Thursday, July 21, 2005
Wall of Hits Vol 2.
I once got this VHS called "Wall of Hits Vol. 2: rare performances 1972-1980" from the Baltics. I don't really know when it's from or who's behind it, but it is probably Russian. It contains 11 TV-performances by Slade and runs a little short of an hour. This VHS is not super as the quality of most of the footage is rather poor, but…
It contains 4 of the numbers of "Set of Six" taped at the Granada Studios in 1972 and this is without doubt the best live footage I've ever seen with Slade. They're performing to a small audience at the studio and the VHS includes the numbers " "Hear Me Calling", "Look Wot You Dun", "Darling Be Home Soon" and "'Coz I Luv You" (only snippets of the 2 other songs "Get Down And Get With It" and "Born To Be Wild" are included). It is so great, almost like being at a Slade-concert in the old days, just more intimate because of the small audience. It has Nod giving his best both as a vocalist and an entertainer and Dave is in high spirits interacting with the audience. It shows a beaming Jim doing backbends and jumping up and down while playing the violin as well as Don in far-out high heeled boots playing the drums so hard that splinters from the sticks are literally flying around the studio. It's just perfect.
missing songs from the Granada Studio performance in 1972, that I had been missing on the "Wall of Hits, Vol. 2" VHS. And let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed.
There are other highlights on the video. "Burning In The Heat Of Love" taped from German TV in 1980 with Dave sporting a bright blue circle on his bald head and Don being really great on the drums. A beautiful rendition of "Everyday" from Top of The Pops, 1974, with Jim on piano. And a Top of The Pops 1973-version of "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" that has my daughter rolling with laughter when Nod shakes his head while singing, "Mama Mama Mama…"
The rest of the footage on the VHS is rather crappy, especially "Far Far Away" from German TV show Disco in 1974, but also "'Coz I Luv You" (Top of The Pops, 1972), "We'll Bring The House Down" (German TV show Beat Club, 1981) and "Merry Xmas Everybody" (Top of The Pops, 1973). It would have been a better VHS all together if these 4 performances had been omitted and replaced by the rest of the Granada Studio-performance.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Don Powell came by
Friday Don Powell came by to do an interview. His Danish girlfriend drove him to my house and we had lunch and a long chat accompanied by thunder and rain before I did some 50 photos of him. I'll put up a few photos that were too crappy to go in the papers.
Don was great to talk to. We came all the way around drums, the original Slade, the present Slade, new singer Mal MacNulty, more drums, song writing, ladies' gloves, festivals, even more drums, Don's musical preferences, Slade's 40 years anniversary, drum machines and some more drums. He's a funny guy, I really laughed myself silly, so it was great working with him. When transcribing the interview from the Dictaphone it ended up being 16 pages long, so I have my work cut out for me the next couple of weeks.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Wall of Hits DVD
The "Wall of Hits" Polygram DVD from 1991 is a treasured item among fans. It runs 55 minutes and includes 14 Slade tunes as well as the band's comments on them.
1. "'Coz I Luv You" is taped live at the German "Beat Club" show in 1971. Jim tells that on their way to the show their ferry got stuck in a force 11 gale. A headline in the Daily Express said, "Slade lost at sea", and Jim's sure that a lot of people would have been glad if the headline had been true. The footage from the show has the guys seeming a bit surprised by their success. They have fun but they concentrate very much on the music.
2. "Gudbuy T'Jane" is taped at the Rainbow Theatre in 1972. Jim tells the old story of how Nod changed Jim's title "Gudbuy T'Jane" to "Hello T'Jane", but that he was out-voted so the song kept Jim's original title. More interesting is it that Jim reveals that he actually nicked the drum intro from the intro to the German TV-show "Hits A Go-Go". The actual concert footage is great, showing the guys on stage when they were really big. This is actually the only concert footage on the whole DVD.
3. "My Friend Stan" is taped in the studio shortly after Don's car crash in 1973. To me this song is a highlight on the DVD with Jim and Nod goofing around and Don "hitting" Dave's head to keep him in sync in the chorus.
4. "Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing" is an extract from Slade's film "Flame" from 1974. With his dry wits Don's making fun of his amnesia when commenting on the clip, "I can't remember anything at all." Someone in the background says: "The story of your life," and Don continues, "What's my name?" Also Jim is really funny making a perfect impersonation of actor Tom Conti, revealing that when Conti ruminate with his lines it is because he can't remember them. As for the song itself: watch it in "Flame" instead, as some of the song is cut away in this edition.
