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. I started writing a regular blog, reviewing gigs and albums, the music writing grew from there. You can say I came to music writing fairly late in life.
Who are you listening to now ?
I still love all my classic rock – from glam to prog to metal and everything in between. I’ve been really getting into Barclay James Harvest lately and snapping up loads of their albums on Ebay.
I also listen to a lot of folk, too. it all depends on my mood. Newer bands I’ve been impressed with include Scarlet Rebels, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and Toledo Steel.
What inspired you to write about SLADE ?
Early on during lockdown I woke up after dreaming that I’d written a book about glam rock band The Sweet. I felt really proud of myself for all of half a second until I realised it was just a dream.
It did plant an idea in my head though, and later that morning emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond Publishing to see if he was interested – and he was.
The Sweet in the 1970s was released in 2021. In their Decades series Sonicbond Publishing have released a number of extensively researched music books from different authors, bands include Curved Air, Uriah Heep and Alice Cooper.
I was a little kid back in the early ‘70s and while I remember them from that time, it wasn’t until Slade had their comeback in the early 1980s that I really got into them.
I was a young teenager by then and the Slade revival came at the right time for me. As soon as the single ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ came out I was hooked.
A true Geordie hero was Chas Chandler, he was enormously important to the band’s success. After he stopped working with Jimi Hendrix he became their manager and producer.
Chas Chandler was born in Newcastle in 1938 and was founder member and bassist with The Animals. He owned recording studios and labels, and was influential in bringing the 10,000 seater Arena to Newcastle.
(Link below to a snapshot of the life of Chas Chandler in Home Newcastle, posted 8th July 2019).
Unlike with Hendrix, who enjoyed almost instant success with Chandler, it was a long hard slog for Slade. They didn’t have their first hit ‘Get Down and Get With It’ until 1971, two years after Chandler began managing them.
Chas’s role in helping define not only the trademark sound of Slade but the trademark sound of glam should not be under-estimated.
When it came to recording ‘Get Down’, Chandler had the genius idea of adding foot-stomping and hand-claps to toughen up the sound.
That sound became as intrinsic to glam rock as the moment Marc Bolan put glitter on his cheeks that same year. It was a sound that other producers of the era like Phil Wainman, Mike Chapman and Mike Leander would follow.
When researching the book did you come across anything unexpected?
I was familiar with Slade’s history and was well aware of the struggles they faced in the second half of the 1970s as the glam scene faded from fashion and were no longer flavour of the month.
But until I spent time in the British Library trawling through back issues of Sounds, Melody Maker and NME, I didn’t realise how vitriolic some of the music journalists where. One Sounds reviewer wrote that if he had written songs as bad as Slade, he’d commit suicide.
But once Slade had their comeback after a spectacular performance at Reading festival in 1980 – where they stepped in at the last minute after Ozzy Osbourne pulled out – the very same papers were raving about Slade once again.
What do the members of Slade think about the book ?
I’ve interviewed both Don Powell and Jim Lea in recent years and insights from those interviews appear in the book. Along with archive material from reviews, interviews and news stories, plus reflections from individual Slade fans. I will try and make sure Noddy, Dave, Jim and Don all get a copy of the book though!
Have you any plans for another book ?
I ended up writing three books in just over two years so made a decision to wait until this one came out before thinking about any more.
Writing and researching is a hugely rewarding and enjoyable process for me but I didn’t want it to become like a conveyor belt. I thought it would be sensible to let this one come out before I started another. I’ve had various ideas but not made any firm commitments yet.
In the meantime I’ve been writing various things for my blog and doing some PR work for a number of artists. I handled the tour publicity for the recent Lust For Life Tour which brought together Glen Matlock, Clem Burke, Katie Puckrik and others to celebrate Iggy Pop’s classic album with a series of gigs, which was a brilliant thing to work on.
Are you going to any gigs soon ?
I’m seeing Francis Rossi doing one of his talk shows in Hastings soon and I’ve also got tickets for Iggy Pop and Blondie at Crystal Palace in July.
Check the Amazon official website to purchase Slade in the 1970s release date 26th May 2023.
Read Darren’s music blog at:
For more information about Sonicbond publishing:
Contact Darren Johnson Writing, Music PR, Campaigns & Communications Support at Crowflies Communications
Chas Chandler : HOME NEWCASTLE – snapshot from the life of musician, manager and record producer Chas Chandler 1938-96. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)
Alikivi April 2023
One thought on “SLADE in the SEVENTIES – with author, Darren Johnson”
Reblogged this on Darren's music blog and commented:
I talk to Gary Alikivi about my love of 70s glam, my writing and my forthcoming book on Slade for his excellent online blog here.
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