Originally released in November 1985 on budget label Telstar, and housed in a naff sleeve, Crackers had the aesthetic of a Black Lace or Chas & Dave Jamboree Knees-Up-type album and looked more like a turkey than a Christmas cracker. However, appearances can be deceptive, and Slade’s festive themed album turned out to be a rumbustious rocker full of classic covers, re-recorded Slade cuts and, of course, a few Yuletide faves, and now reissued on transparent, smoky white vinyl, has never sounded better.
It’s a re-recording which opens this album, and it was their biggest selling single, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. Unless you’re a new arrival to the planet you’ll know this song, but this “live in the studio” raucous version puts a new spin on a familiar tune, and I’m happy to report that hearing a track that’s been played to overkill dressed up in new clothes is rather refreshing. However, it’s the second track where we really hit pay dirt, a cover of the Chris Montez standard ‘Let’s Dance’. It’s handled as all covers should be and Slade put their own size 10 boot boy stamp on it and turn it into a real speaker shaker. Guitarists Noddy Holder and Dave Hill never really got due credit for their twin attack, but here they’re all visceral power and could hold their own with any of their contemporaries.
The thought of the band who brought us ‘Coz I Luv You’ and ‘How d’You Ride’ covering ‘Santa Clause Is Coming To Town’ and ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ might fill you with dread (it did me) but it turns out they aren’t half bad. It’s Noddy’s raspy voice that carries the lesser tracks (he could sing the phone book and turn it into a hit) and it’s obvious why he was touted to join AC/DC after the unfortunate death of Bon Scott. Crackers isn’t an album to over-analyse, it’s a fun record that doesn’t put on any airs or graces. However, it does work on two levels; it’s a safe record to play in the presence of children, yet there’s plenty of double entendres that only adults will pick up, it’s a very British sense of humour much in the vein of those saucy seaside postcards.
This album works best when it bangs like exploding Christmas crackers, and that’s mainly on rerecorded classics such as ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ and ‘Run Runaway’. I was never a fan of the charity single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed The World)’ but Slade perform a piece of alchemy and turn in a passable rendition. Sometimes rock n’ roll works on serendipity, and that was certainly the case with closer ‘Auld Lang Syne/You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Dave Hill stumbled across a busker (Victor Herman) playing bagpipes on Oxford Street and invited him into the studio to add a touch of authenticity to ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and that he certainly did. Coupled with terrace favourite ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ it brings down the curtain in style.
If, like me, the idea of a Slade Christmas party album filled you with apprehension, then you should challenge your preconceived ideas because this album rocks (with a capital ‘R’) and it’s a record you’ll spin not only at Crimbo, but the whole year round.
- Crackers is released via BMG and is available now.
- Dave Hill Slade
- Merry Xmas Everybody
- Let’s Dance
- Santa Clause Is Coming To Town
- Hi Ho Silver Lining
- We’ll Bring The House Down
- Cum On Feel The Noize (Crackers Version)
- All Join Hands
- Okey Cokey
- Do You Believe In Miracles
- Let’s Have A Party
- Get Down And Get With It (Crackers Version)
- My Oh My
- Run Runaway
- Here’s To…(The New Year)
- Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed The World)
- Auld Lang Syne/You’ll Never Walk Alone