FOR veteran guitarist Dave Hill, Slade is for life, not just for… well, you know the rest. But, when it comes to a winter tour, it’s handy to have one of the greatest festive records ever written in the back pocket of his santa suit.
‘People ask if we get sick of playing Merry Xmas Everybody, but why would we?’ he asks. ‘It’s a brilliant Christmas song and people go mad when we play it. I get lots of people telling me it isn’t Christmas for them until they’ve heard it, and that’s a lovely thing to be a part of.’
For the next month, Dave leads the band around the country to spread the Yuletide joy, starting tonight in Liverpool.
‘I love doing Christmas shows,’ says the amiable guitarist. ‘It’s something for people to come to and forget their troubles for an evening. Life can be hard and if you can give people a bit of fun, that’s a really great thing.
‘I feel very lucky because I get to do what I love. I go on stage and I have a great time. I get to wear some really ridiculous clothes and make people smile.’
While their Christmas hit always gets the crowd dancing, it’s far from the glam rock powerhouse’s only song — in the seventies Slade clocked up six Number One singles and three chart-topping albums.
‘During the year we tour Europe a lot. Slade were popular in France, Germany, and especially in Scandinavia. We played Greenland recently, and I thought no one would recognise any of the songs, but they have such strong links to Denmark — including musically — and they sang every word right back to us. It was beautiful.’
Dave has always loved touring, from the first time he hit the road in 1966, through the days when they joined forces with the former Animals bass guitarist and Jimi Hendrix Experience manager Chas Chandler, to their first Number One in 1971, Coz I Luv You.
They became one of Europe’s biggest bands, touring and recording continually, with unconventionally spelled hits like Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel The Noize, Gudbuy T’ Jane, and Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me.
Since lead singer Noddy Holder left in 1992, there have been several line-up changes — only lead guitarist (and now vocalist) Dave and drummer Don Powell have been with the band all the way through. John Berry and Russell Keefe complete the current group. They are, however, showing no signs of slowing down.
‘Music is the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do,’ says Dave. ‘We were massive Beatles fans. The first time we went to Liverpool we asked everyone if they knew them. For us, as working-class lads from a council estate, to see other working-class lads on the stage made a real impression.
‘I was this funny-looking kid. My hair never sat right, my ears stuck out. Whatever I did I never looked quite right. When I left school I got a job in an office and had to slick back my hair and try to look sensible. But I saw the Beatles with their mop tops and I thought maybe there was another choice.
‘I joined a band, grew my hair and cut my fringe and wore these mad clothes and it looked like I was supposed to be funny looking. Girls looked twice at me because I was in a band and maybe I looked different because I was trying to, rather than just by accident.’
Dave’s early stage wardrobe was a DIY masterpiece. ‘In London you could go to the King’s Road and buy stage clothes, but in the Black Country there was nothing like that,’ he recalls. ‘I used to buy women’s jumpsuits from the market and adapt them myself.
‘I remember spraying one with silver car-spray paint and it looked amazing, but I’d not been able to get it to lie flat so I hung it from the front room door in my dad’s council house. When I moved it away there was this outline of my jumpsuit in silver car paint. I don’t think he ever got it off properly.
‘I wore that jumpsuit when we did Top Of The Pops. After that my dad banned me from making costumes inside and I had to do them in the shed.’ Dave’s extraordinary costumes have been the subject of an exhibition and, although he can’t see what all the fuss is about, he couldn’t imagine wearing anything else on stage.
‘I’ve always wondered what the point would be of doing a show in the clothes you’d walk round the supermarket in,’ he laughs. ‘Where’s the excitement in that?’
■ Slade play the Arts Club, Liverpool tonight, their UK tour Rockin’ Home For Christmas continues until Dec 23, slade.uk.com
How Dave does Christmas…
What do you want for Christmas?
Happiness with family. I have everything I could ever wish for already.
What will you be doing?
Eating and drinking. I was one of the ration-book generation, so I love a good meal with the family.
Any Christmas wishes…
To enjoy time with my grandkids, and hope for a better future for the world.
Where do you rock home to for Christmas?
Wolverhampton. I moved once to a posh place in Solihull, but I hated it, so moved back as soon as I could.
Favourite festive food…
Turkey with spuds, sprouts, carrots and gravy — all the trimmings.
Tree: real or fake?
Always has to be a real tree, I like the smell and I love dressing it up.
And the ideal Christmas guests…
Family and dogs. What more could I want?!
Fri 22nd November LIVERPOOL — Arts Club
Sun 24th November ISLE OF MAN — Gaiety Theatre
Thurs 5th December HASTINGS — White Rock Theatre
Sat 7th December NORWICH — Waterfront
Sun 8th December SALISBURY — City Hall
Sat 14th December HULL — The Welly
Sun 15th December BRISTOL — O2 Academy
Tues 17th December GLASGOW — SWG3
Fri 20th December LONDON — ULU
Sat 21st December EXETER — The Lemon Grove
Sun 22nd December BIRMINGHAM — O2 Institute 2
Mon 23rd December NEWCASTLE — O2 Academy