Best remembered today as the band which offered Midge Ure his first taste of his future superstardom, Slik -- or Salvation, as they were then known -- were formed in Glasgow in 1970 by brothers Jim (guitar) and Kevin McGinlay (vocals). Originally a heavy metal act cut in the mould of Deep Purple, the band moved towards a more nightclub-friendly Top 40 direction in 1972, following a split which left the McGinlays alone. Recruiting guitarist/vocalist James Ure, drummer Kenny Hyslop, and guitarist Billy McIsaac, Salvation spent much of the next two years playing the Scottish disco circuit -- the closest they came to a big break was when they opened for the Sweet at Glasgow Apollo in November, 1973.
Kevin McGinlay departed in April, 1974. He had been growing increasingly unhappy with the band's burgeoning commercial ambitions; according to Slik legend, his final words to his bandmates were, "if you carry on like this, you'll end up recording Martin-Coulter songs," a reference to the songwriting team then supplying the Bay City Rollers with hits. Just weeks later, Bill Martin and Phil Coulter did indeed contact Salvation, just as the band changed its name to Slik, and the members adopted pseudonyms to further the sense of band unity -- vocalist Ure became Midge, drummer Kenny Hyslop became Oil Slik, bassist Jim McGinlay became Jim Slik, and guitarist Billy McIsaac became Lord Slik.
With Martin-Coulter installed as the guiding light behind the band, Slik signed to Polydor in late 1974 and, the following January, released their debut single, "The Boogiest Band in Town." Simultaneously, the song became their contribution to the soundtrack of the movie Never Too Young to Rock. Neither the record nor the film took off, so Martin-Coulter purchased Slik's contract back from Polydor and arranged for Slik to link instead with Bell, a label better acquainted with the teenaged British market. They also set about reinventing the group. When Slik re-emerged in December, 1975, the suits had been replaced by 1950s-style baseball outfits, the pseudonyms had been abandoned and the group was performing a song which Martin-Coulter had already recorded (as an album track) with Kenny, the somber (but so impressive) "Forever and Ever."
At the same time, the duo inaugurated a publicity campaign which blasted Slik into every teenaged consciousness in the land. A string of high-profile TV appearances were arranged before the single was even in the stores, the pop press was courted with Rollers-esque ferocity, while the mainstream media was deluged with reports of the growing chaos which attended the band's every live performance. With a cunning which bordered on genius, Slik's concert schedule had been tailored towards some of the smallest clubs on the circuit, in the knowledge that, as their profile rose, so would the demand to see them. Soon, every show seemed to be the scene of a teeny bop riot, at which point the group was plucked out of the discos and finally thrust into venues which suited their new status, the Glasgow Apollo and London's New Victoria Theater.
The campaign paid off. Within weeks of the single's release, readers of The Sun newspaper had voted Slik the best new band of the year; "Forever and Ever" was top of the U.K. chart and author George Tremlett was already preparing the first book-length biography of Slik. Even the band's most cynical detractors were forced to admit, Slik looked likely to be around for a long time to come. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
In April 1976, Bell released the band's next single, the dirge-like "Requiem." Just weeks later, however, on May 20, Ure was seriously injured in a car accident. Slik's forthcoming U.K. tour was canceled and the loss of television exposure saw "Requiem" grind to a halt at a lowly number 24. The band's eponymous debut album, a three-way split between well-chosen covers, the band's own material and some of their mentors' best work ever, spent just one week at the lower end of the British chart, while plans for an American tour that fall were shelved even as Arista unveiled their debut album. By the time Ure was able to work again, every last drop of momentum was lost.
Slik played just one further concert, supporting Hello in Berlin, then returned to their hometown. It wasn't only their own career which had changed irrevocably -- the musical landscape itself had been utterly reshaped during Ure's absence, as punk swept in to consume the nation's attention. Little more than a year after they topped the chart, Slik were already regarded as a relic of a long distant past.
Attempting to regain at least some kind of footing, the band changed their name to PVC2 and cut a single for the local Zoom label. The subterfuge fooled no one, however, and by late 1977, the band had shattered. Ure later turned up in ex-Sex Pistols Glen Matlock's Rich Kids, before establishing himself as frontman for Ultravox, then as a successful solo artist. His erstwhile bandmates, meanwhile, became the Zones and later recorded an album, Under Pressure, for Arista. ~ Dave Thompson