5.11.20

SLADE IN AMERICA, 1973.


Eighteen years ago last week I saw Slade on stage in America for the first time, in Los Angeles at the Long Beach Arena, supporting The J. Geils Band. It was the same night I found myself in a delicate situation with Faye Dunaway, an incident I recall elsewhere on Just Backdated, but that’s another story.*
  Noddy, Jim, Dave and Don visited me in my West Hollywood apartment on Rangely Avenue, the only musicians of any stature to do so during my stay in LA, and the following day I went to their hotel – the Los Angeles Hilton no less – to chat with them. My interview included what may well have been the first ever reference to a “special Slade Christmas single”, though its title wasn’t revealed. Also, intriguingly, Dave mentions “the film of our Earls Court concert”.
        This story that I wrote for Melody Maker (3 November, 1973 issue) focuses on their status in the USA; an attempt to put their situation into perspective without erring in either direction. As we now know, they would face an uphill struggle in America but optimism was high in 1973, as it was the following year when I saw them play again, this time in St Louis.**
        

No compromise, says Noddy. No compromise at all. America will just have to go crazee, feel the noize and get their boots off just like everywhere else.
        It may be the biggest most important and most lucrative record market in the world, but that doesn’t make one iota of difference. Slade do it just the same as they do anywhere else.
        At the weekend, Slade were second on the bill to the J. Geils Band, now a major attraction in the US, at the giant Long Beach Arena in Southern Los Angeles.
        It was a big gig for Wolverhampton’s rock and roll ambassadors, a concert hall that stops just short of London’s Earls Court, full to the brim of Americans who’d turned up to see J. Geils at their best – which they were.
        Slade weren’t at their best. Sound problems bit hard into their music – the harsh treble which they use to such good effect never came over, and Noddy received a series of shocks through the microphone as the set progressed.
        It was their last show of a five-week US tour, and one they’ll probably want to forget. But despite it all they won a lot of friends in Long Beach.
        They came back for an encore which the applause justified and they managed to achieve something like the audience participation that has become a matter of course back home.
Some reports have suggested Slade were rocking across the States, picking up multitudes of disciples in much the same way as they did in Europe. Others have written them off completely with reports of bad shows, audience lethargy and a tag of being “far too English” to succeed.
        Neither are true. What happened in Long Beach has given me a reasonably clear insight as to Slade’s current standing in the USA.
        They are neither huge nor tiny: they are simply another British band working all out to succeed in this vast country, a task which they are approaching in the time-honoured fashion of playing as well and as often as they can until that magic bill-topping arena-playing stage is finally reached.
        They’re on the way up, but they’re not there yet. Whether they will or not is difficult to guess, but there’s always been a fierce will to succeed within Slade.
        All I’m certain of is that Slade will break their backs in their attempts to achieve the same kind of success here.
        The record situation may well change now that they have switched to the mighty Warner Brothers label, whose promotion campaigns for British acts are legendary.
        The Long Beach show was encouraging in many respects. There was a huge cheer when they arrived, dressed as they do in England with Noddy in red tail jacket, check trousers and vest, Dave Hill in his Egyptian ensemble, and “superyob” guitar, Jim Lea in a pale blue suit with-knee-length shorts that just reached his high boots, and Don Powell – who’s still not completely recovered from the effects of the car crash – in bold stripes from head to toe.
        They played for an hour and with the exception of the football chant section, the act was identical to their British one.
        Two days before the Long Beach concert, I talked with the band at the Beverly Hills Hilton, sat out by a pool in the annexe where they were staying.
        It seemed a trifle grandiose for the band that’s been christened working class heroes, but the surroundings hadn’t altered their blunt responses.
        They are not exaggerating the success of their American operation themselves. “What we’re finding,” said Noddy, “is that it’s happened here in the same way it did in England. The provinces are happening more for us than the big cities.”
        The shows with J. Geils – at St Louis, San Francisco and the one at Long Beach – were the only ones on which Slade didn’t top the bill. “The fans seem to know the material more now than they did before, especially in the provincial areas where we’ve had airplay.”
        I mentioned that much criticism in America centred around their repeated urging for the audience to join in, whereas US audiences often don’t need – or want – encouragement.
        “We don’t take any notice of any critics whatsoever,” replied Noddy, more than a little emphatically. “We’ve done some shows here and gone down a storm with three encores, and we’ve picked up the paper the next day to read the reviewer saying the group received no enthusiasm from the audience.”
        While in America, Slade have mixed their next album, as yet untitled, which will be out next month.
        With one exception – their version of ‘Just A Little Bit’ – it’s all new material written by the group, and it includes their first ballad and a pub sing-along number which Max Bygraves may be covering.
        There are also tentative plans for a special Slade Christmas single, with a Christmas theme.
        This week Slade left the States, stopping in England for just one day before setting off on a European tour. In December they’ll be back here again.
        The more popular they become, the harder they work – a ratio which is often reversed in the rock and roll game. They won’t be playing in the UK again until next year.
        “With Don’s accident,” said Noddy, “we had to cancel an American tour and everything has been put back three months, I don’t think we’re ignoring Britain. We’ve done two major concert tours, and the Earls Court and Empire Pool. We haven’t neglected England.”
        “After Earls Court, it’s difficult to go back to doing an odd show at the Rainbow,” chipped in Dave Hill whose attempts to get a suntan were repeatedly thwarted by the ever-increasing shadow of the tall hotel.
        “We shall probably do one big tour of England next year, and we promise it will be a big one.
        “What we’re hoping to do here is to have the film of our Earls Court concert shown on the In Concert TV show. That will really show the States what we’re like, and that’s very important to us because the ratings on that show are phenomenal.”
        “What is beginning to happen,” said Noddy, “is that the fans are beginning to emulate us a little like they do in England. We’ve seen a few top hats, and a few bras and pants have been chucked on to the stage.
        “I know people are saying that Slade haven’t cracked America and enjoy saying it, but this is only our third tour. People expect it to happen overnight because they think it happened in England overnight, but it didn’t.
        “There was three years of hard graft on the road before we had a hit record in England and this country seems a million times bigger. Things just don’t happen like that here.
        “Every city has to see us as a live band before we can hope to sell records. It’s all building slowly, and we never expected it to happen quickly. It’s happening exactly the same for us here as it did in Europe. It’s the same pattern everywhere.”
        “We like the challenge,” said Dave. “America is something we can get our teeth into. There’s only America left. The rest of it we just go back to.”
        Don Powell, it seems, is still having difficulty remembering his drum parts. He can’t remember things that happened a week ago, and is still not allowed to drink alcohol.
        “He’s only just getting back into the stage show as it was before the accident, so we really couldn’t try to introduce any new numbers until he was better,” said Noddy.
        “We shall introduce some new stuff into the act when the album is out. There’s plenty of material on it for playing on stage.”


(I found the photo on the internet, photographer unknown.)

* http://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2013/12/faye-i.html
** http://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2014/08/slade-ambassador-theater-st-louis-mo.html

2 comments:

John Pitt said...

Nice post, Chris!
;-)

John Medd said...

This may or may not be of interest, Chris. J