(Mark Dean Interviews):  JIM LEA (formerly of SLADE)

(Mark Dean Interviews): JIM LEA (formerly of SLADE)

Contributor’s Note: Recently, BMG proudly released Slade’s Cum On Feel The Hitz, a superlative and comprehensive collection of Slade singles from 1971 to 1991. Cum On Feel The Hitz  is released as a  double CD and a 2LP collection: the CD comprises 43 singles, while the double vinyl features 24 singles. Cum On Feel The Hitz includes all six of their UK Number one singles: “Coz I Luv You”, “Take Me Bak ‘Ome”, ”Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”,Skweeze Me Pleeze Me“ and “Merry Xmas Everybody”  and a total of 16 Top 10 singles.

The affection for Slade’s music and attitude remains undimmed today, as 1973’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” has gone on to become Britain’s best loved Christmas song.

Formed in Wolverhampton in 1966, Slade’s chart career spanned 3 decades. Slade were unstoppable throughout the seventies becoming one of Europe’s biggest bands, releasing 6 smash hit albums, including three No-1’s, and their hit singles are synonymous with the era. The sensational songwriting partnership of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea provided a soundtrack to the Glam Generation and with a run of 17 consecutive Top 20 singles between 1971 and 1976, no other act of the period experienced such success.In the eighties Slade enjoyed a renaissance, buoyed by a spectacular appearance at the Reading Festival in 1980, their hits included “My oh My” , which reached number 2 in 1983 and a year later with “Run Run Away”, cementing their legacy as one of the UK’s greatest bands.  The iconic Slade are one of the most exciting bands to ever come out of Great Britain and this collection serves as testament to the high quality of Slade’s unique and distinctive talent. 

I had the opportunity to chat to Jim Lea, one of the four original  members of the band,who also co-wrote many of those hit songs for Madness To Creation.  Fans can find Slade at the following locations:

www.facebook.com/OfficialSladeBand

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Good morning, Jim. How are you?

Jim Lea -Slade:  Oh, you’re miles away.  Oh, you’re Scottish.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Northern Irish.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Oh, Northern Irish.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Yeah.  How are you doing these days?  How is your health?

Jim Lea -Slade:  My health? Yeah, I’m cured apparently.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Right, that’s good.

Jim Lea -Slade:  It’s a bit of a dangerous word to use because with cancer, you know what happens, it comes back. But they all … still using the word cure.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Oh, that’s good.

Jim Lea -Slade: But I’m not all that convinced  into myself, but there you are.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  And you’ve got another compilation, which is about to be released. I just wondered, given these types of compilations, are the band actively involved in terms of track selection, how it looks, what photographs are used in terms of what constitutes the finished/final product,

Jim Lea -Slade:  No. Well, we were involved in the photographs, yeah, but I must admit … So what they’ve done is to take all the singles and that’s why they’re calling it The Best Of. But when I looked at it, I was overwhelmed with it, and especially the chart success. Oh, my God. I was like, “Wow, look at this.” It was very impressive. It impressed me and I was involved in it. So it’s really great to be looking at something like that. I think it’d be different if I’m listening to it, but anyway.  Of course, trends change. Computerization has come in since Slade days. It’s a whole different ball game now. So it’s all just rough-and-ready, really. You can’t compare it to what we might have done in this day and age. But when I looked at it, I was taken aback by it, I have to say. ..Chart positions as well.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Regarding your time in the band, then. Obviously, you said now that you view it positively, despite how it ended. How do you feel about the subsequent period? Do you think that maybe the fact that there were two different lineups of the band going out at one time, do you think that has impacted on the band’s reputation, or is it just a separate issue completely?

Jim Lea -Slade:  Well, I can’t answer that really, because I don’t know. Obviously, people would go and see Slade II, Dave Hill and Don’s Slade. I think the first band was very good, and had good musicians. I don’t know, I didn’t really hear anything about it after that. But it could be a bit like a Reading Festival. Do you know about when we played the Reading Festival in 1980?

