Some interesting music from the 1970s… Slade – Sladest

I’m not a big fan of using class as a marker. I think it muddies far more than it clears. It is too often used as a mechanism for petty point scoring; too sloppily adopted as a model for analysing society. Too put it bluntly, it’s bullshit. We talk about ‘working class concerns about immigration’ as if a) there aren’t millions of working class people who celebrate immigration and b) economic migrants aren’t working class. We collectively accept that Alan Sugar is working class (because he says he is and because he doesn’t speak with received pronunciation) when he is quite clearly rich as shit and a massive landlord. ‘Middle class’ simultaneously means ‘someone who went to Waitrose, once’ and ‘very well off person who had a private education and walked into a job in the city because their dad is well connected’. Class is an obsolete argument. What really affects the world around us is money and who has it. And if, as a country, we were a lot less squeamish about talking about how much we have then we might be a little less likely to be taken for a ride by millionaires pretending to be the ‘voice of the struggling working man’. We need to get past class.

However, having said that, if you like David Bowie but don’t like Slade you are well middle class, mate. Sorry. Hashtag ‘just saying it like it is’ innit.

Sladest was a compilation released in 1973, partly as an attempt to maintain the band’s momentum while drummer Don Powell recovered from a near-fatal road accident and partly as another go at breaking into the US market. It has all the hits up to that point. It never lets up. It is, in a nutshell, a fucking great record.

Of course their sound, and their look, isn’t as other-wordly as Bowie but the tendency in music journalism to see them as the less sophisticated, more (for want of a better word) ‘basic’ side of glam rock is undeniably intertwined with ideas about class. Slade are too often written off as music by yobs for yobs. It’s nonsense. Making music that is loud and celebratory and rambunctious that is also as popular as Slade’s music was is no simple task. If it was, more people would be doing it, wouldn’t they?

Slade were very popular. Their run of seventeen top twenty singles between 1971 and 1976 is only five less than The Beatles had in the 1960s. Their six number ones is as many as Queen achieved, and one more than One Direction. Fifty million records sold worldwide. Not bad, is it?

And sure, sales aren’t everything. It’s the music that counts. But if Nirvana and the Ramones and The Undertones and The Replacements are citing you as an influence you were probably doing something right.

So maybe you should stop being a snob and give them a go? Stick a bit of Sladest onto your stream why don’t you? Clap your hands, stamp your feet, get down and get with it.