Slade become heavy metal heroes at the Reading Festival 24th August 1980

Slade become heavy metal heroes at the Reading Festival 24th August 1980
Their singles weren’t selling, and their concerts were no longer drawing in the crowds. In fact, at the time of that they took a last-minute call asking them to appear at the 1980 Reading Festival, Slade were on the verge of packing it all in. “We had to pay to park in the public area,” recalls Jim Lea incredulously. “With no roadies, we had to carry our own gear and there was even trouble getting into the backstage area!” From the SladeInEngland site” “Reading Rock 1980 was without a doubt one of the bands finest hours….As far as their history was concerned, perhaps only their groundbreaking appearance at the Great Western Festival at Lincoln in 1972 had as much impact on their standing with the music going public, and the music writing press, as the Reading Festival in 1980.”
By 1980, Reading Festival had become a heavy metal extravaganza. Headliners were Whitesnake, UFO and Rory Gallagher, with a full supporting heavy rock cast including new up-and-coming NWOBHM bands Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne was billed to play on the Sunday with his new band Blizzard of Oz, but rumours started to go around the festival site, that Ozzy wasn’t going to show. Soon those rumours started to hint at who might replace Ozzy, and the name in the frame was…wait for it….Slade. At first this seemed implausable. Slade were out in the “wilderness”, playing in small clubs. How would a staunch heavy metal crowd react to them? The festival organisers wouldn’t take the risk, would they? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to hope that it would happen, and the more I began to think it might really work out well for Slade. After all, I’d seen a similar thing happen eight years before at Lincoln, when Slade turned around a potential disaster and secured themselves a special place in the heart of rock fans. I had no doubt that they had the ability, the songs, the passion and the supreme rock’n’roll sensibilities and credentials to do the same again. I’d seen them play Middlesbrough Rock Garden a couple of months earlier, so I knew that Slade were performing well, powered on all of four cylinders, and ready to rock. And if anyone had the bottle to face the Reading crowd, and a potential shower of Party Seven cans, and talk them round, it was Noddy.
I think it was on the Saturday night that DJ Bob Harris (or it may have been John Peel; they were both there) confirmed that Slade would be replacing Ozzy, to massive boos from the crowd. Slade, those guys who sing the Christmas song? How could they replace a metal legend like Ozzy? The crowd was having none of it. I’m sure many were already plotting how they were going to show Slade exactly what they thought of them. This would no doubt involve lobbing cans at the stage, and probably filling them with piss first.
sladeliveatreadingSunday afternoon came. Slade were to appear after glam heavy metal band Girl, and just before new heroes Def Leppard. My mate Dave and I were willing it to work out. The field wasn’t that full as Bob Harris announced that Slade were taking the stage. Their entrance was greeted with a hail of cans. Noddy wasn’t phased at all by that, and asked everyone if they were “ready to rock”. And then they launched straight into “Dizzy Mama”. And then it started to happen. Slowly at first, the crowd began to cheer. People wandering around the outskirts of the site started to run towards the stage. Slade knew they had to win the crowd over and were working so hard, rocking so hard, and playing the hits. The area around the stage was soon completely rammed and the whole field was going crazy. Amazing. Slade nailed it, and in the space of one hour made sure that they were well and truly back. I had tears in my eyes.
From the SladeInWales site: “Slade’s appearance at the Reading Festival in 1980 will go down in the annals of rock history as one of the great comeback stories….Slade then went out and kicked everyone’s ass so hard they completely stole the show. All the British press (who had been ignoring Slade for some years by this point) wrote about Reading that year was Slade, and how they were back, dynamic, one of the greatest live bands ever….The Reading Festival in 1980 gave Slade a new lease in life.”
Dave Hill: “One heck of an experience, ‘cos I wasn’t going to do that gig. Slade manager Chas Chandler talked me into it…the confidence came when there was a reaction, as it built and built, sort of got bigger and bigger. I mean getting that lot to sing “Merry Xmas Everybody” was amazing. I could see Chas at the side grinning.”
The event was recorded and a few tracks were released as an EP. For their next tour, Slade were back in concert halls, and were filling them.
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; Everyday; Somethin’ Else; Pistol Packin’ Mama; Keep a Rollin’; You’ll Never Walk Alone (Noddy leading the crowd in a mass singalong); Mama Weer All Crazee Now; Get Down and Get With It (mayhem; mass stomping of feet); Merry Xmas Everybody (well they had to play it, didn’t they, and the crowd sang the chorus; a surreal moment, a field full of denim singing along with Noddy; it was wonderful); Cum on Feel the Noize; Born to Be Wild (a perfect closer; follow that Def Leppard)
A great day 🙂
But….I got back to the camp site after Whitesnake and discovered that someone had nicked my tent 😦 Oh well, you can’t win them all. It was a cheap crappy tent anyway.
Thanks to Andrew King for allowing use of his image of Slade onstage at Reading, through the Wikimedia Commons licence.

