Wednesday, 18 December 2013

1983 in rock: Slade play final UK gig in Liverpool

British glam rock pioneers Slade had a last hurrah in the early 1980s, having scored a string of hit singles a decade earlier and been regulars on 'Top Of The Pops', they had endured some lean years after a venture across the pond. While not really breaking through in the US in the way they'd hoped, their influence was felt when firstly KISS formed, taking cues from the way Slade connected with their crowd, and later when the LA 'hair metal' bands achieved prominence, many (including Mötley Crüe) cited Slade, Sweet and T. Rex as inspirations. In particular, this year saw LA band Quiet Riot hit big with their cover of 'Cum On Feel The Noize', which many people in the US believed to be one of that band's own compositions and were surprised to find that it was actually a decade old.

Slade themselves regrouped in the late 1970s, having ploughed on through the punk era to diminishing returns, they were almost ready to call it a day when called up at the last minute to play at Reading Festival in 1980, their set went down a storm that day and directly led to a revival in fortunes. In 1983 they scored a hit with the anthemic 'My Oh My', a hand-waving singalong that showcased singer Noddy Holder's still-powerful voice. A tour was arranged for December of 1983 and this was to call at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre. I was a youngster still then, but by now old enough to attend gigs and having been a fan of Slade from when I was small, this was a gig I was very much looking forward to.

What nobody realised at the time was that this would be their final show in Britain with the original (some would claim 'only') line-up. Their set, lively and riotous, with many hits performed alongside a few later cuts, went down a total storm with the Liverpool crowd. (Interestingly, they did NOT play 'Cum On Feel The Noize' that night!) Ending, as you'd expect with perennial favourite 'Merry Christmas Everybody' they took their bows and I for one thought there'd be many more chances to see these classic glam rockers now that they'd re-established themselves. However, as fates would have it, that was the one and only time I would see this band in their classic form. They played further dates in Europe, but a planned visit to the US was cut short when Noddy Holder took ill. (They also scored a belated hit over there that year with 'Run Runaway') The band did make a few more albums, but although their last hit ('Radio Wall of Sound') came in 1991 they were never seen again on a stage.

Eventually Noddy Holder called time on the group, he'd wanted to try some other things for a long time and took acting roles, notably as a music teacher in 'The Grimleys', a comedy-drama about the struggles of a 1970s working class family in the Midlands. He then became an occasional radio presenter, while fellow Slade writer, bassist Jim Lea also stood down from the group. This left guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell to find new personnel, and they have continued to the present day under the Slade name. This has not pleased everyone, as the band's best-loved songs were all Holder/Lea compositions, and to say the least, Holder's voice is not easily replicated. However, Holder himself has stated that he did not want to stop the other guys from working, and so the Hill/Powell version of Slade have continued with his blessing.

That show on 18th December 1983 then, remains a fond memory and I consider myself fortunate to have caught them just before they exited the stage.

Some video footage exists from that show (video cameras were rather more cumbersome than the phone/cameras of today!) and so here is a clip from the Royal Court:

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