Yeah, he wrote THAT song. And now he's on NME.COM, so that must mean it's Chriiiiistmas.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ already – it still needs to be heard.
I’m very proud of ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. Thirty-six years on and it’s never been deleted from the label’s catalogue! We always knew we had a hit on our hands – even in 1973 – but we never thought it would still be popular in 2009.
I think, in a way, it’s still as valid as it was then. It’s very optimistic, lyrically. You have to remember that in ’73 Britain was going though a recession exactly as it is now. Miners were on strike, bakers were on strike, the TV went off at 10pm because there was no electricity. The country was in turmoil. That’s why I wrote “Look to the future now/It’s only just begun”.
You had to look to the future and hope things were going to get better because they couldn’t get much worse. I think that’s valid now. We could have written and recorded it today.
No Slade, no Oasis.
I know from what people have told me that Noel Gallagher has always rated Slade highly because of songs like ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’. Their version of that was great and it got a whole new generation of fans into us. I remember when they played Maine Road, they invited me to watch them play and did it for an encore.
To see thousands of people of a totally different generation going mad over
a song we’d written 20 years before was wonderful.
Wear your roots on your (record) sleeve.
The misspellings of Slade songtitles started with ‘Coz I Luv You’ in 1971. It was spelt like that because I’d written it that way on the original lyric sheet. It was Black Country, Wolverhampton/Walsall slang like you might find written on the toilet walls or something.
Our manager Chas Chandler saw it and said we should use it and, for the next few years, we spelt all our songs like that. It was a gimmick but it gave us an identity. I noticed people like Prince using the same trick a few years later, but we were the first! The educational authorities were up in arms about it at the time, though.
Don’t believe anyone when they say it’s all about the music.
Back when we had the skinhead look at the end of the 1960s, it was nothing to do with politics and certainly nothing to do with racism. It was just the fashion of the time but the trouble was me and Don Powell [Slade drummer] looked pretty hard dressed that way and no-one wanted to book us.
So, eventually, we had to colour it up a bit. We grew our cropped hair and instead of the bovver boots, we started wearing platform shoes. It became more acceptable then. That’s the look people associate with us most, even though we had several looks over the years. Jimmy [Lea, bassist] hated all the dressing up but me and Dave Hill [guitar] were always looking for a good look onstage.
It was as much a part of Slade as the music. I always thought that if you walked onstage with an image, you grabbed people’s attention before you’d struck a note. If you could put smiles on people’s faces, you were halfway there already. And if you’ve got the music to back it up, then you’re home and dry.
For me, it’s Christmas every day.
I get asked to do loads of Christmas stuff this time of year but the funny thing is that, all through the year, I get sent about 50 or 60 Christmas songs written by other artists who presume that if they got me to sing it for them, they’d have an automatic hit. I get people shouting ‘It’s Christmaaaaasss’ at me all the time, even if it’s Easter. It doesn’t bother me because people are really nice to me and I’m nice back.
There is life after rock’n’roll and sooner or later, you have to find it.
After 25 years or so in Slade, I started to feel I was going a bit stale because I was being offered loads of other stuff on TV and radio and all sorts, but I had to turn them all down because of my band commitments. I loved the onstage bit, but I was getting weary of sitting in dressing rooms or hotels and dealing with delayed planes.
The two hours onstage were great, but the rest I didn’t want to do any more. It was great to have a new challenge and whatever I’ve done – be it radio, TV, writing, whatever – people always seem to respond to it.
You never know when your luck might change.
By the mid-’70s, the only big market Slade hadn’t cracked was America so we made a conscious decision in 1975 to go there and work on it for two solid years. It did us a lot of good as a band, but it didn’t do our careers any good because when we came back to the UK, punk had happened and we were considered old-hat.
We could still tour but we weren’t having hit singles or getting played on the radio. But we got a real break in 1980 when we got asked to play Reading at the last minute and we stole the show. The next week, we had all the front pages and we started to get radio play again.
It came out of the blue at a time when we’d pretty much called it a day. Just goes to show you what can happen in the rock’n’roll business. One gig can turn it all around.