Hairy black country rockers Slade were phenomenally successful in the early seventies, so it made perfect sense for them to make a film. ‘Slade in Flame’, however, is a strange one: it’s gritty and violent and depressing and ends not in triumph but in defeat, not with a bang but a whimper.
Originally invited to do something more in keeping with their lovably thuggish public demeanour, the group instead invited the director and the writer to accompany them on a gruelling US tour. Realising that pop life was more sweat than sequins, and inspired by the group's tales of their own and others experiences, the story of a group called ‘Flame’ evolved, a sort of composite of any number of bands struggling to make it in the hectic and hugely competitive music scene of the late sixties.
Flame's rise to fame has all the glamour of a blocked toilet in the services at Newport Pagnell, full of grind, scabby dressing rooms, shit deals, piss ups, punch ups and Johnny Shannon as a nasty bastard gangster manager who ditches them when they're down only to come back to suck them dry when they start to make some money. It's not without humour, and it's not without charm, but, overall, it's dingy and dark - a cautionary tale rather than a success story. It's a shit business.
Slade acquit themselves well, especially as they are asked to act a bit rather than simply chirrup the odd line and not bump into the furniture. Noddy Holder is particularly good, certainly the only one able to hold his own with proper actors like Tom Conti, and with so much hair he looks like a ginger Womble.
I’m not a big fan of Slade’s music by any means, but they’re at their best here: loud, fast, cocky, lewd and full of energy and aggro - and Noddy's Benson and Hedges falsetto is a thing of improbable wonder.