5. "Far Far Away" a semi-psychedelic promo video from 1974. Don's quite fun, though.
6. "Thanks For the Memory": promo-video from 1975. Dave reveals that John Bonham, Led Zeppelin-drummer, would have loved to play this song. Funny, as Bonham tried to kill Jim the very same year with a metal top cane because Jim had compared Led Zeppelin to The Stones, and in Bonham's opinion Zeppelin was bigger than any other band on earth. On the DVD Jim tells that the keyboard part in this song is rather complex and although he wrote it he wasn't sure that he could play it that well. Slade had different session players try doing it, but none of them could get near it, so Jim ended up doing it himself. He thinks that it sounds a bit dodgy, though. This video is another highlight on the DVD. Notice Dave and Jim in the chorus. This chorus reveals that the song is really about V.D. Nod's "Thanks for the ball" is here commented by the chorus that sings about a trip to the doctor to have the nuts checked. Once again it is funny, knowing that in order to get on a TV show, Slade once had to change the lyrics from "have a love smell on your sheet" to "have some honey with your meat" (as if that should make things better!). Nobody obviously noticed the chorus!
7. "Let's Call It Quits", a promo-video from 1976 taped in a room full of mirrors. Don remembers it for its slow tempo: "I remember nearly falling asleep in the studio when we recorded it." He does actually look rather bored in the video whereas Jim seems to get a kick out of the lyrics: "It's big enough for two." The mirrors aren't too flattering, though. It's okay if you have a firm arse like Jim, but seeing Dave from behind in those dungarees is not a pretty sight.
8. "Nobody's Fool", promo-video from 1976 with 2 black chorus girls and many back projections. Don, Jim and Dave are neatly arranged with the girls for the choruses, and Dave is actually dancing with one of them at one point whereas Jim keeps more to himself. It's all very commercial and contrived. To me it has also always seemed weird to see Slade perform with other people on stage. It's not really Slade, then. But they sing well, those girls, only Don complains. You can actually see him shout, "Louder!" from behind the drums.
9. "My Baby Left Me": black and white promo-video from 1977 that turns into colour and split screen before going back into black and white again. Dave tells about why and how he shaved his head bald during this period and that he used to come down to breakfast with bits of paper stuck to his head to stop the bleeding after the shavings. He does an impersonation of Chas Chandler and says that his wife fell out with him due to his baldness. The tune is another highlight on the DVD. Hard, heavy, with Dave's meticulous guitar solo, Jim doing Elvis shakes and Don looking exactly like he does today when playing the drums at Slade 2 concerts.
10. "Give Us a Goal" was taped at the Brighton football grounds in 1978. Nod and Dave tell how lousy the Slade members were at playing football and Don tells that he found it nice of the football club to offer them the grounds for the promo, but later he found out that Chas Chandler actually got free season tickets for using it. Jim reveals that doing a football song was Nod's idea and that Jim himself was never really convinced that it was the right thing to do. I have to go with Jim. This is a really great rock tune, but totally spoiled by the football lyrics. The melody is so strong, though, that this is another highlight on the DVD.
11. This version of "Merry Xmas Everybody" is taped at a Dutch TV-show in the early eighties. The set was built around a bar and the guys had been hanging out there for two hours before they were on. So to put it mildly they are not totally sober. Don completely freaks out on the drums here, causing Jim to laugh so hard that he almost collapses. During the song the audience and acts including female German singer Nena and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde invade the stage with Slade scarves. Jim seems to have a great time with Chrissie Hynde, who is his favourite female singer. This is probably the funniest video on the DVD.
12. "My Oh My", Slade's biggest hit in the USA in 1984. Jim reveals that the promo video cost a fortune and that no one saw it so it was a flop. Let's face it, the video is rather pathetic and the thought that no one would notice that the truck driver is actually a girl until she takes of her helmet is outright stupid.
13. "Run Runaway" was filmed at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire in 1984, complete with bagpipes and a kilt-clad marching band. Nod tells that the director, Tim Pope, was a nut case, but both Dave and Nod himself try their best to look like nutters, too. Jim's really freaking out on the violin and all in all it is a fun video.
14. "Radio Wall of Sound" is a 1991 promo-video. It is dark, hard and wet, featuring Jim on vocals and Mike Read as the DJ. It comments on Marc Bolan and his "Telegram Sam" as well as Queen and their "Bohemian Rhapsody". Don's really great on drums here and Jim shows a bit of his talents as a showman.
