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|Birth name||James Whild Lea|
14 June 1952 |
Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England
|Occupations||Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, keyboards, violin, guitar, vocals|
John Birch custom made guitar
Lea was born in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. Influenced by French jazz-violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Lea's first musical love was the violin. His parents owned The Grange pub in Bilbrook where he grew up. He attended Codsall Comprehensive School – now Codsall Community High School. He played in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra, and gained first class honours in a London music-school practical exam, before moving on to piano, guitar and finally bass guitar. He first played guitar, and then bass, in the schoolboy group 'Nick and The Axemen'.
Lea went for auditions for a local band, 'The 'N Betweens', of which drummer Don Powell, guitarist Dave Hill and vocalist Johnny Howells were already members. When Noddy Holder joined soon after, the foundations for Slade had been laid. Howells later left the band.
He was an athletic performer helping with the band's powerful stage presence.
Slade's lack of success during the late 1970s led Lea to wonder if their material would be better received if recorded by another band. In late 1979, Lea formed 'The Dummies' as a side project, with his brother Frank and wife Louise. The group released three singles, "When The Lights Are Out", "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You" and "Maybe Tonight". The first single was a cover, originally appearing on Slade's 1974 album Old New Borrowed and Blue. All three singles received plenty of radio airplay but sales suffered from distribution problems. "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You" was listed in BBC Radio One's 'A' playlist, meaning the song was expected to become a top ten hit. The cover featured Lea's daughter, Bonny. "Maybe Tonight" featured Roy Wood on vocals with Holder, who sang a total of four lines. Later in 1992, an album A Day in the Life of the Dummies was released. It included all the material recorded by the band.
In the 1980s Lea also produced all of Slade's recording sessions (except for some of the singles), and became an increasingly dominant creative force within the band. It was not uncommon for him to handle Holder's, some say Hill's, guitar parts on record. In 1982, Lea was also busy working on solo projects. Under the name China Dolls he released the track "One Hit Wonder", backed by the B-side "Ain't Love Ain't Bad". "One Hit Wonder" was the same song as "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You", originally released in 1980 under the name "The Dummies", whilst the B-side was a cover of the Slade track "It Ain't Love But It Ain't Bad", from the 1977 album "Whatever Happened To Slade". The same year, Lea released another single, "Poland", under the name Greenfields of Tong, with the B-side carrying an instrumental version. "Poland" was a reworking of the 1979 Slade track "Lemme Love Into Ya".
In late 1983, Lea's band mate Noddy Holder joined him in record production. Together they produced Girlschool's cover of the T-Rex song "20th Century Boy" and the album "Play Dirty" which featured two Slade tracks "Burning in the Heat of Love" and "High and Dry". The "High and Dry" track was originally written for Girlschool but still appeared on Slade's album that same year. Lea also produced the Holder/Lea penned "Simple Love" for the actress and model Sue Scadding. Released by Speed records and with Lea's brother, Frank on drums, the single failed to achieve any commercial success. Initially the song was intended for Slade but no version by the band is known to exist. The B-side was another Holder and Lea composition, "Poland", which Lea released as a single himself the year before under the name Greenfields of Tong. In 1984 Lea also produced an album for singer / actor Gary Holton. Lea also played all the instruments (except drums, played by Geoff Seopardi) on two singles from the album; Holton's cover version of "Catch a Falling Star" and "That's How the Story Goes". Neither achieved any success. In 1985, Lea released his only solo single under his own name entitled "Citizen Kane". Written by both Holder and Lea, it featured Noddy on backing vocals.
In 1986, Lea produced and performed all the instruments except drums, played by Lea's brother, on two singles by Annabella Lwin. The first single was a cover of the Alice Cooper hit "School's Out" whilst the other single was a version of "Fever", written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and previously recorded by Little Willie John and Peggy Lee, among others. Both singles failed to have any impact. Lea also produced two covers by the rock band, The Redbeards From Texas; a Beatles' track, "I Saw Her Standing There", and Slade's own 1972 hit Gudbuy T'Jane. Neither was successful, and the band's lead vocalist Steve Whalley would later become the vocalist of Slade II. In 1988, Lea produced "Shooting Me Down" for the English hard rock band Chrome Molly. Written by Holder and Lea, the single was unsuccessful. The band held their third official fan club convention at Drummonds Convention, King's Cross, London.
