceum in London. We had all sorts of bands, Generation X and the Jam, Sham 69. And every one of them was a fan of ours. Billy Idol, all of them, even though they said they had no influences, when those bands were around the older ones had become dinosaurs but the punks really liked us because we had that punk element. Then Noel Gallagher, who came a generation or two after that, he said him and his brother watched us on Top of the Pops and he said ‘No Slade, no Oasis.’ That was his opening line in my book and he finished with ‘What’s not to like about them?’ Noel’s a great writer, there’s an element in their work – they covered Cum On Feel The Noize as well – that reminds me of us.”

Which in turn reminds me of something I’ve wondered about before now. If you’d started ten years later and your formative years were the late seventies rather than the sixties, would you have been a rock band, or would you have been new wave? Would you have been more like AC/DC, or the Jam?

“I don’t think we would have necessarily been like either of them. The Jam were a three-piece and they reminded me a bit of the Who. With us there was never any imitation – AC/DC were massive fans of us. I saw them with Bon Scott, supporting Black Sabbath and I saw this guy walking round on someone’s shoulders. There’s always a connection with their style, I think we crossed over.”

You were a rock band with a new wave attitude.

“Yes. They called me Superyob and all sorts of things like that but we always had an intelligence about the music. Some bands play in a certain style but we were very musical. My style of playing is very strong in its rhythm but the melodies have always had that melodic thing which I picked up from Hank Marvin. There was all sorts of comparisons when we made it, one was with the Who and I thought we were nothing like them. Chas said we were unique, we played rock’n’roll music with different chords. Cum On Feel The Noize is an example – there was a major scale in there but also minor chords, which gives it a feeling of majors and minors where rock’n’roll is strictly major but we played differently.

“We learned a lot of interesting stuff before we made it, Jim had very good ears and was very musical, which helped arrange how we were playing and we’d put our styles in there. I don’t remember trying to be anybody. We came after Marc Bolan, we were watching him being photographed and Chas told us we’d be a lot bigger than him. We couldn’t see that at the time but we became, Marc was big but we took on a life of our own. There were other bands inspired by the clothes we wore but there was nothing like Slade. We had a lot of fun times, people would watch us to see what we we wearing as well as what we were playing. We weren’t prog rock, where it got a bit technical but we were quite capable of doing complicated stuff in our act. When we eventually found our style we stuck with it until we got round to about 1974, Far Far Away and Everyday, the Flame era. The press noticed there was a bit of a change. We had some good success later on, we made the film and had the soundtrack. Noel Gallagher’s favourite song is How Does It Feel from Flame. It was Ken Bruce’s last song on Radio 2.”

One of the things that proved how massive Slade were and how much affection there still is for you is when the story broke recently about Noddy’s illness. In itself it wasn’t much of a story – a singer from a band in the seventies was ill five years ago and he’s recovered now, but it was front page news.

“I was talking to him about it. I did an article for the Metro newspaper and I knew what he’d been through. It was hard; he still has to have regular check-ups but he’s still clear. We know one of us will be at the other’s funeral one day but we enjoy each other’s company. Our relationship is more than friendship; what we did together was amazing and I’ll always know that he’s there. He’s still doing bits and bobs but he’s choosing to enjoy himself, which we all have to while we’re here. Let’s enjoy ourselves because we’re not here forever.”

Did you hear the N’Betweens version of Train Kept A’Rolling that was released a few months back, featuring Don and Jim?

“I think I heard something but I don’t know much about it. I think it was the original guys before me and Nod joined. I haven’t heard it but with social media you know most things anyway. Things come by me, I don’t really know what’s going on because I’m doing what I'm doing. Enjoy what they’re doing, I wish them well.

“With me and Nod there’s always something that one of us remembers and the other one’s forgot. It’s always good fun when we’re out because we become the popular table at the restaurant. People very politely come over and don’t want to disturb you but it’s the day of the selfie now. Get me and Nod together in front of a camera and there would be great value in that.”

How about the two of you doing a double act?

“Somebody said we should go into pantomime and play the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella. We’d be great. And imagine them with a Black Country accent if somebody could arrange it? Nod had a proper band behind him when he did his shows, they played and he gets up and does a bit. My daughter went and said it was fantastic. He’s still got his voice, he can still sing. We share something so special, no matter how successful you become individually, the thing that we did collectively is special. We were great together and thanks a lot to each member of Slade for that because it’s what they bring to your life. Certainly something to my life, we all contributed to each other. As Chas would say, we made rock history. He wanted to get us waxworks in Madame Tussaud’s. Can you imagine that?”

