To coincide with the publication of my latest book, I talk to Australian YouTube legend and all-round music superfan, Plastic EP. As well as discussing my book ‘Slade in the 1970s‘, we also talk about my previous two books for Sonicbond’s ‘Decades’ series – on Suzi Quatro and The Sweet and my life-long love of all things glam.
Plastic EP reminds me that all three artists were absolutely huge in Australia. While America didn’t seem to get the very British phenomenon that was glam rock, Australia certainly did and Sweet, Slade and Suzi were all major sellers in the record charts over there, as well as packing out huge arenas on their live tours.
You can catch the full interview here.
Slade in the 1970s is published by Sonicbond Publishing and is available now from Amazon, from the publisher’s online shop at Burning Shed and from other major retailers.
This week sees the publication of my third book for Sonicbond’s Decades series: ‘Slade In The 1970s’. It follows on from my books on The Sweet in 2021 and Suzi Quatro last year – a glam trilogy if you will!
Here is a round-up of reviews for my previous book on Suzi Quatro. All three books are available on Amazon and other major retailers as well as the publisher’s own online shop at Burning Shed.
“Darren Johnson focuses the same obsessive-compulsive attention to detail that he applied to Sweet in his earlier contribution” – Andrew Darlington, RnR magazine
“An interesting book which should appeal to a wide audience” – John Tucker, Record Collector magazine
“Fascinating read for Suzi Q fans, aging glam rockers and anybody who enjoys a good, informative rock biography.” Jason Ritchie, Get Ready To Rock
I was encouraged by the reaction to my Sweet book and began work on one about Suzi Quatro, another big ‘70s icon that I’ve always been a huge fan of. However, the first band I truly fell in love with was Slade said author Darren Johnson.
Originally from the North West, Darren moved to London in 1990 where he spent over twenty years working full time in politics…
My professional background was in politics and campaigning so I’d written a lot about current affairs and had various articles published in the national press – from tackling climate change to building more council housing.
After stepping back from politics Darren moved out of the capital and in 2016 based himself in Hastings, East Sussex.
When I no longer had an endless cycle of meetings to attend, one of the things I was determined to do was go to more live gigs…
Marking the publication of my third book for Sonicbond’s Decades series, Slade In The 1970s, I’ll be at the legendary Trumpet pub in Bilston on 17th June, a traditional stomping ground for the members of Slade in the early days and still a much-loved and highly-respected jazz venue.
Slade In The 1970s previewed this month in Wired Up glam fanzine:
As well as a Q&A and book signing I’m thrilled to announce there will also be a live acoustic set from Martin Brooks and Nigel Hart of the Pouk Hill Prophetz as part of the launch that afternoon (1pm-3pm) as well as a later set that evening (8pm-11pm).
Coming together through their shared love of Slade, Pouk Hill Prophetz have been together almost a decade now, bringing their own unique take on the music of Slade and other glam-era icons.
Martin Brooks, guitarist with Pouk Hill Prophetz: “Darren Johnson has been a friend of the band for many years and we are delighted to support his book launch. It is a great honour for PHP to play a gig at The Trumpet, which is such an important music venue in the Midlands and has been associated with Slade since their glory days in the 70s. It will be a day and a night to remember!”
About the author: A former politician, Darren Johnson spent many years writing about current affairs but after stepping away from politics he was able to devote time to his first love: music. His first book, The Sweet In The 1970s, was published by Sonicbond in 2021, followed by Suzi Quatro In The 1970s in 2022. Now he turns his attention to the first band he truly fell in love with: Slade. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex
One of the things that makes the early 1970s my absolute favourite era for music is not only were there so many classic releases coming out of the album-oriented rock acts at the time, like Deep Purple and Pink Floyd, but the singles charts, and what was considered mere pop, were packed with brilliant releases from acts like Slade and the Glitter Band and Suzi Quatro, too.
It wasn’t a completely straightforward division, of course. Bands like Deep Purple would get into the singles charts now and again (‘Black Night’ and ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ both made the Top Ten, for example) and Slade enjoyed three No. 1 albums on top of all of their singles sales. And in reality, the distance between bands like Purple and bands like Slade was not as great as we might imagine – with both bands delivering their own particular brand of loud, guitar-based hard rock.
Where we might perceive the gap to be much more unbridgeable, of course, is when we start considering prog and glam. The classical influences, musical complexity and long solos associated with the world of prog seem a long way away from the handclaps, glitterbeats and chanted choruses from the world of glam.
There were crossovers, however. Only few years after releasing ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Teenage Rampage’, the Sweet moved into progressive territory with their 1978 Level Headed album. But an early crossover contender must surely be Barclay James Harvest’s 1972 dalliance with glam.