Lea left Slade after Holder's departure from the band in 1991, being of the opinion that Slade was all four of them or nothing. He went on to study psychotherapy although he did not take it up as a career, and released a number of singles in the 90s: "Hello Goodbye", under the name Gang of Angels, "I'll Be John, You Be Yoko" under the name Whild and his reworking of "Coz I Luv You" twice; under the names "The X Specials" and "Jimbo feat Bull". The song was produced and arranged by Jimbo with Lea playing all the instruments.
Since Slade stopped touring in early 1984, Lea has performed live only twice; once for a local protest against a motorway development in his home area, and once again for a charity event at the Robin 2 venue in Bilston, near Slade's old local pub, The Trumpet. A download-only live album from this gig can be bought at his website.
Lea is still creating music and has released singles under odd pseudonyms such as 'China Dolls', 'JimJam', 'The Greenfields Of Tong' and 'Whild', all via the Trojan group of labels, which are owned by Slade's management. The most noticeable release of the time[clarification needed] was The Dummies' album A Day in the Life of The Dummies, which gathered together all the demos, and single tracks, that he recorded with his brother, Frank Lea, and wife Louise.
In 2007 he released his first solo album, Therapy, which was available from his website. It received positive reception upon its release and features Lea's own version of Slade's last single "Universe".
Lea used a cherry Gibson EB-3 from the late sixties until it was stolen in the mid seventies. It is unclear if this was Lea's first bass but it is seen in Slade's (probably) first TV-performance in 1969. It was refinished in white when Lea had it in with John Birch to get some minor circuit work done to it. After that bass was stolen in 1976 from the John Birch workshop, Lea's main bass was a very similarly-styled custom-made sunburst John Birch bass, given as a replacement. He also carried a John Birch JB2 bass as a backup bass on some tours. Other notable basses that Lea owned include a Jaydee bass (which, uncommonly for a bass guitar, has a tremolo arm), a pre-1981 Gibson Flying-V bass (which was used a lot in the studio in the seventies). Lea has also been seen using a lot of different basses on mimed TV-performances, most notably Fender Precision Bass, Fender Jazz bass and a Rickenbacker type of bass. However it is unclear if Lea has owned all of them since Slade often used hired/borrowed instruments in mimed performances.
In the early sixties Lea used a Höfner Colorama before turning to bass. Since the late eighties he has been seen using a black Fender Stratocaster. He has also said that he used to compose a lot of songs on his wife’s old Spanish guitar.
Lea owned an ARP 2600 synthesiser. However it was sold on eBay in 2003.
- 1991 The Dummies - A Day In The Life Of The Dummies
- 2007 James Whild Lea - Therapy
- 2007 Jim Lea - Replugged/Official Bootleg Of Jim Jam Live At The Robin 2 16th Nov 2002+
- 1979 The Dummies - "When The Lights Are Out"
- 1980 The Dummies - "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You"
- 1981 The Dummies - "Maybe Tonight"
- 1982 China Dolls - "Ain't Love Ain't Bad"
- 1982 Greenfields Of Tong - "Poland"
- 1985 Jimmy Lea - "Citizen Kane"
- 1990 The Clout - "We'll Bring The House Down"
- 1994 Gang Of Angels - "Hello Goodbye"
- 1994 Jimbo feat Bull - "Coz I Luv You"
- 2000 Whild - "I'll Be John, You Be Yoko"
- Charlesworth, Chris (1984). Slade, Feel the Noize!: an illustrated biography. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-0538-X.
- "The Dummies". Usuarios.multimania.es. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Slade Fan Club Newsletter July–August 1980
- "A Day in the Life of the Dummies [VINYL]: Dummies: Amazon.co.uk: Music". Amazon.co.uk. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "SLADE @ www.slayed.co.uk". Crazeeworld.plus.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "GREENFIELDS OF TONG - Poland / (Instrumental) - Speed Records Ltd. - FIRED 2". 45cat. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "discografia_ingles". Usuarios.multimania.es. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Girlschool - Play Dirty at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Sue Scadding". SLADE40YEARS. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Jimmy Lea* - Citizen Kane (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Artists :: CHROME MOLLY". MusicMight. 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Dave Kemp and Slade website - Conventions". Davekempandslade.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Slade - Weer All Crazee Jim Lea". Slade-weerallcrazee.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "SLADE @ www.slayed.co.uk". Crazeeworld.plus.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Jimleamusic.com". Jimleamusic.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Jim Lea - James Whild Lea - official webshop". Jimleamusic.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Slayed.co.uk". Slayed.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-15.