341. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, by Slade

OK everyone. On three. A-one, two… It’s CHRRRIIISSTTTMMAAAAASSSSSS!

Merry Xmas Everybody, by Slade (their 6th and final #1)

5 weeks, from 9th December 1973 – 13th January 1974

Yep, despite me sitting down to write this in real world October; our journey through the charts has us at Christmas 1973. Slade, the biggest band in the land have written an instant festive classic… Was there any way this wasn’t going to smash straight in at the top of the charts?

For the first time ever, two consecutive #1s have entered at the very top. (This won’t happen again until 1989!) All three of Slade’s chart-topping discs this year have debuted there. And they’ve saved their biggest one for last. The one that sold half a million copies in its first week on sale. Are you hanging up the stocking on your wall, It’s the time that every Santa has a ball…

To be honest, this song long since became muzak; I know all the words but never actually pay attention to them. Sitting down now and concentrating, you notice some clever touches. The ‘fairies’ sobering Santa up (pretty sure they’d be elves, but who am I to disagree with Slade?), the hints to the nativity and having room to spare inside. And of course, granny telling you that the old songs are the best but, presumably after a sherry or three, she’s up and rock ‘n’ rolling with the rest…

Musically, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ (the ‘s’ in Xmas should technically be back to front; but Microsoft Word cannot cope with Slade’s anarchic handwriting) sounds a bit subdued next to Slade’s more raucous earlier hits, ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’, ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ and the like. Maybe they dialled it back a bit, to ensure that it appealed to the widest possible audience; but it means it lacks a little something. It does mean, though, that we get some nice Beatlesy backing vocals and the brilliant What will your daddy do when he sees your momma kissing Santa Claus, a-ha…. bridge. Apparently Holder had written it in the sixties, long before Slade existed, which may explain the retro sound.

It must have sounded great when it first came out. Most Christmas standards up to then were either novelties, hymns or classics sung by Bing Crosby. But can anyone born in the UK, inside the last fifty years, actually remember the first time they heard this song? It’s just there. Each and every Christmas, on a loop. This, and the other big Christmas hit that was released in 1973, kicked off the idea of the Christmas #1 single, meaning that we perhaps have this to blame for Cliff’s Christmas efforts, Mr. Blobby, Bob the Builder, and all the horrible X-Factor winners’ singles… Dammit Slade, what did you do??

I could happily never hear this song again. It is Slade’s least enjoyable #1, and that’s not just because it’s a Christmas song. After this they turned away from commercial glam-pop and went heavier. The hits that immediately followed – ‘Everyday’, ‘The Bangin’ Man’ and ‘Far, Far Away’ – are for my money ten times better than this one. But hey ho.

Plus, the record I alluded to earlier, the other Christmas hit by a glam rock band from 1973, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ is a better song, and one that I can still stomach when it starts coming on in the supermarket right about, hmmm, now. It only made #4. But. I love Slade, and don’t want to end my final post on them with a whimper. It’s lucky, then, that the band didn’t let this one end without one final moment of brilliance. It’s now pretty much enshrined in British law that Christmas hasn’t officially started until Noddy Holder has announced it at the top of his voice.

How much do Slade make from this record? About half a million pounds a year, it’s estimated. It was re-released in the early eighties, then again in the late nineties, and has made the charts every year since 2006 thanks to downloads and streaming. Last year, it reached #19. In a month or so it will start its latest ascent up the charts. It is a song that will probably outlive each and every one of you reading this. Slade’s legacy, for better or worse…

Enjoy (almost) all the #1s from 1973, and beyond, before we launch headfirst into ’74…

333. ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’, by Slade

Slade are back, for their fifth number one single in a year and a half, with an intro that goes: Slade, slade, slade, slade, sladesladesladesladeslade…

Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, by Slade (their 5th of six #1s)

3 weeks, from 24th June – 15th July 1973

If you were being kind you’d say it was Slade at their Sladest; if you weren’t you’d say it was Slade by numbers. The intro sounds like a blend of ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’’s, while the lyrics reference ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’. In fact, the girl in this one might just be the same as featured in that earlier hit…

You got rude talk, You got one walk, All your jokes are blue… She’s a wild one. And Noddy’s quite confident that he can show her the way: You know how to please me, Woah-oah, You’re learnin’ it easy, Woah-oah… If you tune in and listen to the lyrics,  they range from the raunchy – a lot of squeezing and pleasing – to the fairly dubious: When a girl’s meaning yes, She says no…