You’re too modest; you brought a lot to more than four lives.

“Yes. When I went back on the road we went to Russia and Ukraine, all those places you can’t go now and some of the stories I heard about when the people there were getting the music on the black market. Boy, didn’t they know all the words and in most cases most Russians I met didn’t speak English. The was one man in Minsk who gave me all these oil paintings, there were tears in his eyes as he was giving them to me. It gave me such a buzz to realise how much we connected with people around the world. Japan, Norway, Sweden, Australia. In fact, in Australia Slade Alive sold more than Sergeant Pepper. We were massive there, Chas said we were to our generation like the Beatles were to theirs.”

If you could go back and change one thing and think that you might have cracked America, or got a bit more lasting success. Is there anything where you think ‘We should have done that differently’?

“There’s a lot of things to say in hindsight but it’s what you didn’t do all the way through the success that makes you what you are. Trying to go back to alter some outcome is not the way it is. You go through life because you don’t know what tomorrow brings. You can’t write out the script, you can’t say that if I make this move on the chessboard that’ll win the game. We were doing what we were doing and any interruption might have ruined the actual destiny of the group.

“When Chas talked me into playing Reading, if I hadn’t listened to him I might have altered the course of us being successful again. We were handed something and there was an opportunity, a gaping hole that needed filling. Chas said to me there’d be no other band that weekend who could compete with our experience and he was absolutely right. I looked across the stage and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I could see him thinking ‘I told you so’.

Merry Christmas.”

The first person to wish me a Merry Christmas this year was Dave Hill. Life can’t get any better.

Slade are touring in December and play the O2 Academy 2 in Birmingham on Saturday 23rd December.

Slade now


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January 2024::

Available at

Although he insists he is no architect (despite having essentially designed the house which he still lives in with his wife Louise to this day), James Whild Lea is most certainly the architect of some of the most iconic songs in musical history. Along with Neville John Holder's great lyrics (that’s Noddy to you!), James wrote many of Slade’s greatest hits which still sound as LOUD, as electrifying and as beautiful (We must not forget the many incredible ballads that Slade wrote and recorded such as, ‘Everyday’ and ‘My Oh My’) as they ever have. It is this, alongside Slade’s raucous, edgy and frantic live shows that ensured that Slade would be forever cemented in the Mount Rushmore of rock music, if such a thing existed.

An accomplished and virtuosic musical prodigy from a young age, whilst he didn’t realize he was doing so at the time, James even wrote the beginning of what is surely one of the greatest songs ever written, ‘How Does it Feel?', when he was just 13 years old. James’ musical wizardry and versatility in his ability to play so many different instruments is certainly one of the many things that set Slade apart from the rest. There weren’t many rock bands that had a violin player in the 1970s!

As the ‘70s ended and the ‘80s began, James formed the rather excellent The Dummies along with his brother Frank. This was perhaps the first time that James had the opportunity to showcase his excellent vocals in his own right. James also ventured into the world of music production and soon found himself as an in-demand producer. James’ recent solo work is nothing short of breathtaking and is a testament to his extraordinary musical talents. His voice is perhaps better than ever before and listeners finally have an opportunity to hear how incredible James’ voice really is. With two Number One songs on Mike Read’s Heritage Chart Show and a brand-new album on the way this year, it’s a great time for the musical genius from Wolverhampton and for his legions of loyal supporters all over the world.

Adam Coxon went to meet James and his brother Frank for a career spanning interview

PB: I will start by saying that we're here at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the scene of a recent Q&A that you did with Don Powell, which completely sold out in under five minutes!

JL: Two minutes, actually! Two minutes!

PB: How does it feel to be so popular after all these years, James?

JL: I'll tell you, I don't know about Don, but it seemed to me when we were just walking from the back of the stage to get on the stage I felt lifted. The crowd stood up and everybody started clapping and cheering. It wasn't a riot type of thing, clapping like a football match. It was reverential. That's what it was. So, everybody feels warm and in with it, and we're all here for a reason. It was sort of religious, you know. I'm not religious at all. But, you know, it was amazing. I couldn't believe it. And instead of having the audience coming up with questions, where you end up with a battle going on, who's going to get over the other one, we had Daryl Easlea, the author, as the compere, so to speak. He's written a load of books. I think he's written novels as well. I'd seen him on a Channel 5 programme about the ‘70s and when he was talking about Slade he really knew his stuff, you know, so it was a really big thing to get him to compere it and adjudicate. He got questions from all fan sites all over the world. Daryl asked the first question, “Are Slade going to get back together again?” And Don just went, “No!” Daryl looked at me and said, “What about you, Jim?” And I just said, “It's just another filthy rumour!”

