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  1. 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-


  2. “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols” is the most important record made in my lifetime; It’s the greatest rock ‘n’ roll record made in my lifetime; you can disagree with me if you want, but you’re wrong; you can trot out the “but they can’t play” BS if you like, it just tells me you’re not listening. “Never Mind The Bollocks…” changed EVERYTHING ! Without “Never Mind The Bollocks…” specifically and Punk Rock in general the musical landscape we have today would be very, very different. I can only offer in evidence of its importance to me that I own 3 copies, a 1977 blue label Virgin issue, the 1978 Picture Disc release and the 25th Anniversary limited edition on Pink vinyl. One of a few albums important enough to me that I own multiple copies of them.

    Today feels very much like 1976 inasmuch as the charts are full of soulless, harmless, moronic pap…wallpaper music, it’s just there but it doesn’t rock the boat, it just exists for its short lifespsan and then, rightly, is forgottngen about. Let me remind you of some of the big hits of 1976…Pussycat “Mississippi”, Mike Oldfield “In Dulce Jubilo”, Slik “Forever And Ever”, CW McCall “Convoy”, Laurie Lingo & The Dipsticks “Convoy GB” (FFS!), The Wurzels “Combine Harvester”, David Dundas “Jeans On”, Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots “Disco Duck”, Paul Nicholas “Dancing With The Captain”…fuck me is it any surprise Punk Rock happened !

    While Paul Nicholas was singing "This here's the plaice if you go the sole" (makes your heart sink doesn’t it ?) along comes this scrawny, scary looking 20 year old kid with spots and bad teeth screaming how he wants to “get pissed, destroy”…I know which one I’m going with.

    Now to be totally up front “Anarchy In The UK” passed me by there at the tail end of 1976. But what didn’t pass me by in the summer of 1977 was “God Save The Queen”.

     There is no future, In England’s dreaming

    A 20 year old wrote that. Has there been a lyric written that better sums up England over the past 47 years and longer ? Read it again and just consider the harm this country of “ours” has done to itself and its citizens (I am not and will never consider myself a subject) in that time. Add to the fact that those lyrics were screamed over just about the most exciting 3 minutes and 20 seconds of music it’s ever been my privilege to hear, music whose introduction still sends a shiver up my spine every time I hear it all these years later, music that if I’m having a shitty day I can put it on and 3 minutes and 20 seconds later I don’t feel alone anymore…yeah, you get the idea of how important this is to me.

    I still contend it’s an utterly misunderstood lyric. Of course those wrapped up in “England’s dreaming” saw that line, “God save the Queen, She ain’t no human being”, and instantly burst the mercury through the tops of their skulls. But was she ? She wasn’t a human being, or a person, like you or me. She was handed a life of privilege and luxury at our expense due to an accident of birth, not like us at all. The rest of the song is a call to me and those like me and a warning to those still stuck in “England’s dreaming

    When there’s no future, How can there be sin ?

    We’re the flowers in the dustbin

    We’re the poison in the human machine

    We’re the future…Your future

    “God Save The Queen” is the penultimate song of Side 1 of “Never Mind The Bollocks…”. It’s preceded  by “Holidays In The Sun”, still one of the scariest pieces of music I’ve ever heard; “Bodies” is a howl of desperation, disgust and at one point I hear even hear genuine sorrow with the situation and that keening cry of “Mummy” right at the end; next up “No Feelings” and “Liar” the former quite a nasty, self centred thing

    You never realise I take the piss out of you

    You come up and see me and I beat you black and blue

    The latter could be seen as a response to that self centred individual in “No Feelings”

    I know where you go, Everybody you know

    I know everything that you do or say

    So when you tell lies I always be in your way

    I’m nobody’s fool and I know all

    Following “God Save The Queen”, we have ”Problems” (yeah we all got those). Were it not for “GSTQ”, “Anarchy…”, “Pretty Vacant” then “Problems” might well be regarded as the Pistols high point. The fact it isn’t tells me what great songwriters they were. Steve Jones has said of it “A simple chord sequence, which I still like. The same goes for the lyrics”, that may be so for the chord sequence Steve but I hear the lyrics as much more intricate. At first the lyric lashes out at people who are doing nothing to help themselves “And I can see there’s something wrong with you, But what do you expect me to do” then explaining why things are different for the singer “I’m using my feet for my human machine, You won’t find me living for the screen”. But by the end of the song all patience is lost and the singer lays it out to the target of his ire

    Bet you thought you had it all worked out, Bet you thought you knew what I was about

    Bet you thought you solved all your problems, But…you…are the problem

    With the emphasis on “You”. There’s advice in the song, there’s pleading for change in the song but by the end all empathy is lost. Add that to Jones “simple chord sequence” and a powerhouse performance from Paul Cook and you have a spellbinding thing.

