326. ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’, by Slade

Baby baby BABY! From one glam rock classic, to another. From the second Noddy Holder hollers that intro, we’re witnessing Slade at the peak of their powers, at the height of their popularity.

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Cum on Feel the Noize, by Slade (their 4th of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 25th February – 25th March 1973

With it, they’re bringing the same attitude as in their previous #1, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’. Noddy lists all the things about which he simply does not give two hoots: So you think I’ve got an evil mind, Well I’ll tell you honey… So you think my singing’s out of time, Well it makes me money… He’s got a funny face, he’s got a dirty mind… Say I’m a scumbag but it’s no disgrace, I ain’t in no hurry…

The message is, in a nutshell, who cares what people think or say about you when you’ve got a chorus like this one coming up: So come on feel the noise, Girls grab the boys, We get wild, wild, wild… At your door! It’s another hit designed for the audience to scream back to them, for football crowds to chant, for kids up and down the land who just want to have a good time. Is it a bit simplistic, a bit repetitive? Maybe. Does it need to be a full four and a half minutes long? Maybe not. But to criticise ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ for these things is to miss the point, and then some.

If you insisted on analysing the lyrics, you might see this as a riposte, a middle finger in the air to the critics that dismiss Slade, or perhaps even as a celebration of their fame. The I just don’t know why…! refrain could be an answer to the question: ‘How are these four bruisers from Wolverhampton suddenly the biggest band in the land?’

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As with any Slade record, Noddy Holder’s vocals sell it. Nobody yells, grunts or hollers like him. Apparently the now famous ‘baby, baby, baby’ intro was stitched on from an earlier soundcheck. As with other Slade records, whip-cracking handclaps come in to take us home. And as with the previous #1, Sweet’s ‘Block Buster!’, I can’t help but feel that an even heavier production, more bass, more oomph, would improve it even further.

When I said that ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ announced Slade as the biggest band in the country, I meant it. The single entered the charts straight in at #1, something that had only happened four times previously: once each for The Beatles and Cliff/The Shadows, and twice for a certain Elvis Presley. That’s the company that Slade were now keeping, and they’ll enter at the top of the charts twice more before the year is out.

You’d have to say that this Slade’s most famous (non-Christmas) hit. A chorus that most people could have a go at, even forty-seven years later. It was covered in the eighties, by Quiet Riot (and taken to the Billboard Top 5), and in the nineties as a ‘B’-side by Oasis, who often included it in their live shows. It lives on. It is a classic. Come on, press play below, and feel the noize…

325. ‘Block Buster!’, by The Sweet

Into 1973 with a hop, skip and a jump, and a question. Can a song that begins with an air-raid siren ever be anything less than brilliant?

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Block Buster!, by The Sweet (their 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 21st January – 25th February 1973

1973 is going to be the year in which glam rock peaks. Scanning down the list of #1s for the coming year, ten of the seventeen chart-toppers are glam. And we kick it all off with a classic of the genre. Air-raid siren, riff, drums, Ah-Aaaaaaah-Ah-Aaaaaaaaah!

You better beware, You better take care, You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair… Night falls, and Buster is about. Who, or what, Buster is is never established, but he’s dangerous. And he’s coming for you… Nobody knows, Where Buster goes, He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose…

The lyrics are dumb, but at the same time, were they delivered less theatrically, they’d be terrifying. There’s every chance that Buster is a serial killer. Does anyone know the way, Did we hear someone say…? And then the best bit of a great record – the squealed: We just haven’t got a clue what to do! Does anyone know the way to block Buster? Probably not. Even the police can’t do anything.

As a title, ‘Block Buster!’ is great. It grabs the attention as much as the air-raid siren. ‘Here’s the blockbuster new record from Sweet, called ‘Block Buster!’ That sounds fun. But then there’s the play on the term in ‘blocking’ the eponymous villain of the piece, the one with the disc-eyes and the taste in dark-haired women. It’s a clever record, underneath all the silliness.

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It’s also a great rocking record. The bluesy riff raised some eyebrows at the time as it sounded a lot like David Bowie’s very recent hit ‘The Jean Genie’. Sweet knew this, considered it, and put their record out anyway. ‘The Jean Genie’ had sat at #2, behind Little Jimmy Osmond of all people, meaning Bowie will have to wait a while longer for his first chart-topper. My only complaint about ‘Block Buster!’ is that the guitar, the drums, the whole production, could have a little more oomph to it. Imagine this tune, played on Marc Bolan’s crunchy Les Paul…

But I’m knit-picking. This is not a quiet record; it has everything thrown into the mix, including the kitchen sink. Screaming, reverbing chords, huge drums, and a frenzied, chanted finish: Buster, Buster, Block Buster! It’s dumb, it’s zany, it’s brilliant. It’s somehow the Sweet’s only #1 single. Their two other 1973 singles peaked at #2, and are even better than ‘Block Buster!’ – the near garage rock of ‘Hell Raiser’ and the brilliant glitter-stomp of ‘The Ballroom Blitz’.

Sweet, like most glam rock acts, saw their chart fortunes plummet around 1976. They reacted to this by going heavier and more experimental. In the eighties, different band members toured with their own versions of the band. Lead singer Brian Connolly struggled with alcohol addiction, and died in 1997. Drummer Mick Tucker died a few years later and bassist Steve Priest passed away just a few weeks ago. We’ll leave them here, on our journey through the years, but, if you’re only going to score one number one single, then you better make it a good one. Like this. 1973 is off to a cracking start!