PB: Well, I definitely wasn't going to ask if Slade are going to get back together because I'm sure you’re sick to death of being asked that question. It seems that you've only performed a couple of times in your own right since Slade disbanded. I was wondering if you had any plans to do any future live performances? Is that something that you've got any interest in at all?

JL: Yeah, the only thing is, as you get older, your voice isn't the same. And also, the fact that I had cancer. It’s 20 years ago since I did the gig at The Robin in Bilston. I got the bass player from Bootleg Beatles at the time and he just turned up and did the gig. We were just going on doing all these numbers like ‘Shaking All Over’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and the drummer, he also turned up just before we went on. He did a great job though; he was a grand lad as well and I didn't know him at all. I knew the bass player but as we were walking on stage they said, “Jim, we thought we were going to come in here for a laugh. We thought we were gonna be in a pub, up a corner, nobody taking any notice of us.” He said, “We didn't expect a proper gig, A compressed Wembley!” It went so well though. And it's sort of legendary now. There was a guy from one of the music shops in Birmingham who did a bit of roadie work and he was trying to put a plug in at the back through the gig. When he got back to the shop, the guys at the shop asked him what the show was like. He said he’d never seen anything like it. The guys he worked with asked him what he meant. He said, “Well, it was loud.” They said, “Well yeah, we know what loud is. What else?” and he said, “No, there’s loud and then, there’s JIM loud!” He said that he was trying to plug something in at the back of the stage but it wouldn’t go in because of the volume of the sound was shaking the equipment too much! But anyway, it went really, really well. And right to this day, they’re still talking about it. It was 2002, I think. It's just 20 years ago.

PB: And other than that, there was 20 minutes that you did in 2017. Am I right in thinking those are the only two performances you've really done?

JL: They are. We were intending to do something else, but COVID came. We did a Q&A and I went and played along to these backing tracks too. ‘Jimmy-oke’, I call it!

PB: There's footage of it on YouTube and you look like you're having the time of your life. You look great. You sound great. And I think people would just love to see you live again.

JL: They would. Who knows what might happen?!

PB: Let’s take it back to the beginning. When you guys were growing up, your parents owned a pub in Bilbrook, right?

JL: No it wasn’t in Bilbrook!

FL: The Grange!

JL: No, no, no. There was a posh pub there and it's got rolling lawns. Our younger brother, he says, “James, everybody's always asking me, why were you brought up in a pub with rolling lawns where you could just go out playing and do what you like?” He said, “And we were just in a council house!” Which we all were, actually. So, it became quite a thing. Whoever put that on the internet? I was actually born in a pub just on the ring road here. It was where a pub was but it’s now the ring road. The Melbourne Arms.

PB: So this Grange in Bilbrook has nothing to do with you guys?

JL: No, there was a pub called The Grange but there’s no connection to our family.

PB: Did you grow up in a musical household?

JL: Oh, yeah, from birth. My grandad, who I never knew, he died a year before I was born. When the year was coming to pass, and my mum's told me this, my grandmother was hoping I was a boy. We had an older brother, who sadly died from dementia. I was a month overdue and my mum did not have an easy birth with me because I was massive. So, the thing was that, it turned out that I was born on exactly the same day that my grandad died. He sadly died from throat cancer and had a really bad time with it. Then out I popped out and my grandmother and my mum, I think they thought it was like some sort of Jesus Christ, you know.

FL: No James, they said, “Jesus Christ!” Ha ha!

JL: More like, “Jesus Christ, he’s fat!” So anyway, as I grew up, we moved away from the pub. There was a building here when grandad came back from the First World War, I think it was called the Electric Kinema with a K. But they didn't have all the audio and mobile phones then. So, they used to have an orchestra there playing for the music for the film and my grandad was the lead violin in the Hippodrome before he went to the war. So he went, and he went for a long time. Three years or something like that. As soon as he came back, they sent him to Ireland. He was the leader of the orchestra, the Hippodrome down here, and then they used the orchestra for the cinema. All the uncles and everybody, they could all play. There's my uncle Frank. He could play the piano, the accordion, violin and viola. My grandad played violin and viola. But when the fan club secretary, the historian, found something on one of these ancestry sites and it said Frank Whild Lea. Do you know my middle name is Whild?

