11.12.2007 Don and the band have got it Slade
"FEW bands are still gigging 30 years after they've formed, making it all the more remarkable glam rockers cum legends Slade are still on the road.
This longevity is largely down to their iconic and hugely- successful Christmas single Merry Xmas Everybody.
A song which has been in the charts(including a fair few stints at number one) in 1973, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1998, and 2006.
Something, I find, original member and drummer Don Powell agrees with. Of course there were other equally-catchy glam anthems such as Cum on Feel the Noize but Merry Xmas Everybody has become so well loved it's an equally-important tradition as the Christmas jumper.
Making the most of the demand, the band is back in the UK this December (after spending most of the year gigging around the globe) with the Merry Xmas Tour.
"It's almost like our time of the year in a way in England," said Don of the tour.
"Especially with the Christmas record. It's nice to be home and do a lot of dates in one go. The rest of the year we're all over the world."
Slade has been involved with the tour for a few years now and Don admits it's become something of a festive ritual for the band.
"We're always in England at Christmas," he said. "Because we don't play England much throughout the year really. We do the odd show. But we're in Europe or the rest of the world the rest of the time.
"We were in Russia a few years ago around Christmas and new year. It was minus 40.
"It was really good but we felt we'd neglected England so we decided to do the English tours."
When I catch up with Don he's on a rare day off, taking advantage of the free time by writing his Christmas cards.
"That's really heavy metal, isn't it?" he jokes.
Obviously the hit Christmas single goes down a treat during these December dates. But saying that, Don says Slade crowds want to hear it whatever the season.
He said: "I remember years ago, when we did the Reading Festival. The show was recorded to be put out as an early EP.
"We did the Christmas record, they wanted us to do it, would you believe? This is in the middle of the summer mind you.
"If you listen to the record it's the crowd singing, not us. And it's the same everywhere.
"Every night we do it we start it off and just let the crowd do the rest."
For Don it's the lyrics and the humour which have secured the song's timeless appeal.
"They're so straight to the point and it's wonderful," he said.
"It's got the same appeal globally. It's always strange. We were in Australia a few years ago and it's the same there.
"That's hard to imagine isn't it?
"We had 24 hit records and people always remember us for that one. But it's a wonderful compliment," he said.
Despite a serious car accident earlier on in 1973 (the same year Merry Xmas Everybody was released) which left Don with poor short term memory, the day the song was recorded is something Don still vividly recalls.
In fact the only clue he has problems with memory is when I ask him about tour dates. "You probably know more than me," he jokes.) The band were in New York for their world tour at the time.
"It was in the middle of the summer in 1973 and 100 degrees outside," he said.
"We had a week to get this record done. As you can imagine we got some strange looks from the American engineers and also we weren't sure about the record.
"But our manager and record producer at the time said I don't care what you say, this record is coming out'.
"And it came through. It did a million on the first day of release in 1973, at the end of November. But it was still number one in January."
As you can imagine, 1973 was an amazing Christmas for the band and, as Don reveals, the ones which followed were pretty good too.
"In 1983 we were on Top of the Pops twice in one day. Once for My Oh My and also for Merry Xmas Everybody was in the charts," Don said.
It's clear the drummer has had many memorable experiences, but I still can't help wonder why he still wants to keep going more than 30 years on.
"I enjoy it so much," Don enthuses.
"The thing is, in England people think we're only around for this time of the year and thinks we don't do anything the rest of the year. But basically we're non-stop.
We're still touring the world and there's a market there for us, so we just do it. We enjoy it so much anyway.
"I think it's a lot easier these days than what it was in the 70s.
"The travel and organisation is a lot more together now. We're able to fly everywhere and you can get to one country to the next in no time at all. The only thing is half the time you don't know where you are. I usually find out by looking at my boarding card or hotel room key."
I imagine he must feel incredibly proud the band are still going strong, and of course he is.
"It's a wonderful feeling," he said. "When we started you wouldn't imagine 30 odd years on you'd still be doing it. Dave and myself have been together for 45 years. I've known him from school and I probably know Dave better than I know my brother.
"There's still a market there and I'm proud people still want to see the show."
And are you still in touch with the old members of the band?
"Of course," he said. "Remember the old band, with Nod and Jim, were together right from school. That doesn't just go out of the window. I was with them about three weeks ago. We were in London together having a good time. You can't wipe out that amount of time."
And there are no hard feelings about them leaving the band?
