Slade may have never truly caught on with global audiences (often narrow-mindedly deemed "too British-sounding"), but the group became a sensation in their homeland with their anthemic brand of glam rock in the early '70s, as they scored a staggering 11 Top Five hits in a four-year span from 1971 to 1974 (five of which topped the charts). Comprised of singer/guitarist Noddy Holder (born Neville Holder, June 15, 1946 in Walsall, West Midlands, England), guitarist Dave Hill (born April 4, 1946, in Fleet Castle, Devon, England), bassist Jimmy Lea (born June 14, 1949, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England), and drummer Don Powell (born September 10, 1946, Bilston, West Midlands, England), the group originally formed in the spring of 1966 under the name the In-Be-Tweens, playing out regularly with a mixture of soul and rock tracks. But besides a lone obscure single, "You Better Run" (penned by future Runaways svengali Kim Fowley), the band never issued any other recordings. By the end of '60s, the group had changed their name to Ambrose Slade and signed on with the Fontana label. Soon after, the quartet hooked up with Animals bass player-turned-manager Chas Chandler (who had discovered Jimi Hendrix a few years prior), who promptly suggested the group shorten the name to just Slade and assume a "skinhead" look (Dr. Martin boots, shaved heads) as a gimmick.
After several albums featuring few original compositions from the quartet came and went (1969's Beginnings, 1970's Play It Loud), the group began to write their own tunes, grew their hair long, and assumed the look of the then-burgeoning glam movement, joining the same cause championed by such fellow Brits as David Bowie and T. Rex. This new direction paid off in 1971 with the number 16 U.K. single "Get Down and Get With It," which soon touched off a string of classic singles and led to Slade becoming one of the most beloved party bands back home. Slade also utilized another gimmick, humorously misspelled song titles, as evidenced by such singles as "Coz I Luv You," "Look Wot You Dun," "Take Me Bak 'Ome," "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," "Gudbuy t'Jane," "Cum on Feel the Noize," "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me," and "Merry Xmas Everybody" (the latter of which re-entered the charts every holiday season for years afterward). Several attempts at cracking the U.S. market came up empty (with track listings between their U.K. and U.S. full-lengths differing), although such albums as Slade Alive! and Slayed? are considered to be some of the finest albums of the glam era.
Slade continued to score further hit singles back home, including such correctly spelled tracks as "My Friend Stan," "Everyday," "Bangin' Man," "Far Far Away," "How Does it Feel," and "In for a Penny," but with glam rock's dissolution and punk's emergence by the mid-'70s, the hits eventually dried up for the quartet. Despite the change in musical climate, Slade stuck to their guns and kept touring and releasing albums, as the title to their 1977 album, Whatever Happened to Slade?, proved that the group's humor remained intact despite their fall from the top of the charts. A large, dedicated following still supported the group as they offered a performance at the 1980 Reading Festival that was considered one of the day's best, resulting in sudden renewed interest in the group back home and Slade scored their first true hit singles in six years with 1981's "We'll Bring the House Down" and "Lock up Your Daughters."
Slade received a boost stateside around this time as well, courtesy of the U.S. pop-metal outfit Quiet Riot, who made a smash hit out of "Cum on Feel the Noize" in 1983 that resulted in a strong chart showing for Slade's 1984 release Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply (issued as The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome in the U.K. a year earlier). Slade then enjoyed a pair of U.S. MTV/radio hits, "Run Runaway" and "My Oh My." Holder and Lea also tried their hand at producing another artist around this time as well, as they manned the boards for Girlschool's 1983 release Play Dirty. Despite another all-new studio release, Rogues Gallery, and Quiet Riot covering another classic Slade tune ("Mama Weer All Crazee Now"), Slade was unable to retain their newfound American audience or rekindled British following and they eventually faded from sight once more, this time without a comeback waiting around the corner. During the '90s, a truncated version of the group dubbed Slade II was formed (without Holder or Lea in attendance), while Holder became a popular U.K. television personality as well as the host of his own '70s rock radio show. A 21-track singles compilation, Feel the Noize: The Very Best of Slade, was issued in 1997 (re-released under the simple title of Greatest Hits a couple of years later), which proved to be a popular release in England. ~ Greg Prato
- Wolverhampton, England