SLADE! GATEFOLD EDITION!
A prelidiction with the British glam rock genre of music, appropriately perhaps, is cobbled together from the best bits of a couple different vectors. First and foremost is love of the historical period, let's say roughly 1971 to 1974. '71 is a good concensus start point, with T. Rex performing "Ride a White Swan" on Top of the Pops in late 1970, wherein (if I'm correct) Marc Bolan put glitter on his face for the first time (and wore a decidedly feminine outfit). The moment itself seems pretty unremarkable looking back, but record buyers ate it up (the single was #1 in the UK for six weeks, and kicked off a string of four #1 singles for T. Rex, ending with a four week stint for "Metal Guru" in 1972). Slade's "Coz I Luv U" single also hits #1 in late 1971 and starts a string of six #1s ending with "Merry X-Mas Everyone" in '73. David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust is released in the spring of '72.The end definitively is in 1974, with T. Rex already completed bottomed out and the release of David Bowie and Slade's final glam-period records (Diamond Dogs and Slade in Flame, respectively).
How Can It Be?
Contrasted to Bolan's rockabilly three-piece and Bowie's experimental sounds of the same period (or Roxy Music or Alex Harvey), Slade's flavor is decidedly populist. "How Can It Be" is an admittedly honky-tonky, bouncy tune, with Noddy Holder reciting rather rhetorical questions which would not be out of place in a modern-day country song. This song is a bit of the odd-ball on Old New Borrowed and Blue (1974), but I like the Slade odd-ball songs because if nothing else they do demonstrate the existence of some sort of range of ability (Bolan's fatal flaw).
"This Girl," from thier glam piece d'reistance album Slade in Flame (1974) (which doubled as the soundtrack to thier feature film of the same name) has more of that populist lyric to it, this time about, well, "this girl" who is out to paint the town red and holds all the men in her sway, despite thier best efforts. I'm usually not a big fan of "over-produced" songs (this was Bolan's weakness when he started producing his own albums - "you know what this song needs? A string section!"), but I love the horn section on this song - I guess horns tend to be more rock-n-roll than strings (see also: Andy McKay of Roxy Music).
Know Where You Are
"Know Where You Are" is first found as an vocal-less mellow jam session on the first track (titled "Genesis") of Slade's (then called Ambrose Slade) first album Beginnings (1969) (which flopped). Dropping the "Ambrose", Slade's second album (Play It Lound (1970)) featured the same jam but with lyrics and now-called "Know Where You Are." Slade toured relentlessly in this period, and by the time "Know Where You Are" ends up on the Slayed Alive! (1972) album it has grown into a galloping anthem of late-60s-styles philosophic questions. Who can not delight in Noddy Holder hollering to "read a new book - FINISH THE OTHER ONE!" over the wail of drums and crashing of guitars? I am also fond of the lyric "acing the song to make your playing look easy" which I feel is a nod at thier success being connected to thier touring chops.
It's not clear to me exactly why Tinzeroes is on this giant T-Rex / Slade kick. T-Rex I've always basically loathed, and as for Slade? There's some great stuff there, to be sure, but I cannot say that I ever actually cared about them. (And the Six by Slade thing he gave me I find unlistenably screechy, pointless and self-indulgent.)
But for a band I don't care much about, they've sure been kinda prominent in my life. So here's a couple-three Slade songs that always--always--put a smile on my face.
This was one of the great hits of my pre-musical life. As I would fiddle with the parental receiver on a sunny sunday Kansas afternoon, not remembering exactly when Dr. Demento came on, I'd hear this, sometimes. And I would kinda sing along and bop around to what I didn't know was really the last gasp of a once potent power.
hey ho wish you well (representing the cassette Rogue's Gallery)
As I began to make music more and more central to my life, I began trawling the Sound Warehouse cheapo cassette bin. One day, probably 87, 88, I found this for 2.99 and Ramones Leave Home for 3.99. Maybe the other way around. I loved both, for a while, and that was probably the biggest moment I ever had with Slade, headphones on and blaring tinnily, stomping around in my Christmas 88 jean jacket that was so too big that, when I moved from Portland, a full-grown man, it was still too big. First couple years of high school, it was not uncommon for me to tag things with Slade-spelled
PLEEZ EKSKUUZE ANEE LAAK UV INTELLIJUNCE
Then again, first couple years of high school, I spent most of my time drawing covers for my double concept album, JOHNNY WAS HERE, which was sort of a Zen Arcade meets Quadrophenia teen suicide epic, with, as I recall, one like 8-page long song-soliloquy from Satan.
my oh my
Somehow I had always pencilled this one in as a 70s smash lingering into the classic rock stations of the 80s, rather than a reunited-cash-in move. But, whatever. Sometimes a man's in the mood for a power ballad. And this one is an oddly happy ballad.
In fact, that's what I think Tinzeroes is responding to in and with Slade--it's similar to my perspective on Cheap Trick, which is that some very rare kinds of art operate on a level that's neither formal/aesthetic nor contentual/ethical, but is instead concerned with and productive of: JOY.