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  You can share that story with me. Obviously, it’s going to be better because it’s coming personally, rather than from what I read. Do you want to share that? Go ahead.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Yes. Well, you probably know. It was the new age of … punk was being finished off by the new wave of heavy metal, it was called, in 1980. The Reading Festival wasn’t punk bands, it was rock. So Ozzy had been separated from Black Sabbath and he formed a band, with Randy Rhoads. But when the time came, he struggled. I mean, we’re friends with Ozzy, and we went to have curries and so on and so forth, and Sharon and the kids. So I was in the office when the phone call came from Rod MacSween from ITB booking talent. He said, “We’ve got a problem. Ozzy doesn’t feel ready to go on.” They said, “Well, they won’t get a replacement.” He said, “Well actually [inaudible 00:06:08] of Slade.” So I was in the office when the phone call came in and Chas Chandler, our manager, was talking on the phone. I knew he was talking about Reading, I knew he was talking about our band. And he said, “They’ll play any time of day, any length of time, you just tell us what to do. We will be there.” 

Now in this case, we were our own Slade II. We got there and people looked at us as if we were … if we’d been beamed down from the Star Trek Enterprise. So we were walking down the road and I just felt it was a really good vibe. People were really pleased to see us, and it was the talk of the whole festival, Slade was walking down. We couldn’t drive in because we haven’t got a backstage pass because it was all last minute. So they wouldn’t let us in. Well, not them, it was a bloke at a tiny little wooden fence, and he said, “Look at this, you can’t come past this fence. That’s my job.” He said, “No pass. Nobody comes past the fence.” I just laid into him, and I said, “Don’t be ridiculous.” I said, “Look, we’re replacing Ozzy Osbourne, that’s why. You look at your list because you’ll see Ozzy Osbourne. We are here in place of him. Let us otherwise be it on your head. They’ll be a great big gap, audience watching, nothing happening, all because of you won’t let us in.” So that was that. 

We went in and so we were walking, it was like walking into Dodge City. It was a hot day, there was dust in the air, there were other cars coming behind us. Whitesnake, and I remember Budgie was in a big car as well. So as we walked down the road, people were just stopping and staring as if … imagine those Clint Eastwood films when he rides into town. It was exactly like that.

So when we got there, you can just tell there was a good vibe for us. As I said, we now in our way were our own Slade II. We were now rock and roll Slade. We weren’t doing any pop songs anymore. So we went on stage and it was just fantastic. It was absolutely brilliant. We stole the festival, there was no doubt about it. When we came off, Jack Barry, who ran the Marquee and owned the Marquee, he was always involved with the Reading Festivals, and the next day he was on the phone to our management, Chas Chandler. He said, “I’m offering Slade headlining next year, will they come and do it?” So that’s pretty conclusive, isn’t it?

 

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  It is indeed. You left Slade … you left the band back in 1992 after obviously Noddy left as well. I just wondered if you subsequently … I note that you tried different things career-wise after that. Was it difficult to reestablish yourself as a solo artist, given what you’d already achieved?

Jim Lea -Slade:   I seemed to be greeted with open arms. By the way, is this for radio or …

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  No, this is going to be … I’ll write it down, transcribe it up later. It’s for an online website.

Jim Lea -Slade:  I got you. Okay. So yes, it was a bit strange because I had, as a solo artist, no profile whatsoever. I mean, as far as the music industry was concerned, I didn’t exist. But we put all that right and I brought out this album, Therapy, and the reviews were all five stars. It was taken to the Midem music festival, in … Well it’s not a festival. It’s a business thing, Midem, and all the music industry people meet up and they trade, I’ll give you this if you’ll give me that. It went there and every single territory in the world took it, Therapy album. I was absolutely shocked. The record company guy said he’d never had a reaction like it ever, and his record company’s been going for about 38 years. I mean, even EM , I took his word for it, he’s been around a long time. He said, “Every single territory took it.” He said, “You ought to be proud of yourself.” And I said, “Well, what were the favorite tracks?” He said, “They didn’t even listen, they just took it. Just your name was enough.” 

