THE BEST FUN I'VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE'
- glam style
Let's put you on a clear path here. Things
got indulgent, that's what happened. When our manager saw us,
he said we were the breath of fresh air on the scene. What was
happening was people were wearing duller clothes or denims and
there was a hippy thing, they were looking at the floor. They
were all post-hippies, you see, hadn't quite recovered from the
drugs. And there was this thing about nobody dancing anymore,
people staring at the band or sitting on the floor getting smashed.
It was a sea, an atmosphere of pot. We didn't fit that, we kind
of were around it. We went through the flower power bit, and we
wore the flowers, but we went through that. And there was an aftermath
and nothing new was coming along, except for a lot of silly things
like funny records. So you could go on Top of the Pops
with Max Bygraves maybe or something silly. But nothing new was
happening, nobody kicked arse, nobody took a chance.
What happened was we took the long guitar solos and threw them
out the window. So everybody standing up there going, 'Yeah, man,
I'm really cool, I'm really spaced, you know' - all that went.
You see, The Beatles and The Stones had constructive ideas on
their records and that's why they stand up now, but you listen
to some of the hippy records, and it's out the ruddy window with
them. I mean, we weren't there to work it out. The audience took
what we'd got to offer, and what we'd got to offer become huge.
Slade as skins
When I joined, all Bowie was doing was
playing folk clubs, just like a folk singer - that's all he was,
going out with his 12-string and he just played the folk clubs.
Cos he'd had 'Space Oddity' as a hit and after that he failed
with all the other singles he put out, he didn't have anything,
and he just looked like a folkie: long blond hair, wore jeans
and t-shirts, stuff like that. He was a folk-singer. I suppose
that's why Hunky Dory's more of a folk-type album in a
I think the visual appeal of the band was as important, if not more important in some cases, in selling the music. Because it's one thing to have good songs, another thing to have a damn good salesman. And I always felt that our music could stand up, but we always had something going for us which took us out of the ordinary. And it wasn't something we were all sitting at home planning, cos the guitarist in the band might flippin' hate what I'm wearing. On Top of the Pops, for instance - the story that Noddy always tells everybody - I used to go in the toilet and change, and I'd come out and if they all fell on the floor laughing at me, we've got a winner. Cos I used to say: 'You write 'em and I'll sell 'em.'
It was a big jump from being a blues band in t-shirts and jeans
with long hair and beards to wearing make-up and flashy clothes.
That's one hell of a jump that is. We wouldn't do it at first.
The first time I ever saw Bowie wearing make-up was at John Peel's
show. He came out wearing his dress - you remember that dress
on The Man Who Sold the World? I'd seen him in jeans and
t-shirt, and all of a sudden this guy comes out wearing a bloody
dress, covered in make-up, and I was like: what the hell's this?
Cos I'd not seen him, I didn't know he was gonna come out with
that sort of thing. I just thought he was going to come out like
anybody else would play, nicely dressed or whatever. And it was
a radio show with a small audience. So no one was gonna see him.
But he did.
We did a couple of gigs with him doing the Hunky Dory stuff,
after we made the album, and he come up with this concept of Ziggy
Stardust and will you all wear make-up and will you all dress
like this? Course Mick Ronson said, 'Bugger that, I'm not dressing
up like that.' And we all said, 'Oh God no, not sure about this.'
Eventually he convinced us into it: we went to see Alice Cooper,
he took us to see Alice Cooper, and they were wearing make-up
on stage, the band, but they were really heavy. The sort of music
they were playing was great, I thought at the time, and it didn't
look too bad, so it warmed us into it a bit. We thought: if Alice
Cooper can be really big and he's doing that, it looks like something's
gonna happen with this. So we agreed to do it.
I liked Alice Cooper, cos I thought he
was funny, I mean it was just daft. With my daughter, she's only
three and a half, so God knows what she'll be into, but I cannot
say to her, 'Look at the state of that.' Because I liked Alice
Cooper. I don't have a come-back.
I really liked David Bowie. I remember vividly having a duffel-coat
- cos everyone had to get a duffel-coat and your mother always
bought it ten times too big so you would grow into it, and you
never did - and I remember embroidering across the back 'Bowie'.
And I remember going to school with a circle on my head, the way
he used to be, and with my hair standing up. People must have
thought I was completely bonkers. That was when you didn't really
do things like that. I had all his album covers on my door. And
I painted the cover of Alladdin Sane on my bedroom wall.
It wasn't very good, mind you, but I had a stab. My mum was just
The silver coat used to work great on
a black and white TV. Cos people didn't need colour to see it,
it would reflect. And it did work. I thought colour might screw
it up for me, cos when the colour telly come in I wondered about
the colours that we were wearing: 'this bloody colour TV', you
know. And I was thinking about the colours, but silver's like
a universal colour, somehow. It's a bit like black or white. There
are some colours that do not work - a blue, maybe, something dull
- but silver, a bit like white, will hit you. Black will hit you
if you see it well-lit, it has its mood, but it's very sort of
... there. So I picked on the silver. And gold, I wore.
The outfits stemmed from a progression of things. What I wore
on Top of the Pops on my first hit record, which was 'Get
Down And Get With It', was a pink woman's coat. There was a fashion
for dungarees - well, I had diamonds on my dungarees, under the
pink coat, into the boots. Mott The Hoople used to wear their
trousers in their boots with lace-up fronts, and I picked a bit
of their brains but what I did was I brightened it up to make
it me. And then I got the unusual hair-style. But I didn't wear
glitter then. And the long coat was something interesting. So
we went on Top of the Pops and we made an impression.
Then from that the kind of satin thing was around as well, blocks
of different colours - still a good idea now actually. Flares
were there. And then from the pink thing I saw a long black coat
in Kensington Market, leather with a zip-up front. And I looked
at it and I thought: black's no good, but what would that be like
in silver. Cos I was messing around at home, spraying things with
silver cans. So I sprayed one with metal spray in my dad's front
room and he was freaking out because of the stink, and it really
reflected. And I used to like putting moons on it - like, a bit
cosmic. And people just said, 'Bloody hell.' On your black-and-white
In the old days with the fashion, I couldn't get anything bright
unless it was a woman's thing. I'd go in and buy a blouse and
make it look like a shirt: it may look hilarious in front of you,
but on stage it could look bloody great. What I was capable of
doing was taking an idea and making it more extreme. It's the
best fun I've ever had in my life.
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