I mean, I like Slade and I like this. If you like Slade then it’s impossible to truly dislike ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’ because it is the band at the height of their chart-humping, biggest-in-the-land phase. This, like ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ entered the charts at #1, on name alone, really, in a manner not seen before and not seen again for a decade. And it is Slade treading water, but I have an image in my mind of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea bashing out the lyrics in five minutes, saying ‘Fuck it, that’ll do’, and ordering another pint. And I like it…

There is no way on earth that this single needs to be four and a half minutes long, though. Ten years ago, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ ran that long and it was revolutionary. Now it’s run of the mill. Maybe Slade were so popular that the record label were too scared to edit them down? They knew this would be a massive hit in any form. Maybe Slade themselves were so popular that they had become afraid to experiment…?

And maybe that’s true, because they were about to go slightly experimental, with ‘Slade in Flame’, and the music would be better, but the #1s would dry up. Suddenly glam rock as a whole would be up… But not yet. They have one final #1 single to come. Their best known one. Their retirement plan…

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…

319. ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, by Slade

Slade’s third chart-topper in well under a year – a mean feat that not many other artists can boast of. And it enters with all the swagger you’d expect from a band well on their way to being the biggest in the land. As Noddy sums it up in the intro: Awooooooooo!

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Mama Weer All Crazee Now, by Slade (their 3rd of six #1s)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th September 1972

The riff could never be described as sophisticated, or revolutionary, but it’s perfect in its own way. A riff that does the DJ’s job for him, by announcing ‘Here’s the latest single from Slade…’ Meanwhile the drums are deep and beefy and the bass kicks. We’re all set up for a good time.

Similarly, the lyrics aren’t going to change the world; but they are a statement of intent. Holder is at his sneery, husky best as he announces: I don’t want to, Drink my whisky like you do… The kids are going to do things their own way. I don’t need to, Spend my money but still do… Did someone say ‘teenage rebellion?’ Think ‘Son of My Father’, but in the simplest, Sladest terms.

I said mama, But we’re all crazy now… the band hollers as mum bangs on the bedroom door, wondering what this noise is. A year so ago, the top of the charts was full of easy-on-the-ears, grown-up pop – ‘I’m Still Waiting’ and ‘Woodstock’. But 1972 has seen the #1 spot reclaimed by the kids: teeny boppers and glam rockers. It’s like the fifties all over again, but with more make-up.

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Is ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ a little basic? Probably, but that’s the point. It’s a song about having nothing but a good time. Another drop now, come on… I want the lot now, come on… About being young and reckless and not giving two shits. Jim Lea, the bassist, was inspired to write it after looking out on Wembley Arena after the band had played a gig, and surveying a hall full of broken seats and empty bottles. Plus he wanted a chorus – a chant, even – that the audience could sing back to them at full volume.

The record ends with that line repeated over and over, until it’s reduced to a stutter: Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-woooooooo! Glorious nonsense. (Isn’t that the perfect description for glam rock?) Actually, I’ve just had an idea, a way of categorising the glam rock acts of the early seventies, using British supermarkets as gradients (Apologies to any non-British readers who will have no idea what I’m on about, please skip ahead if you like…) If Bowie was Harrod’s Glam, then T. Rex were Waitrose Glam. Slade? Slade were Tesco glam: no frills and popular across the land. And LIDL Glam? That was Mud.

Anyway, nothing wrong with being the Tesco of glam. Whenever I’m back in the UK, Tesco’s one of the first places I go. And it didn’t hold Slade back any. ‘Mama…’ was their 3rd of six #1s, and the last not to enter at the top of the charts. Very, very few records entered at #1 before the mid-nineties. Slade will go on to do it three times. Enjoy the video below, then, as the sound of a band just about to go stratospheric…

315. ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’, by Slade

As great as our last chart-topper ‘Vincent’ was, you wouldn’t want to listen to it every day. Thank God, then, for Slade, getting us back into a hard-rocking, glam-boogying groove.

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Take Me Back ‘Ome, by Slade (their 2nd of six #1s)

1 week, from 25th June – 2nd July 1972

Their first number one, ‘Coz I Luv You’, was great but, as I noted at the time, it didn’t sound like the Slade that would go on to grab the charts by the balls. Their second chart-topper, though, sounds 100% like Slade. We’ve got Noddy hollering, a nasty riff, and some

Imagine the scene: closing time at a pub in Wolverhampton. Last orders, in more ways than one. Noddy needs a girl for the night, so he gets a wooing. Came up to you one night, Noticed the look in your eyes, Saw you was on your own, And it was alright… He has a way with words to rival Mungo Jerry and their attempts on ‘Baby Jump’: You and your bottle of brandy, Both of you smell the same… Is she really as rough as she sounds, or is he just a brute? Either way, I love the complete and utter lack of glamour.