"It was their decision they didn't want to tour anymore and they gave us their blessing for Dave and myself to carry on," he said.
Apart from the changing line-up, according to Don, very little has changed, especially when it comes to the live shows.
"We still involve the audience in the show," he said. "It's like a big party really. When we go on stage now we always say this is not a concert it it's a party' and that's the way it ends up.
"The thing is now fans come along way back from the 70s and now they have their children with them, which is nice."
This is the proof for any Slade-hater out there who thinks Merry Xmas Everybody is all they've got up their floppy 70s sleeves. A new generation of fans and a throng of modern bands who speak publicly of their admiration speak volumes for their credibility. Oasis' Noel Gallagher and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Paul Weller are among many musicians who have cited Slade as a direct influence or band they enjoy.
Slade has a tendency to attract fans from all corners of the globe though, it seems.
Don said: "We were in Australia a few years ago and had long drives across the desert to get to different places. We were in the middle of nowhere and we bumped into an aborigine. We'd been driving for five hours and stopped to have a break.
"He came over and we found out the album cover where we had Slade on our fists 1972's Slayed?, he had that. He came towards us putting his fist out like on the cover. It was so strange. It is the middle of the desert but it was like being on the moon."
The band is still writing new music and Don hopes a new album will be recorded in the new year. He's also in the middle of an autobiography, compiled from diaries he kept from when the band first formed to document experiences and help with his memory troubles.
"It's in the process of being sorted out at the moment so it will be in the new year sometime," he said.
"I had diaries from all over the years and I was approached to do this. I had been approached many times before and I'd just said no. I felt now is the time. I want to do this and it's going to be interesting.
"It's in the infant stages at moment. But revisiting my diaries was just as much fun for me to read again. Going through them I thought is that where we were back then?'.
It's hard to imagine the band were so manically busy, Don needed a diary to keep track. But he insists this is the case.
"The thing is, in the 70s when we were just going non-stop. Half the time we didn't know where we were. People may think it's a bit blaze just saying that but it wasn't.
"We did an eight and a half week tour of America and at the end of every show Noddy Holder always used to thank the city and hope we see you again sometime.
"It happened a few nights, but I remember the first time he said thank you very much' and then he stopped and turned round to me and said where are we?'.
"That's how it became."
He added: "It was a fun time because we had each other. We were always together from school and we were like brothers really. I think that helped and was a big factor in us being together for so long. We were in each other's pockets 24 hours a day, but because we were such good friends it didn't make a difference. We were just having a laugh and a good time."
And, as I'm sure it's clear, he still is."
Dec 2003 Dave Hill: interviewed Dec 2003
"SLADE It's that time of year when you can't take a walk down your high street to buy loaf of bread without being sonically assaulted by Christmas jinglesblaring out of every shop. Chances are one of them will be Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone.
The song is timeless - every Christmas compilation includes it, even the latest Metro Life giveaway.
And Slade are a timeless band.They've been going since the 60s, were massive in the 70s, they can boast a hit list longer than a spoilt brat's wish list to Father Christmas and they're still performing their annual Merry Christmas Everyone' tour.
Original band member Dave Hill, who founded Slade with drummer Don Powell says they're looking forward to their first time playing Croydon's Fairfield Halls.With a huge European following particularly in Germany and Scandinavia, Hill says they are also popular in Russia.
"We played in Moscow to 10,000 people. I figure you'd never go to these places normally. Russia's huge anyway and there are lots of places to play, we could spend two months there it's so vast. Which is nice, especially when they know your songs as long as you make sure what you say is good.
It can get a bit rough out there sometimes!" and he laughs loudly to lighten his almost political commentary.
Far from being hedonistic rock stars who see everything in beer goggles, Hill shows a sensitive side. He enjoys meeting different cultures and what he likes best is to make people happy through music."Those magic moments are when you go to a foreign country and see people you wouldn't meet normally.
A man in Russia came to our concert with oil paintings he'd done of each of us. He was like on his knees crying and I said "Nah- don't do that I'm just an ordinary person, me!"Handing over his works of art, the Russian told the rock stars in broken English "this is specially for you," and went on to say how much he loved them. Hill said: "I felt pretty elated - he had put in a lot of work and given the paintings to us. It was a joy to make his day. I find the highlights are just moments in time you made someone happy. The paintings are very good - we got them all framed and each member has one in their house."
