Return to Base
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|Return to Base|
|Studio album by Slade|
|Released||1 October 1979|
Return to Base is the eighth album by the British rock group Slade. It was released on 1 October 1979 by Barn Records, and did not enter any national album charts. At the time of the album's release, the band's success had waned and were receiving little fortune. Forced to play at small halls and clubs around the UK, the only income they were reliant on was Noddy Holder and Jim Lea's songwriting royalties. Their recent singles had sold poorly and they were no longer drawing in large audiences. At the time of their last-minute call up for the 1980 Reading Festival, they were on the verge of disbanding and had only a couple of their road crew to help them on the day. "We had to pay to park in the public area," recalled Jim Lea incredulously. "With no roadies, we had to carry our own gear and there was even trouble getting into the backstage area!"
The band's previous album, Whatever Happened to Slade (1977), featured a "straight" hard rock sound, dropping the band's glam rock image, and despite critical acclaim, had brought the band little commercial fortune. Return to Base was conceived as a continuation of the band's sound, and an attempt to raise the band's fortune. The band aimed to record twenty songs, with the best eleven being put onto the album. In the 1979 July–August fan club magazine, drummer Don Powell confirmed that seventeen tracks had been recorded at the time. However, whilst the critical reaction to the album was generally positive, the album sold poorly, something partially blamed on Barn Records, who only pressed a total 3,500 copies of the album's lead single "Ginny, Ginny", virtually guaranteeing its failure to enter the charts. Even the single that preceded it, "Sign of the Times" failed to chart and most copies which were left were melted down, making the single extremely rare today.
Some of the tracks from Return to Base were included on Slade's successful next album We'll Bring the House Down. The remainder tracks from Return to Base were included as bonus tracks on the 2007 "Feel the Noize" remaster of We'll Bring The House Down. As such, the album was the band's only album not to be included in that series of remastered releases. The album peaked at #830 for 1979 on rateyourmusic.
Having finished three quarters of their 1977 theatre tour, and after the commercial failure of their 1977 album Whatever Happened to Slade, Slade's waning success had led to the band taking any gig they could. The band could still sell out performances at University student union bars and draw respectable crowds at small to average sized venues. However, it was only four years since the band had headlined the large Earls Court in London and even the band had admitted they found the experience "a bit of a comedown". Bassist Jim Lea however was unphazed. "I still thought the band was great," he told Chris Charlesworth in 1983, "We were playing as well if not better than we ever had...Now we had something to prove again." The band would prove their worth night after night in clubs and colleges up and down the country, often running at a loss bringing their own PA and lightshow.
Despite being successful at live performances, the band's new records were barely selling. With the band's new output no longer being released on Polydor Records but instead on manager Chas Chandlers' label Barn records, singles such as "Burning in the Heat of Love", "Give Us a Goal", "Rock 'n' Roll Bolero" and "Ginny, Ginny" were all chart failures. Even the band's second live album Slade Alive, Vol. 2 (1978), the sequel to their critically acclaimed and commercially successful Slade Alive! (1972), was a commercial failure.
The album was recorded in 1979. In the November–December 1979 Slade News magazine, Hill stated "the album took six weeks, on and off, to record." The album saw the band produce together for the first time, to which Hill was asked in the same interview if any one member of Slade did the bulk of production work. Hill stated "No, we each took it in turn to produce certain parts ourselves – which makes it the first album we have solely produced ourselves."
Disagreements between the group–especially bassist Jim Lea and their producer/manager Chas Chandler–had been brewing since the recording of their previous album Whatever Happened to Slade (1977) and, having continued throughout 1978, came to a head during the recording sessions for Return to Base. "Jim was becoming more and more involved in that side of things," vocalist Noddy Holder told Chris Charlesworth. "He wanted to produce the group and he didn't think that Chas was coming up with the goods." Chandler, for his part, was unimpressed with the group's current material and thought their priorities were upside down. "They felt that a great sound was the all important thing," he told Charlesworth. "I've always felt that the song comes first and you craft your sound to suit the song...not the other way round." The upshot was that Chandler offered to sever his association with Slade. The group's counter offer suggested he stayed on as manager while they produced themselves. "I agreed to this because if I refused I felt I would have been kicking them when they were down."