All in all this DVD is not one to miss if you're a real Slade-fan, but to me the comments from the band are actually better than most of the videos chosen. Too many of their hits are missing and some of the promo-videos are rather uninspired. It's always great seeing the guys, though.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
When Slade started out as The N'Betweens in 1966 they were mostly a cover band, and although they went on to writing their own material since their first album as Ambrose Slade in 1969 it has never stopped them from recording a great cover song now and again. Slade has covered anything from Rodgers & Hammerstein over Marvin Gaye and Chuck Berry to the Beatles, Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa. Here are five of my favourites.
Slade's cover of Janis Joplin's "Move Over" on the "Slayed?" album from 1972 is undoubtedly their best. The interaction between bass, drums and Nod's vocals is fantastic. Nod's voice is very close to a male version of Joplin's. I mean, you can't compare Nod's voice to anything except maybe hers. They both have the same raw, raucous strength. Nod masters anything from the deafening loud roars to the soft, intimidated begging and the interplay between the raw and the soft is superb on this track. Jim plays his bass like it was a lead guitar, perfectly interacting with both drums and vocals whereas the real lead guitar almost takes over the part of an ordinary bass except for a few sharp twangs. Also Don's alternations between the loud pounding drum sound and the fast but tinny sound of sticks against cymbals adds to the experience of this being a song of lover in both despair and hope. This cover is perfect and fully as good as Joplin's if not better.
Then there's "Just A Little Bit" written by Thornton/Bass/Washington/Brown/Thompson and included as track one on the 1974 "Old, New, Borrowed and Blue" album. The lyrics for this song was not featured on the album sleeve but it is hard to say whether this is due to the fact that the song is not penned by Holder/Lea or if it is because of the content of the lyrics. Nod's screaming loud voice, which can be reduced to the softest of whispers, is superb for this type of song, putting a lot of sexual innuendo into the lyrics. Bass and drums work perfectly together as a backdrop for the wailing parts of the vocals and are blown up to a massive sound and joined by the sharp guitar for the desperate ones.
Next is Slade's medley of 2 Elvis Presley songs "My Baby Left Me"/"That's Alright Mama" that was released as a single in 1977. This is a perfect medley for a hard-rocking band like Slade. It seems to be made for Don's metronome precision and pounding sound on the drums, Nod's roaring vocals and Dave's thorough guitar. Dave has always reminded me of a typist or something with his very meticulous work on the guitar neck. But it works for the "big boy" and for the medley.
The 2 last ones are both from Slade's "Alive!" album, 1972. "Hear Me Calling" is for many fans the opening number at Slade concerts, and this live version is fantastic. It really gets people going right from the start with great rhythms, characteristic guitar and Nod and Jim's superbly blended vocals. Actually Jim's voice outdo Nod's in this version! The number builds up all the time to a total frenzy. Some fancy bass-works while Nod urges people on to get in the mood and gets Don's voice on record. The fast-rocking number continues with renewed speed and ends stubbornly tough. Alvin Lee apparently earned more royalties from the Slade-version of this song than from his own with Ten Years After.
"Darling Be Home Soon" is the last one up. You wouldn't think that this soft John Sebastian tune would be well chosen as a cover song by Slade, but it is because Nod's voice can be as gentle as it can be raw. The song has a very soft beginning where you especially notice Nod's subdued vocals and the great bass. The song continues with Nod, Dave and Jim's beautiful vocal harmonies where Jim once again outdoes the others. The tempo builds up before the band leaps into hard rock. What this version is most famed for is Noddy's burp, though. Mid-song the band almost stops playing and you can hear someone saying, "We're finished," before Nod burps loudly. In his autobiography Noddy says that it was an accident, because he had been drinking all day, but to me it sounds well rehearsed. The bass is waiting for it and the guitar is setting the scene for it. I always wondered if maybe the guys found the song too wet and decided to add a burp in the middle to put their thump-mark on it. Who knows? The song continues afterwards, once again building up to a hard-rocking tune with Nod's voice going from gentle to loud. Perfect.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Who's Crazee Now?
"Who's Crazee Now?" is the title of Noddy Holder's autobiography (Ebury Press, 1999, ISBN-no. 0-09-187503-X). It came out in a second edition in 2000 with an extra chapter. It is this edition of which I have a copy.
To fully cherish this book you have to be a really big Noddy Holder-fan. Not a Slade-fan, but a Noddy Holder-fan. Nod tells thoroughly about his childhood and youth in Walsall and Wolverhampton in the first 2 chapters of the book, about his family, his schooldays and his love for music that led him to become a guitarist with Steve Brett and The Mavericks.
