Saturday Interview: Dave Hill From Slade – Still Feeling The Noise At Christmas
The Slade song, 'Merry Xmas Everybody' is as synonymous with Christmas as turkey and holly. After last year's Christmas shows were postponed, Slade is looking forward to its concerts taking place this month.
Our music writer, Graham Clark, caught up with rock legend Dave Hill, the only original member in the current line up of Slade before they started their December tour.
In the 1970s, you wore some flamboyant outfits on stage. Who designed them?
It was a mixture. I used to design them from ideas I had, and other people helped me. A lot of my stage costumes represented the flamboyance of the times, and they looked great on shows such as Top of the Pops.
There was one I wore on a show called The Metal Nun
, which received a lot of attention at the time.
I have been approached by a fashion historian to write a book on some of the outfits and the stories behind them. Some of our fans might have photos too, especially if they wore copies of the outfits.
Why do you think the song 'Merry Xmas Everybody' is still so popular?
When the song was first released in 1973, the country was going through difficult times, with industrial action, power cuts and the like, and I think the track appealed to the nation as they needed an uplift, just as they do now.
When we released it we were trying to perform an original song but in a rock style.
I miss Top of the Pops
. People used to gather around the television to watch it every Thursday. It was an event – something you do not get these days.
Success was never easy for Slade in America. Did you visit the country much?
We did have a spell in America. We wanted to be as big over there as we were in Europe, but we never replicated that success. A lot of American bands such as Kiss were huge fans of Slade. Aerosmith even said they were influenced by us. By the time we returned to the UK after a long time spent in America, the whole musical scene had changed with punk.
Was playing the Reading Festival a turning point for Slade?
It certainly was! Ozzy Osbourne was due to play Reading, but his band were not ready. We received a phone call asking: “Would you like to play a show to 40,000 people?” Of course, we said yes.
We drove down to the festival in a saloon car but got the wrong car park! I remember the security guy saying we needed to go to the backstage area quickly. At the time, we underestimated the power of the show and how it could resurrect our career. The fans just loved us; it was a wonderful experience. After that one show, we started to have the hits again. I have to say that Reading was a turning point for the band. We went on to play the Monsters of Rock
festival at Donington with AC/DC.
Are you looking forward to playing in front of a live audience again?
We certainly are! It's been a different eighteen months for everyone. The pandemic was the first time in my career when I was unable to work. So I decided to record a solo album. It helped me, mentally, doing something positive. It felt like a plug had been pulled out. I always had stories to tell, places to go, and suddenly it all stopped. The last show the band played was a Butlins 1970s festival weekend!
The purpose of the band is to make people happy. We all need our spirits lifting at the moment, so come on, feel the noise!
Do you still keep in contact with Noddy Holder?
I do. I still see Nod and keep the relationship going. He lives in Manchester, but we still keep that friendship alive. When we meet up, he always asks what I have been up to.
Is it true that 'Merry Xmas Everybody' was recorded in the summertime?
That’s correct. We recorded the song in 1973 whilst visiting New York in 1973 in 100 degrees heat. John Lennon had been recording in the same studio but had cancelled the sessions, so we asked Chas (Chandler), our manager, if we could use the studio time. We spent a week doing it. The building doubled up as an office block as well as housing the studio.
The office workers were asking, “Why are these crazy people singing about Christmas in 100 degrees heat?”
When the song was released, it got such a huge reaction here in the UK from the start. The radio people were straight in and, of course, Top of the Pops
What has been your best memory of being in Slade?
We spent years playing the pubs and clubs; it took a long time to make it. Chas, who became our manager, saw us in a club, and I remember him saying we were like a breath of fresh air. Before us, he had managed acts such as Jimi Hendrix. Chas said we needed to write our own songs, which was some of the best advice we received.
We started recording and getting our act together. Some of the best memories are our early success, such as having our first hit with 'Get Down and Get With It', then our first number one with 'Coz I Luv You'. They were special times.
Did you enjoy all the travelling the band did?
There's nowhere I would not return to. I like the Scandinavian countries; particularly Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
I also like Switzerland but I love my own country because that's where Slade first found success.
I liked going to Russia; we made so many friends. It does not matter where you travel because music speaks across the world. In Russia, they might not have understood the lyrics, but they understood the spirit of the songs.
I still enjoy doing what I do; it's still a huge passion and does not feel like a job. Come along to see one of the shows; I am sure you will enjoy yourself.
Slade play the following Northern shows:
– The Warehouse, Leeds
– O2 Ritz, Manchester
– Picturedrome, Holmfirth
– O2 Academy, Newcastle