So I found something that day that I wasn’t as unknown as I thought I was. In fact, the opposite. Then that carried on. The record company guy, he was bringing me magazines, like Mojo or whatever, and everybody said, “Jim Lea, yeah, we’ll do something about Jim. Yeah.” And, “You’re in.” And he said, “I’ve never had a reaction like this in all my time in the industry.” He said, “Everybody knows you. You are highly respected. Very, very highly respected. I mention your name, doors open.” So we got a lot of coverage.

 So I was on my way then. Then I started doing a lot more of this stuff and it all went really well. I mean, it’s very difficult to sell albums these days. 

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Yeah, sure.  Completely different these days compared to when Slade first started out.

Jim Lea -Slade:  They don’t really sell that many. Then of course the idea was that you had to be playing live. Well, obviously I play all the instruments on my records, apart from the drums that is. So I couldn’t really tour, and I didn’t expect to tour. Touring would have been difficult for me at the time anyway, because I got the cancer.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Yeah. I was going to ask you, after performing so many years with these high-energy Slade shows, how do you really fill that void in your life? Because that must have been a huge adrenaline rush, doing those shows night after night, and then to go from that to not being able to play live, that must have been difficult.

Jim Lea -Slade:  No, not at all. The problem is I have chronic fatigue and have always had chronic fatigue, probably from birth. When I was born, I slept all the time. I’ve got an older brother, then two more brothers came. They all screamed their heads off. I just slept when I was born. They all screamed their heads off and kept going, screaming their heads off, but I just slept all the time. It was a big problem when I was in the band as well. When the lineup of what was to become Slade, so there was myself, Nod, there was Don, and Dave. Nod was a bit of a mickey taker. So I got into the back of the van when they picked me up to do the first gig, and of course I went to sleep straight away and I kept doing it. In the end they called me the doormouse. He said, “You’re always asleep. You’re bloody hopeless.” 

But you know, I took it all in good part. The band was born, but they all knew about the tiredness, and we did a tour with Status Quo, their first proper tour. So we got to know them, and they actually used to, when they were playing at that time, if Slade were playing anywhere near Status Quo, they would finish their gig early and they would come and watch us. Status Quo were massive Slade fans, even before we made it, they’d just come and watch us. That was another thing that turned up in the books that you didn’t expect.

But when we went on tour to Australia, that was in 1973. So the bands that went over were Slade, Lindisfarne, Status Quo and an English band called Camel. So we went over there, and of course, we’d have some days off and whatever, you know. We’d be in the hotels and obviously we were now fully successful. When we got to Australia, I think we had about six singles in the charts and I don’t know, it was a massive success anyway. A number of albums. And this is typical of the treatment, they came with a wheelbarrow to meet the plane. And they got all these piled gold and silver discs in a wheelbarrow. How Aussie is that? 

So we realised we’d obviously made a name over there, but I had a big problem with staying awake. That was a massive time change. I really had a problem walking on stage. And I couldn’t … I think by the time we left I was just getting over the time change. So that was always a big problem for me, summoning up the energy. I’m a lot worse with it now, so I’m looking for ways to try and resolve that. Because there’s nothing in conventional medicine for it, but you asked the bloody question now you’ve got the full answer. 

So I mean, a lot of people are like that, I think I’ve talked to Jeff Lynne about it and he said, “I’m exactly the same Jim. Always been the same.” Same from a baby. His mum said he slept all the time. And I said, “Bloody hell, we’ve got a lot in common here.” So, yes, it has been a problem for me. So, no, I don’t miss-

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  The live shows.