PB: Yes.

JL: So it said Frank Whild Lea has returned from the war and he was the lead violinist at the Hippodrome but he's been asked once again to be the leader of the orchestra at the Electric Kinema and he said he agreed and as he came down he took a standing ovation. And it got on the top, 1920. I thought, bloody hell. You know, so it was the 14 -18 war. So, there must have been a gap somewhere. But anyway, so he took over, and then he went to Northern Ireland. My mum liked music. My dad was a great singer. Our grandmother played the piano. At the grandmother's house, it was always full of music, because the musicians used to come around from the orchestra to see grandad, and they'd have a drink, and then they'd have to play on the piano and the violin. Mum said there was music constantly going on in the house.

PB: You joined Staffordshire Youth Orchestra in 1961, and you excelled in your violin exam.

JL: Yeah, I don't know why, I didn't practice very much. The beat boom had arrived and I didn't want to be doing Tchaikovsky.

PB: So, was that the sort of transition, when you heard rock and roll?

JL: I wasn't interested in rock and roll. My older brother Ray got a record player. He was playing it one day and I said, “What's this rubbish?” It was just Bobby Vee and I couldn’t stand it. Then one day I was coming downstairs and there was some music coming up through the floor. When I was upstairs, I could only hear the bass drum. As I walked downstairs, the sound coming from this old Bacolite radio... it was ‘Apache’ by The Shadows. Something took me by the neck and said this way! And that was it. That was the moment. It was literally an epiphany. Yeah, it was, being biblical.

PB: Were you already starting to experiment with songwriting at this age?

JL: No.

PB: Not until after you joined The ‘N-Betweens?

JL: Yeah. The songwriting came from necessity. I’ve just realized. I got the job for The ‘N Betweens in the same place where my grandad played which I’ve just walked past on the way here to meet you today!

PB: Really? That’s incredible! Obviously, I know you're rooted in this area, but I didn't realize we'd be quite so close to places that have been so significant in your life.

JL: Yeah. It's over there. We've just walked past where I did my audition.

PB: Wow. That’s really amazing! You did the audition when you were 16?

JL: Yeah. February. Cold. I'd been in a band called Nick and the Axemen by then. When I was learning to play the guitar, I couldn't go in a pub or anything. I mean, there were bands all over the place playing in pubs and I used to stand at the front of the stage and just watch them. So, they knew I was watching them, so I'm literally just looking. And I was very, very shy and I didn't want to talk to people I didn't know. I was just looking at these guys and I thought, hang on, if I play the lead guitar, people are going to be looking at me, and I don't want that. I thought I'd play rhythm guitar instead. And then the rhythm guitarist in the band I was in left. And I said, “Look, I'll play the bass and we won't have a rhythm guitar. We'll just be like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.” But when I got the bass, I mean, it was as big as me. I knew that I didn't just want to be playing the bass. I knew I wanted to be a lot more than that. And it got noticed when I did the audition here. I was talking to the singer; Nod wasn’t with us then. His name was Johnny Howells, and he said I could hear the bass going and at first it was ‘Mr Pitiful’ and then he said it was just, ‘WOW!’

PB: What was your first impression of Chas Chandler when you met him?

JL: I was in awe of him. As I said, it was the beat boom, and, of course, as it was going on, there were a lot of bands filling up the charts. So, you know, The Shadows were struggling, and, although it was wonderful, they are gods to me, you know, lovely, but it was getting rawer and I liked that.

PB: So, you sort of naturally sort of merged into Ambrose Slade, really, didn't you, from The ‘N-Betweens?

JL: The singer and the rhythm guitarist left the band. They disappeared and I'd done the audition. I knew I'd done alright and I knew I'd be like nobody else. So, in fact Dave Hill said, “Can we just cool it down guys?” He said, “Hey son, come here.” I wasn't even fully grown. I didn't even look 16. And so, he said, “Come over here. You play ever so fast and I can't tell whether you're bluffing or not.” And I said, “Okay!” He broke a guitar string and Don called me over. He was sitting on the drums. It was just like a movie really. We had an agent up here who knew a guy who was a producer and an arranger and that type of thing and he got an audition with Fontana Records. The boss of the A &R of Fontana Records said,” I want to sign the band.” He said, “I think they're really interesting.” And he said, “They don't need a producer. The bass player can do it.”

PB: So you got into production that early?

