Slade In Flame

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Slade in Flame
Slade In Flame (1975).jpg
Directed by Richard Loncraine
Written by Andrew Birkin (screenplay)
Dave Humphries (additional dialogue)
Starring
Music by Slade
Cinematography Peter Hannan
Editing by Michael Bradsell
Studio Goodtimes Enterprises
Distributed by Visual Programme Systems (UK)
Release dates January 1975 (1975-01)
Country United Kingdom

Slade in Flame (also known as Flame) is a 1975 film starring the members of the band Slade. In 2007, BBC film critic Mark Kermode called it the "Citizen Kane of rock musicals"[1] and included its soundtrack among the 50 greatest soundtracks in cinema's history.[2]

Record Mirror magazine voted the film at No. 4 on the top 10 best films in February 1976.[3]

A paperback book was released, based on the film, written by John Pidgeon.[4][5]

The film's book peaked at No. 3 in the best selling paperbacks according to the Sunday Times chart around April/May 1975. It was the largest printings that the published Panther had done for home market which was 250,000 copies.[6][7]

In October 2007, Classic Rock Magazine listed "Slade in Flame" at No. 42 in the "Hollywood Rocks: 50 Greatest Rock Movies" list.[8]

Synopsis[edit]

Slade in Flame charts the history of "Flame" a fictitious group in the late 1960s who are picked up by a marketing company and taken to the top, only to break up at their zenith. The film begins with the future members of Flame playing in two rival bands, one with a singer named Jack Daniels (Alan Lake), and the other, The Undertakers, fronted by Stoker (Noddy Holder). Flame are formed from the two bands, with Charlie (Don Powell) joining on drums, making up the same line-up as the real-life Slade. They are picked up by marketing man Robert Seymour (Tom Conti) and with the help of publicity stunts the band's fortunes improve, but their former agent (played by Johnny Shannon) stakes a claim to their earnings, and uses violence to try to get his way. The band members tire of the music business and the band breaks up.

Tommy Vance plays the pirate radio DJ.

Background and release[edit]

Slade were offered a number of suggestions for a movie screenplay (such as "The Quite A Mess Experiment" a comedy reworking of the Quatermass Experiment, where Dave Hill was the experiment in the title but killed off after 8 minutes)[9] before accepting Slade in Flame, an interpretation of the music industry.

Slade's soundtrack to the film was made up of Slade songs that had been kicking around but had not yet been recorded or published. The lyrics to many of the songs were re-worked to fit with the movie storyline. The movie's title track "How Does It Feel" was the first song Jim Lea ever wrote.[10]

Many scenes in the film, such as the lead singer of one band being locked in a coffin (which happened in real life to Screaming Lord Sutch) and another being "roughed up" by associates of his former agent who still had a claim on the band were drawn from real events which occurred to groups of that period, but not necessarily Slade themselves.[citation needed] Slade became concerned that fans would consider Slade in Flame the true story of Slade so when the band returned to gigging after the release of the movie Noddy Holder would often explain on stage that "We wuz only acting, me and Jim is friends really".[citation needed]

Slade often cite that the amount of time that the making of the film took cost Slade and removed them from the eye of the British public, and could have contributed to their chart decline, and that the gritty “reality" of the movie may have done Slade more harm than good.[citation needed]

Slade in Flame has been released in VHS and DVD form, and was re-mastered and released in its original Cinemascope wide-screen format on DVD for the first time in 2007. The set also featured the album and the film together.[11]

In a 1986 Slade fan club magazine interview with guitarist Dave Hill, Hill was asked about another Slade movie. Hill replied:[12][13]

I think if we did another one it would be different anyway. If we do a tour and get another album away – if things work out this time, we would probably have time to do another film. I'd like to do something extremely funny. We were in fact offered one about a year ago with the late Leonard Rossiter. It didn't come off because they didn't get the money together. The parts in it were great. They actually wanted an older group to play the part. It was a spy film with Ronnie Corbett in it – it was really funny. I fancied it, though it didn't come off. You never know, it might crop up again.

