Following an ill-advised move to the States in 1975, Slade’s fortunes went in a tailspin and entered a barren spell in which they survived on their live reputation alone. Following a string of unsuccessful albums, it looked as if Noddy and the boys would have to take day jobs, but then a wonderful piece of rock n’ roll magic occurred. Called upon as last-minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne at 1980’s Reading Rock Festival, Slade bewitched 65,000 fans, brought the house down and entered a cultural rebirth. Thankfully, that day was captured on tape, and the highlights get a stand alone release as Alive! At Reading to show why Slade were, and remain, the best.
According to folklore, Slade had a certain amount of trepidation in playing this gig (especially guitarist Dave Hill) and had to be coaxed out of semi-retirement, yet any fears the band may have had were surely blown away by the roar that welcomed them on stage. Bur let’s be honest, with songs such as ‘Take Me Bak ‘Ome’ in their arsenal, how could they possibly go wrong? It’s with that song that this collection opens, and you can almost feel the waves of affection radiating from crowd to stage (and back again). Noddy Holder’s trademark holler is in fine fettle, and if there were any doubts to the band’s validity, then they’re immediately blown away. If ‘Take Me Bak ‘Ome’ was the Litmus Test, then Slade have passed with flying colours, and you can hear their confidence grow on the boot boy stomp of ‘When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’’. With a staccato riff building tension, which is then dispersed by the chorus, this cut was surely made for this very day, and you can almost see the fists pumping the air and pint glasses thrown high in sheer celebration.
Newer track ‘Wheels Ain’t Coming Down’ slotted in with the classics just fine, yet, it was the tough-as-nails rock n’ roll medley (featuring a blitzkrieg version of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Somethin’ Else’) that won over the denim n’ leather brigade, gaining the band a new fanbase, and later found them playing Donington’s hallowed turf. However, on this balmy August evening Slade have the crowd in the palm of their hands as Noddy leads the crowd through an acapella of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and you have to admire the chutzpah of having a festival crowd sing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ in the late summer sunshine. But with the likes of ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and ‘Get Down And Get With It’ Slade really can’t go wrong, and if you want to know where a band like Oasis stole their chops, then just check out this raucous rendition of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’. Such was the warmth with which Slade were embraced at Reading, that it makes their wilderness years all the more puzzling, but Alive! At Reading found them returning triumphantly, and in some style.
Alive! At Reading was previously issued as part of last year’s All The World Is A Stage 5CD set (reviewed here) but it now gets a first ever vinyl release. It would have been nice if the sleeve could have been updated (especially the rear which features a picture from a totally different era), but it’s the music that counts, and that found inside shows why Slade, when it came to good time rock n’ roll, were simply untouchable.
- Take Me Bak ‘Ome
- When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’
- Wheels Ain’t Coming Down
- Somethin’ Else/Pistol Packin’ Mama (Medley)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone (Noddy Holder & Crowd Version)
- Mama Weer All Crazee Now
- Get Down And Get With It
- Merry Xmas Everybody (Crowd Version)
- Cum On Feel The Noize
- Born To Be Wild