SAY WHAT you like about Slade — you only have to hear a couple of seconds or catch the briefest glimpse, and there's no doubt who it is.
They looked and sounded so unique that forty years on from their Glam Rock peak, they remain embedded in our consciousness, a national treasure forged right here in the Black Country.
Last week drummer Don Powell, now a resident of Denmark, was back in his old stomping ground to launch his autobiography, in which he lifts the lid on life in a band during the golden age of rock music, and he gave the Bugle a sneak preview of what readers can expect.
The Bilston-born tub thumper was talked into the book by his wife Hanne, but it's been quite a task to cram an entire life and career between those covers.
"I kept diaries for all those years," Don explained. "Me and Hanne were sat reading them one night, and we were killing ourselves laughing at some of the escapades, some of the things we got up to in the band.
"Then she said, you should put them all in a book. Well I'm no writer, so I thought who could help me do it? I'd done a few interviews in Denmark with Lise Lyng Falkenberg, and she'd done similar things with other bands, so I asked her what she thought, and she was up for it straight away.
"It's taken six years to do. Lise went round and interviewed a lot of people from my past: Gene Simmons from Kiss, Francis Rossi from Status Quo, who we'd toured with in the ’70s. And she spent a lot of time obviously with me and my diaries."
Which suggests that much of the detail will be fresh and undimmed by the passage of time ...
"I haven't hidden anything," Don asserts. "When you first start, you naturally hold back a bit. But Lise said 'Come on, open up to me, warts and all. People will know if you've left things out.'”
Though Slade in their various guises had been together since the late '60s, their high point was forty years ago this year, when they were all over the radio and TV at home, and drawing huge audiences in the US.
"We played in Philadelphia, in a huge arena, and were top of the bill. Supporting us were The Eagles, Steely Dan, and Lou Reed. I just wish I had the poster to prove it. I remember standing there at the side of the stage thinking ... we've got to go on after these!
"It was good touring the States, but it never really happened for us. We could sell out Madison Square Gardens, but we could not sell a record. Too heavy for the AM stations but not quite hip enough for the FM stations, so we fell right down the middle.
"But that was our big year, 1973. We had three records go to number one on their first day of release in the same year. Come On Feel The Noize, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me, and the Christmas Record — That Record."
Christmas, even four decades on, wouldn't be the same without That Record, but the circumstances couldn't have been less festive, Don recalls.
"That particular year, everything was happening so fast for us, and we were on a world tour at the time, in America. We had a week off and Nod and Jim (Holder and Lea, the band's main songwriters) had written this song. Our manager Chas Chandler heard it and said 'Right, in the studio. Now!'
"It was in the summer of 73 I'll always remember it, it was 100 degrees in New York in a heat wave. When we'd finished it we weren't sure about releasing it. But Chas said 'I don't care what you say, this is coming out.'
"And the rest is history. In a way it's frustrating because we had 24 hits and everybody remembers us for that one. I'm not knocking it, it's fantastic the way it's taken hold. It's just that we had 23 other hits. It went gold on the first day of release, and now it's out every year. A lot of the countries that we go to now, it's in the contract that we have to play it, be it in the middle of the summer or what! We did it once at Reading Festival, and we started the song but the crowd took over, they just sang it for us. I'm proud of it."
1973 was notable for another reason. At the peak of their powers, with yet another single lodged at number one in the British charts, Slade were almost finished in one sudden, shocking moment, when Don's Bentley was involved in an horrific smash in Wolverhampton. His girlfriend Angela Morris was killed, and Don, having gone through the windscreen, was in a coma for six days. It wasn't easy to talk about in the book; not least because his memory was wiped clean by the trauma.
"It's very strange when people ask me about it," Don says. "Because I don't remember it. It happened on the Compton Road, by the school, and my car took the wall out. Yet I don't have any memory of it whatsoever. I was still living near there for a few years after, and I used to drive by every day, and there was nothing, no memory of what had happened at all."
Though there is very little physical evidence of his injuries, some of the effects of the crash are with him to this day.
"I have no sense of smell or taste. I went through the windscreen, smashed my face and severed all the nerves. Smashed all my teeth, broke my nose, and got a big scar on my head. I still wake up some mornings and I haven't got a clue where I am. It doesn't happen every day, but if we're on tour, every day it's a different room, and I wake up and there's nothing I recognise. I think 'Where the hell am I?' And I have to look in my diary. But I'm one of the luckiest guys going, to have survived."
The book delves into another dark period in Don's life, when, with the band's most successful years behind him, he began to rely on drink. It wasn't helped by the fact that his neighbour and drinking partner was none other than fellow Midlander Ozzy Osbourne, who by then was adjusting to life after Black Sabbath. Don is now sober and remarkably unscathed, and with hindsight, he can now smile at some of his friend's escapades.
"I lived about a hundred yards from a bar, in London, and Ozzy and his wife Sharon lived about a hundred yards the other side of it, so we used to meet in the middle — at about ten, ten-thirty every morning. The owner, Arthur, used to let us in.
"I was in there the one day about lunch time and Ozzy was nowhere to be seen. Arthur said 'That's strange, he's late. I can't understand it.'
"And I said 'Well I'm not gonna call him, in case Sharon picks the phone up.' Many a time she was hanging out the bedroom window with a shotgun.
“About ten minutes later, Arthur nodded towards the door, biting his lip. And there was Ozzy, standing there with a dress on. It turned out Sharon had hidden all his clothes so he couldn't leave the house for a drink, so he put one of her dresses on and came out anyway.
"When you watch the Osbournes on the telly, there's no acting there. That's exactly the way he is. You go out with him and your sides are aching with laughter. He doesn't know how funny he is. And you never know what he's going to do next."
Though the original line-up of Slade had their last blast in the 1990s, Don and the inimitable Dave Hill continue to tour with their own version of Slade. Noddy Holder is still in the public eye, with his radio shows and TV appearances, and bassist Jim Lea, while living a quieter life, is still just up the road in Albrighton. But while fans still hope to see the famous four back together, however briefly, Don says it won't happen.
"We went through a lot together, but when we didn't crack America, I think that knocked the life out of us. We were massive all over the rest of the world, and it just evaded us. I'd love it if we did, but only me and Dave are into it now.
"But we're all still friends, and if they don't want to do it any more, that's fine. I see Nod quite regularly; a few times a year a big gang of us have lunch in a restaurant in London, we all get together and have a great time, we always have a good laugh. I haven't seen Jim for a while, but you can't take all those years away, and that affection will never go."
Don Powell's autobiography Look Wot I Dun, is out now, published by Omnibus, and available from all major booksellers.
Did you see Slade in their prime? Do you remember Don from school in Bilston? Write in, phone, or email us at gjones@blackcountrybugle .co.uk. — or leave a comment on our website.