1973 was undoubtedly Slade's best year career wise. Four hit singles, three of them straight to number one on the day of release, a greatest hits compilation (Sladest) in the charts. Slade even became the first band to play (and sell out) a gig at Earl's Court. A Christmas record they can't shake even to this day. The biggest downside news though was a car accident where drummer Don Powell came close to losing his life. Where to go next in 1974? Chas, according to Dave Hill used the Beatles as a blue print for Slade's career. Hit singles; hit albums; successful tours all over the most of the world, the next logical step would have to be a movie as The Beatles had done ten years earlier with `A Hard Day's Night'. So, a good part of 1974 would be spent filming the movie and recording the soundtrack.
`Slade in Flame' hit the cinema in 1975 followed very quickly with a British tour. However, Slade found that the tour was not a big sell out as previous tours had been. What could be the problem? To this day some think Slade's delve into the movie business was a mistake. The problem was Slade in Flame did not portray Slade but a fictional band Flame's rise and fall from grace. Although the screenplay used real events from rock history it was not the story of Slade. It appeared fans could not differentiate truth from reality (or could they?).
Thirty-two years later, Slade In Flame is regarded as one of the best rock movies ever made. So what was wrong back in 1975 when it was released? When Slade's manager Chas Chandler put the `feelers' out for scripts for a Slade movie most, were unworkable. A spoof of The Quatermass Experiment (entitled `The Quite-A-Mess Experiment) was thankfully shelved. Slade wanted to make a movie of substance, a real underbelly, and nitty, gritty story.
Along with up and coming actor Tom Conti (this being only his second movie role), Johnny Shannon almost repeating his role from `Performance' and Diana Dors' husband Alan Lake, Slade set off as one newspaper reviewer wrote at the time to `Blow the glamorous skin off the pop world like a blow torch'. The film is very dark, only has limited humour but is all the better for it. This was Slade saying that when you do rise to the top, it is not what most would imagine. It is not all sweetness and light.
The story (directed by Richard Longcraine) is of two bands who split to form one, Iron Rod and later Flame. It shows, dodgy managers, thugs and is very seedy in parts. The bands fall from grace sees internal arguments between Stoker (Noddy Holder) and Paul (Jim Lea). The other members of the band Barry (Dave Hill) whose fame soon goes to his head, using the roadie of old to fetch and carry for him and lastly the most welcome comedy element comes from Charlie (Don Powell) who is just along for the ride. Tom Conti plays Seymour, the Simon Cowell of the day, using the band to make some money and not really caring for the music. Seymour is man who is more used to selling large amounts of cigarettes than music. Johnny Shannon is Ron Harding trying to get his old band back when they hit the big time with an old contract, which according to Seymour `ties them up for ever'. Sara Clee play Angie Barry's girlfriend who later Stoker later happily steals away.
The music still stands up so well. The masterpiece of `How Does It Feel' on the opening and closing credits fits perfectly. The album however only reached number 6 in the charts and this really was the start of Slade's first decline. They would however bounce back in the early 1980's.
Slade as actors all do a grand job. Nod having no problems, Don having his own little bit mid-way through the movie is impressive as is Jim who basically plays himself as the one who does not really like the fame and public intrusion. Dave Hill's highlight as the one living the rock star lifestyle immediately, is in the car showroom where he want to purchase a Rolls Royce with some very much needed comic relief.
Reviews for this movie include: `The greatest rock movie ever made' (Q Magazine), `A fascinating and at times incredible piece of work' (Uncut) and `The Citizen Cane of British pop pics' (Mojo). Even Barry Norman who never pulled any punches said at the time of release `For all its failings it has some sort of charm at the end of the day',
This release is the best one to date. The film has been remastered and uses the full Cinemascope edition. The set also includes the album soundtrack, a 16-page booklet (includes comments from Jim Lea) and most importantly, a brand new retrospective documentary that includes comments all of the band as well as director Richard Loncraine and Tom Conti. If you ever only buy one movie about the rock business make sure it is this one. An essential buy.