Hill spoke of how he felt on the final album overall "I'm very satisfied with it. It's got a mixture of different types of songs on it, all of which adds up to it being a good album!" Hill also stated his favourite songs on the album, "My favourites are the rock 'n' roll one "I'm a Rocker" and the instrumental one "Lemme Love Into Ya" – probably because of the way that they come over on stage more than anything else."
In a 1980 fan club interview, Noddy Holder spoke of the album. "Over the last couple of years me and Jim have been writing a lot of songs, but we haven't known which way to approach them really. With Return to Base we were really pleased with the album, we thought that it turned out really well, but it didn't sell. Everyone around the band was saying to us that we weren't coming up with as good songs as we used to, but me and Jim knew that we were, we knew that we were coming up with strong songs. Some of the songs on Return to Base we thought were some of the best songs that we'd ever written. There only seemed to be me and Jim that had confidence in the songs; people like Chas, Dave and Don said that they didn't think our songs were as strong, some of them they did but some of them they didn't. But we ourselves thought that they were. Thus it was a case of getting the album down; and in our minds it turned out to be a great album."
During the recording of Return to Base, Slade were persuaded by Slade's engineer Andy Miller to record a song that was written by himself and Bernie Frost, both of whom had worked with Status Quo. The song titled "Another Win" was recorded by Slade and despite the song turning out fine, the song was never released and is still unreleased to this day. The song was later recorded by Status Quo, ending up appearing on a bootleg album only. In August 2011, the full track was unofficially made available via Slade In England.
The album's unsuccessful lead single, "Ginny, Ginny", was described by band member Jim Lea as being "very catchy".
"Sign of the Times" is a ballad about technological revolution. It was released as a single but failed to chart.
The opening track, "Wheels Ain't Coming Down", tells the tale of a near-death flying experience in Los Angeles involving band members Noddy Holder and Jim Lea. It was released as a modest hit single in 1981.
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As the album title suggested, the album continues the "back to basics" sound of their previous album Whatever Happened to Slade (1977). Allmusic stated that "the sound of this record harkens back to the hit single sound, a bit less overdriven and heavy, and a bit more hook-filled and light. Acoustic guitars even appear at times."
The album's first song "Wheels Ain't Coming Down" tells the tale of a near-death flying experience suffered by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea when travelling to Los Angeles. The track was later released as a single in 1981, after Slade's 1980 Reading Festival performance, which put them back in the public eye. It peaked at #60. The track also became part of the band's live set list. Geoff Ginsberg for allmusic stated the track ranked among the band's best work. "Hold on to Your Hats" is a mid-tempo track influenced by a more rock 'n' roll sound. The track uses backward reverb effects and also featured on the band's next studio album We'll Bring the House Down. The track features a question and answer technique between Noddy Holder and the other band members Dave Hill and Jim Lea during the chorus.
"Chakeeta" is a more commercial sounding track on the album but the chorus probably was not what producer/manager Chas Chandler expected from the band who did not agree with a lot of the material of the time. The track was not reused for Slade's next album, We'll Bring the House Down. "Don't Waste Your Time (Back Seat Star)" is an acoustic-based ballad based on a fun loving girl who would wholeheartedly celebrated in Slade's oeuvre. The track wasn't reused for Slade's next album We'll Bring The House Down. In a late 1988 Slade fan club magazine, Holder stated the lyrics of the song was a "surrealistic social comment". "Sign of the Times" is a ballad based on technological revolution. The track was issued as a single but failed to chart. It was later used as the B-side to Slade's later day hit single "Lock Up Your Daughters". Rather unimpressed with the song, Superpop magazine gave the song a rating of two stars out of five.
