The power behind Slade is back – Don Powell’s Slade

It’s sad that 57 years after they met, glittery front man Dave Hill should feel the need to sack his friend and the man who was the musical driving force behind Great Britain’s most successful rock and pop band of the early 70s. Don’s knees gave out at the end of 2018 and man feared he would never drum again, but he’s back, and he would have rejoined the band.
Don has joined forces with Craig Fenney, a bassman with the former Slade 2, and a man who has music seeping through every vein in his body. The future is bright for Don Powell’s Slade; I’m not sure I can say the same for Dave Hill’s Slade.
Fifty years ago, less a few months, I saw a traditional rock foursome perform at Derby College of Art & Technology. It was my first sight of a band that, at the time, I was sceptical about – skinheads to long-haired rockers did not denote any firm belief in their musical positioning. That gig changed my life. In December 1970 I made four friends, and Slade imprinted themselves indelibly on my musical lexicon.
The story of Slade’s rise to stardom, from Black Country halls, through a dodgy residency in the Caribbean, to becoming the country’s most successful band, has been well documented. If you get the chance to hear Don Powell’s reminiscences, it’s well worth it. Life as a Rockstar, with all the mistakes of fame, is well worth hearing. Take a hankie – you’ll cry laughing.
Slade was formed in 1966 by guitarist and front man Dave and Don Powell. They were joined by rhythm guitarist and amazing vocalist Noddy Holder and finally a classically trained violinist and bassman, Jim Lea, joined. They performed together for thirty years and then split, never to reform as a foursome.
Back in December 1970 I wrote about the group as potential world beaters, but I also picked out the drummer for a special mention. Some drummers feed off and feed to specific musicians within a band – and the best example is the relationship between Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and his great mate, drummer John Bonham. Don Powell was different. He was, and is, one of the most powerful percussionists I have ever seen and heard.
Slade’s rhythm was all-encompassing and emanated from Don’s kit, which grew in size and volume as the band progressed. This allowed the innovative, thoughtful and, frankly, brilliant Jim Lea to create songs and musical movements within songs that set the band apart from the traditional thumping 4/4. There were key changes, which Don was able to help adjust to, and deliberate rhythmic breaks and hiccups which demanded a musical cohesion that others struggled with.
Song writing was largely the territory of Jim and Noddy, with some input from Don – listen to Look Wot You Dun and Don’s influence is loud and clear. The tunes they created live on, including Merry Christmas Everybody (music by Jim in the shower, and honed to pop perfection by him and Nod).
What we can expect from Don Powell’s Slade is a new set list, with many great Slade numbers, but his direction has always been wider; Don has been a music fan for a long time and we can possibly expect to see those influences slotting into place. Listen to the man drumming: yes, he’s loud, but there is also a subtlety that subsumes the expected rock, just as Jim Lea’s clear ability to write ballads and songs of love and leaving, as well as rockabilly, Hot Club de Paris-influences and pop classics. Slade were always a good few notches about the solid 4/4 of thumping guitar chords and chorus lines.
What we can expect is a return to the driving percussion of a man who has been welcomed on stage by global stars, such as Suzie Quatro and the amazing Ringo Starr. This time Don will be centre stage, but don’t wait around for a Slade tribute band. This will be the real thing.

9 thoughts on “The power behind Slade is back – Don Powell’s Slade”

  1. Yes, a real shame what happened to Don Powell!!! I have seen Slade loads of times with the original format. Don Powell is a powerful very load drummer. I have the upmost respect for Don Powell and a very nice person to be with. Don Powell is a gentleman of Rock. I think Dave Hill has made a big mistake! But all four of the original members will always be my HERO’S and close to my heart! I look forward of seeing Don and his band on the road.
    I last saw Slade on stage at The Robin 2, Bilston in 2018!!
    Keep on Rockin Mr Don Powell!!!!

    Kind Regards From

    Michael Van Overstraeten

    A Slade Fan since 1970/71!!!!

    1. I agree with every word, Michael. However, out of darkness, light must shine, and this time it might be heralded by a loud drum roll.

  2. I too think Dave has shot himself in the foot over this. Last time I saw a show was way back on 14th November 2012, at The New Alex Theater in Birmingham. After the show a disabled fan in a wheelchair had waited in the freezing cold to meet his idol (Dave Hill) he breezed passed this young lad as though he wasn’t there, totally ignored the poor lad, Don, on the other hand was his usual self and took time to chat with us all, including the lad in the wheelchair. I vowed then I would never see the band ever again. The way he has treated Don stinks, H has lost the respect of many of us long standing hard core fans, not only over this latest debacle but also replacing Mal McNulty with a bloke who has no stage presence and can’t sing (based on the Youtube uploads I’ve seen) and his whole attitude of “this is my band” perhaps if H had been more accommodating in meeting fans before and after gigs (like Don has always done) then the remaining fans might have not been so hard on him in the last few days. As for “his” statement on the “Official” Slade Facebook Page anybody could have wrote that, how come there has been no statement in the media coverage (coverage I actively started btw on Tuesday morning via emails) from The Hal Carter Organisation? H should have “called it quits” when Don’s legs went. Like many hard core Slade fans, my love for this band started in 1970. I’m afraid that this will all turn out to be another UB40, with legal arguments, split loyalties between the 2 Slade’s, in-fighting between fans is already happening on Social Media.

    1. Yes Gary. I saw that, but I feel that most fans of music will have made their choice some time ago (as did you). I think we’ll find Don Powell’s Slade will be much more than Slade songs. He is a musicians – a musician’s musician, as well as being a fans favourite. The band should be fun.

    1. Thanks Tim. I think we’ll find it’s more than Slade. Don is a commensurate musician and he’s joining forces with others of the same mindset.

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