Graded on a Curve:
Slade, Sladest

These lovable Wolverhampton cheaters at Scrabble certainly never won a spelling bee, and one of ‘em (guitarist Dave Hill) walked around in a mullet so hideous it could even get you evicted from an Alabama trailer park, and come to think of it the whole bunch of ‘em looked pretty silly in their Glam clobber, but we’re talking about the great Slade here so–cum on feel the noize!

Because when it comes to irresistibly catchy (and irreducibly simple) rabble rousers (they perfected the whole stomp and clap thing long before Queen came along with “We Will Rock You”) Slade can’t be beat.

Slade may have abandoned their braces and boots Oi roots to climb aboard the Big Glam Bandwagon, but they never forgot their rowdy West Midlands yob origins–“Cum On Feel the Noize,” “Gudbuy T’ Jane,” and “Mama Were All Crazee Now” are all rafters-shaking boot boy anthems. Not for nothing did Hill wear the words “Super Yob” on the breastplate of his pointy-shouldered space doofus stage costume.

The “Brummie oiks” (thanks Barney Hoskyns!) in Slade were the friendliest bunch of Wulfrunian lager louts you’d ever want to meet, preferring cheery sing alongs in the great English pub tradition to sticking a broken bottle in your mug. They also had a quiet side and a sentimental streak a mile wide, not that you’d know it if you lived in the States, which only got to meet Slade’s crazee Mr. Hyde persona.

This is certainly the case on the truncated US version of the band’s 1973 singles compilation Sladest. The Reprise Records “American version” compiles the band’s eight U.K. hit singles up to that date along with the newly released single “My Friend Stan” and its B-Side “My Town,” whilst leaving such quieter (and vaguely Beatlesesque!) songs as “Pouk Hill” and “One Way Hotel” by the side of the musical motorway.

And thanks to the cherry-picking Sladest is a steamroller, all manic high spirits and stick to the R’N’R knitting fun; Slade mated brutally basic heavy metal riffs to Glam beats in a way that made the Sweet sound like a band of prissy musical sophisticates, while Noddy Holder’s screech (he taught AC/DC’s Brian Johnson everything he knows!) was capable of ripping holes in your woofers and tweeters. Only on the amiable piano-plodder “My Friend Stan”–on which Noddy makes like Bob yr loving uncle and you can practically hear the old folks in the pub joining in–does Slade reveal its soft sentimental underbelly.

I got no reason to go into details about the songs; I have my faves and undoubtedly you have yours. Allow me to just say I’m partial to the band’s foot-stomping cover of R&B singer and sometimes female impersonator Bobby Marchan’s “Get Down and Get with It”–Holder sounds unhinged, the piano player shoots you before you can shoot the piano player, and it’s almost as much fun as Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star Club in Hamburg. And I’d kill for “Gudbuy T’ Jane,” with its razor blade guitar riffs, mighty hook, and shake, rattle & roll. And go crazee every time I hear “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.”

I suppose I should say something to the effect that Slade went on to influence rock’n’rollers from Gene Simmons to Bob Hope, but me I just like to crank up their records and scream. A young Queen Victoria (then princess Alexandria Victoria), upon visiting Wolverhampton, described it as a “large and dirty town,” adding that its citizenry received her with “great friendliness and pleasure.” Does that sound like the dirty but friendly Slade or what? Hell, I like to think they were her welcoming party.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
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