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Interview with Dave Hill: Slade

I believe you bought your first guitar from Kay’s catalogue. Can you remember any of the first songs you learnt to play on that guitar or any of the cord structures you learnt?

Yeah, I can. Skiffle was all the rage back then so it would be Tommy Steele. I saw a kid with an acoustic guitar, and I went to my dad and tried persuading him to buy me one. So, he looked in Kay’s catalogue which is what we did in those days, and there were various guitars on a few pages that looked like they were out of space to me. There was also a jazz guitar with an odd-looking pick up on them. I can feel it now in my bones the way I felt at 13 years of age looking at those pictures and dad going ‘’well you’re not having that one’’ (it was obviously about a hundred quid) so I got the cheapest one. It came in a cardboard box ha-ha those were the days. I got it upside down because I’m left-handed, that didn’t go down well. Dad said ‘’you’ve got to have some lessons son’’ so I got to a teacher at school who was a jazz guitarist who said you can’t play like that boy; you have to turn it round and play it right-handed. He said you’ll get used to it in fact he did me a favour. So, the first thing I learnt was ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ by Ricky Valance. My dad gave me half a crown towards my lessons, and I had a paper round from which I earned half a crown.


Back in the day, who were your musical influences?

Bill Hailey and the comets was a pre-cursor to Elvis Presley. When Elvis kicked in, everything changed direction there was this amazing looking man, the way he performed I would have been about 15 or 16. Then there was Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Cliff being Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley but the Shadows were more interesting to me because Hank Marvin played a solid guitar which I’ve never seen before. The other thing that really got to me was the sound of an echo chamber, everything was dry before that. Country and Western music didn’t have any echo but as soon as that echo chamber came in with Dwayne Eddie, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, The Beatles, Chuck Berry and all those people. Billy Fury was a big influence, he wrote his own songs. I got this Burns guitar which wasn’t great with an echo chamber and delay and that, it was absolutely magic.


When did your love of clothes begin? The flamboyancy, the art of creating something on stage, when did that actually start?

My sister said to me ‘’You know Dave, at school you were always a bit of a loner’’ and I was a bit. I had big ears and it was difficult to get a decent hair style as my ears would always stick out. There were boys at school who looked like Cliff Richard or styled their hair like Tony Curtis, but my hair didn’t do that, it was always floppy. It would go into a fringe, but it wouldn’t hold up. The defining moment was watching all these films on the cinema, I noticed that entertainers all wore colourful garments. Then The Beatles came along, and up until now my hair was really short but they created a window you know, I was watching Hard Day’s Night and I was in a group at the time and I went home and said to my dad I want to go professional. My dad said ‘’Well I can see’’ I mean he did rate me. My mum would like me to be a doctor, but I was never going to do that. I first pumped the air and said ‘’Yeah, I can grow my hair like George Harrison’’ it did me such a favour because it went over my ears and it was never a problem again. It gave me a sense of freedom, there I was in a band travelling up the road in a van, playing guitar, playing shadow instrumentals, playing Beatles, growing my hair and suddenly I felt more attractive and I was noticing I was being noticed. That stimulated me into thinking of what I would wear. One thing I did once that was a bit of a laugh, I got this long cape and a big hat, and I wore it and walked through Woolworths and I remember everyone looking at me going ‘’What the…?’’ ‘’What is that?’’ nothing was that bizarre at the time. The defining moment was when I formed the new band with Nod and Jim in it. I found this blousy top all in yellow and I thought, I wonder? It had got a big bow on it. It was a woman’s top but actually, it looked totally different onstage and although everyone laughed in the group, it did look great! I started experimenting with different looks but couldn’t always get what I wanted which led to me making things myself in dad’s front room. Some of the more extravagant costumes, (you may remember the Metal Nun with its headdress and everything), were made by my sister. The silver I sprayed on with car paint! I bought some of my clothes from Kensington market, where incidentally, Freddie Mercury was working at the time, not that I knew him then, where a lot of stall holders would make bizarre things. Colour was everything, the silver was very spacey, astronauts etc, very of the time and I remember wearing an orange boiler suit on Top of the Pops and had a great reaction to it. It was like walking through Woolworth’s all over again.



The flamboyance continues when KOO KA CHOO support Slade on their ‘Rockin Home for Christmas’ tour gig at The Arts Club, Liverpool on Friday 22nd November. Koo Ka Choo are a glam rock band from the Wirral and are the very best at what they do. This will be a gig to remember.

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