Side two opens with "I'm a Rocker", a cover version of the Chuck Berry track. Allmusic stated that "the version of Chuck Berry's "I'm a Rocker" is catchy as all get out." James Parade for Record Mirror stated "Noddy's vocal prowess certainly hasn't dimmed on I'm a Rocker." The track was mimed on UK TV to promote the We'll Bring the House Down album which I'm a Rocker also appeared on. A video of the band at Portland Studios in London also showed the band recording the track. The song was released as a single in Belgium, peaking at number one there.
In a 1980 interview, Holder spoke about the recording of the track and why it was chosen to record. "How we came to do the number came about due to me listening to Annie Nightingale one Sunday afternoon, and she played "I'm a Rocker" by Chuck Berry. It was one of his new numbers, it's not an old Chuck Berry number. And I really liked it. Anyway, I mentioned to the others in the band that I'd heard a really great Chuck Berry number, and we thought no more about it. In the meantime I searched high and low for the record, I couldn't get it anywhere, absolutely nowhere could I get hold of that record. Then I found out eventually that it was available on a French import on Contour Records. And I managed to get a copy of the album that it's on, which is actually called "I'm a Rocker", from an import shop. Then after listening to it, we started to play it live on stage, first of all just as a jam at the end of the set. Then one night we went into the studio, we'd been all over the pub, and we had half an hour left at the end of a session, and we decided to record it, and we got it down in one take. The feel is there in that song, it's us, Slade – it's what we are all about. Obviously Belgium latched up on it, France is now, and Holland. Belgium is therefore a stepping-stone to Europe."
The song is followed by "Nuts Bolts and Screws", another rock-based track which Allmusic states the track ranked among the band's best work. The track was reappeared on the band's subsequent album We'll Bring the House Down. The following track, "My Baby's Got It". is a track influenced by rock 'n' roll and boogie rock. The track was reused for We'll Bring the House Down and was performed on the UK TV show Get It Together along with a cover of Okey Cokey in 1979. "I'm Mad", the next track, is an acoustic-based track which portrays a man who is in thrall with his fantasies and dreams. Record Mirror stated "I'm Mad is the nearest thing here to a hit single with its jump along beat and pure sixties chord changes.
The following track "Lemme Love into Ya" is a minor-key ballad which became used as part of the band's live set list. Record Mirror stated "The production is by the band and Andy Miller which really is excellent, especially the little tricks like the backwards tremoloed guitar intro to 'Lemme Love into Ya' and the very ambient sound throughout." The song was re-worked by Lea, re-titled "Poland". It was released under the artist name Greenfields of Tong in 1982. It was also the b-side to the 1983 Sue Scadding single "Simple Love" which was written by Holder and Lea, produced by Lea. The "Poland" song also appeared on the 1992 album "A Day in the Life of the Dummies", a collection of all the demos and recordings that Lea recorded with his brother Frank Lea and wife Louise Lea, under the name "The Dummies". "Lemme Love Into Ya" was voted #2 of the top three Slade album tracks in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.
"Ginny, Ginny" was released as the lead single from the album. The single failed to chart; however, according to the official Slade fan club newsletter of the time, the track had entered the UK best sellers top 200 chart. The track was originally named Jeanie and was covered by bassist Jim Lea's band The Dummies for their only album A Day in the Life of the Dummies. The single was issued on a yellow vinyl in hope of interesting buyers.
In reference to Slade's live shows which were the main promotion for the album, Hill was asked why the single "Sign of the Times" was not included in the live set. Hill replied "The reason for that is that at the moment we feel the act is just about right. We have added two numbers, that have worked very well, and we are now hoping to get "Sign of the Times" in on the next stretch of dates. Also at the moment we've got one slow ballad in the act, and on this tour we didn't want to have two."
Title and packaging
The album title is a line from the album's song "Sign of the Times". In response to how the album's title was decided, Hill said the band "had a whole list of suggestions for the title, and Return To Base is from one of the lines in the song "Sign of the Times". In the November–December 1979 fan club magazine, it was stated that the album's title also described the band's actions of the time. Both Lea and Hill lived in Wolverhampton whilst Holder and Powell lived in London. By the album's release, all members were living in Wolverhampton.