Admittedly, it was released under a pseudonym but the 1972 single ‘Breathless’ (credited to Bombadil and supposedly written by ‘Terry Bull’) was none other than Barclay James Harvest, which saw the Oldham-based prog foursome attempting to make a bid for chart success by playing the likes of Gary Glitter and Chicory Tip at their own game.
Where on earth did the pseudonym Bombadil come from though? According to the Barclay James Harvest website it was inspired by Tom Bombadil, a character in Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Hmmm that is all starting to sound a bit prog and not very glam at all. Perhaps it was the name that let them down in the end then. Sadly, the single failed to make any impact on the charts but since the early 2000s the track (and its B-side ‘When The City Sleeps’) has been made available as bonus tracks on the Baby James Harvest album, leaving us with a wonderful slice of prog/glam crossover.
Bauhaus released the eerily dark ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ as their first single back in 1979, and it’s often said to be the first ever goth record. However, they were not just about gloom and doom and long-deceased vintage horror film actors. Lead vocalist, Pete Murphy, was always clear that the band looked to early 70s glam as much as the late 70s punk scene and late 1960s garage bands: “I always thought of Bauhaus as the Velvets gone holy, or the Sweet with better haircuts.”
Nowhere is this more evident than on their glorious 1982 cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. As a sixth-former it was constantly on the juke box in our college refectory, so much so that as a teenager I was far more familiar with this raw, thrilling and feedback-laden parcel of joy than Bowie’s original. Just perfection.
2. ‘Dear Prudence’ – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1983)
Formed in London in 1976, Siouxsie and the Banshees were a key part of the emerging punk scene but as punk evolved into post-punk they transformed into something darker, moodier and altogether more interesting. As goth, itself, emerged as a distinct subculture later on in the 1980s, Siouxie and the Banshees were often hailed as key pioneers. They always knew how to turn out a good catchy tune though and were regular fixtures in the Top Forty and frequent visitors to the Top Of The Pops studio. None more so when they decided to cover ‘Dear Prudence’ from the Beatles’ White Album in 1983, taking the wistful, mystical Lennon ballad and reimaging it as a shiny pop classic.
Many times better than the original, the Banshees’ version, in all its jangly gorgeousness went all the way to number 3 in the UK charts in 1983 yet retained enough class and mystique for it never to be regarded as a sell-out. Utterly joyous.
3. ‘Spiritwalker’ – The Cult (1984)
Formed in Bradford in the early 1980s The Cult were previously known as Death Cult, who in turn emerged out of a band called Southern Death Cult. In terms of impeccable doomy, post-punk, dark gothic credentials, so far, so good. Over time, however, particularly when the prospect of success on the other side of the Atlantic beckoned, The Cult reinvented themselves from being cult indie scenesters in the UK to all-out stadium rockers in the US, where the band have been based ever since.
Even in their early days, however, there was always a glimmer of a rock god persona to their music, which belied their indie club roots. Long before producer, Rick Rubin, came in to help reshape the band’s sound for mainstream success, The Cult’s second single, ‘Spiritwalker’, taken from their 1984 debut album demonstrates a clear ability to turn out a great fist-pumping anthem.
4. ‘This Corrosion’ – Sisters of Mercy (1987)
Formed in Leeds in 1980, apart from a couple of year’s hiatus in the mid-80s, the Sisters of Mercy have been a consistent presence on the UK’s goth scene, albeit that in recent decades they’ve concentrated on live performances rather than new releases. The distinctive deep baritone vocal of frontman and only constant member, Andrew Eldritch makes them the ultimate goth band in many ways. But they, too, have released songs that can inspire untrammelled joy.
‘This Corrosion’ is the lead single from the band’s 1987 album, Floodland. The lyrics are a snark at former members, following a split in the band’s ranks. So far, so doom-laden, but we know from when Steve Harley released ‘(Make Me Smile) Come Up And See Me’ on an almost identical premise that songs snarking at former band members can still sound infectiously joyous. With it’s catchy, sing-along chorus and more ‘heys’ in it than the average Glitter Band single, ‘This Corrosion’ is another song to put a smile on your face and reached a well-deserved number 7 in 1987.
5. ‘Friday I’m In Love’ – The Cure (1992)
The Cure were formed in Crawley in 1978, fronted by the irrepressible Robert Smith who has remained their only constant member over the past 45 years. Certainly, both the band’s look and sound was a hit with the uber-cool alternative crowd when I was at sixth form. Smith’s instantly-recognisable look made him the ultimate goth godfather. Over time, however, he began bringing more mainstream pop sensibilities into the band’s music. This reached a pinnacle with ‘Friday I’m In Love’. When it came out in 1992 Smith described it as both a “throw your hands in the air, ‘let’s get happy’-kind of record” and “a very naïve, happy type of pop song.”
