Cosmic Slop #134: The Great Rock & Roll Soap Opera Twist
Bands you didn’t even know were still going are falling apart, but Slade already blew their plot twist load with Rose West.
In a way, long running bands are a lot like long running soap operas.
There are dips and dives, it comes and goes. Sometimes Eastenders beats out Coronation Street, so the latter pulls out some big guns, leading Eastenders to go mad and have a child murder Lucy Beale – which was a great joke when The Simpsons did it, but less effective in a dramatic storyline.
Yet all of this has nothing on inter-band drama. This shit gets real. These people live and work on top of each other for most of the year. There is absolutely no respite, and you never know when it is going to all fall apart, like a Christmas on Albert Square. It will happen, but how and when?
Take Slade, for example.
Now, to be clear, despite their quite terrible grammatical skills, Slade are categorically one of the best and most successful bands of their era, and I say that with absolutely no fear of contradiction. Jim Lea, especially, is an incredibly underrated songwriter. Skip the Christmas song and take a listen to How Does It Feel? – although released in 1975, it was actually the first melody Lea ever wrote. It is a genuine masterpiece.
Of course, in their time, Slade had their fair share of drama. Most famously, there was drummer Don Powell’s car accident in 1973 that left him with amnesia. When they had lost everything by the early 80s and guitarist Dave Hill was forced to make ends meet by hiring out his Rolls Royce for weddings, there was a dramatic comeback staged when they were a last minute replacement for Ozzy Osbourne at the Reading Festival that blew all the hungry young kids off the stage.
Noddy Holder and Jim Lea left Slade in 1991. Their last full album was 1987’s You Boyz Make Big Noize. It was easy for them – they wrote the songs and have all that Merry Xmas money. Hill and Powell lost their main source of income, and continued as Slade II, later reverting back to their original name.
You would think that a band plodding along on the nostalgia circuit would have it fairly easy by now. They show up, play the Greatest Hits album and get off. Easy.
Yet, this week, that seemed not to be the case, when Powell posted a statement on his website explaining how Hill had sent him “a cold email to inform him that his services are no longer required, after working together and being friends since 1963,” and that he will now form a new group called Don Powell’s Slade with another group of musicians who were never in Slade.
In his counter-statement, Hill denied this was the case, and insists that this “has not come out of the blue and [Don’s] announcement is not accurate”.
The strangest thing of all is that both seem to think there will be demand for one member of Slade in a Slade line-up. Two was pushing it. You don’t even have Noddy.
These latter day inter-band squabbles are obviously pointless. If you are 73 years old and still living on a bus so you can play the same songs you have been playing for 40 years in 300 capacity venues, the chances are you’re doing it because you have to rather than you want to. So, maybe it is best to suck it up and get on with it, rather than split the already limited fan base.
Of course, we all love a plot twist, and at this point it is probably one of the few ways to drum up some interest. Unfortunately, Slade already had a formidable late-career plot twist to beat all others.
Back in 2003, the band received some unexpected publicity when then-bass player Dave Glover announced his engagement to a rather famous woman; notorious serial killer, abuser and late night gardener Rose West.
The couple had been writing to each other for a whole year whilst West was hauled up in Durham Prison for some minor offences (or ten quite major ones), and announced their intention to marry in January. Apparently Glover, upon hearing the gruesome details of her previous marriage to Fred, said “That’s my kinda gal” and proposed on the spot.
For his part, Glover went on to deny the engagement, while West claimed she broke it off, in her words, because she wanted to “give this young man his life back” following the publicity. Of course he was dropped from Slade immediately. Too many songs tainted by the knowledge; Take Me Back ‘Ome, Look Wot U Dun and not least Mama Weer All Crazee Now.
I am going to assume that Rose West having a supporting role in the development of one of the biggest bands of the 70s is, by a considerable margin, the most unexpected piece of trivia you have heard today. It will also likely ruin band squabbles for you henceforth. Because, really, what can top it?