JL: Yeah, I did all the arranging and it got in the newspaper. It said, Jimmy Lea, the youngest producer. Of course, the others didn’t like that at all. I mean, they were three years older than me. In those days, when you’re 16, three years is a lot. I was shy as well. It was a big problem for me. He wanted us to have a London management. And so, he got this guy named John Gunnell. Him and his brother owned the Rickey Tick Club, where Georgie Fame used to play, and John Mayall. And so, he came down, but he was going out with a mate of his which was Chas Chandler, and they both got their wives with them. It was dark and the tables there were low down. It was almost like the old speakeasys. Like a Bogart film. He was talking to me, and I knew he was from Newcastle, but it was supposed to be John Gunnell who was talking to me. And it was me he called over.

So, Chas, the last time I ever spoke to him before he died, I said, “What made you sign us?” He said, “I was coming down the stairs, and I turned around to John Gunnell, I said, ‘This is a great version of this record.’” He got in the club and it was us playing.” And he said that he thought, “Wow, if they can do that, they can do other things”. He said, “I was watching Dave at first and I thought that he’d make a good little pop star, and that he could tell that Don knew what he was doing. And he said, “Then they moved and then I could see you, and I thought, ‘Oh, that's where it's all coming from.’” When we made the film (‘Slade in Flame’), Chas said that David Putnam he wants some sort of theme music for the film. Chas pulled me over to one side and he said, “Would you be able to do some music for the film”? And I said, “Yeah, I’ll have a go.” And we were coming back from the film set and Johnny Steele, who was the drummer in The Animals, he became a fixer for us and a fixer for Chas, a useful bloke. And so I said to him, “Do you know Johnny? I've got a challenge. If I could write something for the theme, for when the film starts.” And I said, “You can tell him that I've got it. In the house that we were living in when I was 13.” There was a rotten old piano that got rained on. It was on an outside veranda. I used to sit in there and I used to pretend I was Paul McCartney and play this piano. I didn't even know anything about the piano. I just got on with it, you know. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I’d written the start of, ‘How Does it Feel?’. I remembered this idea from back then and worked on it and finished it. So when Chas called me on the phone, he said, “Hey, Johnny Steele says you've got the theme.” I said, “Yeah, I've got it. Yeah, we can do it.” And of course, I would imagine of all the tracks we did that that's the one that across the board everybody liked. That was our first number one, I mean it was amazing to have a number one I went over to Nod with my violin and I said, I've got an idea. This was after ‘Get Down and Get With It.’

And so we'd had a hit that had got to number 14. And he said, “Well, what are you coming here for?” We’ve got a hit, and we're done.” I said, “No, we've got a hit now. And we have to keep having hits and I've got something that I think is going to be another hit.” And he was very reluctant to let me into his council house. I said, “Okay, if we're not playing next week on Tuesday, I'll come back and you can do the lyrics,” and that became ‘Cuz I Luv You’. And I think it was that right around the time Marc Bolan was around and it was like ‘Hot Love’ and we wanted it to sort of creep along as well. We were just lucky. Well, we all know what happened after that. So I used to write the songs. I used to take them to him. And I said, “this is what we'll do. I'll write the songs. But I'll always have some lyrics. And then you finish it off.” And it worked really, really well. But we had to keep it coming, you know?

PB: Surely you must have felt under an enormous amount of pressure at the time to keep churning out hit after hit after hit, which you were doing, but to have that in the back of your mind must have been difficult. Wasn't there a period where Chas was particularly pressurizing you to churn out these hits, or you churned out one that he didn't particularly like?

JL: Yeah, I did feel under pressure to keep coming up with hits but I didn’t have a problem with Chas as he liked everything I wrote.

PB: What were your experiences of America? JL: We'd been in America for a long time. We were playing with ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers who were the big thing back then. So, we decided we were going to try and ‘do’ America. And so, we tried to sound more American.

PB: So you were trying to constantly adapt your sound for the market at the time?

JL: Yeah. We did America and it's funny, you know, the ‘Slayed ‘album. I think that was in the American chart for about three and a half years. Right down the bottom, the album chart. But there it was. And the last interview I ever did with Malcolm Dome from ‘Kerrang’. all he wanted to do was to tell me that you know what's going on in America. I said, “I don't know what you mean. I hated America. I don't want to go back there ever. I don't want to get on a plane ever. Not ever again.” But he said, “All the young bands over there are all listening to Slade”

PB: You guys have influenced so many band. So many bands have cited Slade as an influence. Kiss, Nirvana, Motley Crue, The Pistols, The Clash. The list goes on. I don't know how to describe it, but the sound of Slade seems very rooted up here. I don't know if that's just because of the characters in the band, but the sound feels very Black Country or Wolverhampton somehow. I don’t know how else to qualify that. But you read stories and you hear stories that you never wanted to stay in London. You always wanted to come back. I guess it was the same when you went to America in the mid -70s. You didn't really want to stay there.

