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'Quiet? I was Slade’s bad boy!': Jim Lea talks The Kinks, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and living in the Midlands

By Kirsten Rawlins | Wolverhampton entertainment | Published:

Rumour had it he was the quiet one in Slade, but songwriter and bass icon Jim Lea says in reality he was 'the trouble-maker' - and even had a fight with The Kinks' Ray Davies which led to the band's manager being banned from the BBC bar for 12 months.

Jim Lea

The skirmish broke out backstage at Top Of The Pops and, one way or another, ended up with Ray dragging Dave Hill around by his hair, adds Jim.

Slade's manager, 'a big, tall Geordie' by the name of Chas Chandler, was the original bassist for The Animals and former manager of Jimi Hendrix.

"We were banned from the BBC bar for a year after that. Well, we could get in, but Chas couldn’t," says Jim.

"He got Ray around the neck. And Chas was a big guy.

"Ray had attacked Dave as well. I think he thought he was wearing a wig because he was dragging Dave around the place by his hair.

"Chas soon sorted him out.

"He came over and said ‘tell me what’s going on here or I’ll f***ing strangle you’.

"I’m actually a big Kinks fan, so it’s not something that’s ever mattered.

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"I bumped into Dave Davies’ son and told him about this. He said his dad and Ray still talk about it. He said ‘dad thinks he just didn’t like you because you were writing all these number one hits’.

"When I was in Slade, everyone thought I was the quiet one, but really I was the trouble-maker. I was always saying things I shouldn’t.

"Chas used to go mad because I was always saying stuff I shouldn’t have.

"He was a big, tall Geordie… He used to say ‘you can’t go around saying things like that’. I was very blunt.

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"To be honest, I couldn’t repeat a lot of what went on.

"I should make an audio book… There were a lot of things that went on which would make for a good book."

With Chas' connections to rock idol Jimi, it's perhaps unsurprising that the band had their own dealings with the guitar legend.

More unexpected, however, is that the Wolverhampton-born Slade star says The Jimi Hendrix Experience's bassist Noel Redding admitted he'd been to see the glam rock stars back in their 'skinhead' days, around 1970.

Jim claims Noel said he believed that had Jimi ever spotted him playing bass back then, he would have surely found himself replaced by the Midland musician.

"When Chas died, Noel Redding from the Jimi Hendrix Experience said he’d been to see us when we were skinheads," explains Jim.

"He said he actually felt humiliated and that we were fantastic.

"He said the band was great, but if Hendrix had seen us he’d have been out of a job. He said he’d never seen anything like the way I played bass. He said ‘that’d have been me finished’, which was a huge compliment.

"I’d have never left Slade, but I would have loved to played with Hendrix. He was my influence. I played bass because of him.

"In Slade I had to stick to a certain style, so I’m not known for being a fancy bass player.

"Back in the day, I was asked to collaborate by people who were as big as it gets.

"Chas was always worried about me being pulled away from the band.

"I do get asked by people about doing things now, but I figure I’m best on my own."

Jim, aged 69, still remains in the area, living in South Staffordshire.

And though he's never really strayed from Wolverhampton and Staffordshire, the star did wryly tell of the confusion caused by false information online, which leads people to ask about him being born in a pub in Codsall - something which is entirely fictional.

"It says on the internet I was born in a pub near Codsall - and even that I used to play on their lawns," laughs Jim.

"I was born in a pub in Wolverhampton, which we left when I was two. It was just at the top of Snow Hill.

"We moved to Heath Town, then into a council house in Bilbrook when I was six.

"Then mum and dad bought their own home and we’ve been in the area ever since."

Jim's latest solo EP Lost In Space went on sale on June 22 - his first mini album release in more than 10 years.

The six-track record features title track Lost In Space, a song which Jim says ended up accidentally being about himself.

"I was always very sombre and lost in space in my mind," adds Jim.

"I wrote the song about someone I know, but in hindsight it was about me. It’s very autobiographical.

"But then, your creativity comes from who you are and what you are.

"The reaction to my EP has been phenomenal. My brother Frank called me saying there have been fantastic reviews.

"The reviews have said ‘just go and buy it’. I never expected any of that."

And though Jim's last Slade song was written and produced in 1992, the star says he's never stopped writing; spurred on by a once consuming drive which fed the glam rock band's constant stream of hits back in its heyday.

"Even though I wasn’t seen for a while, I never stopped writing. People think I just went away, but I didn’t," explains Jim.

"I guess it all goes back to the days of the band, when I just had to keep the songs coming. There was a great amount of pressure.

"When I went to parties, I’d always find myself sitting back watching everyone else, thinking about where the next song was coming from. It was a big responsibility.

"I’ve always been a big fan of The Shadows. Jerry Lordan used to write for them; his song Apache is what made me pick up the guitar. He used to feel the same pressure - so did McCartney.

"After getting used to that feeling over the years, you find you have to keep doing it, because it’s what your life has become.

"Joan Armatrading said the exact same thing."

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins
@kirsten_Star

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. E-mail me kirsten.rawlins@expressandstar.co.uk, or phone 01902 319368

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