Slade's Dave Hill chats about his new book ahead of Bilston show
You’d expect him to be the showiest of all of the members of Slade. After all, Dave Hill made a career from modelling silver wigs and platform boots. He was the brightest star in Slade’s firmament, the one who’d dress most outrageously, who’d model a great scooping fringe for more years than was sensible.
Yet Dave Hill is as far removed from the caricature as is possible. Our scheduled 15-minute chat turns into 45. And the subjects aren’t just Rolls Royces and drink, six number one singles and outrageous apparel – Dave talks about depression and importance of our shared history, about his deep, deep affection for the Black Country and a long-lasting marriage.
The man nicknamed Superyob who rocked the world with Slade is more sensitive and thoughtful than anyone might imagine. Yes, there’s Merry Xmas Everybody and six smash LPs in his new book, So Here It Is, which is published this month by Unbound. But there’s also talk about post-War Britain and his office job at Tarmac, about sliding into depression during his later years and suffering a stroke, there’s an honest assessment of Slade’s split – to paraphrase, everyone started to hate Noddy, though Dave and Nod are the best of pals again now – and there’s the slow revealing of a gentle soul.
Superyob? Dave Hill. You’re having a larf.
“I was born in a castle and then grew up in a council house in Wolverhampton. I had a smashing mum and dad but things were tough growing up in post-War Britain. My life really changed when I heard rock‘n’roll music. I said goodbye to an office job at Tarmac and never looked back. I played in various groups before fame came knocking at my door.
“Slade’s success didn’t happen overnight but boy, were we big when we took off! We had 23 top twenty hits and six number one singles. Three of these went straight to the number one spot – a first, not even matched by The Beatles. Topping it all was Merry Xmas Everybody, which sold over one million copies. We also had six smash LPs, and one time had the number one and two spots on the LP chart. All this made Slade the biggest band in the UK in the 70s, and we were massive all over the world, too.
“Slade had some great years but fashions change and the break-up of the original band was heartbreaking. I thought that would be it for me.
“I battled through depression and got over a stroke, and decided to carry on doing the thing which I do best: I went back on the road with Slade. I’ve seen more of the world, and more fans, in the last 25 years than I did when the band were at their most famous.”
Dave’s autobiography, inevitably, was created in his beloved Black Country. He met a writer, from Walsall, who was a big Slade fan and encouraged him to jot down his memories. Publishers were slow on the uptake so they took it to Unbound, the pledge-funded organisation. Dave smashed his target – achieving 116 per cent funding from 564 backers.
“It was a nice process. If I’d been with a different publisher, they’d have been telling me what to write. With these guys, I was just allowed to get on with it. I worked with a ghostwriter, he was from Wednesbury. It was important to do it that way. I was working with somebody who understood the way I talk and who related to my upbringing.”
Dave, who is performing at Bilston's Robin 2 on Tuesday, didn’t just want to write about the good times. He wanted to tell the truth, to write down his experience of mental health issues.
“The Slade years were incredible. We had the most original Christmas song. We influenced a lot of people. Those years took me to destinations I wouldn’t have dreamed of. Everything was good until the break-up of the band.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I’d got a good wife and three children. I had a lot to carry on for.”
Dave is more candid in his book about the break-up than others have been.
“I spoke to Nod about it, he keeps in touch. He said nobody’s really written how the split was. So I did my best to write about how it was. Nod and myself have one heck of a life. We have a love for each other. We didn’t agree with everything but we agreed with one thing, to be in a great band. We achieved that. Slade were a great rock‘n’roll band. We had uniqueness and an honesty.
“With Nod, there was the realisation that he was going to go. And back then, when I weighed it up, maybe there wasn’t any love for him in the band any more. He had to do what he had to do. In the early days it was like we were glued together. But we loved it and we’re mates now. We’ll always be known for it, especially Nod and myself.”
Dave’s book is equally remarkable for his exploration of depression, which followed routine surgery.
“I was in a dark place for a while. I had two years of really bad depression and was wondering whether I would ever feel good again. It was scary, it was hard on the family. I didn’t trust medication. I found the right person who helped me, a great psychiatrist, who knew about medication. She was a specialist in her area and great to talk to. She told me I was 100 per cent depressed.”
The joy returned when he listed to some old 60s music in his car. “The music gave me that joy inside. I went on a shopping spree buying clothes, I was Dave Hill again, that bloke, going out and getting stuff. The dark areas faded away. But I’ve wrote about that in the book.”
l So Here It Is: How the Boy From Wolverhampton Rocked the World With Slade, by Dave Hill, is published by Unbound on November 16.