26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nick Dunn on October 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Enjoyed reading that – thanks. I was there for that incredible experience and many times over the ensuing years, I tried to analyse just why the hell that performance worked so well. When we found out Slade were going to be there, I remember we all just laughed but at the same time looked forward to seeing them. If ever anyone could get the crowd into a frenzy, Noddy could and he certainly went for it that day. I think mainly though it was this – 1) We were all 18 and remembered Slade from the pop era a few years before. 2) We’d been drinking all afternoon. 3) We knew all the words! I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen anything like that performance since. Def Leppard must have been cacking themselves backstage knowing they had to follow that!


    • Posted by vintagerock on October 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Nick I agree with everything you say; but I would also add that, on a good night, Slade were simply one of the best live bands on the planet. The hits were great, but Slade live in the 70s were pure rock class. Thanks for reminding of one of my favourite bands, who I miss seeing. Cheers Peter


  2. Great piece – this was the era I got into Slade. I was too late for Reading in 1980 but got to see them at Donington the following year – which I discuss in my review of the latter-day version of Slade here


  3. Posted by Phil on September 17, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Brilliant. UKHM Heroes👍


  4. Posted by David Pallant on September 30, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I was there and they were brilliant, certainly deserved their place on the bill.


  5. Posted by Jan Shiner on February 2, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Looking back finding memories – brilliant, what a great thing to say I remember it well. Fab weekend – never forget


  6. Posted by St Anthony on February 8, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    I was 17 years old at reading 80 and like many there I had gone to see Ozzy. I was deeply disappointed that he wasn’t showing, I booed and I jeered along with the majority of the crowd. However, what happened next lives long in my memory, probably the greatest gig I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen hundreds). Within minutes of them hitting the stage the crowd turned from apathy to ecstasy, the whole place was jumping.


  7. Posted by Noel Liggett on March 5, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Noel Liggett I was there and Slade blew everyone away that night shear magic they played in the Top Rank in Reading later that year again they were brilliant that night as well. So glad I went to the festival that year.


  8. Posted by david crabbe on August 6, 2019 at 10:59 am

    They hadn’t a hope in hell..most there knew em from the cardboard world of Top of the pops…lol…Boy did they have no clue how powerful they were . No miming here kids just ear splitting volume. Nod faced a barrage of cans and booing as the guyz arrived on stage, many of which were two pinters of tartan ale!!! He had the balls to cum right to the front right from the off as those cans in their hundreds began to rain . They kept the crowd waiting as they pissed about tuning up etc as the booing was embarrassing and I knew they wouldn’t last two numbers in this. Then they began so weak sounding and appearing amateurish as Nod strummed weakly and muttered very slowly and gruffly ” Weer gonna Rock ya..Weer gonna Fuck you up” three times and then hollered”…..” Fun two, fun two free FOUR!!!! free four.” Armagedon arrived at Reading…they hit us with a wall of energy that many stood open mouthed and Slade burst into life with Dizzy Mama.They grew in volume throughout their entire set as Nod would call out “Is it LOUD enough so calls of “More!” by the audience which amazingly kept getting bigger as the set went on ..they were the loudest muthas of the entire weekend


  9. Posted by Ross Patterson on August 25, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    There has been no better live band on any stage at anytime than Slade. The loudest, the heaviest and the best to me. Slade played like this every gig and were a hard rock band before they had hits. The above looks like, to me, that Def Leppard couldn’t match them. No surprise or shame there, when you are up against the best live hard rock band in the world. Seen loads of the so called metal / rock bands over the years, including Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Purple, Sabbath, Ozzy, Robert Plant, Quo, Rainbow, ACDC, Lizzy etc. All good live bands to me, but not when compared to Slade. Noddy Holder compared to Joe Elliott, David Coverdale, Gillan, Ozzy, Brian Johnson, Meat Loaf and any other vocalist for that matter, I would personally, back the former against any of them, or any other front man you care to suggest. No wonder he was allegedly AC/DC’s first choice replacement apparently in early 1980, when Slade looked like they were finished, just before this gig, played at 3 days notice. Slade the loudest, heaviest and the best. Long may they be revered. Wow 40 years and 1 day ago.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 26, 2020 at 11:26 am

      Hi Ross

      I agree with you. Noddy could command the stage like no other. I was lucky enough to see them many times in small ballrooms, Newcastle City Hall and twice where they simply stole the show in front of a largely rock crowd, at the Lincoln Festival in 1972 and then again at Reading. Pure class. Cheers Peter


      • Posted by Ross Patterson on August 26, 2020 at 5:22 pm

        Thanks Peter you saw exactly what I did the Middlesbrough gig in June before reading was amazing just as they all were. The whatever happened to album is the best one in my collection. They could just take a crowd from the first note like no other band. Proud to still be one of the 500. Kind regards Ross

      • Posted by vintagerock on August 26, 2020 at 6:57 pm

        Hi Ross

        Slade were pure class. Unmatchable. I would love to see them reform; but maybe Noddy is right not to do so; as it might never be the same. I’ve seen the current line-up twice however things aren’t the same without Noddy, although there are still fun

        Happy days Peter

  10. Posted by ross patterson on August 26, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks Peter. Yes I agree, not the same band without Nod and Jim. Probably too late to reform and play at break neck speed like they used too. Unmatchable as you state. Kind Regards Ross


  11. Posted by ANDREW KING on September 22, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Amazing show and a fantastic weekend. I think the weather was kind to us. Sadly the t shirt no longer fits…! Had to also be one of the best festival line ups ever. In the photo I`m the person under the red arrow on the left hand side. This photo was in the centrefold of the Slade live CD set. I don`t know who the photographer is but they must have taken more. I did take photos myself that weekend but can`t work out why I don`t have any of Slade. Happy days…..


  12. Posted by Dom Parker on October 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Its 40 years ago now and I remember it like it was yesterday. Slade were amazing and I am just sad that the show wasn’t filmed (or was it?). Sadly I was over the other side in front of stage left when Slade were on but we were still congering over there as well, that was the impact they had. Still goes down as the best festival for me (well I am a die hard UFO fan :). Best wishes to all who were there and are still with us now. Cheers : Dom


    • Posted by vintagerock on October 21, 2020 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks Dom

      Happy days. Back in the day Slade were TOP MEN and one of the best bands in the world. Thanks for sharing your memories cheers Peter


  13. Posted by Trevor Thorpe on June 27, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Saw them at the Brighton Centre during their comeback period. Due to a technical fault they had to play with the house lights on for the whole set. Nobody was bothered and they rocked the house down. Noddy Holder – on of the great front men and great in “The Grimleys” as Mr. Holder the mild mannered music teacher who couldn’t understand the attraction of noisy rock’n’roll music.


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 27, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Trevor on a good night Slade was simply one of the best bands in the world. Happy days. Thanks for your memories. Much appreciated Peter


  14. Posted by Debbie Woods on October 9, 2022 at 10:39 am

    I was there also. That sunny Sunday afternoon is engraved on memory still as strong today as it was at the time. My first and best festival I’ve ever attended. The expectation of Slade was why them old has beens, but by the end of their first song it was all different. They rocked the festival like no one else, and became my favorite live band from that day on. I still listen to and love to play there hard hitting memory making melodies.


    • Posted by vintagerock on October 9, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      Many thanks for sharing Debbie.

      Slade were always very underrated. They were probably one of the best, if not THE best, live band around in the early 70s and then, after Reading, re-emerged as a heavier rock band. I would love to see them reform one day. That Reading festival appearance was the highlight of the weekend. Happy days Peter


  15. Posted by Bill on November 18, 2022 at 10:24 am

    The author seems to have a memory lapse. They didn’t play merry Christmas everyone. Only the audience sang. They were magic though when they came on stage at about 4pm most were sleepy or just resting, within 5 minutes the audience were rocking like it was going to go out of fashion.


    • Posted by vintagerock on November 18, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Bill you are probably right about my memory lapse. I get lots of them now! What I do remember a great rocking performance from one of the best live bands ever. Happy days Peter


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