Slade : The wilderness years & a night with skinheads at Middlesbrough Rock Garden 24th June 1980

Slade : The wilderness years & a night with skinheads at Middlesbrough Rock Garden 24th June 1980
SladeGiveusaGoalUKsingleThe Rock Garden was a scary place. If the skins didn’t get you, then the rock garden burgers would almost certainly finish you off. A visit to the Rock Garden was an experience not to be forgotten; a fight or two was guaranteed as part of the evening’s entertainment, alongside performances by some of the finest punk or heavy rock bands around at the time.
Slade were on their never ending tour of clubs, pubs, cabaret and ballrooms in 1980. The years between 1977 and 1980 were their “wilderness years”; at the time Slade were down on their luck and receiving next to no money. Their records were no longer making the charts and they were forced to play small halls and clubs around the UK, their only income coming from royalties from the old hits, most of which will have gone to Noddy and Jim, as the band’s two songwriters. Their single releases from this period were not their best and included “Give Us A Goal” and “Okey Cokey”. Nuff said. But live in concert they were as great as ever, perhaps more so as they fought and played hard to win new fans and to win back their place in the charts.
The Rock Garden was packed with skinheads for Slade. My mate Norm has vague memories of the support act being pelted off stage, and having to hide behind the bar while the skins continued to throw handfuls of ice at them. But the skins loved Slade, and Noddy managed to keep them in order. When a scuffle broke out he would tell the hard guys to behave and they would listen to him and take notice. They saw him as one of their own. The Rock Garden stage was tiny, and Slade came with masses of amps, which they still had from the days when they would pack out big halls. So Nod, Dave, Jim and Don were limited to playing in a tiny area in front of a massive back line and surrounded by big PA speakers. And they were deafeningly LOUD. I swear my ears were ringing for days afterwards. The set was a mix of their hits, recent tracks and a few covers. The place went crazy. Slade were called back for several encores and finished with “Born to be Wild”, just like old times. Happy days.
Set list: Dizzy Mamma; My Baby Left Me; Take Me Bak ‘Ome; When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’; Wheels Ain’t Coming Down; Lemme Love Into Ya; Everyday; Somethin’ Else (Eddie Cochran); Pistol Packin’ Mama; Keep a Rollin’; Night Starvation; Gudbuy T’Jane; Get Down and Get With It
Encore: Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Encore 2: Cum on Feel the Noize; Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley; Born to Be Wild
A couple of months later I was at the Reading Festival, when a lucky break gave Slade the chance to show everyone just how great a live band they still were, and put them back in the music public’s eye, this time as heroes of the heavy metal brigade. I’ll write about that tomorrow

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pete Shuttleworth on October 21, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    There is an urban legend that states that SLADE was an acronym for Skinheads Live And Die Equal… Dating back to their pre-glam era… Although that begs the question what was AMBROSE an acronym for?


  2. Posted by Steve Pearn on July 22, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    I went to buy some tickets for Crass(11th October 1980)the day after Slade played the Rock Garden – to describe the place as a bombsite would be an understatement!


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 22, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Yes Steve Slade were pure class at the Rock Garden and VERY LOUD. And Crass; well that was another story; a very scary night with lots of fights and (real) glass flying all over the place. Crazy happy days Peter


      • Posted by Steve Pearn on February 19, 2021 at 4:10 pm

        I remember thinking that the Crass gig was going to sell out in five minutes,so I
        thought it best to buy a ticket –
        I spoke to the manager and arranged to meet him (day after the Slade gig)but the only person at the Rock Garden was the cleaner!
        I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the manager to show up,but he never did – come the night of the Crass gig,
        none of my mates could be bothered to go and I didn’t fancy risking life and limb going on my own!

      • Posted by vintagerock on February 19, 2021 at 5:32 pm

        Hi Steve I remember it as a pretty wild night. I also remember driving down to the Rock Garden from Sunderland to buy tickets. You would go upstairs in a little room and someone would handwrite the ticket out for you as I recall? Happy days Peter

      • Posted by Steve Pearn on February 19, 2021 at 4:11 pm


        I thought the Rock Garden only served drinks in plastic glasses?

      • Posted by vintagerock on February 19, 2021 at 5:28 pm

        Hi Steve I seem to remember real glass? But maybe my memory is going! Happy days Peter

      • Posted by Smoggy on July 1, 2022 at 4:35 pm

        Don’t think so mate. Rock garden only ever had hard plastic glasses although they could hurt if you got hit with one especially if it was full of beer.

      • Posted by vintagerock on July 2, 2022 at 3:10 pm

        My memory tends to embellish things as I get older! Dementia setting in. Still it makes for a good story Peter

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