Review by Andy Boden and photo by Gwen Dale
Perhaps one of the most under-rated bands of all time has to be Slade. Yes we know they had six number ones, three in a row of which went straight in at number one, four songs peaking at number two and rakes of other top forty hits, but they never really struck a chord with the music media of the time, the yobbish, working class, permanently optimistic chirpiness tended to rub the snobbish, condescending journos at the major magazines of the time right up the wrong way. What the media never really understood – or perhaps never wanted to understand – was that the earthiness, the ‘take us as you find us’ attitude was exactly what endeared them to the fans.
In 1992 Slade II – later to become just Slade – re-emerged from the darkness of a break-up still shrouded in mystery, this time with only Dave Hill and Don Powell from the original line-up. Long after Noddy fell out of love with the music business, flamboyant guitarist and manic skinsman Don Powell still travel the world with a re-re-modelled Slade, still selling out venues Europe-wide and still doing so with an enthusiasm that you will not find in musicians and entertainers a third of their age.
In a rare – correction, unheard of – ‘An Evening With…’, Dave Hill spent two full hours discussing his childhood, how he ‘found’ music, how his parents influenced his musical career, and how the four very different characters from varying backgrounds became a tight-knit family unit. Fascinating stories unfolded, including the tale of how they became stranded in Bermuda because of absconding management, and how they were forced to work the debt off for over three months. This, claims Dave, was the making of the band, a classic case of unity in adversity. Dave also spoke at length and with great affection of the relationship with Chas Chandler, and some of the schemes and stunts he had them pull. All aspects of his career were laid bare, including the birth of SuperYob guitar, the women’s clothing, the infamous hairstyle and the Reading Festival appearance in 1980. All of the stories were regaled with a laugh and smile, and even fits of belly laughs as a clip of Reeves and Mortimers ‘Slade In Residence’ played out through the screens beside the stage.
What was refreshing was to sit and listen to a guy who has been in the music industry for nigh on 50 years, and who is still as enthusiastic and as passionate about his craft as he was back in the grey days of the early 1960’s. Slade the Band and Dave the Character (“You write ‘em, I’ll sell ‘em”) have left an indelible mark on world music history and are still held in great affection by many, many thousands of people – young and old – the world over. Sure, it’s not the same as it was, but even so, when you put four of the top musicians in their particular specialty in the same band, with a combined experience of nigh on 150 years, good things will inevitably result. Dave Hill will always hold a special place in Midlands’ folklore, long may he continue to bring pleasure to us all. K.O.R.