"Return To Base" was Slades 7th studio U.K. album, it was released and produced by Chas Chandler via Barn record label on 1st October 1979.
This album failed to appear on the U.K. chart, at the time of the album's release, the band were receiving next to no money. Forced to play at small halls and clubs around the U.K. the only income they were reliant on was Noddy Holder and Jim Leas song writing royalties. Their singles weren't selling, and they were no longer drawing in huge crowds. At the time of their last minute call up for the 1980 Reading Festival, they were on the verge of disbanding and had only a couple of their road crew to help them on the day. "We had to pay to park in the public area," recalls Jim Lea incredulously. "With no roadies, we had to carry our own gear and there was even trouble getting into the backstage area!"
In fact their record company only pressed a total 3,500 copies of the "Ginny, Ginny" single, virtually guaranteeing its failure to enter the charts. Even the single that preceded it, "Sign Of The Times" failed to chart and most copies which were left were melted down, making the single extremely rare today.
Some of the tracks from "Return To Base" were included on Slade's next album "We'll Bring The House Down".
The band aimed to record 20 songs, with the best 11 being put onto the album. In the 1979 July – August fan club magazine, drummer Don Powell confirmed that 17 tracks had been recorded at the time.
With a 3 quarters full 1977 theatre tour and after the unsuccessful 1977 album "Whatever Happened To Slade", Slade were taking any gig they could. The band could still sell out performances at University student union bars and draw respectable crowds at small to average sized venues. However, it was only 4 years since the band had headlined Earls Court and even the earthiest band had to admit it was a bit of a comedown. Bassist Jim Lea however was not worried "I still thought the band was great," he told Chris Charlesworth in 1983, "We were playing as well if not better than we ever had...Now we had something to prove again." The band would prove their worth night after night in clubs and colleges up and down the country, often running at a loss bringing their own PA and lightshow.
Despite being successful at live performances, the band's new records were barely selling. No longer released on Polydor record label but instead on manager Chas Chandlers Barn record label, singles such as "Burning In The Heat Of Love", "Give Us A Goal", "Rock 'N' Roll Bolero" and "Ginny, Ginny" were all chart failures. Even the live album "Slade Alive Vol. 2" was a commercial failure.
It was in this atmosphere that Slade's 7th studio album "Return To Base" was released, in October 1979. Dressed in a plain red sleeve with the stark black title in a battered typeface, the package was undoubtedly meant to reflect a no nonsense, back to basics, never say die attitude. It ended up looking as threadbare as much of the public assumed Slade to be. It was also the first album to be fully produced by Slade, a simple phrase behind which lay a tempestuous tale of power struggles and artistic differences.
Disagreements between the group especially bassist Jim Lea and their producer - manager Chas Chandler had been brewing since the recording of Slade's 1977 album "Whatever Happened To Slade" and continued through 1978, coming to a head during the 1979 recording sessions for "Return To Base". "Jim Lea was becoming more and more involved in that side of things," vocalist Noddy Holder told Chris Charlesworth. "He wanted to produce the group and he didn't think that Chas was coming up with the goods." Chandler, for his part, was unimpressed with the group's current material and thought their priorities were upside down. "They felt that a great sound was the all important thing," he told Charlesworth. "I've always felt that the song comes 1st and you craft your sound to suit the song...not the other way round." The upshot was that Chandler offered to sever his association with Slade. The group's counter offer suggested he stayed on as manager while they produced themselves. "I agreed to this because if I refused I felt I would have been kicking them when they were down."
"Return To Base" disappeared without troubling the charts, as did their seasonal party single "Okey Cokey"'(December 1979). A similar fate greeted the 12 inch E.P. "Six Of The Best" (June 1980). Very good value at £1.49, it contained 3 tracks from "Return To Base" and 3 new tracks.
In August 1980, the band became popular once again after performing at the Reading Festival and a Slade revival was born.
"Return To Base" was released via Barn record label on 1st October 1979.
In the November – December 1979 Slade News magazine, Dave Hill stated "the album took 6 weeks, on and off, to record."
