November 23, 2022

To anyone who wasn’t there at the time (or wasn’t in the right age group), it is hard to describe just what a big, and thrilling, deal the Sladest compilation was when it appeared in 1973.

The Slade coloured/patterned vinyl reissue series takes a turn into compilation territory, with the release of the seminal Sladest, along with a couple of seasonal efforts given the time of year. Following the run of reissues up to Slade In Flame, it might have been expected that the likes of Nobody’s Fools and Whatever Happened To… might have been next, but if they are upcoming they have, for the moment, been parked. And it must be said that Sladest, most certainly, is a most welcome addition. Why? Well, read on…

To anyone who wasn’t there at the time (or wasn’t in the right age group), it is hard to describe just what a big, and thrilling, deal the Sladest compilation was when it appeared in 1973. A close to definitive roundup of Slade’s key output up to that time, when they were at the very peak of their powers having gone straight in the charts at Number One with both Cum On Feel The Noize and the slightly lesser Skweeze Me Pleeze Me. Note that this was before THAT Christmas hit came out, and it can easily be forgotten that Slade were the biggest thing since sliced bread to a generation of kids already before that ubiquitous ‘Iiiiits Chriiiiistmas!!’ invaded our national consciousness.

There was more to it as a schoolboy in 1973, however. Thirty years before the ‘Oasis v Blur’ thing, that particular spurious rivalry was absolutely nothing compared to Slade v T Rex from about 1972-1974. I know, because from 1972 I was firmly in the T Rex camp, being a massive Bolan fan – and it was actually difficult to admit you liked your ‘opponents’ in any way – it was like supporting a football team, crazy as that sounds now. Like many others, I harboured a sneaking, and grudging, respect for some of Slade’s hits – I had bought the Gudbuy T’Jane and Cum On Feel The Noize singles on the quiet – but not enough to ‘break cover’ and enter No Man’s Land with a white flag of truce. That changed when someone lent me a copy of Sladest one day. I was hooked, and I bought the album myself as soon as I could afford it, and simply devoured it.

Not only did the 14 tracks include all of the ‘big hits’, such as Coz I Luv You, Look What You Dun, Take Me Bak Ome and Mama Weer All Crazee Now, as well as the aforementioned chart-toppers, but it also went right back through the band’s breakthrough hit Get Down And Get With It to the very early single release Wild Winds Are Blowing. Even more than that, there were ‘deep cuts’ which you would never know unless you owned their albums (and what schoolkid could afford all of those at age 12 or 13??). There were more early nuggets Shape Of Things To Come and Know Who You Are, both of which displayed the roots of what was ahead. There was the powerfully nostalgic Pouk Hill, the brilliantly sardonic look at the fickle nature of fame Look At Last Nite and, best of all, the wonderfully creepy and mysterious One Way Hotel – still one of my very favourite Slade tracks. In addition to that, there was a gatefold sleeve which contained a booklet filled with the history of the band, a short note about each of the tracks and some marvellous photos. I must have read that booklet front to back countless times as I pored over it while listening, and it wasn’t long before my ‘No Man’s Land’ moment came. I went into school one morning, went over to the Slade crowd, and basically said ‘Look guys, I still love Bolan and T Rex, but Sladest is just so cool, I have to say I’m into both bands!’ – and I’m not sure if it’s surprising looking back now that a couple of them said ‘You know what, me too!’. Turned out some of the Slade fans loved Electric Warrior or The Slider as much as I’d taken to Sladest!

Of course, with this depth of nostalgia invested in something it’s very hard to be impartial – but I can say, hand on heart, that this stuff still sounds great. And while I have cooled on a couple of tracks, such as the rather irritating violin on Coz I Luv You or the seaside-postcard novelty of Skweeze Me Pleeze Me, they are still quality singles compared to most other competition. Sadly, the vinyl reissue doesn’t have the original gatefold sleeve, but that’s okay because the booklet is fully reproduced and included, including the front and back inner and outer gatefold cover images, so everything is present and correct. And I still think the booklet is cool, 50 years on! The vinyl itself is amazing – a semi-transparent ‘splatter’ design in various shades of white and blue which is as eye-catching as it is appealing. A five-star release in every way – save, perhaps, for that gatefold, which would still have been the perfect cherry on the cake…

In addition, and going forward over a decade, we have a very different era of Slade, and a very different kind of album, in the shape of 1985’s Crackers (subtitled The Christmas Party Album). Now, with that title, along with a cover image of Noddy Holder blowing up a balloon surrounded by tinsel and the like, it’s pretty clear what territory we’re in, and it’s not one for the rock cognoscenti exactly. However, there is more to this dodgy-looking Christmas Party album than one might expect from the first fearful glance at the cover. Yes, it’s all party-themed, but there is plenty of new music here. There are the expected oldies rounded up (Yes, THAT one), and 1980s singles like My Oh My and Run Runaway, but there are also re-recordings of some oldies (Get Down And Get With It and a surprisingly good crack at Cum On Feel The Noize) as well as some quite unexpected and intriguing covers. Now right away you can skip the ghastly Let’s Dance, which has never sounded good played by anyone, ever, nobody needs Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and you’ve probably already encountered the band’s assault on Okey Cokey. But elsewhere there’s much to enjoy. We’ll Bring The House Down is still a fine rock song, Hi Ho Silver Lining is always good fun whatever Jeff Beck might say about it (and Slade were born to cover it), and there is a long-forgotten song, new at the time, which was a contemporary single, called Do You Believe In Miracles. Best of all, once in your life, you have to hear Slade cover Do They Know It’s Christmas. Yes, the Band Aid song. It’s that kind of album, and if you put it on at Christmas when everybody has had a few, there are still far worse party soundtracks to be had. It comes in a transparent and smokey white vinyl as well which, while not as impressive as the Sladest disc, is nothing if not seasonally appropriate, and the smokey effect is really rather clever.

There is a third release in this batch, though it is something of an outlying effort, being a four-track, 12-inch single of Merry Xmas Everybody. I’m not quite sure who this one is aimed at, as Slade collectors aren’t likely to be as interested, and in terms of the music – well, when I say the other three tracks consist of Let’s Dance, Okey Cokey and a medley of Auld Lang Syne and You’ll Never Walk Alone, that says all it needs to! The vinyl this time is a grey and white marble, which is not so much ‘snow’ as ‘slush’, which I guess is probably pretty appropriate for Christmas in the band’s Midlands home town of Wolverhampton if nothing else!

Clearly, the winner here from both a collectable and a musical quality is Sladest all day long. but there is a certain charm, and more good music than you might expect, about Crackers. The 12-inch single is definitely the stocking filler here, but it has a nice vintage shot of the band on the cover at least, and if you are someone who wants everything Slade have put out, the ‘slush-pattern’ vinyl is at least unusual! Now, excuse me while I go back and listen to One Way Hotel and Look At Last Nite and leaf through that Sladest booklet again… it’s time to Party Like It’s 1973, and why not! There’s no school in the morning…