Superstar of the Seventies, Dave Hill is the memorable one from the group Slade. Not the singer, but a guitarist with a unique taste in stage costume. This is his story, simply told but rich in detail, of not only his life but the life of a singular group who stood outside the mainstream by producing their own distinctive sound. This book, written in the first person by a man with a life experience not totally different from many people of his generation, is not the record of stardom and celebrity tantrums. Instead it records the struggle for financial stability through the music he loves and belonging to groups that have gelled together through some unusual circumstances.
Dave Hill was born and brought up in Wolverhampton, in a community which supported the small clubs and venues that were the setting for early musical ventures of groups which could be set up with unsophisticated equipment. At that stage there were no colleges which offered high tech. courses on musical production, and only basic musical experiences through records which were carefully selected. On a personal level, while Hill’s family were apparently supportive of his budding music career, there were some pressures from his mother’s long term illness. He is honest about the trials of identifying who could work with whom, and the influences on their first songs and indeed hit records. He also recognises the difficulty of being famous and having a following in the clubs with little actual money, despite the input of managers who seemed to have been uniformly honest. There are stories of the pressures of touring, doing small venues and the times when it looked as if Slade had peaked. Their failure to attract success in America is quite a familiar story for many musical acts, and Hill points out the differences between the different parts of the United States that cause problems for anyone to try and influence the entire country. He tells the story of each of their hits very naturally, showing them as the result of much hard work rather than sudden inspiration. He comments on the sound which made Slade stand out, as well as his experimental approach to clothes and hair which made him the memorable member of Slade. He also tells us of his wife, Jan, and her difficulties while he was on tour, with a small daughter and in a large house but away from family support. This is essentially story of a family supporting Hill while he made records and toured with both versions of Slade. He details his health problems, but actually comes over as a really positive person, grateful for opportunities which he has made the most of through the years.
I enjoyed this book more than I imagined that I would. It is consistently written and genuinely interesting in its celebration of a life partly lived in publicity and a pre –internet celebrity. It is a smashing book, full of interest and warmth for family and friends, and reviving memories for many.
This was a different sort of book for me, but I really enjoyed reading it. It was responsible for a few misspent hours on Youtube as well…