SLADE Beginnings (as Ambrose Slade) and Alive! At Reading BMG
West Midlands glam and rock’n’roll legends Slade had many a catchy hit in the 70s and 80s, and are
still staples on many a radio show. But the household favourites cover a small part of their history,
and there’s lots of great music out there to discover.
Formed in the mid to late 60s, vocalist / guitarist Noddy Holder, bassist Jim Lea, guitarist Dave Hill
and drummer Don Powell were based in or near Wolverhampton. Working hard to build a live
reputation, they released some singles as The ‘N Betweens, which dived quicker than a Japanese
fighter pilot. Changing their name to Ambrose Slade and signing to Philips / Fontana, they recorded
this album, originally released in 1969.
Striking at first glance is the sleeve, the band photographed naked from the waist up on a cold day
(the things people have to do).
The album opens with the instrumental Genesis, a fine slab of progressive psychedelia with a hint of
boogie undertones. And like much of the album, some excellent moments, but jumbled at times, the
band still finding their footing and lacking direction. Knocking Nails Into My House is a bit rockier, but
features a nod to the off-the-wall pop insensibilities that Madness would play on 11 or 12 years
later. Then the self penned Roach Daddy is a solid Rhythm’n’Blues number.
There are some fine covers here, including Steppenwolf’s Everybody’s Next One and Born To Be Wild
(the latter would be played live for many years), Frank Zappa’s Ain’t Got No Heart, and The Beatles’
Martha My Dear. The latter doesn’t work so well, but others are well worked out.
Slade fans will love (most of) this, and it comes on lovely yellow / red splatter vinyl, Sadly no poly
lined inner on the LP. The rear sleeve does have some history / notes, as does the CD, which not only
has a bonus track but also comes in a hard book cover with a few pages of photos. Bonus indeed.
After this album, the band were picked up my producer Chas Chandler, on the strength of their live
performances, signed to Polydor, and fortunes were about to change. This debut, however, vanished
with little trace, only to be really appreciated retrospectively.
Up to the mid 70s, Slade ruled the charts and the airwaves, but following a less than successful move
Stateside, and in the face of punk and waning interest in glam, the band released a couple of albums
in the late 70s that dropped much of the glam edge and played a more straight forward hard rock.
Musically excellent, but the band’s relevance had gone. They even saw it themselves, naming one
album Whatever Happened To Slade.
Fortunes were to revive with a last minute booking for Reading 1980 (replacing Ozzy Osbourne). God
knows what the fans thought, but the band had a Sod It Just Do It attitude and took the place by
storm. Opener Take Me Bak ‘Ome has lots of energy and goes down a storm. The Somethin’ Else
medley basically invites the entire Reading crowd into their front room for thrashed out glam party.
Then at the start of Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Noddy Holder has the whole place in the palm of
his hand. And Merry Xmas Everybody is world’s largest crowd singalong. Cum On Feel The Noise and
Born To Be Wild close the set nicely.
It’s very easy to see (hear) how and why this performance rejuvenated their career, which then took
a more rock/metal direction before they split.
Again on splatter vinyl, this album comes with picture inner sleeve (you’ll have to buy your own poly
Sound, look and feel, two albums really well worth getting if you have a remote interest in the band.
Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine