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2023/4 Albums Thing 305 - Slade “Play It Loud”

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Slade were my first musical obsession. The first single I bought was "Skweeze Me Pleeze Me". The first album I bought was "Slayed?". I’ve had many musical obsessions since (The Jam, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, the Drive-By Truckers, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen) and I look forward to many more but Slade were my first musical love, and you know what they say about first loves…

“Play It Loud” was Slade’s 2nd album, but first for Polydor, released in November 1970. Their first album was the snappily titled “Beginnings” (or the even more snappy “Ballzy” as it was retitled in the US) for Fontana Records from May 1969. They were still called Ambrose Slade then and their debut was a 12 track affair, 8 covers from the likes of The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Steppenwolf, The Amboy Dukes and Marvin Gaye interspersed with 4 originals, 3 of which are credited to all four members as writers rather than the later better known duo of Holder/Lea. “Beginnings” opening instrumental, “Genesis”, grew lyrics and reappears on this album retitled “Know Who You Are”. It survived in their live set until around the “Slade Alive!” period.

When they jumped ship to Polydor it was decided they needed an “angle”. Skinhead was a big deal in those early 70’s days so some bright spark in the Polydor marketing department decided Slade should become skinheads. This is how we find our heroes staring out from this album cover, shorn of flowing locks and making like the least convincing bunch of bovver boys you’ve ever seen. Dave Hill looks like a reet scruff bag, Noddy Holder seems like he could make a good fist of playing the Artful Dodger, Don Powell actually comes over as being genuinely hard and they all look like they’re getting ready to kick the shit out of Jimmy Lea who has the air of a music student on his way to an orchestral rehearsal about him. Tales exist of lots of skinheads turning up to Slade gigs to see this skinhead group and the band barely escaping with their lives when the skins realised there weren’t gonna be no moon stomping tonight.

The album is this time made up chiefly of original material, although still none by that famed Holder/Lea partnership that would eventually conquer the British charts. Here we have writing credits for all four, Powell/Lea/Holder and a third of the album written by the rhythm section of Powell/Lea. The rest is made up with covers of Bread’s “Could I”, Max Frost & The Troopers Garage band classic “The Shape Of Things To Come” and Neil Innes “Angelina”. If you’re looking for badly spelled chart toppers, well you’ll find none here.

There are a couple of good uns tho’. “Genesis” is back with lyrics and its new title. “Dapple Rose” is a tearjerker of a ballad about an old horse who is likely headed for the knackers yard. “Pouk Hill” is a song about somewhere they used to play as kids which I recently discovered I drive past every time I go up and down the M6 between home and Birmingham. “Sweetbox” is a proper dirty rocker to finish on,  but still with a hint of the 60’s about it.

This is Slade finding their way, discovering who can write, who writes best with who. It’ll take ‘em another year or so to figure it all out but Noddy’s voice is there and some of Dave Hill’s guitar work points to what is just around the corner. 

Know Who You Are - https://youtu.be/sudbJszW1F4?si=394xwNTtypnOBrB-


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