Jim Lea -Slade: … the constant gigging. The only gig I did on my own, there was some fan footage of me doing this gig, and there were only five songs on it. But the fan let us have the fan footage. Some of it was good, and some of it was a bit blurry, but it got the message over. Have you seen that?

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  I haven’t, no.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Live at The Robin Hood, have you seen it?

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  I haven’t seen it yet, no.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Ah, right.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  I will check it out.

Jim Lea -Slade:  It was quite a long  time ago. I’ll see if I can get one sent to you.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Cheers.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Have you got an address?

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  I have indeed, yeah. I can pass it on through Matthew after this.

Jim Lea -Slade: Yeah, oh, okay. And that shows me, that’s the only gig I ever did on my own. I had two guys who I didn’t know particularly well, and we went on stage and we really rocked out big time. But the next day the manager of the club, or the owner of the club, which is well-known in the midlands, it’s called the Robin R’n’B club. He rang me the next day, he said, “Jim.” He said, “I’ve never seen a gig like that. We’re all talking here. We think he might be the best gig that we’ve ever had in the 25 years that this club has been going.”. He said, “When are you coming back” I said, “Never.”

Mark Dean -Interviewer: Yeah, and you still  haven’t?

Jim Lea -Slade:  Never, because I was so buggered up the next day, but now I really know why. So playing off my own bat with massive energy, I think I was on the stage for an hour and 20 minutes there, but there’s only five tracks on that DVD. 

Then I started to write more stuff and that’s where the Therapy came from. It was after doing the live thing. But anybody who was there, they said it was just phenomenal. The boss of the club said he was expecting me to fall flat on my face and make a fool of myself. Because I played the guitar, I didn’t play the bass.  . I didn’t sing in Slade. He was really doing the proverbial in his pants, but he was wishing the best for me, but because he liked me as a person, I went to his wedding, he said, “Okay, I’ll watch a couple of numbers and then I’ll go.” He said, “Because I’m stuck at this club the whole of my working life.” And he said “Two numbers and I’m off.” I said, “Okay.” 

So anyway, I went on and it was sort of Jimi Hendrix like, in fact it was like Jimi Hendrix. The way I played was like Hendrix, the antics I was getting up to. I was doing Hendrix type stuff, playing the guitar with one hand above my head. And he just stood there, he was there for the whole night. Then on the next day, just before he rang me, all the people working at the club and there was one guy who was a massive AC/DC fan and heavy rock fan. And he said, “I don’t know whether Jim is better than AC/DC or the other way around.”   

So, I mean, the compliments I had about it was overwhelming . That was all really good stuff, and that’s all I ever wanted. Antihero, we’re here again look, the gig was put on at the last minute. Saturday night, John Martyn had pulled out, you know, the folk guy. He died not long afterwards, but that’s how I got the gig, unfortunately. 

So it was just me playing and there was a little band playing as well and opening the show. So it was great, it couldn’t have gone any better. But the thing was, the bass player was a guy I knew from The Bootleg Beatles, and he got a gig in Holland somewhere, and he flew in and I thought he wasn’t going to turn up. And I thought the drummer wasn’t going to turn either. But anyway, they thought they were going to be playing in a pub, upper corner and I was just doing it for fun. But when they saw the sell out crowd, and the crowd was going bonkers, once again they shat their pants, and they said, “Jim, we thought this was just going to be a laugh.” They hadn’t learned all the numbers properly, I had to run them through quickly in the dressing room. So, we went on and it was amazing.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Yeah. Just a final one then how do you view your own musical legacy? I mean, I’m thinking particularly having written and contributed so many songs to the consciousness of Britain over the years. I mean, how do you feel when one of those anthems comes on the radio? Because obviously there’s no escape from the songs of Slade.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Yes, well, I obviously have a lot of memories of when they were recorded and where I wrote it, how I wrote it. Because I write anywhere at any time. So it all plays back to me in my brain. My brother had … what was it? It was a form of dementia. He had vascular dementia and I had to get him into a home, and no one would take him because of his situation. He was violent, and he wasn’t a violent man in real life but the disease did it to him. So I was trying to get him into this home and it was Christmas, and Merry Christmas was playing on the radio and the owner of the club … sorry, the owner of the home was talking to me about being   and why she couldn’t let my brother into the home. But I could not pull myself away from listening to the song, and on that I was playing harmonium piano, acoustic guitar, vocals. And I could hear them all as I never heard before. 