The album saw the band produce together for the 1st time which Dave Hill was asked if any one member of Slade did the bulk of production work. Dave Hill stated "No, we each took it in turn to produce certain parts ourselves which makes it the 1st album we have solely produced ourselves."
In response to how the album's title was decided, Dave Hill said "We had a whole list of suggestions for the title, and "Return To Base" is from one of the lines in the song "Sign of the Times".
In the November – December 1979 fan club magazine, it was stated that the album's title also described the band's actions of the time. Both Jim Lea and Dave Hill lived in Wolverhampton whilst Noddy Holder and Don Powell lived in London. By the album's release, all members were living in Wolverhampton.
Upon asking if the album's artwork had been designed, Dave Hill replied "It's still being done, but I understand that it is going to have a photo of a ticker tape message on the front saying "Return To Base", in computer like lettering. But it should be a very basic cover so that it ties in with the "basic" reference in the title."
Dave Hill spoke of how he felt on the final album overall "I'm very satisfied with it. It's got a mixture of different types of songs on it, all of which adds up to it being a good album!" Dave Hill also stated his favourite songs on the album, "My favourites are the rock 'n' roll one "I'm A Rocker" and the instrumental 1 "Lemme Love Into Ya"' probably because of the way that they come over on stage more than anything else."
In a 1980 fan club interview, Noddy Holder spoke of the album. "Over the last couple of years me and Jim have been writing a lot of songs, but we haven't known which way to approach them really. With "Return To Base" we were really pleased with the album, we thought that it turned out really well but it didn't sell. Everyone around the band was saying to us that we weren't coming up with as good songs as we used to. But me and Jim Lea knew that we were, we knew that we were coming up with strong songs. Some of the songs on "Return To Base" we thought were some of the best songs that we'd ever written. There only seemed to be me and Jim that had confidence in the songs, people like Chas, Dave Hill and Don Powell said that they didn't think our songs were as strong, some of them they did but some of them they didn't. But we ourselves thought that they were. Thus it was a case of getting the album down and in our minds it turned out to be a great album."
During the recording of "Return To Base", Slade were persuaded by Slade's engineer Andy Miller to record a song that was written by himself and Bernie Frost, both whom worked with Status Quo. The song titled "Another Win" was recorded by Slade and despite the song turning out fine, the song was never released and is still unreleased to this day. The song was later recorded by Status Quo, ending up appearing on a bootleg album only. In August 2011, the full track was unofficially made available via 'Slade In England'.
"Return To Base" was originally released on 12" vinyl.
Whilst the U.K. took little interest outside of Slade's fan base, in Belgium, the album peaked at number 1 on the telemoustique albums chart.
Despite not being directly released in Belgium, Slade fans in the country were buying imports from Britain. As the album was not directly released, the album was unable to have "chart return" and qualify for the Belgium sales charts. As a result, the Belgian fans voted the album number 1 in the chart used by Telemoustique (the only Belgium rock weekly) which was compiled by fans voting for their favourite records.
The album also topped the daily chart on Belgium radio Impedance, a top 20 show that is compiled by listeners phoning the radio station with their votes for their favourite albums - singles. "Return To Base" topped this chart several occasions. As a result of the big reception, plans to release the album officially in Belgium via Warner Brothers record label were made. With these plans, the album was released officially in Belgium, eventually climbing to number 1 there.
In a 1980 fan club interview, Noddy Holder spoke of the success in Belgium. What happened in Belgium was that "Return To Base" was available on import, and it started to climb the import charts. I don't know why, it was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. Warner Brother record label then said to us, due to it starting to show some action, would we want to release it over there as a major release. We thought "why not?" - and now it's the number 1 album over there!"
In a 1980 fan club interview with drummer Don Powell, Don Powell was asked about how he felt when he heard of the Belgian success. "When I heard the news I thought "what!". I mean, we have not been to Belgium for at least 6 years."