And in good Christmas cheer, even when it wasn't Christmas time, Slade performed one of Hill's "most memorable concerts", playing to British troops in the Falklands about two years ago. "They were missing home so they liked us being there.
It was a piece of England for them. It wasn't winter but we did the Christmas song anyway."
It could all have gone very differently. Hill almost left the group in 1980 only to be persuaded into playing what was to be the biggest concert of his life, leading to a new record deal and a top 10 hit "We'll bring the House Down.""At one point of my life when I thought I was finishing in the band I was talked into doing the Reading Festival as a last gig.
We played to 40,000 people and it went down so well that within two months after the show we had a hit record. So the story is I remained in the band."Another major upheaval was when singer Noddy Holder left in 1987. But Hill is quite philosophical about it."We've been doing it without him for 12 years and it's been very very successful. You can't replace people but we have a very good singer who's not trying to be Noddy, he's trying to be himself.
I'm there and so is the original drummer - he's one of the best rock drummers in the world, and we formed the original band and we've always been together.
"And we have a new bass player- the guy used to be in Mud in the 70s. He's very good and he fits. I think the band's stronger."He says changing musicians has kept an originality going in the band, stopping them from going stale. "It feels quite fresh- someone new can give it a newness. If you've got members who don't want to do it it's not going to be very good."It has a purity about it, the reason for being intellectual pause before the appalling accent the raison d'ietre, you know, that French word. People want it. There's a great need for this music to continue. It's timeless music like the Stones- the songs always sound good."
And as for comedians Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves' tribute to the band's glam rock status - a series of sketches At Home with Slade in which they donned the Superyob" haircut and drank Cup a Soups, Hill Hill just laughs. "It was wonderful! Great fun! I always say the greatest form of flattery is when someone copies you. If you're smiling it must be good. Big Reeves and Mortimer did a good job sending us up! It was good publicity really."
December 2009 Still wishing everybody a glam rocking Christmas
18.12.2009 The Sentinel
"LOVE it or hate it, you're sure to have heard Slade's ubiquitous hit Merry Xmas Everybody several times already this December.
Written by guitarist Noddy Holder and bassist Jim Lea in 1973, it went on to secure a fourth UK number one for the glam rock band.
Noddy has since departed the group but the remaining founder members, Dave Hill and Don Powell, are determined to keep the Slade legacy alive.
Along with ex-Mud bass guitarist John Berry and new lead vocalist Mal McNulty, they will play at the Victoria Hall in a December 29 concert dedicated to all things festive.
The show's line-up also includes Mud II and a tribute to T Rex, T-Rextasy. And although Noddy is no longer with the group (he left in the early '90s) he's supportive of his former bandmates.
"We still meet up to socialise," says Don, who now lives in Denmark. "A big gang of us have lunch together every couple of months or so to reminisce.
"We've been doing this same Christmas concert for the past 16 years or so. We play all the old favourites that everyone wants to hear, not only 'That record' as we jokingly call it."
"I love playing at the Victoria Hall," adds guitarist Dave. "In fact my dad originally comes from Barlaston and my mum is from Newcastle, but we moved to Wolverhampton when I was a boy. I have really fond memories of playing at The Place in Hanley too."
As Don and Dave say, the foursome from the Black Country, who first started performing in 1966, were hardly one-hit wonders.
With songs such as Mama We'er All Crazee Now and Cum On Feel The Noize, Slade established themselves as one of the country's foremost rock groups.
But it was only in later years that they were to discover their music was popular even further afield.
During the Communist era, when Western music was difficult to get hold of in what was once the Eastern bloc, Slade fans would somehow procure a radio to listen to their favourite songs. In fact Dave and Don have just returned from playing in Russia.
"We could never go there while the Communists were in power," says Don. "But last time we went to Moscow, we played in front of 18,000 at the Olympic Stadium."
At the height of their success, Slade's reputation was undoubtedly helped along by Dave's unique sense of style. His vertiginous platform shoes and outrageous flares became the stuff of legend.
"The music thing always drew me in," says Dave. "Even when I had a job at the age of 18, I used to get in trouble with the managers because I grew my hair long.
"I used to hide my stage clothes in my desk and when the group's van used to collect me from work, I changed into my costumes. I was like Superman. One day someone saw me performing and reported me, because it wasn't really the thing to do.
"When we turned professional, it gave me a license to wear what I wanted. I used to wear women's boots because they were the only ones that had heels on, but I always broke them because I was too boisterous.
