Near Buckley’s Falls, Geelong, Victoria, 1974
In the 1970s, UK glam rockers Slade were big, really big; early on, the word was out on the street, my street – Maidie Street, Highton, Geelong.
Glenda, 13, a year older than me, lived a couple of houses down and was raving about the band. One day she rushed up and told me how good they were: “Aw, Slade, they’re brilliant! Fantastic!”
I’d vaguely heard of them but decided to be a bit of a smart alec, as I couldn’t name one of their songs at the time and was sure she couldn’t either. “OK then, if they’re so great, name one of their songs.” Glenda looked stumped, “Oh, err …” then, in a sudden burst of inspiration, started singing some lines from their first Australian hit, a live version of Get Down and Get with It:
Wanna see everybody get off your seat/Clap your hands and stamp your feet …
Oh yeah, I remember thinking, I’ve heard that song. Fair enough, Glenda.
But I never really liked Get Down and Get with It. Even as a 12-year-old, I thought the lyrics lacked imagination, were low-grade stuff. The best thing about Glenda’s enthusiasm, though, was that it triggered my interest in Slade.
Pretty soon, I’d bought the album Sladest, a collection of the band’s greatest hits up until 1974, with a bunch of other songs thrown in for good measure. I loved almost all the songs on the LP, but a few stood out, probably Gudbuy T’Jane was my favourite.
The song was so catchy; infectious was the word, from Don Powell’s quickfire drumming, Dave Hill’s melodic, riffy guitar work, Jimmy Lea’s smooth bass playing and most of all Neville “Noddy” Holder’s raspy, rocking way of selling a tune:
Goodbye to Jane, goodbye to Jane/She’s a dark horse see if she can/Goodbye to Jane, goodbye to Jane/ Painted up like a fancy young man/She’s a queen, /Can’t you see what I mean, she’s a queen …
What a ripper of a song! A few years later, when I was playing in rock bands in secondary school, I wanted to play something by Slade, but Slade were deceptively good musicians, and we didn’t have any Don Powells, Jimmy Leas, Dave Hills or Noddy Holders available to carry it off. I remember reading, in the liner notes accompanying Sladest, an opinion expressed by their manager and producer, Chas Chandler – that the group were better musicians than those in his former band: 1960s legends, The Animals.
I think Chandler knew something.