As a result of the album's success, an exclusive single to Belgium was released with Chuck Berry's 'I'm a Rocker' being the a - side. The song topped the belgian charts. Noddy Holder was asked how it became chosen as a single. "Well that was the track that was getting the most airplay from the album. But it's not just a case of that applying in Belgium we've had so many people writing to us asking why we've not released it as a single. "I'm a Rocker" is not even 1 of our songs though it's a Chuck Berry number."
Shortly before the release of the album, the Slade fan club newsletter editor Dave Kemp stated how he felt on the rough copy he had heard. "Having heard the rough copy of it, all I can say is that it's amazing, totally different to anything Slade have done before, you'll love it."
The album was voted number 2 of the top 3 Slade albums in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.
In reference to Slade's live shows which were the main promotion for the album, Dave Hill was asked why the single "Sign Of The Times" was not included in the live set. Dave Hill replied "The reason for that is that at the moment we feel the act is just about right. We have added 2 numbers, that have worked very well, and we are now hoping to get "Sign Of The Times" in on the next stretch of dates. Also at the moment we've got one slow ballad in the act, and on this tour we didn't want to have 2."
The album failed to chart on the U.K. chart.
Track listing - 12" LP U.K.
A1. Wheels Ain't Coming Down (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 3:36
A2. Hold On To Your Hats (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 2:33
A3. Chakeeta (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 2:27
A4. Don't Waste Your Time (Back Seat Star) (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 3:29
A5. Sign Of The Times (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 3:57
B1. I'm A Rocker (Chuck Berry) - 2:47
B2. Nut Bolts And Screws (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 2:31
B3. My Baby's Got It (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 2:34
B4. I'm Mad (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 2:47
B5. Lemme Love into Ya (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 3:39
B6. Ginny, Ginny (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - 3:39
Wheels Ain't Coming Down
"Wheels Ain't Coming Down" written by Holder and Lea, this was originally released as a single by Slade via Cheapskate record label (Slade's own label) on 27th March 1981 and reached number 60 on the U.K. chart.
It tells the tale of a near death flying experience suffered by Holder and Lea when travelling to Los Angeles. The track was later released as a single in 1981, after Slade's 1980 Reading Festival performance, which put them back in the public eye. It peaked at number 60 on the U.K. chart. The track also became part of the band's live set list. Geoff Ginsberg for allmusic stated the track ranked among the band's best work.
Hold On To Your Hats
"Hold On To Your Hats" written by Holder and Lea, this was the b - side to Slades original single "We'll Bring The House Down". Lea is a mid tempo track influenced by a more rock 'n' roll sound. The track uses backward reverb effects and also featured on the band's next studio album "We'll Bring The House Dow". The track features a question and answer technique between Holder and the other band members Hill and Lea during the chorus.
"Chakeeta" written by Holder and Lea, is a more commercial sounding track on the album but the chorus probably was not what producer - manager Chas Chandler expected from the band who did not agree with a lot of the material of the time. The track was not reused for Slade's next album, "We'll Bring The House Down".
Don't Waste Your Time (Back Seat Star)
"Don't Waste Your Time (Back Seat Star)" written by Holder and Lea, is an acoustic based ballad based on a fun loving girl who would wholeheartedly celebrated in Slade's music. The track wasn't reused for Slade's next album "We'll Bring The House Down".
In a late 1988 Slade fan club magazine, Holder stated the lyrics of the song was a "surrealistic social comment."
Sign Of The Times
"Sign Of The Times" written by Holder and Lea, this was originally released as a single by Slade via Barn record label during 22nd November 1979 and failed to chart in the U.K.
Lea said this is a ballad based on technological revolution. The track was issued as a single but failed to chart. It was later used as the b - side to Slade's hit single "Lock Up Your Daughters". Superpop magazine gave the song a rating of 2 out of 5.
