Saturday, September 15, 2012


Guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell were in a British midland-based band called The Vendors around 1964. At about the same time vocalist/guitarist Noddy Holder was in another band, Steve Brett And The Mavericks. Both bands were regulars on the club circuit with respectable followings, offering up repertoires heavy on covers of American RnB and blues-rock. After changing their name to The 'N Betweens, the former Vendors approached Holder to join their band. Holder declined, but Hill and Powell were persistent, and after recruiting bassist Jim Lea, Holder finally threw in his lot with the boys. This new line-up of The 'N Betweens recorded a handful of singles that had some regional success but not much else, despite their continuing popularity as a live act.
Local promoter Roger Allen caught one of the band's shows and alerted Fontana Records A&R man Jack Baverstock. Baverstock was impressed enough to offer the band a deal with Fontana if they changed their name and got a London-based manager.The band agreed and settled on the name Ambrose Slade. At the time the band sported a skinhead-type image, buzzcuts, boots and the like.

The band released a single, "The Shape Of Things To Come", which was cover of a top-selling song from the soundtrack of the film Wild In The Streets. It was a fine rendition of one of the better rock movie songs to come down the pike. Despite this along with a performance of the song on Top Of The Pops, it failed to chart at all.
As it turned out, ex-Animal and Jimi Hendrix manager Chas Chandler spotted the band and offered to manage them provided they lose the skinhead look and start writing their own material. As the band started growing their hair out and putting pen to paper, Chandler got them signed to Polydor Records. Around this time the band shortened their name to simply Slade. Their first album for the label, Play It Loud was released in 1970 and sold poorly. After two years and little commercial impact, Chandler suggested they record ,interestingly enough, a cover version of the Little Richard classic "Get Down And Get With It"

Released in 1971, "Get Down And Get With It" entered the U.K. Top 20, peaking at #16. By this time Slade were well into their more-familiar glam-rock image. Chandler at this point insisted the follow-up single be an original song, prompting Holder and Lea to write a song that would begin both a career-long collaboration and deliberately misspelled titles. This song was "Coz I Luv You"

The band's subsequent appearance on Top Of The Pops helped push the song to #1 in the U.K. charts and gave them their first entry into the U.S Billboard charts. From this point on the band would dominate the U.K. charts for much of the 1970s with its heavy rock sound,glam style and Holder's rough-hewn voice. This formula was put to good use on their second and third #1 hits, "Take Me Bak 'Ome" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now".

The American market was proving to be a tough nut to crack. "Gudbuy T' Jane",released at the end of 1972, peaked at #2 in the U.K. and was a solid hit worldwide, but only got as high as #68 on the U.S. charts. In the early part of 1973, the band accomplished what no other act had since The Beatles with "Get Back" in 1969, when they released a single that went to #1 immediately upon its release. That song was "Cum On Feel The Noize".

Slade relocated to the United States in the mid-70s in an attempt to crack the U.S. market, but were for the most part unsuccessful. After years of futility, their career was revived when they were asked to play the 1980 Reading Festival when Ozzy Osbourne pulled out at the last minute. This raised the band's profile considerably, and by 1984 the band had U.S. hits with "My Oh My" and "Run,Run Away". These new successes were short-lived, however and despite being a large influence on latter-day hard rock bands, ( yes, I'm looking at you,Quiet Riot ) by 1992 the band had split up for good.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Let There Be Horns !

In the realm of all things rockin' there is little point in arguing that the guitar is king. This is both obvious and etched in stone. Period.  What is also just as obvious is that the story doesn't end there...where would we be without drums, bass and yes, keyboards. There is yet another group of instruments that has played a vital part in shaping the genre over the years, and that of course is brass. Trumpets, trombones, the almighty saxophone and others have created some of the most memorable riffs and melodies ever to cause a listener to hum along to a favorite tune. To follow is a short list of five of my favorite horn-driven rockers in no particular order. Feel free to share your own fave horn songs...Here are some of mine.

"Sussudio" by Phil Collins

"Questions 67 and 68" by Chicago

"You Can't Get What you Want(Till You Know What You Want)" by Joe Jackson

"What Is Hip" by Tower Of Power

"Open Sesame" by Kool And The Gang"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Smithereens

How do bands like this slip through the cracks so often? This band is so incredibly underrated, it simply makes no sense. In terms of songwriting and musicianship, The Smithereens have very few peers, yet a cult band they have always been and remain to this day, when by all rights they should be superstars. A rock band from Carteret, New Jersey, guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros, drummer Dennis Diken and vocalist/guitarist Pat DiNizio got together in 1980 armed with a sound and style that took all the best qualities of sixties-era British Invasion and American roots rock and roll and power pop and modernized the lot into an irresistable hard rock sound owed to the fiendishly clever writing and vocal delivery of frontman DiNizio. Add  Babjak's brilliant Rickenbacker-fueled guitar work and the bricks-and -mortar rhythm section of Mesaros and Diken and you have a sonic juggernaut that puts many better-known acts to shame.

While never acheiving the rarified heights of fame they deserved, The Smithereens maintained a loyal cult following. They also found appreciation and respect from other more celebrated rockers such as the Kinks and Graham Parker with whom they collaborated onstage, and Suzanne Vega and The Go Gos singer Belinda Carlisle whom they worked in the studio, as in the case of  "Blue Period" from their third album, 11.

The band were always up front and proud of their influences, of which owed much to the likes of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, while at the same time channeling the spirit of 60s-era Mod acts, notably The Who, John's Children and The Move. Added to this was their Marshall amp-driven wall of sound that had distinctly heavy metal overtones. All of these are prominently on display with a song that was their highest-charting effort at  #38 on the Billboard charts, "A Girl Like You".

The band is still actively touring and has held the same line-up until 2006, when bassist Mike Mesaros left the band to be replaced by Servero Jornacion. Anyone who is a fan of all things rockin' could do much worse than to explore their back catalog and more importantly, catch them live. This is a truly worthy rock band.