Dressed in a plain red sleeve with the stark black title in a battered typeface, the album cover was intended to reflect a no-nonsense, back-to-basics, "never-say-die" attitude, although it was noted that "it ended up looking as threadbare as much of the public assumed Slade to be." Upon asking if the album's artwork had been designed, Hill replied "It's still being done, but I understand that it is going to have a photo of a ticker-tape message on the front saying "Return To Base", in computer-like lettering. But it should be a very basic cover – so that it ties in with the "basic" reference in the title."
The album was released on their manager Chas Chandlers' label Barn Records on Monday 1 October 1979 in the United Kingdom, over two and a half years since their previous studio release, Whatever Happened to Slade (1977), which was their first album on the label.
In Belgium, the album peaked at #1 on the telemoustique albums chart, but in the United Kingdom, the album continued the band's commercial failures, and found no audience other than the band's already existing fan base. As with their previous album Whatever Happened to Slade, the album did not enter the UK Album Chart. Their seasonal party single "Okey Cokey", released in December 1979, also failed to enter the UK Singles Chart. A similar fate greeted the 12-inch extended play, Six of the Best, released in June 1980. The EP, priced at the cheap price of £1.49, contained three tracks from Return to Base and three new tracks.
Despite not being directly released in Belgium, Slade fans in the country were buying imports from Britain. As the album was not directly released, the album was unable to have "chart return" and qualify for the Belgium sales charts. As a result, the Belgian fans voted the album number one in the chart used by Telemoustique (the only Belgium rock weekly) which was compiled by fans voting for their favourite records. The album also topped the daily chart on Belgium radio Impedance, a top twenty show that is compiled by listeners phoning the radio station with their votes for their favourite albums/singles. "Return to Base" topped this chart several occasions. As a result of the big reception, plans to release the album officially in Belgium via Warner Bros. Records were made. With these plans, the album was released officially in Belgium, eventually climbing to number one there.
In a 1980 fan club interview, Noddy Holder spoke of the success in Belgium. "What happened in Belgium was that Return to Base was available on import, and it started to climb the import charts. I don't know why, it was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. Warner Bros. Records then said to us, due to it starting to show some action, would we want to release it over there as a major release. We thought "why not?" – and now it's the number one album over there!" In a 1980 fan club interview with drummer Don Powell, Powell was asked about how he felt when he heard of the Belgian success. "When I heard the news I thought "what!". I mean, we have not been to Belgium; it must be at least six years since we've played there."
As a result of the album's success, an exclusive single to Belgium was released, with "I'm a Rocker" from the album being the A-side. The song topped the Belgian charts. Holder was asked how it became chosen as a single. "Well that was the track that was getting the most airplay from the album. But it's not just a case of that applying in Belgium – we've had so many people writing to us asking why we've not released it as a single. "I'm a Rocker" is not even one of our songs though – it's a Chuck Berry number."
Initial critical reception
|Wolverhampton Express and Star||(positive)|
Shortly before the release of the album, the Slade fan club newsletter editor Dave Kemp stated how he felt on the rough copy he had heard. "Having heard the rough copy of it, all I can say is that it's amazing, totally different to anything Slade have done before, you'll love it."