I'm A Rocker
"I'm A Rocker" is a cover version of a Chuck Berry track. Allmusic stated "The version of Chuck Berry's "I'm A Rocker" is catchy as all get out." James Parade for Record Mirror stated "Holders vocal prowess certainly hasn't dimmed on I'm a Rocker." The track was mimed on U.K. TV to promote the "We'll Bring The House Down" album which "I'm A Rocker" also appeared on. A video of the band at Portland Studios in London also showed the band recording the track.
The song was released as a single in Belgium, peaking at number 1 there.
In a 1980 interview, Holder spoke about the recording of the track and why it was chosen to record. "How we came to do the number came about due to me listening to Annie Nightingale one Sunday afternoon, and she played "I'm A Rocker" by Chuck Berry. It was 1 of his new numbers, it's not an old Chuck Berry number. And I really liked it. Anyway, I mentioned to the others in the band that I'd heard a really great Chuck Berry number, and we thought no more about it. In the meantime I searched high and low for the record, I couldn't get it anywhere, absolutely nowhere could I get hold of that record. Then I found out eventually that it was available on a French import on Contour record label. And I managed to get a copy of the album that it's on, which is actually called "I'm A Rocker", from an import shop. Then after listening to it, we started to play it live on stage, 1st of all just as a jam at the end of the set. Then 1 night we went into the studio, we'd been all over the pub, and we had half an hour left at the end of a session, and we decided to record it, and we got it down in 1 take. The feel is there in that song, it's us, Slade it's what we are all about. Obviously Belgium latched up on it, France is now, and Holland. Belgium is therefore a stepping stone to Europe."
Nut Bolts And Screws
"Nut Bolts And Screws" written by Holder and Lea, is another rock based track which Allmusic states the track ranked among the band's best work. The track was reused for "We'll Bring The House Down" album, named "Nuts Bolts And Screws".
My Baby's Got It
"My Baby's Got It" written by Holder and Lea, this was the b - side to Slades original single "Okey Cokey" this is a track influenced by rock 'n' roll and boogie rock. The track was reused for "We'll Bring The House Down" album and was performed on the U.K. TV show Get It Together along with a cover of "Okey Cokey" in 1979.
"I'm Mad" written by Holder and Lea, this was the b - side to Slades original single "Knuckle Sandwich Nancy" this is an acoustic based track which portrays a man who is in thrall with his fantasies and dreams. Record Mirror stated ""I'm Mad" is the nearest thing here to a hit single with its jump along beat and pure sixties chord changes."
Lemme Love Into Ya
"Lemme Love Into Ya" written by Holder and Lea, is a minor key ballad which became used as part of the band's live set list. Record Mirror stated "The production is by the band and Andy Miller which really is excellent, especially the little tricks like the backwards tremeloed guitar intro to "Lemme Love Into Ya" and the very ambient sound throughout."
The song was re worked by Lea, re titled 'Poland'. It was released under the artist name Greenfields of Tong in 1982. It was also the b - side to the 1983 Sue Scadding single 'Simple Love' which was written by Holder and Lea, produced by Lea. The 'Poland' song also appeared on the 1992 album 'A Day In The Life Of The Dummies" a collection of all the demos and recordings that Lea recorded with his brother Frank Lea and wife Louise Lea, under the name 'The Dummies'.
"Lemme Love Into Ya" was voted number 2 of the top 3 Slade album tracks in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.
"Ginny, Ginny" written by Holder and Lea, this was originally released as a single by Slade via Barn record label on 18th May 1979 and failed to appear on the U.K. chart.
This is the last U.K. single release from this album. However according to the official Slade fan club newsletter of the time, the track had entered the U.K. best sellers top 200 chart. The track was originally named Jeanie and was covered by bassist Lea's band The Dummies for their only album 'A Day In The Life Of The Dummies'. The single was also issued on a yellow vinyl in hope of interesting buyers.
Dave Hill - lead guitar, backing vocals
Noddy Holder - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jim Lea - bass guitar, backing vocals
Don Powell - drums
Chas Chandler - producer
Gered Mankowitz - photography
Paul (Finchley Mod) Hardiman - engineer
Jo Mirowski - art direction
Wade Woode Associates - artwork