(#1 in a series – 10 albums that shaped my musical taste)
1973 – I was a bookish kid. Music brought me a little bit more out in to the world, I guess.. everyone wants to be a part of something, and we had our little cliques at school, kids who were allowed to have trendy haircuts and wider flappier bottoms to their school uniform trousers. I might have been a bit shy but I knew what I liked and when I had some money of my own to spend, a small collection of singles accumulated, piled on the BSR autochanger in the family radiogram. Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Wizzard, Bowie.. the charts, Top Of The Pops and Radio One was the daily diet. Tony Blackburn at breakfast and the wonderful Alan Freeman, interpersing hits du jour with blasts of classical music. “Greetings, pop pickers.. awright, stay bright!”.
But it was a tough task, in the early 70s, staying bright. Big smiles, mirrorballs, flares and lunatic disco partying every night, right? Nope. Football hooliganism, racism, militant trade unions, strikes, power cuts, the Irish ‘problem’, the Three Day Week, a clueless Conservative government. I may not have understood it too well at the time, but I felt what my family and friends were going through, and it was tough. But it wasn’t all bad: there was a ray of light piercing the gloom.
The light reflected from a mirrored top hat..
A touch of glam was what we, and Slade, needed. They’d pounded the UK circuit for years, as soul boys the N’Betweens and skinheads Ambrose Slade, before Chas Chandler rounded them up and pointed them in the right direction. A touch of flash, Noddy Holder’s astonishing razor-blade gargle, idiosyncratic bassist Jim Lea’s proficiency in adding colourful flourishes of violin and piano to Dave Hill’s sledgehammer guitar madness, and Don Powell’s gum-chewing metronome rat-a-tat propelled them to superstardom.
‘Sladest’ was my first proper album, save for those sketchy Pickwick Top Of The Pops records. My mate Jez Thomas and I rushed into Halifax on release day and I splurged.. at least I would have, had I not underestimated the price of the fancy gatefold-sleeved multi-pictured wonder that was ‘Sladest’ (it was £3.29, a horrendous price. All was not lost, a quick dash back to Jez’s dad in the car, begging an additional 30p from Big Jimmy. There are rumours he wants his 30p back, 36 years on).
It’s a truly terrific ‘Best Of’: fourteen tracks, eight of which entered the UK top twenty, five of which hit #1, mis-spelled titles and all. It contains the very essence of what Slade means to me: sharp hooks, belting choruses, rabble-rousing good-time rock music, with no frills (save those worn by the exotically coiffed, perma-tinfoil-clad Dave Hill). It doesn’t include any Christmas songs. It is still, pretty much, the most fun my ears can have.
It’s where I began. Play loud.
P.S. Part 2 of The Sacred Days You Gave Me: 1976