At the time of release, professional reviews were overall mixed. Record Mirror, who rated the album with three stars out of five, stated "assuming that the title Return To Base should be taken to mean that the group are trying to visit the territorial war grounds of their golden years in the singles charts I reckon they are in for a shock. At one time everyone loved Slade with those wonderful rocking melodies, and one of the best Christmas songs of all time, ensured them a permanent holding in the top ten. I accept that Slade are not the most intelligent of men but then that's not what I demand from my pop stars, but I do expect a little more than references to Big brother, Stereo, Radio etc., in the otherwise catchy "Sign of the Times" and the reflection of "Born to Run" in the opener "Wheels Ain't Coming Down". The reviewer also commented that Holder's "vocal prowess" hadn't dimmed on "I'm a Rocker", and said that "Nuts Bolts & Screws" and "My Baby's Got It" are where Slade "start to rock, but there's nothing here to distinguish them from any other rocking combo," and that from a new band, the album would be a "fairly decent debut" but that the reviewer expected more from a more established band such as Slade, even though he was not expecting songs such as "Cum on Feel the Noize" and "My Friend Stan". The reviewer said that "I'm Mad" was "the nearest thing here to a hit single with its jump along beat and pure sixties chord changes" and called the production of the song "excellent", "especially the little tricks like the backwards tremeloed guitar intro to 'Lemme love into ya' and the very ambient sound throughout."
Sounds magazine were similar in their reception, rating the album three stars out of five and writing "Like most purists I believe that Rock and Roll heroes should die, or at least retire gracefully, before the rot sets in (nothings quite so disgusting as seeing latter day heroes squirming on good ol' family TV) and though recording the "Okey Cokey" is tantamount to public suicide, Slade have managed to pull a fair to impressive performance out of the bag with this one. Sure to new wave lugs it sounds dated , but Return to Base still rocks like a good un', utilising standard rock 'n' roll/hard rock foundations for commendable displays of tightness and old time rock bite." The reviewer continued, "I'm sure it just ain't nostalgia bringing me to the conclusion that Noddy's got one of the all time classic rock voices−as he belts through ten steamy originals and one Chuck Berry (who else?) cover. Slade may have stood still, but their own brand of rock shout clout still sounds good to these biased ears."
A more positive review came from Wolverhampton Express and Star, saying upon release that "Slade haven't had a big hit for some time now, but it would be silly to write them off just yet, to judge by their new album Return to Base. Still one of the most entertaining live groups around, they have too much talent not to get another hit, but I'm no sure if they'll hit the mark with their new single. They've revived the Hokey Cokey, no less. It's their contender for the Christmas charts, and it will certainly get a few parties going if it's put on the turntable. Slade's version is a hard-rocking, full of fun song that combines their musical toughness and ability to create a good time atmosphere to perfection. The song really suits Slade's style, but whether or not it will be a hit is anyone's guess. I don't know whether Return to Base refers to their music, but there is definitely a Sixties feel to some of the songs, though others are vintage Slade. Most striking thing about the album is its variety, for Slade have loosened up a bit for this one and included much more variety of mood. It certainly pays off. As usual they start off with force, singing a song which went down well everywhere on their last tour. It's called Wheels ain't Coming Down, a power-packed churning song with a catchy hook line. After that, however, come all sorts of songs from frantie ravers to more gentle songs. One, which sounds similar to Bob Dylan's early tracks with The Band, especially the organ sound, really takes the ear – it's called Don't Waste Your Time. Another striking factor is the guitar playing of Dave Hill, who has really been allowed to branch out on this disc. In all, it's an album which will please Slade's still huge army of fans, both for its fidelity to the Slade sound and for its inventiveness and freshness."
In May 1980, Jon Young of New York magazine Trouser Press reviewed the album. "Is Slade a burned-out embarrassment that ought to give up? No! Although the world would seem a more just place if the boize themselves were to blame for their commercial demise, it ain't so Joe... On "Return to Base", seven of the eleven cuts connect in every possible way, for a batting average of .636. If it had been released in 1973, the classic "Nuts, Bolts and Screws" would've easily topped the UK charts. Then there's a defiantly predictable reading of Chuck Berry's "I'm a Rocker"; 50,000,000 cover versions can't be wrong!... Okay, there's nothing here quite as wonderful as "Cum On Feel the Noize". But whose fault is that? This kind of music isn't meant for a vacuum! It's meant to be enjoyed! Give Slade some encouragement! You will be glad that you did!!"
