Slade star Don Powell starring at Wolverhampton Literary Festival
He’s one of the best-known and best-loved rock stars ever to emerge from the Black Country.
During a remarkable career, Slade drummer Don Powell watched as the band he formed with lead guitarist Dave Hill became leaders of the glam rock movement.
Slade were the UK’s biggest singles band in the years 1971-74. Their many hits become rock’n’roll standards, not least Merry Christmas Everybody, arguably Britain’s all-time favourite Christmas song.
They enjoyed a run of successive number one hits that rivalled the record set by The Beatles while playing to sell-out stadiums around the world.
For Don, however, success came at a price. He survived a near-death car accident in 1973 and then overcame alcoholism, financial woes and a life of reckless promiscuity.
His story was told in the remarkable memoir, Look What I Dun, and the now-sober-and-settled-in-Denmark drummer will tell his no-nonsense story at Wolverhampton Literary Festival on January 27 at the city’s Art Gallery from 5.30pm. Don will chart the highs and lows of the rock’n’roll world, as seen through the eyes of one of the Black Country’s greatest survivors.
“I suppose in a way the things that stand out is the incredible success that Slade had. The big year was 1973 and that was also the year of the accident. We equalled The Beatles record of having three records go to number one on the first day of release. We’ve never really had recognition for that, I feel, and we only just missed out a fourth one.”
When success came, the quartet who made up Slade weren’t living in some fancy penthouse in London’s Mayfair. They were stuck in the box rooms of their mums’ and dads’ homes in the grimy and industrial Black Country. So kids with flared jeans and kipper collars would knock on their front doors, hoping to catch a glimpse or be invited in for a cup of tea.
“I was still living with my parents on Stowlawn, in Bilston. Noddy was still with his parents at Beechdale in Walsall. Jim might still have been with his parents at Codsall. And Dave was living locally too.
“We’d get people outside the houses, quite frequently. It was really funny. I made a bad mistake once when I went to see my sister after we’d got home from touring. I went to see her on the housing estate in Wednesfield. All of a sudden there was a crowd of kids outside her house on the Ashmore Park Estate. It was like chaos. It was like Beatlemania with everyone trying to get to me. We couldn’t go anywhere.”
Don did find one safe haven, however, in the centre of Wolverhampton. He’d regularly go to a coffee shop, incognito, where he knew he wouldn’t be bothered.
“It was nice to make it Beatties coffee shop. I used to go there every day. The lady behind the counter asked how things were going and always took care of me.”
Don released his memoir in 2013 and the book continues to sell. He finds it incredible that a working class kid from the Black Country could have achieved so much and lived a life that people still want to read about.
Tickets cost £9.50 and are available at www.wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/don-powell/4594117354, by calling 0870 320 7000 or in person from Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield Street.