Indeed, attending Glastonbury in 2019, when The Cure were headlining, so moved was I by the happy, life-affirming, upbeat nature of this song that I ended up leading off a impromptu mass conga as ‘Friday I’m In Love’ was blasted out from the Pyramid Stage.
Following his two recent books cataloguing the glory years of Top Of The Pops, music wrier, Peter Checksfield, has turned his attention to those perennial rock gods, the Rolling Stones. More accurately, those artists who have chosen at some point in their careers to cover songs by the Rolling Stones. This bumper tome takes an in depth look at five hundred cover versions of Rolling Stones songs recorded by a vastly varied selection of artists.
‘Undercover’ not only includes the obvious Stones standards, like ‘Brown Sugar’ (covered by everyone from Little Richard to Ken Boothe to Thunder); ‘Honky Tonk Women’ (Ike & Tina Turner, Waylon Jennings, Elton John) and ‘Satisfaction’ (Otis Redding, The Supremes, Devo); but the book also covers many lesser-known songs and some lesser-known artists, too. Coventry band, The Mighty Avengers, recorded three (as then) unreleased Jagger-Richards compositions which resulted in some minor, albeit fleeting, chart success.
It could be argued that in these days of ever-expanding Wikipedia entries there’s less of a need for weighty rock encyclopaedias of this type. However, where ‘Undercover’ really comes into its own is in the 130 exclusive interviews that Checksfield carried out with many of those artists recording the cover versions featured in the book. We get fascinating insights from musicians as varied as Justin Sullivan of New Model Army; Bob Bradbury of glam almost-heroes, Hello; Gale Paridjanian of Turin Brakes; Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow of Anvil; Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things, Marc Almond and Sandie Shaw.
‘Undercover: 500 Rolling Stones Cover Versions That You Must Hear!’ is a fascinating reference work on both the songwriting and the enduring influence of one of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands and will probably be something I’ll keep on dipping into.
Published: November 2022 – visit Peter Checksfield’s website here
I wish everyone a happy New Year. My thanks to everyone who has visited Darren’s music blog during 2022. As usual an eclectic mix of classic rock, folk and glam and a mixture of live reviews, album reviews, tour news and a plug for my own book appearing amongst the ten most viewed posts of the year.
1. Live review: the final ever Giants of Rock, Minehead 21-23 January 2022
Barring the gap due to Covid I’d been going to Butlins at Minehead each January since 2015 for the Giants Of Rock festival. But now the festival is no more, replaced by a tribute weekend, so I’ll be heading to Skegness in January for the Rock & Blues festival instead (although, sadly, that is coming to and end, too). Relive the last ever Giants of Rock weekend here with my review covering the likes of Ten Years After, Geordie, Atomic Rooster and Nazareth.
2. Live review: Suzi Quatro at the Royal Albert Hall 20/4/22
2022 was the year of all things Suzi Quatro for me. Not only did my book for Sonicbond’s Decades series, Suzi Quatro In The 1970s, come out in July but earlier in the year I could celebrate getting it finished, proofread and finally off to the publishers with a trip to London for Suzi’s incredible performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo credit (above): Gary Cosby
I was back over to London a couple of times in the Summer, too, with two separate trips to Hyde Park for the British Summertime series of concerts. The first of these was for the Eagles. Long on my bucket-list of must-see bands I finally got to see them. Even without the late, great Glenn Frey, it was still an incredible experience and just magical being in Hyde Park late on a summer evening as the sun started set watching them perform ‘Hotel California’.
4. Live review: the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park 3/7/22
Just a week after the Eagles I was back in Hyde Park for the Rolling Stones. It’s been over thirty years since attending my first and only previous Rolling Stones gig, when I went with my dad to Manchester’s Maine Road back in 1990. My dad’s thinking back then was that if I wanted to see them live then 1990’s Urban Jungle tour might be my last chance. It wasn’t quite! Thirty years later I’m back for more and what a memorable evening it was.
5. Live review: Fairport’s Cropredy Convention August 2022
After a two-year gap due to Covid restrictions it was nice to be back in Oxfordshire in August for Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy festival. Both tickets and line-up had been carried over from the event initially planned for 2020 but the passage of time had necessitated some tweaks to the line-up and in my case (due to a change in domestic circumstances), the reallocation of my second ticket to a Cropredy newcomer. Highlights included Clannad, Trevor Horn, Turin Brakes, Richard Thompson – and Fairport, of course!
