March 19, 2024

Till Deaf Do Us Part takes very few prisoners. Anyone looking for examples of them stretching away from the basic hard rock fare with the balladic likes of How Does It Feel, Pouk Hill, Far Far Away or One Way Hotel would find very slim pickings among the dozen tracks on this splendid brute… It’s the aural equivalent of playing darts with plugged-in pneumatic drills. While drunk.

The Slade reissue programme from BMG Records rumbles on, now reaching some slightly less widely explored corners of their catalogue, and from very different eras. This pair consist of the double vinyl live album Live At The New Victoria, recorded at the height of the band’s chart fame, and Till Deaf Do Us Part, in 1981, which saw the band building on their 1980 Reading Festival rebirth to plant their flag firmly in the territory of dirty, heavy faux-biker metal with a party edge to it – in fact, there are parts of the latter album not dissimilar to an English Kiss. Let’s look at the live album first though, and take things chronologically…

Recorded, as one might assume, at the New Victoria theatre, Live At The New Victoria finds Slade in 1974, just after the release of their film Slade In Flame, and still at a peak of popularity – though this would begin to wane quite soon. The crowd noise is mixed quite low, but despite that (and possibly the reason for it), it is still possible to discern the screams of overstimulated teenage audience members! It gives the show a real sort of ‘period’ feel, and contrasts in a fascinating way with the dirtier, heavier Slade of six or seven years later, on the back of their far more ‘metal’ Reading Festival set. A few of the big hits are in evidence, with less obvious, but very welcome cuts such as The Bangin’ Man, Thanks For The Memory, How Does It Feel, Far Far Away, OK Yesterday Was Yesterday, Raining In My Champagne and the cracking opener Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing. It’s perhaps surprising to see no sign of Cum On Feel The Noize, or even THAT Christmas song, but the presence of Gudbuy T’ Jane, and a storming Mama Weer All Crazy Now to close the set, certainly make up for it. It’s a set which has one foot in the ‘glam Top Of The Pops‘ camp, and another in the ‘this is a serious rock show’ camp – and to be fair, they manage that difficult balance with some aplomb. Twelve tracks in total are spread over two discs (on the vinyl version), which comes in a nice gatefold with two heavy vinyl discs in an impressive blue and white ‘splatter’ design. The absence of bonus tracks possibly makes this one a more attractive proposition in the vinyl rather than the CD, given the ability to play either. One thing does stand out when looking at the cover photo, and also those in the dressing room on the inner spread – it’s wholly remarkable that four men as proudly and defiantly ugly as Slade managed to get themselves packaged as ‘glam!’ It’s like four bricklayers caught in a glitter factory explosion. Okay, there’s Kiss as another example, but they had to use full-face make-up to do it! One is really left with the impression that the guys were knowingly sending up the whole Bowie/Bolan glitter and glam thing, and doing it magnificently. A great live album.

Fast forward to 1981, and Slade had found themselves thrust back into the limelight unexpectedly after almost splitting up following a period in the UK so fallow that they would quite possibly have ended up coming second in a Slade Lookalike contest. That legendary Reading show changed all that in one fell swoop, the metal hordes embraced them like conquering heroes, and they followed it up with the studio breakthrough album We’ll Bring The House Down – which effectively did just that. Recording a successor album in the same year, and striking while the iron was still practically molten, Slade made a conscious decision about how to follow up what was probably the heaviest album of their career – go even heavier! As a result, Till Deaf Do Us Part takes very few prisoners. Anyone looking for examples of them stretching away from the basic hard rock fare with the balladic likes of How Does It Feel, Pouk Hill, Far Far Away or One Way Hotel would find very slim pickings among the dozen tracks on this splendid brute – but those wanting more stuff along the lines of the previous album’s title track We’ll Bring The House Down or When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’ would find it here in spades. From the opening Rock And Roll Preacher, with its opening (shorn from the single edit) of Noddy in crazed pulpit mode celebrating the marriage of ‘this rrrrrrrrrockkkk and this rrrrrrrrrrollllllllllllll’, it’s obvious that this is Slade without the safety catch on, and going for the jugular. Highlights abound – Lock Up Your Daughters, the slightly more melodic Ruby Red, A Night To Remember and the brilliant metal earworm of That Was No Lady That Was My Wife, and if subtlety is hardly a strong suit in songs such as Knuckle Sandwich Nancy, the title track and It’s Your Body Not Your Mind – well, that was really the whole point. It’s the aural equivalent of playing darts with plugged-in pneumatic drills. While drunk.

There is the odd exception, however, and the chief one here is the unexpectedly brilliant instrumental M’Hat M’Coat (probably a slightly un-Politically Correct pun which would be frowned on today by the officers of the Fun Police). A rare Dave Hill composition, it’s less than two minutes long, but it’s a quite majestic guitar showcase, all pomp and progressive circumstance, and even if it is sort of used as an intro to It’s Your Body Not Your Mind, it’s something I’d have loved Slade to try more of. That’s not the agenda here, however, as the album as whole is a fair sonic representation of the nail in the ear on the cover. It’s not all top class – the title track is a little bit of a shouty pub-rocker in search of a chorus, while Let The Rock Roll Out Of Control is almost as weak as its hopeless title, but it’s a solid hit-rate. If you get the CD version here, you do get a booklet, nice hardcover ‘audiobook’ package and two bonus tracks – but be warned that those aforementioned extra tracks won’t get much replay in most homes. One is the single edit of Rock And Roll Preacher, while the other is the B-Side of the Ruby Red single, the dreadful Funk, Punk And Junk. Basically, it’s the latter, and leaving it off the album was a mercy. If you’re a completist of course, then there it is… otherwise the vinyl version is in black and white splatter vinyl which looks nice.

Slade would pull back a little from this metal precipice with 1983’s excellent if slightly more varied The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome, before shamelessly, if successfully, courting the charts again with the admittedly impressive My Oh My, and the far less so All Join Hands. This caught them a little between two stools, alienating the hardcore rock crowd a little and failing to have the long-term chart legs, and the game was soon up. Just for a moment though, in these very early ’80s times, Slade were suddenly the ‘grown-up’, ‘proper’ rock band you’d always wanted them to be as you got a little older, and it was an undeniably exciting time. Slade albums can be up and down for sure, but they are rarely ever boring. Both of these albums bear that fact out in equally effective, though altogether different, ways. They really don’t make ’em like that any more.