Legacy and later reviews
In mid-1980, by which point the band were on the verge of disbanding, the band were offered to appear at Reading Festival in August 1980 in a last minute call-up. The band only had a couple of their road crew to help them on the day. "We had to pay to park in the public area," recalled Jim Lea incredulously. "With no roadies, we had to carry our own gear and there was even trouble getting into the backstage area." Despite the failure of Return to Base and the band's lack of success, the performance at the festival was a success and the band became popular once again. As a result of this success, several tracks from the album which the band considered the strongest reappeared on the band's next album, We'll Bring the House Down (1981), which successfully rejuvenated the band's successes, both critically and commercially.
A retrospective review from Allmusic noted that Return to Base "marks Slade's low ebb in terms of popularity and morale", and were mixed in their reception to the album, rating it two stars out of five and noting the album was "certainly not a high point for the band, but they kept on keepin' on, no matter how bad things got. Secure in the knowledge that practically no one had ever heard the thing, Slade eventually redid the record as We'll Bring the House Down, a fully realized project."
In early 2010, Classic Rock magazine featured Slade as part of their ‘The Hard Stuff Buyers Guide’ where the magazine reviewed numerous Slade albums. As part of the ‘Superior: Reputation Cementing’ section, a review of We’ll Bring the House Down mentioned Return to Base, writing that "We’ll Bring the House Down was cobbled together quickly after the band’s Reading triumph, largely from the contents of their previous (overlooked) album, Return to Base."
The album was re-released on CD in Germany in 1997 by RCA and BMG, and was remastered for another CD release in Japan in 2006 by Air Mail Archive as part of the band's band catalogue remasters there from the label. However, the album was not remastered for its own album release in 2007 for the UK "Feel the Noize: Slade Remastered" series unilke the rest of their studio albums. Instead, the songs from the album which did not also appear on We'll Bring This House Down (1981) were remastered as bonus tracks for that album's remaster. Return to Base remains the only Slade album never released in the UK on CD, or re-released on any other format.
|1.||"Wheels Ain't Coming Down"||Noddy Holder, Jim Lea||3:40|
|2.||"Hold on to Your Hats"||Holder, Lea||2:32|
|4.||"Don't Waste Your Time (Back Seat Star)"||Holder, Lea||3:28|
|5.||"Sign of the Times"||Holder, Lea||3:57|
|6.||"I'm a Rocker"||Chuck Berry||2:46|
|7.||"Nuts Bolts and Screws"||Holder, Lea||2:30|
|8.||"My Baby's Got It"||Holder, Lea||2:34|
|9.||"I'm Mad"||Holder, Lea||2:46|
|10.||"Lemme Love into Ya"||Holder, Lea||3:26|
|11.||"Ginny, Ginny"||Holder, Lea||3:38|
|Belgium Telemoustique Albums Chart||1||12|
- Noddy Holder – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, producer
- Dave Hill – lead guitar, backing vocals, producer
- Jim Lea – bass guitar, piano, synthesizers, backing vocals, producer
- Don Powell – drums, electronic drums, backing vocals, producer
- Andy Miller – engineer
- Eric Massey – art direction
- Dave Garland – engineer (assistant)
- Mark O'Donoughue – engineer (assistant)
- George Peckham – engineer (cutting)
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- November–December 1979 Slade News magazine.
- Noddy Holder interview with Chris Charlesworth, 1983
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- Slade Supporters Club Newsletter May – June 1981
- Mickey P. (26 February 2004). "From Roots To Boots!: Another Win". Sladestory.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Geoff Ginsberg. "Return to Base – Slade | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
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- "Greenfields Of Tong – Poland / (Instrumental) – Speed Records Ltd. – UK – FIRED 2". 45cat. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
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- "The Dummies A Day In The Life Of The Dummies UK LP RECORD (213179)". Eil.com. 23 April 2002. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Slade Fan Club Magazine January–February 1980
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- "SLADE Return to base". Sladeinengland.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
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- Slade News – Issue 6 – November–December 1979
- Slade Fan Club Magazine September–October 1980
- Ginsberg, Geoff. "Return to Base – Slade". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Slade's remastered album We'll Bring The House Down booklet
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