6. New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022
Definitely, one of the highlights of 2022 for me was the publication of my book on Suzi Quatro for Sonicbond’s Decades series, which followed on from the book on The Sweet I had written the previous year for the same series. As Suzi herself says: “If you talk about the ‘70s, I was a hardworking artist. I did nothing but tour – recording, touring, TV, you know. I had constant jetlag. Constant black shadows under my eyes but, oh, what a ride! What a wonderful ride. And I’m still doing it now.”
7. Album review – Graham Bonnet Band ‘Day Out In Nowhere’
My most popular album review of the year, I wrote that Graham Bonnet is “clearly on something of a roll at this late stage in his career. Whether you are the more casual fan of his most celebrated albums from the late 70s and early 80s or a dedicated fan who’s loyally followed each and every stage of his long career, there’s lots to like in Day Out In Nowhere. It deserves to do well.”
8. Album reviews: four recent solo releases from the extended Uriah Heep family
Going online to treat myself to the newly-released CD from former Uriah Heep singer, Pete Goalby, I ended up having one of those “customers who viewed this also viewed these” impulse purchase experiences. Before I knew it I had, not one, but four recently-released CDs from the extended Uriah Heep family popping through my letterbox, three of these being released posthumously.
9. Bowie and Iggy Pop icon, Tony Fox Sales, celebrates 45 years of Lust For Life
One of the things I am really looking forward to in 2023 is the tour by Iggy Pop / Bowie bass legend, Tony Fox Sales. With an all-star line-up, Tony is joined by legendary Blondie drummer, Clem Burke; vocalist, renowned broadcaster and Pet Shop Boys dancer, Katie Puckrik; Iggy Pop and David Bowie guitarist, Kevin Armstrong; guitarist, Luis Correia, who’s toured internationally with Earl Slick; and classical pianist, composer, and touring member of Heaven 17, Florence Sabeva.
10. Gaelic singer Kim Carnie – debut album ‘And So We Gather’
Gaelic singer, Kim Carnie, launched her solo career in 2018 with the release of her EP, In Her Company. Since then she’s worked with the bands, Mànran and Staran, been much in demand as a session vocalist and in 2021 won the Gaelic Singer of The Year prize at the MG Alba Trad Awards. In June this year she released her debut album, And So We Gather.
Following my books on The Sweet andSuzi Quatro I’m absolutely delighted to confirm that my third book for Sonicbond’s ‘Decades’ series, Slade In The 1970s, is published on 26th May 2023.
You can order from Amazon’s website here and via the publisher’s online shop at Burning Shed here as well as other major retailers.
Launch event at The Trumpet, Bilston, 17th June – details here
Slade In The 1970s – synopsis
Slade were one of the biggest British bands of the 1970s. One of the early pioneers of glam rock they enjoyed an incredible run of six number one singles, five top-ten albums and a succession of sell-out tours. However, after a failed attempt at an American breakthrough in the mid-1970s, Slade returned to Britain and faced dwindling record sales, smaller concert halls and a music press that had lost interest in them. By the end of the decade, they were playing residencies in cabaret clubs and recorded a cover of a children’s novelty song. But then came a last-minute invitation to play the 1980 Reading Festival, setting into motion one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock history.
As we come to the fiftieth anniversary of Slade’s 1973 annus mirabilis that saw ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’, ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’ and ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ all enter the UK charts at number one, this book celebrates the music of Slade. From the band’s beginnings in the mid-1960s through each year of the decade that gave them their biggest successes, every album and single is examined, as well as their raucous live shows and colourful media profile.
About the Author
A former politician, Darren Johnson spent many years writing about current affairs but after stepping away from politics he was able to devote time to his first love: music. His first book, The Sweet In The 1970s, was published by Sonicbond in 2021, followed by Suzi Quatro In The 1970s in 2022. Now he turns his attention to the first band he truly fell in love with: Slade. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex
Following publication of my recent book on Suzi Quatro, I was delighted to be interviewed by the force of nature that is Plastic EP. He’s had a huge range of guests from big-name musical stars to dedicated music lovers like myself. We talked Suzi, The Sweet, my love of the 70s glam era and the two books I’ve had published for Sonicbond’s ‘Decades’ series (with a third on the way!)
You can catch the full interview with Plastic EP here:
Among the 800 guests he’s had on so far, Plastic EP has interviewed Suzi, herself, of course. You can catch one of his interviews with Suzi here, where he’s joined by co-host, Sabine Brignell.
Plastic EP and Sabine also interviewed Don Powell recently, which you can catch here: