Odds and sods about the British rock band Slade

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Genesis of Slade

I don't believe my luck! I was presented with a copy of "The Genesis of Slade" the other day. I've wanted this album for a long time and now it's finally mine!
The album is from 1996 and covers the recordings of the members of Slade in their early years (1964-1966) with respectively The Vendors, Steve Brett & The Mavericks and The 'N Betweens.
There are four songs with Don and Dave's old band The Vendors on the CD, all previously unreleased. The recordings are from circa 1964. One of the songs, "Don't Leave Me Now", is penned by Dave and Vendors-singer John Howells and the rest are cover songs. When listening to the tracks you can hear the influence from both the Shadows and the Beatles, the music being late 1950es/early 1960es-styled rock'n'roll. There is no doubt about Don and Dave's destiny as famed musicians, especially Don is notable on his drums on for instance "Take Your Time", although The Vendors' music doesn't stand out from other contemporary music as such. The tracks are from a privately pressed EP, recorded at the Domino Studios outside Wolverhampton.
The seven Steve Brett & The Mavericks-tracks feature Noddy Holder on guitar and backing vocals. You can hear that this band is a little more professional and a lot more polished than The Vendors when it comes to playing, arranging and instrumentation. Of course the sound is also better as these tracks are professionally recorded in the Grosvenor Studios, Birmingham, and released through EMI's Columbia label. Most of the songs are wimpy ballads, though, but there are also some rockier such as Brett's own "Sad, Lonely & Blue". The "Genesis"-CD also includes a previously unreleased track, "Hurting Inside".
The 'N Betweens (Mk.1) features Don and Dave and this is really something else. The eight tracks from 1965 are sweatier, faster and harder rock than the music of the two previous bands. I've taken a liking to especially "I Wish You Would". This Yardbirds tune The 'N Betweens used as an opener to their shows. "Feel So Fine" which Slade later recorded on the 1972-album "Slayed?" is also among the eight tracks. It is strange to hear The 'N Betweens' version of this Leonard Lee song. Slade certainly did that song a favour, but unfortunately you can't say the same of John Howells. He is generally a good singer, but not on this track where his vocals are rather annoying. Four of the tracks are previously unreleased, the rest are recorded at PYE Studios and released through Barclay Records, France.
The six last tracks on the CD are with The 'N Betweens (Mk. 2) which means that this is the original Slade line-up in 1966. There are three unreleased tracks, "Hold Tight", "Ugly Girl" and the previously unreleased "Need". They were recorded in Regent Sound studios in London along with the other tracks, "Security" released in the US only as a promo single through Highland Records, and The Rascals' "You Better Run" with "Evil Witchman" as B-side released through EMI's Columbia. "Evil Witchman" is actually The Artwoods' "I Take What I Want" with new lyrics. When comparing The 'N Betweens (Mk. 2) to the rest of the tracks on the "Genesis"-CD you realise that what makes the big difference is Nod's voice even though it still hasn't developed into that loud raucous roar that we've all come to love. But there is something about his diction that makes his voice stand out anyway. And at least I notice Jim's bass as well. My personal favourite track is "Ugly Girl" which supposedly was made up on the spot by the band and their then-producer Kim Fowley who also delivers additional vocals on both this and "Need". The music, the lyrics, the "harmonies" in the chorus on "Ugly Girl" are great, and Fowley's vocals are hilarious. Even Nod can't help laughing, neither on this track nor on "Need". All in all the six 'N Betweens-tracks are pointers towards the career of Slade. The cheekiness, the raw, hard, soft, fun, blunt and ever so versatile sides of the band, they're all there, ready to be developed further.
"The Genesis of Slade" is a little gem to Slade-fans, who want to know more about the musical backgrounds of the guys. The CD even comes with a great booklet, where former Vendors/'N Betweens-singer John Howells tells about the work and progress of the two bands. He also reveals that The Vendors got their name because the first thing he and rhythm guitarist Mick Marson learnt to play was an instrumental entitled "Peanut Vendor". Backgrounds on Steve Brett & The Mavericks as well as on The 'N Betweens (aka Slade) are taken from Chris Charlesworth's 1984-book "Feel The Noize". The booklet includes several rare old photos of the groups as well. So glad that I finally got it!


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