JL: No.

FL: Can I just put my tuppenny-worth on that? The sound of Slade, this is from the beginning. Dave and Nod had what I called a manky guitar sound but it worked. It was unique. But when the band broke up, me and James did some recording together.

PB: Was this The Dummies?

FL: Yeah, And I played the drums and then James played the guitars and the bass and that. And I said to James, “What does this sound like?” This was the only rehearsal we did. He said, “It sounds like me and you playing.” I said, “No. it sounds like Slade” and I then said, “Take the bass out.” And he took the bass out. So, a big portion of the sound came from this power bass going off. Of course, there was Don there as well, you know, but a big portion, it was as clear as possible. Take him out of the equation and it was a good band. Put him back into the equation, and the whole thing changed. And I proved it.

PB: Yeah, not many bands had violin players.

JL: There was, what was that one in the 60s with Darrell Way and Stewart Copeland.

PB: Oh, Curved Air. They’re incredible. They’re still playing. While we're on the subject of the sound, I read one quote from Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols, who said simply, the reason that Slade were great is because they never compromised. I thought that was a great thing to say.

JL: He's a big fan, isn't he?

PB: What a great legacy, though.

JL: Big fan, Steve Jones. Oh, yeah, he's a big fan, yeah.

PB: Yeah, what a great thing that you've done it on your own terms. I thought that was great.

FL: James came up with a good line to do with that, which was true actually. It was when Slade had all the hits, people then started copying all the records and sounding like Slade, and then James said, the thing is, everybody all sounded the same, so Slade had to find something to move on to.

JL: It happened with The Beatles as well. I did have a conversation with Paul McCartney. He wanted to talk to me, I didn't want to talk to him, I felt a bit overwhelmed, to be quite honest. But we were talking and I said, “How did you write so many songs?” And he said, “Well. of course, John was doing it as well, you see, and George was doing it as well.” And we started to talk. This was four years after John Lennon was killed, and we were all in this studio together. Paul McCartney was making ‘Goodbye to Broad Street’ and he wanted to ask me about ‘My Oh My’ and he said he thought it was a tremendous album and a great record. You don't hear it on the radio very often but when you do it's like Lancasters coming over you. So, I said to him, “I know that you and John fell out.” He said, “It was funny, James. We were great mates right from middle through the teenage year, but I spoke to him again not long before he died and I told him there's this band who are like us, man, like when we were number one all the time.” And he said, “Have you heard them over there?” and John said “Yeah. They sound rough. Really rough. Like we were but rougher.”

PB: Incidentally, we’re a couple of weeks away from the 40th anniversary of the release of, ‘My Oh My’, which I think is a criminally underrated Slade song.

JL: Well, Paul liked it! He said, “James, you’re a great songwriter. You’re better than me!” I said, “Course I’m not better than you! Look what you’ve done! You bloody took the world over! You and that other bloke!” Paul was overly complimentary about my songwriting. He said, “Do you want to come over to my house sometime?” I said, “We’ve gotta do this album,” and we were going to America but there was a lot of things wrong. I was ill. The first time was alright when we were in New York but the second time we were in Los Angeles and we did not fit in at all. They just didn’t get it. I was ill and I had to go home. So, everybody went home. Then the time came to go back again. Ozzy Osbourne had got his band together because of the Randy Rhodes thing and the first show was Cow Palace, which is just a great big building.

PB: In San Francisco?

JL: Yeah. The crew got the equipment set up and it just wasn’t right somehow. The guy from the label was called Tony Scottie. He’d ring me up. It was always 9:15 at night. I couldn’t work out why he’d always call me at that time. He said, ‘”Jim, you wanna come over here? We got it all set up. It’s gonna be a massive tour with Ozzy etc.” I bought a cottage which was very, very tiny and I said to Lou, my wife, “This is gonna be no good, We can’t buy this.” She just said, “No, let’s buy it.” So, we bought it and I designed a house! It was making ‘the’ house into something different. Basically, it was smashed to pieces. I’m not an architect or anything. I’d written a couple of songs. ‘My Oh My’ and, ‘Run Run Away’. ‘My Oh My’ got to Number Two and it was ‘The Flying Pickets’ who held us off the Number One spot. ‘Run Run Away’ was also a Top Ten hit in the UK and I think it might have got top 40 in America. I like the songs.

