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
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.
Like a number of bands riven by personnel disputes, artistic differences or simply shafted by the music industry, early 1980s glam metal pioneers, Wrathchild, were one of those outfits that had long ago divided into rival factions, each touring with their own version of the band and a series of long-running disputes about use of the name.
However, in a statement this week on his Facebook page, original lead singer and over-the-top mascaraed frontman, Rocky Shades, posted a statement to say his own version of the band had finally won the right to use the Wrathchild name:
“Rocky Shades Wrathchild will now be officially known as “Wrathchild” since the ownership of the much disputed and controversial trademark and legacy has been returned to its co creator and motormouth frontman Rocky Shades.“
“The new Wrathchild is the five-piece band that should have been since day one and is considerably heavier than its older incarnation. The original members have either retired or turned their back on the genre that made them.“
The band were originally formed in Evesham, Worcestershire, in 1980, with the debut album Stakk Attakk coming out in 1984.
The current line-up of the band is now original vocalist, Rocky Shades, accompanied by Gaz Wilde (drums), Jonny Suicide (bass), Oz Paul (guitar) and Bret Patrucci (guitar).
In the band statement, Rocky Shades adds: “Wrathchild are currently in talks with a major American management company and a few interested record labels but are set to release their own single imminently called ‘Still Here In The Freak Show. This will be uploaded to a brand new pending website and a video will follow later. The B-side of said single is a reworked rerecorded version of fan favourite ‘Trash Queen’.“
The band are currently rehearsing for appearances at:
Hard Rock Hell – Great Yarmouth – Saturday 11th March 2023
The Billsley Rock Club – Birmingham – Saturday 8th April 2023
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
Given I’d spent a good chunk of 2021 and the first part of 2022 living and breathing all things Suzi Quatro, the timing of the celebratory Royal Albert Hall concert couldn’t have been more perfect. Coming, as it did, just weeks after getting the final draft of Suzi Quatro in the 1970s off to the publishers, Suzi’s gig at the Royal Albert Hall was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time.
There is no support tonight, just Suzi and her band in this packed iconic venue, performing two sets equally packed with hits and other highlights from across her fifty-year solo career. Kicking off with ‘The Wild One’, the hits rolled thick and fast: ‘I May Be Too Young’, ‘Daytona Demon’, ‘Tear Me Apart’, Mama’s Boy’, ‘Stumblin’ In’ and ’48 Crash’. The backing band is polished and versatile and sounding great – and if you’ve not encountered Suzi Quatro live for some considerable years or your main memories are of seeing her performing on Top Of The Pops, the band now encompasses a brass section and backing singers.
We were promised some additional special guests, too, and I half-wondered whether Chris Norman would be brought on stage to reprise his role in ‘Stumblin’ In’ but it’s the guitarist, Tim, who gets to sing the duet instead. We don’t have to wait too long for the first special guest to appear, however, as Suzi brings up her guitarist son, Richard Tuckey, who worked with her on her two most recent albums, 2019’s No Control and last year’s The Devil In Me. Both albums picked up very favourable reviews at the time and together they perform a song from each. The mother and son dynamic works incredibly well, both in the studio and live on stage, recapturing the energy and raunch of Quatro’s early solo career and adding a contemporary edge. After the classic Chinn-Chapman glam era, this new Quatro/Tuckey partnership is fast becoming my next favourite chapter of Suzi’s long career.
We don’t have to wait long for the next set of special guests to appear, either. Paying tribute to the great bands that were around in the 1970s, Suzi welcomes her next two guests: Sweet’s Andy Scott and Slade’s Don Powell. The three worked together a few years ago, of course, releasing the excellent Quatro, Scott & Powell album back in 2017 and undertaking a successful tour of Australia. This will be the first time a British audience has had the chance to see the three perform together, however. Launching into ‘Slow Down’ from the trio’s album together they give us a gloriously energetic slice of 1950s rock and roll, followed by a blistering cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’. I do hope we get to see more of this glam-era power trio in the not too distant future.
