Like many other folk, one of the first singles I bought was by Slade. However, unlike most of those folk, mine wasn't one of their classic stompers on that familiar red Polydor label from their 1972-74 heyday. Mine was We'll Bring the House Down, which was released on the appropriately-named Cheapskate label in January 1981 and against all odds put them back in the top ten, with a heavy metal song to boot. Yes, for a couple of years, Slade, to all intents and purposes, were part of the NWOBHM.
Slade, according to the British Hit Singles & albums were "the most successful British group of the 1970s based on sales of singles" (Translation: they sold more than Queen and T. Rex but less than Abba). In 1973 they were the first band since the Beatles to have a single enter the UK charts at number 1. In total, they had three singles go straight in at number one, despite the fact that one of them, Skweeze me Pleeze Me, was absolute rubbish. They were huge. However, by 1981 they hadn't had a Top 10 hit in six years. They were getting desperate. So desperate that they released a version of the hokey cokey. Twice. It failed to chart. Twice.
Then they played the Reading Festival in 1980 after the Blizzard of Oz pulled out (can't imagine what was wrong with Ozzy) and they stole the show. Tommy Vance broadcast the show on the Friday Rock Show and for the first time in years they had a bit of momentum. They then released We'll Bring the House Down, which rode the wave of metal singles charting in the top 20 in 1980-81 and reached No. 10. The single itself was a cheap-looking thing, released in a flimsy black and white picture sleeve, it looked more like a UK Subs or Angelic Upstarts single than something from the most successful British group of the 1970s based on sales of singles. But it made a hell of a racket. It's basically a cross between a 70's football chant and a 70s heavy metal song, but not for the first time the band's charisma, musical chops and energy combined to transform a pretty thin song into a hit.
And that was that for a few years. The follow-up, Knuckle Sandwich Nancy wasn't a hit, and they didn't return to the chart until the end of 1983 when they had one of the biggest hits of the career with the truly awful My Oh My (serious contender for the 1983 Xmas No. 1) which was followed up with another top 10 hit, the equally bad Run Runaway, where they sounded like Big Country. Best remember them this way.
And if you're a Slade fan (and who isn't really? Be honest) you can head over to Bandcamp where this blog's friend John Medd has released his first EP, which features a cover of Slayed gem I Won't Let it Happen Again (even if he's corrected the grammar, the big posho).