Wednesday, 26 October 2011


In 1969 publicist Keith Altham was struggling to gain column inches for the under achieving ROCK band SLADE.The group were managed by CHAS CHANDLER {who had discovered JIMI HENDRIX} but neither their debut LP ''BEGININGS'' or the singles pulled from it had met with any success.

Then he hit on a bold plan to re-style the band in the mold of a teenage fashion that was receiving considerable media attention: SKINHEAD.The skinheads were a smart working class subculture that matched MOD CLOTHING and PROLETARIAN WORKWEAR with the CROPPED HAIRCUT which gave them their name.It was a reaction against both the older generations adoption of longer hair {coupled with a more relaxed dress code} and the look of the 'HIPPY DROPOUT' which had been widely adopted by the young middle class at this time.

                                               SKINHEAD FASHION CIRCA 1969/70

SLADE were initially reluctant to go with this makeover,but faced with an anonymous future on the collage circuit they embraced the chance of appealing to this untapped audience.The group were duly marched to the barbers, dressed in the relevent clothes and attended a hastily arranged photo session.





Initially the gamble seemed to pay off.The press started covering the group and they made their first TV appearence performing their current 45 ''Wild Winds Are Blowing''

Despite the attention the new look had got them,the record and two following singles didn't shift in great numbers and they failed to gain acceptence with the majority of skinheads

''We played in Bornmouth one night and it was full of skinheads.We went on stage and they just saw right through us''

Undeterred the group paid attention to building up their live following and in November 1970 an LP ''PLAY IT LOUD'' was released

                             OUTTAKES FROM THE ''PLAY IT LOUD'' cover photoshoot

SKINHEAD was an aspect of WORKING CLASS STREET FASHION and as such was constantly evolving.First the look moved closer to the earlier look of the MODS.Three button TONIC SUITS,heavy welted BROGUE SHOES,COLOURFUL TIES and ARGYLE KNITWEAR were worn with slightly LONGER HAIR.This development was dubbed SUEDEHEAD.Then came ROUND COLLOR SHIRTS,CHECKED 'RUPERT' TROUSERS,SPOON TOED SHOES and HAIR GROWN OVER THE COLLAR.The overall appearance now contrasted greatly with the look at the start of the decade and became known as SMOOTHIE.

                                            SUEDEHEAD FASHION CIRCA 1970/71

This excellent slide show provides a glimpse of how the band evolved their look in tandem with these changing fashions

DAVE HILL acknowledged how their dalliance with skinhead culture influenced the future image and sound of the band:

''I developed a hairstyle which came from that skinhead thing where I had very long hair but with a very short fringe.If you think about the bovver boots developing into bigger boots and us having an audience where there all going {stamps feet} all this stamping lark''

JAMAICAN IMMIGRANTS greatly influenced the sartorial style of the SKINHEADS.Trousers worn at 'HALF-MAST',PORK PIE HATS and even the CROPPED HAIRSTYLE itself were borrowed from the the jamaican 'RUDE BOY'.REGGAE was also their music of choice and while this left SLADE somewhat out in the cold with a vast number of skins,those who did follow the band provided a lively contrast to the 'sit down' PROGESSIVE ROCK crowd.The skins were well accustomed to call and response REGGAE tunes like the ''SKINHEAD MOONSTOMP'' and this would have quite an effect on the band and inspire the recording of their breakthrough song: A cover of a little known LITTLE RICHARD number ''GET DOWN AND GET WITH IT''.NODDY remembers playing it live:

''We started doing it and the skinheads used to love that bit at the finish where you put your hands in the air and take your boots off and all that''

The song was released complete with an overdub of STAMPING BOOTS in May 1971 and started to climb the charts.Noddy's raucous vocals and the gruops powerhouse performance made the record stand out and visually they had added some quirky elements to their basic street fashions.Noddy wore a distinctive oversized CHECKED FLAT CAP and SCARF in the style of the British newspaper comic strip character ANDY CAPP.Dave inspired by the new 70's pop sensation MARC BOLAN glammed up in androgynous MULTICOLORED COATS and KNEE LENGTH BOOTS.the GLITTER ROCK image they would be known for had begun to take shape.

The record peaked at number 16 and was the first of 17 consecutive Top 20 hits for the band.The follow up single ''COZ I LUV YOU'' went to NUMBER ONE in November and the band went on to define the GLAM ROCK era become one of the top selling acts in UK POP history.


                                                           SLADE 1971

                                           SLADE FULLY GLAMMED UP IN 1972

SLADE quotes from:
''SLADE FEEL THE NOISE'' the official biography 1984
''IT'S SLADE'' BBC TV documentary 1999

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