PB: Yeah, great songs! So you guys decided to form The Dummies in 1979. Was this just because you wanted to refocus on the music? As you were saying, Frank, everyone that was coming out at this time was starting to sound like Slade, and you just wanted to work on your own thing?

FL: No, the idea was, I used to say to James, because they had such a unique sound, everybody knew Slade when they came on. People were missing how good the songs are. And on the albums, there are some great tracks. I said, “They're never going to be covered, because it always sounds like Slade, and a lot of people can't see past that.” So, I said, “Why don't we do an album with Slade tracks? So that people can hear the song without Noddy screeching down the vocals and we'll do that.” And it worked. It was when we had ‘When the Lights Are Out”, it would have gone a lot further but it was record of the week on Radio 1. And it was in the radio charts for three and a half months, wasn't it?

JL: Yeah, the DJ Paul Burnett made it his record of the week and they kept it on the playlist. You know, we were getting there, weren't we?

FL: I was an ideas man but I didn't know how distribution works. And that's how we sort of missed the boat a bit. Well, I got PRT (Pye) to bring it out but we'd missed the boat. And then the same happened with when we did, ‘Didn’t You Use to Use to Be You’. That was A listed on Radio 1. Every single show 24 hours a day was on. But I'll tell you now, that that wasn't bad distributions. Chas Chandler, I had a fist fight with him by the way. I lost! What had happened, that should have been a top five record or even a number one I mean the press were well behind it. What had happened was we brought it out and straight on the A list and Radio !. All the commercial stations jumped on it because they follow Radio !

So, I phoned James and said, ‘”Okay James, the first day sales were great’” Then the next day it did whatever it did, and it was all going in the right direction and there was a fucking bank holiday, so we missed the day’s sales. When it came back the sales went down to like 10/15 a day. So, I phoned BMG, spoke to the head of sales, and I said, “It's Frank here. What's going on? We've gone over a week. We're losing the record.” He said, “We're not selling it anymore.” “What?! What you mean you're not selling it anymore?” He said Chas phoned us and said he's got a Slade record coming out and he doesn't want this to get in the way.

JL: He fucked it up.

FL: But if I’d have turned around to Chandler and said, “Chas, will you manage this?” then he'd have agreed because then he would have got the glory and the ego, but he couldn't see me, coming from a village, having a top five record.

PB: Did Chas have that much sway with BMG at the time?

FL: Chas? Yeah. I mean, he bought Jimi Hendrix over here.

PB: I know his track record was pretty good.

JL: You know, Chas says this, and that’s how it went.

FL: So he phoned up and he took it off. There wasn't a new Slade record coming out soon at all but he used that excuse just to get rid of it.

PB: Well, didn't you guys own a record label called Cheapskate. Did that not cause a bit of friction at the time?

FL: Well, the way that it works, we had Cheapskate Records because it was all done on the cheap. I mean, even James would be there and he'd be loading the car with records in the rain, down to the pressing plant. But it's all great fun, isn't it? It's all brilliant fun. Chas became a 50% partner in Cheapskate because he had Barn Records, or ‘Bomb Records’, I used to call it. Never had any radio play, never had anything. But we were making quite a name for ourselves with Cheapskate. Naturally, there was some animosity towards Chas after he fucked it up with us for The Dummies. The way it worked was Chas had to come in with 50%, He wasn’t too worried about James but he didn’t want me to over shadow him. And then the deal was, whoever bought a record in, kept the majority of the money.

Well, of course, we were working together, and it started going really well for us, and that's when Chas started fucking things up, because he’d have got nothing, besides financial, He wouldn't have got any credit, nothing. The ironic thing was there was a Japanese company I went to see. I don't know what they were called now. They were publishing from the record company and I had a few meetings with them about The Dummies. I gave them the cassette of the album and they came back and they said, “Can you come in the office?” I went back down to the office and they said, “We’ve heard back from the record company and they said that they think this is absolutely brilliant.” They wanted us to go over to Japan. They didn't want us to be a band. They wanted us to be a cartoon band like Gorillaz, but this was years before Gorillaz. A fictional band around the tracks. They said, “Can you come over and we'll talk and we'll work a deal out and all that?” So, I turned around to James and said, “James, you never guess what?” I explained to James what had happened. At the time Slade were taking off again and James said, rightly so, I suppose from his point of view, he said, “Frank, I've got a day job. I'm in Slade. I can't just go to Japan when I'm writing again.” There was an obstacle all the time with anything we did. That idea would have been brilliant in Japan. So, we were way in advance to Gorillaz if that had happened. But there was always an obstacle.

