Bangin' Man Don looks back at days when Slade were All Crazee Now

Don Powell has just received his copy of the new Slade compilation album, Cum on Feel the Hitz.

Slade promoting their 1973 festive single Merry Xmas Every Body
Slade promoting their 1973 festive single Merry Xmas Every Body

"It's strange," says the glam rock band's heart-throb drummer. "Just reading the track list brings back so many memories, all good ones."

Today, the 74-year-old lives in Silkeborg, Denmark, with Danish wife Hanne. But he is still very much a Black Country lad, which is perhaps why it is the track Far Far Away which tugs most on the heart strings.

"When we were recording that, it was in 1974, we were making the film Slade in Flame, and we were recording songs for the film," he says.

"Far Far Away wasn't really in line for being a single, but we had a lot of great reaction when we recorded it.

Slade at Heathrow airport, in 1972: Don Powell, Dave Hill, Jim Lea and Noddy Holder. Picture: Barry Plummer

"It was at a time when we were touring the world non-stop, and Noddy Holder's lyrics captured all the different countries we had been to, and all the things that had happened to us. Things that maybe wouldn't mean anything to anybody else, but which brings back memories for me."

It was, he says, a time when life was fast, time was money, and nothing ever went to waste, particularly in the recording studio.

"If we didn't get it right in two or three takes, we would move on to the next song, and go back to it later," he says.

While Powell has plenty of great memories, he does not miss the heady days of when the band seemed to be ever present on Top of the Pops, notching up 17 consecutive top 20 hits.

Don Powell at Wolverhampton Literary Festival

"I enjoy it far more now, because there's no pressure," he says. "If we go on tour, I can look around the places we go to, but there was never any of that back then.

"I used to come back to my mates in Wolverhampton, and they would say 'what are these place like?'

"I would tell them 'I can tell you what the airport's like, I can tell you what the hotel was like, I can tell you what the airport's like, but I can't tell you anything else', and they didn't understand it."

The album, available on both CD and vinyl, features all 43 of the band's from 1970 to 1991 in a broadly chronological order, with the exception of the evergreen festive hit Merry Xmas Every Body, which is kept until last.

Holder, the flamboyant, top-hat wearing frontman, had the idea for Far Far Away while sitting on a balcony overlooking the Mississippi river in Memphis, and like Powell he has no desire to go back to performing night after night around the world.

Slade dominated the pop charts in the early 1970s

"I couldn't do it night after night, year after year," he says.

"Slade were a heavy-gigging band, I got off that treadmill, and no regrets."

Unlike Powell, Holder has never gone back to performing music. After quitting the band, he went on to enjoy a career as an actor and voice-over artist, famously appearing in the sitcom The Grimleys, set in glam-rock era Dudley.

But Holder says he always expected Slade would get back together one day, and recalls a meeting which took place in 2010 with bandmates Powell, Dave Hill and Jim Lea to discuss a possible reunion.

Slade drummer Don Powell with his biography Look Wot I Dun – My Life In Slade

"Within half an hour, we were arguing about the same things we argued about when we split up, as if it was yesterday," he says.

Slade was formed in Bilston in 1966, when bass player, pianist and violinist Lea joined Powell and Hill in a revamped version of their previous band The Vendors, which they relaunched as The N'Betweens.

Neville ‘Noddy’ Holder switched from a rival band, and after being rebranded as Slade, the four-piece group became one of the biggest names in glam rock in the 1970s. Slade topped the singles charts six times from 1971 to 1973.

Coz I Luv You, Take Me Back ‘Ome, Mama We’re All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel the Noize and Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me all made No. 1, but the band is best remembered for the 1973 Christmas chart-topper Merry Xmas Everybody.

Slade dominated the pop charts in the early 1970s

While Lea and Holder were the creative forces behind many of Slade's most successful hits, their very different styles sometimes created tensions in the band. The shy, retiring and classically trained Lee was particularly uncomfortable with the brash antics of Holder and Hill.

Lea once recalled an occasion when Noddy donned a huge kipper tie Jim, thought made him look like comedian Arthur English, while Dave Hill was dressed in a silver outfit which Lea likened to a cockerel.

“Arthur English I could just about accept, but I said there was no way I was going on stage with a soppy cockerel,” he said. To which Hill replied: “You write 'em Jim, I’ll sell 'em."

Slade enjoyed a string of hits in the 1970s

Lea quit the band shortly after Holder, but Powell and Hill relaunched the band in 1993 as Slade II, later reverting back to plain Slade. But there was a public falling out between the pair earlier this year, with Powell claiming that his friend of nearly 60 years had fired him from the band by email.

Shortly before the fall-out, Powell had been prevented from playing the drums for more than 12 months after snapping the tendons in both knees. And after recovering from that, there was more bad news when he suffered a stroke on February 29. He was released from hospital the following day.

Since then, the lockdown has also prevented him from performing, but Don has kept himself busy recruiting for his latest musical venture, the Don Powell Band.

Slade's Dave Hill and Don Powell with their Wall of Fame signs at the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Holder, 74, who is effectively living under a double lockdown at his home in Macclesfield, admits he is finding the restrictions tough, with music providing him with something of an escape.

He says: "I'm in the high-risk over-70s lockdown. We live on the outskirts of Manchester, so we've been locked down and re-locked down.

"I'm bored with it now. I'm brushing up on my guitar technique, going back to my roots, the sort of stuff I used to play in the 50s."

Slade used to tour around the world

Cum on Feel the Hitz, by BMG records, is out now.

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