It’s getting to that time of year again, where in every shop, on every advert, and on every compilation album you hear the thick raspy yam yam howl ‘EETS CHRIIIIIIIISMAAAAS’. Now, like me, you probably want to stick candy canes up your nose and head butt yourself into eternal oblivion every time you hear that track, but do you ever think about the band that produced it? I mean, its not there fault it was so massively successful or that it was played to death and then horrible zombie undeath as a short hand for ‘Christmas fun’ by anyone with ears and a Santa hat.

I like Slade, I grew up listening to my dads Slade records and credit my fathers taste in glam music for the weird, long haired, make up wearing member of society I have turned out to be. So when I was given the opportunity to talk to Jim Lea, bass guitarist, arranger and unfairly labelled ‘the most talented member of Slade’ on account of his classical training. I eagerly accepted. Jim Lea looks great for his age with unruly curly hair and a faraway stare. He looks like what you imagine when you hear the phrase ‘aging British rock star’. Jim leaves large pauses between talking, and when recounting a particular memory he sometimes drifts off while reliving the thought in his head. I constantly catch him referencing a piece of paper, which has written on it all the things he wants to say about the Slade BBC Sessions Album he’s here to promote. I first get him to sign a record of my dad’s Far Far Away, which I always liked but became more significant for me as I grew up and started travelling. The song’s lyrics recalls a band on tour experiencing what the world has to offer, but all the time remembering and missing home. I ask Jim if all the lyrics are real things that the band did while on tour, specifically the line ‘had a red light off the wrist/without me even being kissed’

Noddy’ he interrupts before I finish the sentence ‘how did I know it was going to be Noddy?’

I think the reason that they’re now not taken as seriously as their contemporaries, is because they were never seen to take themselves too seriously. When they first took there managers advice to shave their heads and dress as skinheads, things didn’t go well ‘Skinheads were associated with aggro, reggae, heavy right wing politics and football violence all that not good stuff, I said to the manager ‘you haven’t thought this through’ so we were booked to play those gigs and I think that’s were Noddy learnt to banter with the audience, all the while we were thinking ‘how the bloody hell are we going to get out of this alive’

So Slade caught the Glam bus and this is why, I think, this is the only reason why they don’t occupy the same status in rock history as the other midland legends such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The glam rock affections, the glitter, the boots, the capes, the hats were never really worn with conviction by the band themselves – the androgyny and mystery that made Glam Rock weird and exotic in Marc Bolan and David Bowie, in the hands of four, straight, working class men from the midlands became silly and fancy dress. Also the brief stint of naming their singles like a fourteen year old girl with a head injury ‘Coz I Luv You’ ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’ while fun at the time, doesn’t exactly look good in retrospect. When I ask Jim about it he’s very dismissive, as if it doesn’t bother him ‘Whatever it was, it happened. But even our smallest top twenty hit was massive, and Noel Gallagher often says how much of an influence we were, People often say they sound like the Beatles but I think they sound like us’

During the early years, being asked to come in and record for the BBC was a massive privilege according to Jim ‘Live we feared no man, for three years we’d been playing any gig that would have us, by then we were down to muscle, no fat left on us at all. It was a great band to be in from that point of view, but records never really did us justice, never really capture us.’ Back then of course the BBC, being the respectable institution that it was, must have not known what to make of this sweaty, working band who complained that the carpet muffled the stamping parts of the songs until the technicians got them a door. ‘The BBC sessions were recorded on ancient equipment, Dan dare type stuff with valves and tubes, and you thought Ming the Merciless was going to walk in. No stereo just a massive speaker that they mixed it on.’

Slade, as far as musical respectability, have always been victims of there own success. They will never be remembered as the great musicians, or terrific song writers that they were. The BBC sessions are a great historical document, not only of a hardworking band at their best, but of a band stripped of the gimmicks just making the music they love.

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