In an August 1997 issue of NME magazine, Holder recalled Slade in Flame:[14]

The first idea really came from our manager Chas Chandler. At the time we’d had a string of number ones and he thought the next best step in our career would be to do a film. We didn’t want to do a Hard Day's Night sort of slapstick, speeded-up film, runaround type thing, because we thought that would be a bit too obvious for Slade. The first idea that we had came from Chas’ right-hand man, John Steele, who used to be the drummer in The Animals. He came up with an idea called Quite a Mess, which was a kind of comedy spoof on The Quatermass Experiment. It was quite funny, but Dave Hill vetoed that one because he was killed by the Triffid thing in the first fifteen minutes. Then we decided to do a sort of behind-the-scenes, nitty-gritty look at the rock 'n' roll business. The guy who wrote the script, Andrew Birkin, and the director, Richard Loncraine, sent us a first draft of the script, but we didn’t feel really that it rang true. So we took the two of them to America with us for six weeks to show them what it was really like on the road, and travelling between gigs we told them stories about what had happened to us and to other bands. They put all of that into a melting pot and came up with what eventually became the storyline for Flame. I haven't seen it for about six or seven years. But when I did last see it I was quite impressed by it. I expected it to look dated, but I didn’t think it did at all. It was actually set in the late ‘60s, we purposely didn’t set it in the ‘70s because we didn’t want it to be compared to the life of Slade – even though everybody thought it was based on our career. It wasn’t really, it was based on an amalgamation of a lot of bands. Each scene in the film is actually a true story from different bands we knew or had heard stories about. In fact, I don’t think there's anything fictional in it as such, it was just that the names were changed to protect the innocent. It was funny at the premiere, because all the business were sitting upstairs and all the fans were sitting downstairs and it was weird to see the different reactions. The fans were laughing in certain places and the business was laughing in totally opposite places, because the business people knew who the stories were really about.

Reception[edit]

The premiere of the movie was held at The Metropole Theatre, Victoria in London on 13 February 1975. The skies that evening were lit up by searchlights and the band arrived on back of a vintage fire engine.

Guests in attendance were Lynsey de Paul, Chas Chandler, Alan Lake and his wife Diana Dors, Lulu, Roy Wood, Sweet, Gary Glitter, Alan Price and his wife, Kiki Dee, Rosko, Troggs and their wives, Jeff Relle, Colin Blunstone, Susan Hanson, Barry Blue, Mud, Bill Oddie, Arrows, Suzi Quatro and Pilot.[6][7]

Upon release, Sounds magazine wrote:[15]

This film suffers less than most from the obvious imbalance of having musicians in the lead roles, surrounded by experienced actors. Slade play themselves at least as well as they usually do, and in Noddy Holder in particular, they have a natural scene-stealer. 'Flame' is basically the same old story, told more accurately and wittingly. Unlike "Stardust", it has strong music and stage image at the centre of it all, proving that Slade haven't lost their touch, and the music shines through.

Disc magazine at the time of release wrote:[15][16]

Before the film has been released, the album has already sold over 170,000 copies. The book is a different story again. To produce its paper, 550 trees were cut down, which weighed in at just under 30 tons. A quarter of a million copies have already been printed. It is the largest print that the book publishers, Panther, have done for the home market alone, in their entire history. I found the film interesting, purely to judge Slade's acting talents. Noddy came out best. He obviously found the whole thing a cinch, and was surprisingly natural. Don was good too. Jim was runner-up, and gave a fair performance. A film that Slade fans can't miss, a film that will make very interesting viewing if you like to see a handful of scenes that go behind the making of a pop star. Judge for yourself!