    “Seventeen” starts Side 2. It’s pretty obviously a song about being a kid and without much hope of things getting better. As John said of it “It was about being young, having nothing to do, and going through the typical emotions that every seventeen year old goes through…Everybody goes through that period. Unfortunately most English people stay there”. I’ve always thought that on one chorus John sings “I’m a lazy Sid” instead of “lazy sod”, make of that what you will.

    “Anarchy In The UK” is another howl of frustration, albeit containing possibly the worst rhyming couplet in the history of rhyming couplets in the first verses “Antichrist/Anarchyyyst” pairing ! “Submission” was famously written to take the piss out of Malcolm McClaren who wanted them to write a song about bondage/sub-mission so they wrote about a submarine mission instead, based around a riff equal parts “Hello I Love You” and “I Can’t Explain”. “Pretty Vacant” is another powerhouse of a single. When I said earlier our musical landscape would be different without the Pistols, in the same week that Hot Chocolate, Brotherhood of Man, Boney M, Alessi and Rita Coolidge were in the UK Top ten, so were the Sex Pistols. Could you imagine that now ?

    This is the Sex Pistols, this album’s 12 songs and the 4 b-sides from its singles (“I Wanna Be Me”, “Did You No Wrong”, “No Fun” and “Satellite”), 15 originals and one cover version, all released in a period of just 11 months. This band changed EVERYTHING !

    Problems - https://youtu.be/qo2q5idipT4

  3. Bristol University Students Union, 20th October 1988 was my first experience of The Seers. They were opening for The Wonder Stuff that night on the “Groovers On Manoeuvres” UK tour. Once we reached the allotted time for them to be finished, they didn’t, they just launched into another song. Eventually myself and Digby had to literally pull the plugs on them to get them off the stage. OK, it was a home town gig for them but this was not behaviour that would usually endear me to a support band. However The Seers were so bloody good you couldn’t help but like them.

    So what were they like ? Well if you took a dollop of Glam Rock, mixed in a generous helping of Punk Rock and season all that with Garage, Psychedelia and good ol’ rawk ’n’ roll you’ll be on the way to cooking up your own Seers. Frontman Spider was a certifiable nutcase usually to be found somewhere he shouldn’t be, on top of a PA stack, hanging from a lighting rig or crowd surfing. They were veterans, at this point, of releases on four different Indie labels and who knows how many nights on the same Indie club circuit as the Mega City Four, Senseless Things, Neds Atomic Dustbin and others.

    First up “Wild Man” kicks things off with a riff lifted straight from Slade (“How D’You Ride” from “Slayed?” if you must know) speeded up somewhat. “Rub Me Out” rocks just as hard and features a fabulous guitar “chug” (something I particularly enjoy) at around 2 minutes. “One Summer” shows The Seers more Indie/Psych leanings and then we reach the first of their big hitters, “Welcome To Dead Town”…

    “Psych Out” was produced by Pat Collier at his Greenhouse Studios in North-East London, the same producer and studio where The Wonder Stuff recorded their albums “The Eight Legged Groove Machine and “HUP”. Now I don’t recall where I heard this (it may have been from Spider, it may, equally, be utter tosh) but Spider mentioned to Pat Collier that he admired The Wonder Stuff’s sound and wanted to write something in that vein, “oh that’s easy” the producer replied “just write something using G-C and D chords” ! So Spider did and the result was “Welcome To Dead Town”. And honestly I could imagine it as a TWS song, it’s not a million miles (pardon the pun) removed from “A Wish Away” (a song which isn’t based around G-C and D chords incidentally) and it’s a killer song to boot.

    Its not the only one, a couple of tracks later we find “You Keep Me Praying”, a blissed out Psychedelic hymnal featuring some frankly impressive vocal harmonising. Side 2 really gets going with “Sun Is In The Sky” with an intro that’s equal parts “Last Train To Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (if you’re gonna nick an intro Slade and The Monkees are good places to look). Everything comes to an end with the Hanoi Rocks-ish “(All Nite Late Bar) Tequila Drinkin' Blues” replete with a fiddle toward the end! Except that’s not where it ends as the original release came with a bonus 7” that featured a cover of The Open Mind’s garage-punk classic “Magic Potion” and The Seers 1988 single “Lightning Strikes”.

    I’m still in contact with Spider, he buys records from me occasionally and now has a very responsible job in the NHS. On the rare times we meet up one of us will always bring up that plug pulling incident at Bristol Uni.

    Welcome To Dead Town - https://youtu.be/V_lh1t2mHiM?si=J4L11seV9Zc8_Zj1