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The Space, Komedia, Gardner Street, Brighton, Thursday, June 8
IN his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell outlines the 10,000-hour rule – that the key to success in any field is down to 10,000 hours of practice.
The figure comes from the amount of time The Beatles played together before they gained popularity – playing up to eight-hour days in Hamburg more than 1,200 times between 1960 and 1964.
Slade frontman Noddy Holder, the special guest for this month’s instalment of The Space, put even more in before he got his big break.
“I probably spent about nine or ten years playing in bands before I started seeing any record sales,” says the man whose seasonal scream has become synonymous with Christmas for almost 40 years.
“We had been together as Slade for five years and Don [Powell], Dave [Hill] and I had been in other bands for four or five years before that.
“We went out on the road and slogged around the country for years before we got a proper record deal. We were primarily a live band which had a big live following.
“When we had our first real record deal, it took another two years to start selling records.
“I think we always had that confidence in ourselves – we knew we were a great band – it was about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right song. That belief kept us going. It wasn’t like today when you can audition for a TV show and if you get through can become known overnight because you’re playing to a TV audience of ten million. We took the long way round.”
When success did come, it was huge – heralded by the number one single Coz I Luv You, the first of six chart-toppers and ten further top ten singles between 1971 and 1984, and the song which characterised the classic Slade sound.
“When we were first together, we played lots of soul, Motown and R’n’B,” says Holder. “As soon as we started to write for ourselves, we developed a very different style and sound. When our first hit went to number one, we knew how to do it. We found our own sound so when we were on the radio you could tell it was Slade right away.”
Alongside Marc Bolan, the band has been credited with establishing the glam rock look, characterised by Hill’s outlandish costumes and Holder’s mirrored top hat.
And they created one of the all-time great rock movies Slade In Flame, with its 20-minute Brighton denouement.
“The movie was our manager [Chas Chandler]’s idea,” says Holder. “His blueprint was always The Beatles – if it was good enough for The Beatles, it was good enough for us. Our records were charting all over the world, so the next stage would be to make a movie.”
Slade In Flame surprised a few people at the time.
“They were expecting a runaround slapstick movie,” says Holder. “It wasn’t what they got.
“We made a serious look behind the scenes of the rock business. Some people say it was the biggest mistake we made and that it slowed our career down, but 40 years on it’s still in those ‘top five best rock movies ever made’ lists. People started taking us seriously.”
Not long after, the band spent several years touring the US – coming back to discover punk had taken over.
The band refused to fade away though, stealing the show at the 1980 Reading Rock Festival as last minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne, and scoring more chart success with later hits My Oh My, Run Run Away and Radio Wall Of Sound.
After 25 years with the band, Holder felt he’d had enough.
“I had been on the road for nearly 30 years,” he says. “I was having to turn down a lot of stuff outside the band because we were going on tour. I knew there had to be some point where I tried to do other things. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing album-tour, album-tour every year.”
One of the offers he turned down was to front AC/DC following the death of Bon Scott – not that he regrets it.
“My commitment was to Slade,” he says. “At that time we had been through thick and thin over many years and I wasn’t about to leave them in the lurch at the end of the 1970s to join another band. I never thought for a minute of leaving them.”
When Holder did bid the lads goodbye – with guitarist Hill and drummer Powell carrying on as Slade II – he turned a planned cameo in the pilot of hit ITV period comedy The Grimleys into a central role for four years.
He also penned an autobiography Who’s Crazee Now? – which he hopes to follow up soon – hosted his own radio show for Manchester radio stations Piccadilly 1152 and Key 103 and his own surreal quiz Noddy’s Electric Ladyland, voiced Banger on Bob The Builder and found time to pick up an MBE in 2000.
“I’m always looking for something that I’ve never done before,” he says. “I still get a lot of acting roles offered to me, but generally they are ageing rock stars who commit suicide in their swimming pools – it’s not stuff that interests me. I look for stuff I will have a good time doing and that won’t take me away from home for more than a couple of weeks.”
He’s not tempted to reunite with his old band-mates either.
“I said when I split from it that I wouldn’t go backwards,” he says. “You can’t just walk in and recreate what we had. It would take a lot of hard work and rehearsal to do a few dates, and there’s a danger that what started as a month of gigs would turn into a three-year tour.
“It always has to be a full-stop.”
* Noddy Holder will be interviewed by Briggy Smale at The Space this month for their sixth anniversary event and will be joined by The Muppets producer Martin Baker.
* Doors 7pm, tickets £10/£8.50. Call 0845 2938480