Joe Geesin of Get Ready to Rock wrote:[17]

Slade – you either love them or hate them, but if you’re a fan this DVD is essential viewing. Issued in the USA, it's well worth picking up, because the music at least ends up pretty good, and the gags are good too. Set in the late 60s, the story depicts band life on the road, drawing on the many experiences of manager and former Hendrix manager and Animal Chas Chandler. There are also some parallels with the embryonic Slade, who were known at the time as The ‘N Betweens. The basic story follows two struggling (and actually quite piss poor) bands playing a mixture of god knows what. They could be playing a wedding one night and a bingo hall the next, while holding down day jobs. There's the usual banter and rivalry; the scene where Noddy Holder (lead singer of The Undertakers) is locked in his coffin on stage by Dave Hill's rival band is a nod towards one of Screaming Lord Sutch's mishaps, a scene rightly sent up by Spinal Tap and it brings a few deserved laughs here. Blink and you miss the band's break up and amalgamation, but you suddenly get some decent music and the band start their road to success, gigs, records and etc.

After the film was broadcast on British TV for the first time, on 12 December 1987,[citation needed] many reviews were published in the British press. Daily Mail wrote:[18]

Though a top band, Slade never cut much ice with rock snobs; ironic that they should star in one of the best ever rock films from this side of the Atlantic. The play a Northern group packaged and hyped by Tom Conti's slick promoter all the way to disaster – a telling tale of the sixties music biz.

The Sun gave a fair rating and wrote:[18]

Remember sideburns, flares and awful rock music? Slade do – and the Seventies pop group decided to base a whole film around them.

Today wrote:

The pop group Slade in surprisingly sharp satire about the rise and fall of a band – not entirely unlike themselves. With Tom Conti, Johnny Shannon and Noddy Holder leading the stomp on numbers like "Far Far Away.

London Evening Standard wrote:[18]

Slade, Tom Conti, Johnny Shannon. Old hat story of a pop groups rise and fall given some mild interest by the clash between the band and the manager's background. Otherwise listen to the soundtrack.

The Guardian wrote:[18][19]

shrewdly discerning examination of the mid-Sixties pop music scene using the rise and fall of a band played by Slade to comment sharply on media manipulation and the strain of snatched success. Also starring Tom Conti and directed in 1974 by Richard Loncraine.

In August 2012, Fife Today wrote:[20]

The members of Slade equip themselves surprisingly well as actors, Noddy Holder as reluctant lead singer Stoker being the pick of the bunch. This excellent film stands up well as both a document of the music industry's less appealing side and as a snapshot of late 60s working class Britain. And of course, the music is superb.

In late August 2012, BBC film critic Mark Kermode highlighted the film as the current Kermode Uncut Film Club choice on his film blog within the BBC site, recommending the film.[21] Kermode also created a YouTube video based on the film for the Film Club.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "On The Film Programme this week". The Film Programme. BBC Radio 4. 6 April 2007. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  2. ^ "The 50 greatest film soundtracks". The Observer. 18 March 2007. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  3. ^ Record Mirror magazine 14 February 1976
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Slade Fan Club Newsletter December 1974 – January 1975
  6. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  7. ^ a b Slade Fan Club Newsletter April – May 1975
  8. ^ "Rocklist.net...Steve Parker...Classic Rock Lists". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  9. ^ Noddy Holder Interviewed in "Slade in Flame Featurette" bonus material in 2007 DVD release USPDVD014
  10. ^ Jim Lea Interviewed in "Slade in Flame Featurette" bonus material in 2007 DVD release USPDVD014
  11. ^ "Salvo". Salvo-music.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ Slade International Fan Club newsletter March – April – May 1986
  14. ^ NME magazine 02/08/1997
  15. ^ a b [4][dead link]
  16. ^ Slade Fan Club Newsletter February – March 1975
  17. ^ "Get Ready to ROCK! Review of DVD featuring pop rock band Slade called in Flame". Getreadytorock.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  18. ^ a b c d [5][dead link]
  19. ^ Slade International Fan Club newsletter January – February – March 1988
  20. ^ "DVD Choice – Entertainment". Fife Today. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  21. ^ Mark Kermode (31 August 2012). "Blogs – Kermode Uncut – Film Club – Slade in Flame". BBC. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  22. ^ "Film Club – Slade in Flame". YouTube. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 

External links[edit]