So take me back home, Take me back home, And we can find plenty to do, And that will be alright… It’s an unsophisticated song. The hook is simply Holder drawing out his ‘all-rights’ in a sneery way. But, it’s great. I kept thinking that the riff sounded familiar, and then I realised that it simply sounds like 50% of Oasis’s mid-nineties output. (They always get the Beatles comparisons, but to me they ripped Slade off just as much. Anyway, more on Oasis in twenty years or so.)

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By the second verse, the handclaps have turned into terrifying horse-whips, increasing the glam-stop even further. And by the third verse, the girl’s boyfriend, who’s twice the size of Noddy, has turned up. I didn’t stay around to say goodnight… But it was alright… We fade out with Holder trying to punch through brick walls with his voice, then doing his best Marc Bolan stutter.

So Slade are a-go. Although I’d rank ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ more alongside the Stones’ bluesy numbers from the sixties, ‘Honky Tonk Women’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and the like, than  the pure glam that was to come. Few #1s have been as low-down and dirty as this. But, I like that this came just two weeks after T. Rex’s final chart-topper, ‘Metal Guru’, and that it feels like a passing of the glam-rock flame. Slade were now poised to become the biggest band in the country, and we’ll hear a lot more from them in the next year and a half.

306. ‘Coz I Luv You’, by Slade

Without wanting to repeat myself… Having covered over three hundred #1s now, and I’ve come to realise the importance of a song’s intro. Sometimes, as a casual listener, they pass you by. But when you’re here to write about the song, when you’re poised to commit your first impressions to paper, the intro is everything.

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Coz I Luv You, by Slade (their 1st of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 7th November – 5th December 1971

All of which is me building up to the fact that ‘Coz I Luv You’ has a great intro. In stereo, it sounds like someone in chunky boots, stomping down a corridor. Then the music, which can only be described as ‘menacing’. It’s Slade, Britain’s most successful glam-rock act, but this isn’t a very ‘glam’ record. Noddy Holder’s vocals start off light, and sneering: I won’t laugh at you, When you boo-hoo-hoo, Cause I love you…

Then a big beefy bass comes in, as Holder’s voice grows fuller: I just like the things you do, Don’t you change the things you do… You can draw a couple of similarities between this and the previous number one, Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ / ‘Reason to Believe’. Both songs are concerned with the singer being in love with a pretty terrible sounding woman. In ‘Coz I Luv You’: You make me out a clown, And you put me down… I still love you…

The other is the violin – though the country version from ‘Reason…’ has been distorted into an electric monster here, making the solo sound like an Irish jig from the bowels of hell. Apparently, Jim Lea – who played the violin on it – thinks the song sounds ‘soft’ and ‘namby-pamby’… Which begs the question: what the hell would he classify as ‘hard’? As the song fades out with the stomping and the violin, and some added shouting for good measure, it sounds like a gang of hooligans striding home from the pub, ready for their next punch-up.

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I like this song, and I love Slade, but it stands out because it doesn’t really sound like the ‘Slade’ everyone knows. By their next number one they will, though. Like T. Rex, Slade had been around long before glam. Unlike T. Rex, they’d spent the final years of the sixties playing soul and Motown covers and sporting skinheads. Maybe ‘Coz I Luv You’ represents the last gasp of the ‘old’ Slade (Ambrose Slade, as they were called), before they sold their souls to glam. Though even at their peak, when they were wearing sparkly hats, platform shoes and cravats, I think don’t think they could ever quite mascara-out being four bruisers from Wolverhampton.

By the end, Holder’s voice has transformed completely, as he bellows out the closing lines. There’s another similarity to Rod Stewart – two of rock’s throatiest voices topping the charts in a row. One thing that is very Slade, and that’s already here in all its glory, is their shortened song titles. I used to think they looked crazily modern, using text-speak in the early seventies, when mobile phones were the stuff of science-fiction, but apparently it was an attempt to mimic the Birmingham/Black County dialect.

So, there we have it. This is already the second-last #1 of 1971 – it feels like we’ve raced through the year – welcoming some huge names: T. Rex, Rod, Slade… Middle of the Road… Like I said, and as I’m not sure came through from the write-up, I really like this song. It just sounds so belligerent, so menacing, so not #1-on-the-pop-charts material at all…