In a complete change of pace, and to prove that she can do soft, emotive balladry as well as any of them, Suzi sits alone at the piano for the final song of the first set, a beautiful rendition of ‘Can I Be Your Girl’ from the Unreleased Emotion album which is dedicated to her mother and father.
The second half sees more vintage hits as well as more songs from the new album. Indeed, the set opens with that wonderful tribute to her Detroit home-town, ‘Motor City Riders’, from The Devil In Me. Although she will always be best known for the thumping, raucous sounds of the Chinn and Chapman early ‘70s hits, Suzi Quatro’s illustrious back catalogue explores a range of styles and genres. Suzi and the band delve into a number of these tonight, including the funk groove of ‘Your Mamma Won’t Like Me’, the heavily new wave -influenced ‘She’s In Love With You’ and the country rock of ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love’, as well as more traditional Quatro fayre in the form of ‘Can The Can’ and ‘Devil Gate Drive’.
By the time we hear these two, of course, it’s a sign that things are starting to draw to a close, sadly. There’s just time for a riotous rendition of Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Rock n Roller’ before a complete change of mood, once again, this time with a cover of the Eagles ‘Desperado’.
Almost fifty years since she had her first big hit and almost forty years since I first saw her at Reading Festival when I was seventeen, Suzi Quatro gives a masterclass of a performance tonight. Still rocking, still singing, still pumping out those powerful bass sounds and still the consummate entertainer, Suzi Quatro definitely still has it.
Following my biography on The Sweet last year, I’m absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to write a second book for the Decades series published by Sonicbond.
Suzi Quatro in the 1970s will be published at the end of July and is available for pre-order on Amazon here. It is also be available from other retailers and via the publisher’s own online shop here.
The synopsis on Amazon hopefully gives you a flavour of what’s in store:
‘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.’ Suzi Quatro
With a succession of hit singles, including eight UK top twenty hits and two number ones, sell-out tours and six studio albums, Suzi Quatro was an enduring presence throughout the 1970s, the decade that saw her move away from being part of an all-girl band in Detroit and relocate to England for a solo career that challenged old stereotypes and helped redefine the image of the female rock icon.
Taking each year in turn this book takes a detailed look at Suzi Quatro’s career throughout the decade where she enjoyed her greatest successes, including a comprehensive overview of each album and single released during that period, her touring schedule and her frequent media appearances, including that famous guest role in Happy Days. As well as making extensive use of press archives from the era, Suzi Quatro In The 1970s also includes personal reflections from an exclusive interview with Suzi herself.
A year on from the release of his well-received debut album last year, Sussex-based singer-songwriter/musician, Tim Izzard, has a brand-new EP out. 21st Century Exposé builds on the themes explored in Izzard’s debut album, Starlight Rendezvous, an album of original songs inspired by David Bowie in at the height of his Ziggy period. 21st Century Exposé is a full-on celebration of the glam era in all its glory and the sparkling, luminous trail it has left across music of many different genres over the past fifty years.
Tim Izzard:“Starlight Rendezvous had its origins very much rooted in Glam-era Bowie. The follow-up EP, 21st Century Exposé further celebrates the man and the old and current glam scene, mixing up old school new wave, power-pop, glam, neo-glam, futuristic ballads and a slice of cabaret to muse on twenty-first century living.”
The lead song on the new EP is the wonderful ‘Glam Rock Star’, a tribute to glam rock’s first half-century – a genre that is still influencing music today.
Izzard: “Whilst it is recognised that T. Rex’s 1971 No.1 Hot Love gave birth to UK glam rock it was in 1972 that it escaped into the playground with Bowie, Roxy, Alice Cooper, Mott, Slade and many others pushing the musical and make-up boundaries! I still remember vividly watching an alien Bowie perform Starman on TOTP and later on the futuristic , 50’s throw-back of Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Fifty years on and there are still many bands and artists producing new glam and neo-glam music such as the UK’s The Voltz, Sweden’s SilverGlam and, in the US, Creem Circus and Gyasi. Like the influence of Bowie on my music you can hear Bolan’s vocal, Mick Ronson’s guitar or the wall of sound of Slade and much more in the ‘New’ Glam sound.”