Of all the times when I should be having an attack of my own work, I shouldn’t have been doing that at all, but I couldn’t stop myself listening to it. Merry Christmas comes on, it’s one of those things you hear when you’re walking down the street at Christmas. But it was right on this radio right next to me, and that’s what happens every time I hear the song. And unfortunately that’s not what I should’ve been thinking at the time. 

But there you are. So that’s how it is. I liked Paul Gambaccini on BBC, on Saturday on BBC Radio Two. He does this pick of the pops, and I always get a real kick, and he goes, “Straight in at number one, first band to do it ever since the Beatles, Slade with Cum On Feel the Noize” 

It’s a real buzz that is, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Absolutely brilliant. You don’t need to live with it all the time, and to tell you the truth Mark, I mean, as I said, since I started doing my solo stuff, I was not ready for the gigantic respect I have in the music business. I’m held in great esteem and it’s fantastic for me because I never put myself forward, I never pushed what I did, or said what I did or anything. It’s just that people knew, everybody knew about me. I didn’t have to say it. That’s the antihero thing again. 

So it’s been absolutely fantastic to find that out. Very, very, gratifying for me. I didn’t really have to do any big promotion or whatever, because people who knew about music, knew about me in the history of British rock music, pop music. Even Paul McCartney.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Really?

Jim Lea -Slade:  Yeah, Paul McCartney. He stopped me in … this is in 1985, he stopped me. We were both working in AIR studios in London, and he said, “Hey James, how are you doing? How’s your missus?” Because my wife, we’d been in America and they went to see Paul McCartney, and she went backstage. So she met Paul McCartney. She went out for a curry with Paul and Linda afterwards.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Nice.

Jim Lea -Slade:  And the band, the whole band went, Wings. He was talking as if he knew me, he said, “We’ve met before.” And I said, “It wasn’t me, it was my brother with my wife. He wasn’t having it. But anyway, he started talking to me and he said that … I mean, we had a lot of stick in America, about the way we were, because it was all pretty sort of rough and ready, and trying to get the crowd going, which now everybody does. That’s quite normal now, but back in the 1970s, no. But over there, there were a lot of people that were influenced by us. There’s sort of the Bon Jovi’s and all that, and Motley Crue. There was that ilk that came along, those types of rock bands, which it turned into sort of hair bands, they all had massive hair in the end. 

So once again, we didn’t realise that until down the road. Once again, it was great to find that out after the stick that we got from a lot of the press in America, but to find out that we’d influenced so many people. I mean, The Ramones, Kiss, they were doing our act. Lots of bands all over the place. Even Bruce Springsteen, our tour manager met him in America. Somebody said his name and said he used to tour in Slade. And Bruce Springsteen said, “Hey, man, I always used to come and see Slade when they played in Jersey.” He said, “They’re great, man.”  He said, “I wanted to do that too.”   It wasn’t like his other stuff, it was going for it.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  Jim, I got to get … Sorry for interrupting you. I got to get on here. It appears I’m slightly over my time, but it’s been brilliant talking to you and I’ll dig out that live, that video footage, regarding that gig that you were telling me about. It’s been brilliant to talk. Thank you very much.

Jim Lea -Slade:  All right Mark, I’m sorry to have gone over time.

Mark Dean -Interviewer:  No, I have. Thanks very much. Cheers.

Jim Lea -Slade:  Okay bye.

Fans can find Mark Dean at the following locations:

www.facebook.com/Mark-Dean-Media-Journalist

www.twitter.com/DeanoJou

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