"I can't walk in the platforms anymore, because I broke my ankle in the '70s. We got rushed on the stage by a group of girls and I tried to run away but I couldn't because my shoes were about a foot and a half high. I still wear some interesting things though."
"I'm so fond of our Christmas song," adds Don. "For me it always brings back memories of the day we recorded it on a hot summer's day in New York, which was really strange."
Merry Xmas Everybody is at the Victoria Hall on Tuesday, December 29, at 7.30pm. Call 0844 871 7627 for tickets.
Noddy in Publand
Slade's Noddy Holder is the perfect spokesman for a pub snack. But would a girl about town fall for his nuts?
Slade II in Denmark 2005:
Noddy interview in Metro 17.5.2005
Noddy Holder was the lead singer of Slade until 1991, when he left to pursue an acting career. He co-wrote all of the band's material, clocking up a massive 17 UK top 20 hits from 1971 to 1976 - six of them No.1s, including Cum On Feel The Noize and Merry Xmas Everybody. He can now be seen in the 'hilarious' Nobby's Nuts TV adverts.
Noddy Holder talks about the early days
Dave Hill Interview, Tampere Cumulus Hotel 26.02.2005
Slade played an excellant gig on Saturday evening 26th February 2005 at Tampere, Tullikamaris Pakkahuone. Earlier in the afternoon Dave Hill kindly answered in few questions at their Cumulus hotels lounge bar.
1. How did Slade II get its line-up in 1992?
"The guitarist Steve Makin and Craig Fenney work in music shops so I knew them. And Steve Whalley came to audition for the job and was recommended by Neville Martin from Guitarist Magazine."
2. And where did you find John Berry on the bass and what kind of background has he got before Slade?
"John Berry was bass guitarist for Les Grays Mud and we knew him well. He has played for many groups; Bay City Rollers, Tremeloes and has a small group of his own."
3. You make lots of gigs each year. Do you need any rehearsals or is playing together at the gigs enough?
"We sometimes rehearse if a new song is needed, but otherwise the gigs are enough for us."
4. You have written some great songs with Bill Hunt and "Take Me Home" with Steve Whalley and a couple of great Blessings In The Disguise songs. Do you have any new songs written lately and any plans for new records?
"Yes I do and maybe we will record in 2005 this ear."
5. Where did you get the idea for "Take Me Home", it has got very fine atmosphere and a good melody? Bluesy kind of feeling from Steves affection in blues music?
"I felt I wrote a song which I somehow thought I wrote years ago and Steve put new lyrics and sang it his way, which was good too. It has a nice feeling too."
6. Have you got any new infromation about the state of the Slade musical by Mike Read?
"We are talking to Mike Read about it at the moment. We have not made our minds up about it yet."
7. Have you rehearsed or planning to put any new songs into your set list?
"Not at the moment, but we should think about it."
8. In 2006 Slade has been 40 years "on the road". Do you have any plans already of celebrating it in some way?
"No plan at the moment. Its too early yet."
9. There are not many German dates yet in the Amazing Slade websites gig calendar for 2005. Do you yourself know, if there are more German gigs coming yet?
"There will be more German dates, which we will confirm later in the year."
10. One Finnish rock musician was remembering recently Slades Kuusrock Festival show in Oulu 1982 and said on the radio that "it was so sicking fantastic that one could not but laugh. When you see something absolutely great, you can not but laugh." What kind of memories have you got from Finland?
"Finland has many Slade fans and likes rock music. It keeps you warm in the winter. So we like to come here a lot."
Greetings to Slade fans from Dave Hill:
"I would like to say it is a great pelasure to play to all fans of Slade, and I look forward to seeing you all at our shows in Finland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Norway and all other countries, too. Keep on rockin - Dave Hill"
After the interview I soon went to the concert place, where the band had started the soundcheck and played mostly "The Bangin Man" with very tight guitars sounds and Steve Whalley picked some blues notes. After the soundcheck I got Slade members greetings to the RMNradio on the digi cameras movie clips.
The show time was at 22:30 and Slade certainly did warm up the cold winter night at Tampere. The audiences reception was very good from the very beginning and both the band and the audience looked very happy and satisfied for the one hour great rock n roll show and sounds. Slade played their usual set ending with two encores; "My Oh My" and "Born To Be Wild", and then it was over, though the audience was strongly demanding for more.
Ilpo Bister, Helsinki