An Intimate Evening with Slade’s Dave Hill

His father told him he had a gift when he was in single figures. At The Robin 2 the outrageous showman and frontman of Slade proved his dad was right, in spades.
The be-hatted Prince of Glam Rock from the 70s talked and smiled. He eschewed the wailingly ear-splitting amplification, so reminiscent of the band’s early 70s achievements when they stood astride the pop rock world. Instead he threw an acoustic guitar round his neck and picked and strummed to the delight of the crowd.
An Intimate Evening with Slade’s Dave Hill was really about one thing, his autobiography, So Here It Is, and this one-off event was a massive book launch party, with added insights into some of the band’s antics as they played round the world.
Dave Hill had a reputation for being the rock world’s answer to high, extravagant fashion – from aluminium foil, Egyptian-style shoulder wings through to platform boots so high and precarious that when he fell off them he couldn’t get up. (Spoiler alert: when that happened in New York, the band Kiss were in the audience as fans and they thought it was all part of the act!)
The venue in Bilston was appropriate and ideal, for it was in that town where Dave, a ‘posh’ Wolverhampton teenager, ventured out to see The Vendors, and especially take a look at a drummer, one Donald Powell. It was the start of Slade, the band who had more No 1s in the 70s than any other group.
But all this is in the big red book with the silver Dave Hill on the front cover. With DJ Mike Read sat beside him on the two barstools, Dave was relaxed and professional. I would suggest, strangely, not fully at ease. Perhaps the sociological comments on growing up in the 50s and 60s was a dig to deep into his psyche; maybe the comments about his own battle with depression and then the stroke were not the best memories; but then he strapped on the guitar. There was no shaft of light from the heavens (well, ceiling), but there was an almost instantaneous change in atmosphere.
With a guitar in his hands, Dave’s face lit up: he was at home in this environment; it was his stage once more. That oval smile broke out and those tombstone-teeth gleamed, casting a joyous light from the stage. Gone was any introspection: this was the cheeky, animated, Dave Hill I’d first met in 1970, and the years dropped away.
The first set with John Berry, his guitar partner in Slade, threw out the memorable chords of Dave’s youth. There was Elvis, then The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night (a seminal track for so many musicians, including Dave), and You Hear Me Calling, Slade’s famous set-starter, before Little Richard’s stomping Get Down And Get With It.
The second half of the show scraped away the years of the ‘America experiment’. Dave summed it up in one sentence: “Perhaps we went too early.” More relaxed chat and insights from the book. The end was approaching and I could feel Dave’s fingers itch, even from 20 rows back. He wanted that guitar, and, with John Berry’s help strapping him in, he got it.
Dave’s fingers picked the strings and the raw emotion of Everyday and Far Far Away caught in our throats. Finally it was, in Dave’s words, ‘one of the best songs we ever wrote’ – How Does It Feel – with Dave’s fingers flying Paco Pena-style along the fret and deliciously picking out individual notes. But it wasn’t quite the end as Dave lightened everything, and John Berry’s voice burst into My Friend Stan.
One delightful aside was Dave’s sister Carol telling us about how she hid in her car in November 1971 to hear Alan Freeman announce Coz I Luv You at No. 1. It was a mayhem she shared with her workmates – a wondrous celebration I shared in my office that day as well.
There was a bombshell the audience had been waiting for. It rolled along the stage. What about the break-up of Slade, the animosity?
“We didn’t really fall out. Yes, there’ve been differences, but everything about Slade is that we always go back to being what we are; four lads who worked hard and made good.” Is it significant that Noddy Holder wrote the introduction to Dave’s book?
So there you have it. So Here It Is – an Autobiography by extraordinary showman and exceptional music talent Dave Hill is in the shops now.

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