PB: Tell me about the now legendary Slade performance at the Reading Festival, James.

JL: When we got there, Chas pulled me to one side and he said he didn't know how the gig was going to go because it was the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal.’ I have got to tell you when we arrived there, there was the caravans where all the bands would get changed to walk on the stage. And it was quite a warm day, it was sort of dusty, and there was traffic going down between there as well. And the four of us were walking down. It was like Clint Eastwood walking out at the OK Corral! Everybody's going, “Look at that. Is that Slade? Are you Slade? Fucking hell! We thought you'd died! So we were at the stage, and Tommy Vance, who hated us when we were skinheads, said, “Hey guys, there's a real buzz out there. You weren't on the adverts, but everybody's up for it. Word’s getting around.” So, we went on the stage and it sort of went quiet, you know, and we were plugging in. And then Tommy Vance introduced us, “Ladies and gentleman, get your stomping boots on. Of course, this is Slade!” You know, typical American type thing. It was alright at the beginning, but then it began to build a momentum. The crowd were going bonkers. And by the time we came off, Chas was on the side of the stage, Frank was on the side of the stage. They both had got tears in their eyes.

PB: Really?

JL: Well, you know, it's like the movie, but it was real. Dave Hill didn’t want to do it. He thought we were going to get booed off, which we didn’t. Reading really broke us into the field of rock. We wiped the floor with everybody else.

PB: Wasn't it sort of really supposed to be your farewell gig?

JL: Yeah.

PB: And then obviously the reception you got, sort of made everybody stop and think, hold on.

JL: Well, it's legendary now. Def Leppard went on after us. I was ever so sorry for them! They got ‘canned’ off the stage!

PB: Where did the ‘Therapy’ album come from after all those years?

JL: ‘Therapy’. I started writing songs that deliberately didn't sound like Slade, but I wanted to have some philosophy in there.

PB: Your voice sounds great on that album.

JL: Well, thank you for the compliment! I told Brian May about it, and the next time I spoke to him, he said, “I heard your ‘Therapy’ album, and I didn't like it. I just didn't like it.” He said, “But I liked Dead Rock UK’”, which mentions Freddie. He said Freddie would have loved that. With ‘Therapy’, I had to do some bits that were like Slade. So, it ended with this big raucous thing. I wish I hadn’t put that on the end. Even that was about therapy though. It was about a crooked psychotherapist. In midlife, I started psychotherapy. And then I went to psychotherapy college in the inner circle of Regent's Park. I did really well there. They didn't want me to go, but I did. I wrote a song on the ‘Therapy’ album, about Keith Moon. “I want to go, I want to see four miles. I want to go over the moon. I want to lean up a leg. I want to stay in bed.”

PB: Congratulations on having two Number One’s in The Heritage Chart with ‘The Smile of Elvis’ and ‘Universe’. They’re both incredible tracks and I love the videos you’ve made for them. The original version of ‘Universe’ came out not long before Slade split up, right?

JL: When it first came out we went to Germany, Holland and Belgium with it and appeared on TV shows out there that were similar to ‘Top of the Pops’. It’s a song I’d always really loved but I wanted to do a brand-new version of it and I think it came out pretty good!

PB: You’ve recently been recording with The N-Betweens again as well?

JL: Yeah, only one track. We're thinking of doing another one. We're going to do’ Move Over’ by Janis Joplin. We did a great version of this with Slade and we’re not exactly sure how we’re going to approach the new version that we’re going to record together.

PB:: When’s your new album going to be released?

JL: We’re trying hard. The album is done, it’s all ready. We’re just fine tuning the tracklisting. My grandson came into the piano room yesterday and I was playing bits of the new album and he said, “Who’s that grandad? Don’t tell me it’s you?! I think that’s fantastic!”

FL: It’s a strong album. There are no fillers on it. James doesn’t do fillers! It’s got to be out this year. JL: After everything, I’m glad I can be my own man. It's a really nice thing.

PB: Thank you. Special thanks to Frank Lea.