Graded on a Curve:
Slade,
Slade Alive!

Celebrating Don Powell on his 75th birthday.Ed.

You can forget all about Kiss Alive! because Slade’s Slade Alive! is the real thing–a gut-bucket blast of pure rock ‘n’ roll energy from the poorest spellers in the history of music. This 1972 studio live affair captures this band of Wolverhampton rowdies at their rawest, and the spirit of raucous fun is contagious.

This baby was released before Slade reached full maturity and here’s how you can tell–there isn’t a single spelling error on it. And here’s another way you can tell–four of its seven cuts are covers, and the other three you probably don’t know.

The foursome’s subsequent release, 1972’s Slayed?, cemented the band’s reputation as Top of the Pops hit makers, but on Slade Alive! they established their bona fides as a formidable live act–one that pitted musical brutalism against vocalist Noddy Holder’s formidable tonsils and crowd-rousing charisma.

Slade gets filed under “Glam,” but theirs was an awkward fit. They looked ridiculous in their glitter clobber–like a bunch of roofers playing dress up–and unlike most of their Glam contemporaries appealed directly to England’s working stiffs.

Their proto-Oi! placed pints above androgyny, and their audiences did the same. When Noddy Holder says, “All the drunken louts can shout anything they like” he’s talking to the entire crowd, and not just a couple of unruly yobs.

The lads begin the show by transforming Albert Lee’s “Here Me Calling” into a Glam hand-clapper; group vocals predominate until the great Dave Hill turns in a building guitar solo that climaxes in a big, metallic stomp. Holder makes some bird calls, somebody howls like Howlin’ Wolf, and wham! The song explodes while the crowd shouts in unison.

“In Like a Shot from My Gun” is a hard-charging slice of heavy metal thunder and really puts the boot in; if like me your acquaintance with the band begins at Slayed?, this baby is both a revelation and a lost classic.

The boys aren’t afraid to get all soggy and sentimental, as they prove on their cover of John Sebastian’s “Darling Be Home Soon.” And they’re not afraid to take the piss, either, as Noddy–who comes on every bit as sensitive as Gilbert O’Sullivan–proves by belching loudly in the middle of the song. And as the boys prove by kicking the song into rock ‘n’ roll overdrive at the midway point, gleefully turning it into a glorious crash course for the ravers.

Original “Know Who You Are” is–try to imagine–a bone-crushing shuffle; they’re unusually light on their feet until the crunchy choruses and the explosion of noise that connotes an instrumental break. “Keep on Rocking” is a revved-up salute to old school rock ‘n’ roll and a Chuck Berry wet dream; “Sweet little rock ‘n’ roller!” screeches Holder (along with “Tutti Fruitti!” and “Ooh! My soul!”) while Jim Lea produces a titanic rumble on bass and Hill plays switchblade guitar. If this baby doesn’t bring you to your feet you don’t have feet, and once again the crowd chants in ecstatic unison.

Slade’s very metallic cover of R&B singer Bobby Marchand’s “Get Down and Get With It” is English blues rock at its best; they take their rhythm and blues with a heavy dollop of Cream, and force-of-nature Holder–who exorts the audience to not only clap their hands but to “get their boots on” and slap their feet–does his best to instigate a riot. This is one of the most incendiary live moments I’ve ever heard, and I can only compare it to one of the highlights from Jerry Lee Lewis’ barn-burning live LP from the Star Club in Hamburg Germany.

The band closes with what Holder calls their “regular finisher,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” And if you’ve think it’s been played to death think again, because the din these guys produce is so monstrously big you begin to worry the ceiling will collapse–especially when an air raid siren sounds near song’s end. This is musical mayhem of punk proportions, and the lads do Mars Bonfire proud.

Slade is one of those bands where it pays to start with their breakthrough album and move backwards. Slade Alive! is the sound of a band that has not yet reached its songwriting potential but has its live act down. The results are rude, crude, and joyful, and to be played as loud as humanly possible.

Vinyl junkies will be happy to learn that a 45th anniversary vinyl reissue of Slade Alive! came out in September 2017 as part of BMG’s “Art of the Album” series. Comes with new sleevenotes, you geezers!

Me, I’d give an unnecessary internal organ to have been at this show. And I don’t have many unnecessary internal organs to give, seeing as how I lost my spleen in an automobile accident. So that leaves me with, what–my appendix? Fine. I’d give my appendix to have been at this show. Happily!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text