Odds and sods about the British rock band Slade

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Slade in Bilston

Recently I went on a rather chaotic trip to England. In the beginning it seemed that everything that could go wrong was dead set to go wrong, the flight was delayed, the hotel was crap and whoever had helped me pack had forgotten to bring my adapter for the mobile, my address book and my earplugs (sorry, Jamie, but you had!). Instead my suitcase was full of biscuits and fruit juices, which isn’t of much help when you need to make a telephone call, write a letter or avoid getting deaf from Don’s drum. Anyway, Monday morning I found myself in Birmingham. I was there because of my health (believe it or not!) and when I’d finished doing my thing, I went on to Wolverhampton.
In the evening I met up with Don at the hotel and he introduced me to Vicky Pearson, who’s known the guys for ages. In the early days she even used to cut their hair, sneaking them into the salon after her boss had gone home! She had some really great stories that will come in handy for Don’s bio and it was so much fun listening to her and Don reminisce.
At noon Tuesday Johnny Howells met Don at the hotel and once again I had a wonderful time listening to old stories as the guys were strolling down Memory Lane. Such a nice man, John is, and a really good blues singer.
At 1.30 p.m. Don and I went to the Robin in Bilston for Don to set up the drums. On the way Don pointed out some pubs and clubs where he used to play and we got quite a laugh from one of the former working men’s clubs now being “The New Testament Church of God”. Imagine The ‘N Betweens performing there!
We reached the Robin and Don got his drums ready. Around four o’clock the rest of the band showed up along with Tim and Robin of the crew. I had a chat with first John, then Mal as Mal at first wasn’t sure that it was really me being in Bilston. Then the sound check started and it was horrifyingly loud. Man, did I miss those earplugs! Mud’s bass player, Mark Michalski, and I talked about the poor sods, who were going to end up in front of the speakers later that night. If you stood there, the sound would throw you right across the room and you’d have to be scraped off the back wall.
While the guys were sound checking a photographer from the Express and Star popped around and afterwards a journalist as well. Don went off to do the interview and somehow got himself locked out of the venue. He just stood there in the lobby signalling through the glass doors to me, but I couldn’t go get him as the doors were locked! Eventually he was rescued, though.
While the rest of the band went to the hotel, Don and I stayed at the Robin, hanging out with Mud. The guys were swapping true ghost stories and the Mud-guys had some really spooky ones. Don told about one time during the early years, when Slade spent a night in a boarding house in Holland, I think it was. They’d settled for an early night, as they had to leave early next morning. Don got a single room, but he couldn’t fall asleep. Jim and Dave were in the next room and he could hear them chatting and see the light underneath the door that adjoined his room with theirs. At some point Don got so annoyed with the chitchat, that he loudly asked Jim and Dave to stop it. They did and Don could see the light in the next room being, not put out, but lowered. All night Don could then hear somebody trot up and down the corridor.
The next morning they left early with packed sandwiches that the landlord had left them to take along. They didn’t really talk for a while, until Don asked Jim and Dave why they had been up all night, chatting. They didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about as they had gone to sleep straight away. When Don insisted that he’d heard them and even seen the light from their room under the adjoining door they answered that they hadn’t had such a door in their room! Furthermore all of the band members had heard the pacing up and down the corridor all night, and Jim had even dreamt that there’d been a man standing at the foot of his bed with an axe! When they all remembered that there’d been a painting over the fireplace in the main room showing a person looking just like the white-haired, steely-eyed kids from the 1960 sci-fi film “Village Of The Damned”, they quickly threw the packed sandwiches out the car windows and got the heck out of there!
Well, at that point none of us at the Robin would have thrown away any sandwiches, we were HUNGRY, so we went to The Green Room for a nice dinner and afterwards Don met with Mick Marson, former rhythm guitarist of The Vendors and The 'N Betweens. It was so nice seeing him again and of course he and Don talked about the old days. It was hilarious! Don told about when they’d been performing at a hotel and were given a room to change in. Instead of changing all of them got into the double bed, blankets up to their noses, and the staff didn’t really know what to make of it! Mick told about when they did a wedding and their driver nicked the wedding cake. And Don told of when Slade did Japan for the first time and saw this Beatles cover-band whose band-members were named John, Paul, George and Lingo. The guys went on and on and the 3 of us were in tears laughing most of the time!
