By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
SLADE – KEEP YOUR HANDS OF MY POWER SUPPLY (1984)
What’s that saying about life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. For all the success that the band Slade had in the 1970s (after forming in 1966), they were really only big in the UK and Europe. They hadn’t achieved much of any kind of breakthrough in the US.
And then came their huge smash hit song “Cum On Feel The Noize”…well sort of. While the song was a huge hit (reaching #1 in 1973) in the UK, it wasn’t until Quiet Riot recorded their own version of the song in 1983 that Slade became an accidental household name in America.
The Quiet Riot version of the song rose to #5 on the US charts and made their Metal Health album a worldwide smash. Also in 1983, Slade released an album called The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome in the UK. Wanting to capture whatever bit of lightning in a bottle it could given the band’s sudden rise in profile in the US, CBS Records signed Slade to a US deal to release that album here in the US.
Funny how things work out though, right? By the time the album made its way onto shelves in the States, it was a far different version of itself. The album had been renamed obviously. But the track listing had been re-ordered from the UK version as well. Two songs (“Cocky Rock Boys (Rule O.K.)” and “Razzle Dazzle Man”) had been replaced by different songs (“Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply” and “Can’t Tame A Hurricane”) that had been used as B-sides for the UK single version of “My Oh My”.
I should point out that while I did love the two singles released from this album, I never got around to owning any version of the album until I found this particular cassette in a newly purchased batch of albums at my friend’s record shop. I had tried to avoid spending any more money at the shop one day but couldn’t resist the lure of new albums I never owned before and ended up leaving with three more cassettes for the Big Box. But I did own a Slade compilation on CD called Get Yer Boots On, so I had the songs in my collection at least. Sadly, I don’t typically listen to that album as often as I probably should.
The album itself opens up with those two singles that helped break Slade big in the US. “Run Runaway” had been a big hit when released in the UK, but it made the Top 20 in the US and the video for the song was in heavy rotation on MTV. It’s a bouncy Scottish jig with a heavy rock soundtrack. Even now, whenever I hear the song I just get a feeling of fun that the song creates. Heavily melodic, it catches your ear and it always makes me smile.
The second single was “My Oh My” and it made the Top 40 chart as well. It’s a power ballad but it shows off Noddy Holder’s voice pretty nicely. The main lyrical passages are subdued a bit musically and then the song’s chorus is where it gets a bit more heavy sounding.
And for me, that’s it. I really don’t remember much about any other songs on the album. Apparently the song “Slam The Hammer Down” (a song that really does live up to its name), was released as a single as well but didn’t make any dent in the charts. This is a sad thing because it sure as heck showed off the band’s heavier side.
Given that Slade is best remembered for the more glam rock aspects of their 1970’s work, the more metallic (however melodically influenced) sound the band had for this album, you might think they were just going along for the ride with the trends of the early 80’s rock scene. But they had some serious chops going on here.
With all the music written by Holder and Lea, the album doesn’t suffer from a lack of focus. The other two songs on the first side of the album are “High and Dry” and “In The Doghouse”. Both of those songs are hard-hitting rock numbers and make the opening side of Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply a rousing success in my eyes.
I have to say that I was a little less taken with some of the material on the second side of the album though. The title track opens up Side Two and while it’s decent enough lyrically, I thought the music came off a bit overdone and kind of spacey.
While both “Cheap ‘N’ Nasty Luv” and “Can’t Tame A Hurricane” were both pretty speedy numbers, I couldn’t help feeling they were just kind of “THERE” without really doing much to set themselves apart from any number of tracks out there at the time.
“(And Now – The Waltz) C’est La Vie” was another power ballad for the band and it featured the requisite rise-and-fall tempo in the main lyrics versus the chorus. But again, it just didn’t endear itself to me.
Okay, I know you get it. I just didn’t get into the second side of the album that much. But I will say that the album’s closing track “Ready To Explode” was a monster track for me. It does indeed “explode” out of your speakers. The song is over eight minutes long and it is an ode to a love of motor racing. The song is technically divided into four sections (“The Warm Up”, “The Grid”, “The Race” and “The Dream”). It is a glorious cacophony of rock and despite the presence of an annoying spoken word call of a race breaking things up, this song was a real big winner for me.
Overall, I like the album despite what I feel is a significantly weaker batch of songs on Side Two. But that’s just my opinion and it’s not like I’ve never been wrong before. Still, on the strength of those two singles that lead off Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply, I can’t help but feel a bit of joyous nostalgia whenever I hear the songs. Slade may have been best known for being the band that accidentally made it possible for Quiet Riot to become kings of the heavy metal world for a time, but this album does show off the band in their own right and just how good they were themselves.
NOTES OF INTEREST – According to the album’s Wikipedia page, the band was supposed to hit the tour trail in America opening for Ozzy Osbourne. However, when bassist Jim Lea collapsed after the first night of said tour and was found to have hepatitis, the band ended up cancelling the rest of their dates with Ozzy. It was said Lea’s condition combined with the end of singer Noddy Holder’s marriage were cited as the reason for the cancellation.
The Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply album made it to #33 on the Billboard album charts. In 2007, there was a remastered version of The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome released with 6 bonus tracks which would likely give fans the most complete version of the two individual releases.
Noddy Holder left the band in 1992 with bassist Jim Lea leaving at the same time. The band is still active to this day with a long and winding history that you can read about by looking up the band online.