The next 3 chapters take the reader through the days of The 'N Betweens and Ambrose Slade up to the break-through as Slade. Nod offers 4 chapters on the heydays of Slade, but only one chapter on their downfall, comeback and final break-up. The added 11th chapter concerns Nod's life after Slade, mainly his acting in "The Grimleys", his new family and his MBE.
As you can see most of the book is about Slade, so why do I say that you have to be a Noddy Holder-fan and not a Slade-fan to like this book? Well, it's because it is almost unbearable reading. Not that it is badly written or anything, but Nod is so full of himself that you could almost puke. When you read this book you get the impression that Nod and Nod alone was Slade and that the 3 others only went along for the ride. Of course he had one of the greatest rock voices in the world, a voice that made Slade stand out, and of course he wrote most of the lyrics and was a gifted showman, but to claim that he alone made Slade a success is shooting way over the target.
In my opinion there would have been no Slade no matter who of the 4 guys had been missing. They all had functions and talents special to them that made the group unique. Slade without Don's pounding hard drums and Dave's odd costumes and guitar-riffs would not have been Slade. And Slade without Jim's talents as a composer and a musician…well, forget it! Nevertheless Nod persists in his self-glory as Slade's main asset. You even get the impression that it was Nod who actually wrote Slade's music with Jim only quipping in now and then. How conceited can a person become?
Nod is hard on his 3 former colleagues. Well, not so much Don: "I liked Don a lot, but I had never been sure about Dave." (p. 47). Dave and especially Jim have to take a lot of crap in this book. You can't help thinking that Nod is perhaps a little envious of them, of Dave's outrageous way of dressing and of Jim's musical talents. About Dave he says: "He was also mad keen on very high Cuban-heeled boots. Dave had a real hang-up about his height. He was only five foot two. The first time I met him, I couldn't get over how odd he looked when he walked. He sort of tip-toed around in these heels." (p. 48-49), then continues: "The others were never as outrageous as me and Dave (…) Dave was in a league of his own, but I wasn't far behind." Oh, yeah? Don't remember seeing you in a Metal Nun-costume, mate!
Jim gets the real bad-mouthing throughout the book: "Jim was probably the most argumentative. He could also be really insulting, although half the time, he didn't even realise it. His mouth worked faster than his brain." (p. 78). "He always went for the pessimistic point of view. I always went for the happy opposite. Put it this way, Jim's nickname with our road crew was the Midland's Misery." (p. 153). Etc., etc.
The worst is, however, that Nod doesn't give him the credits that he deserves as the composer of Slade's music. It is always: WE composed the music! To give you an example, p. 186: "I always wrote the bulk of lyrics. Sometimes Jim would chip in a few lines to go with a particular verse or chorus that he had come up with." As if Jim just SOMETIMES came up with the melody for a verse or a chorus and Nod did the rest. It's awful!
All over the book is this slanderous, gossiping, condescending and ridiculing tone when it comes to the 3 other Slade-members. It is unpleasant reading. Not even Don is let off: "The whole band was drinking. When we first became successful Don had started having the odd glass of champagne or whatever. He ended up worse than the rest of us." (p. 164).
Nod ends up dismissing the Slade-adventure with this: "On top of everything, Jim was seeing a psychiatrist, Dave became a Jehovah's Witness and Don was drinking heavily." (p. 223). This way he underlines that he - of course - was the only one who could handle success. His own huge consumption of booze he doesn't mention much and his divorce is explained with a vague comment about him not being able to go on holiday with his wife and that was what made the marriage end. The funny thing is, that our boy Nod is a real "kiss & tell"-type or rather "fuck & tell"-type. In elaborate details he tells about all the girls who were dying to shag him and whom he, of course, also shagged, but apparently that had nothing to do with the divorce. The divorce was probably one of the things that led him to "lose his bottle" as Don once put it, Nod thereby refusing to go on stage anymore and in this way being responsible for the slow killing off of Slade.
"Who's Crazee Now?" is an autobiography and as such the author has every right to tint his self-image as rosy as he likes. It is not becoming, though, when it happens on the expenses of others, as is the case with this book. I got outright indignant on behalf of Don, Dave and Jim when reading it. Hopefully I'm touchier than they are! Anyway, after having read the book I find it very hard to sympathise with Nod, although I still think that he was one of the best singers ever in rock history.
The book comes with 16 pages of black and white photos, some good ones of Slade, although they're all well-know press photos. Nothing new.