At one point Don and I went down to the venue to say hello to Rik from the cover band Flamin’ Slade and to Sian and Dee, members of The Slade Archive Forum. It all ended in more or less a stampede, but we got out and when we reached the dressing room, it was filled up. Dave’s 3 kids were there, so were Vicky Pearson and Carole Williams (who used to run the very first fan club of the guys) along with a lot of other friends and fans. It was really great meeting them all and a lot of catching up was going on between the old friends, who were – however - mildly disturbed by a drunk fan who had conned her way into the dressing room!
At one point John asked me if I could understand the Black Country accent, which for him was difficult to follow when so many locals were chatting, and I had to admit that I understood it all right. Maybe because I’ve grown used to it over the years, maybe because of my own Danish dialect. As most Danes know, we “sing” in my Funen dialect, but what they maybe don’t know is, that we tend to pick up other dialects quite easily. Five minutes in a room with people speaking another dialect, and we start speaking it ourselves without knowing!
Anyway, by the time that Dave arrived as the last one it was almost time for the guys to change. Dave was in high spirits, giving me a pad on the back and a “how are you”. Mud had been on stage since 8.30 p.m. and Slade were to go on at ten, but people in the dressing room had such a great time that no one seemed to want to leave. Not until Don had stripped down to his underpants and the rest of the guys started undressing, did the room slowly empty of visitors.
I went down to the concert hall but stayed close to the stage door as I was afraid of having my bad back hurt by the very noisy, cheerful crowd. I stood there with Mark Lion, hiya Mark, nice seeing you again, and also got to say hello to Gary Jordan. Then finally the guys went on stage.
The concert was short, barely an hour, but sweet (I can’t say that, can I, as it was Slade?). The set list went:
We’ll Bring The House Down
Take Me Bak ‘Ome
Far Far Away
Red Hot
‘Coz I Luv You
Run Runaway
My Oh My
Gudbuy T’Jane
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Get Down And Get With It
and for the encores:
Cum On Feel The Noize
Merry Xmas Everybody
Dave sported a bright white costume and Mal a red jacket and a BLUE hat (although it looked black). Very becoming. There was not much banter or fooling around on stage, but when Dave flexed his muscles, you could hear Mal mutter, “You wouldn’t believe he’s 75, would you?” He made it up during Gudbuy T’Jane when singing, “He’s so young” to Dave.
At one point John changed into a glittery Union Jack top and Dave changed his black banded hat to a “Mad Hatter”-model complete with an ongoing joke on the price tag. Please, don’t ask, as I’m not going to explain! During MXE only Dave and Mal were wearing Christmas hats, though, and Mal’s was the cowboy one from last year.
Cum On Feel The Noize had tall John almost doing a split trying to reach down to Dave’s mike, and Don…well, sorry mate, but I could hardly see you from where I was standing! I even had to go into the corridor backstage to get a pic of him!
Although the concert was short, a great time was had by all. The audience was really supportive and even die-hard fans of the original line-up, who’d never seen the present one before, came up to me to say that this had been their best night out for 20 years.
After the concert BBC WM auctioned off some of Don’s sticks and Dave’s plectrums for their Christmas Appeal, supporting disadvantaged kids in the Black Country. Some of the items went for over £ 100, which was great.
When the guys had changed, Dave was off with his kids and Don and I went down to the venue for Don to sign autographs and have his photo taken with fans before we went with the rest of the guys back to the hotel. Mal and John went straight to bed, but I had a night-cap with Tim, Robin and Don. It was heaven to finally just sit there, relaxing, chatting, the show still ringing in my ears. Like basking in the afterglow of the concert in very pleasant company. It was just such a nice, surprising night.
Well, all good things come to an end, and so did this as well. I got to bed at 2.30 a.m., up again at 6.30 a.m. and then straight on to Denmark.
It was really great seeing everyone again and meeting up with the old friends and fans. I’ll keep in touch and hopefully see Slade on stage in January in Denmark. Thank you, all, and a special thanks to you, Don, for taking such good care of me. I really had a lovely time although it started out as utter chaos!


At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant review Lise!!!And thought it was hilarious Don getting locked out of the Robin!!Could just picture it... Enjoyed very much the ghost story,very interesting,obviously Slade fans of the spirit world,maybe??!!!
And great photos too,and was lovely to meet you after reading your blog for so long,Thanx Lise!!Dee xx

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Lise Lyng Falkenberg said...

It was so nice meeting you, Dee. I wish we had had more time to talk, but as you know I was rather occupied. Hope to see you again some day.


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