Interview with Chris Charlesworth|
I would like to express my deepest thanks to Mr. Chris Charlesworth
for sharing his views in the following exclusive interview
on October 19th, 1998 for the SLADENET
How does it feel being in rock-n-roll journalism for three decades?
I joined Melody Maker in 1970 so it's almost three
decades now, but I'm no longer writing about bands on an everyday basis,
just editing books about them that have been written by others. But
if in 1970 anybody had asked whether I'd still be doing this sort of
thing 28 years later, I'd have said 'no'. I don't believe that younger
rock writers on the magazines today have half the fun I did when I was
on MM, neither do they have the power to influence trends in the music
industry. But it's been a good life for me... I think the only change
I'd have made would be that instead of writing about a successful band
I'd have managed them!
Is it a challenge for rock journalist to write a rock-biography
or it is the way things go naturally?
It was certainly a challenge to write the first book
I did (on The Who) but with each successive book it became easier because
you benefit from the experience of writing those that came before. But
it's not something that happens naturally... you have to work at it.
What was the first book you've wrote?
On The Who.
Could you name the book written by yourself that
you like the best and you're proud of ?
I think the best two books I did were on Slade and
Deep Purple (Alex and Ian Gillan
), largely because I had access to so many people to interview
with these books. And the more interviews, the more research, the better
Could you name the book that was the hardest to
The one I did on Pete Townshend because Pete didn't
help me (because he'd agreed to help someone else do another book at
Is it hard to write a hard things (about the bad habits
etc) about the musicians who are your friends in fact?
Not really... in the time when I wrote my books people
expected their bad habits to be discussed and The Who, Slade and Deep
Purple were all known for a certain amount of indulgent behaviour. Not
to have mentioned it would have detracted from the book. Rock musicians
were much less discreet in those days. Nowadays artists are much more
into protecting their image and avoiding having their bad habits written
about (so they don't indulge in bad habits in front of journalists!).
In my day nobody cared quite so much.
I wonder how many years/months it takes to write a good biography?
I'd say the minimum is 6 months but it can vary enormously
Omnibus Press (on which I am editor) has just published a biography
of Keith Moon which took three years to write, but it's 600 pages with
almost 3,000,000 words.
What do you think about the books written by fans?
(I mean not critics, no journalists, not music industry insiders)
I often employ fans to write books for Omnibus because
they are so knowledgeable about the artist. But these are generally
purely factual books which don't seek to analyse the music or go into
any depth about the artists' lives. So fans are great for facts but
generally not so great as literary talents.
You once said that The Who book has a special part
in your heart, but I do believe the Slade book has its part too..hasn't
Yes... I've always been quite proud of the Slade book
because it was a very honest account of their career, thanks largely
to their frankness during the interviews. (The Who book was the first,
also The Who was my first band... I was a fan of The Who long before
I joined Melody Maker, long before I knew Slade or Deep Purple. Also,
of course, on a global level, The Who were far more popular.. legendary
in fact. I get asked about The Who far more than about Slade or DP or
Could you compare your Slade book with your other rock books you've
As I said, the Slade (and Deep Purple) books were
the best because I had access to original interview material and those
that I interviewed told me the truth. Therefore the books were very
honest accounts. The Who book was done from the heart, though they'd
made no secret of their lives in interviews with others. The Slade book
was the only one where I managed to interview the wives of the band...
and wives have an insight into their husband's work that no-one else
has. That was one of the reasons why the book turned out as well as
I know you were close to the band from the early days
of 70, do you remember your first meeting with them in Samantha discoteque
in London's Mayfair?
Actually, I think the first time I saw them was in
a pub in the East End of London. I think it was called the Red Lion.
(I was taking a slight journalistic liberty when I mentioned Samantha's
on that LP cover.. just because it read well to say 'Samantha introduced
me to Slade'!)..
You've called them as "amiable bunch of lads
from Wolverhampton", who was the most sincere and friendly one
from their foursome?
I think it was Noddy... but they were all very friendly,
very down to earth, ordinary guys. They weren't star-struck, they had
no airs and graces (unlike, say, Marc Bolan or Rod Stewart) and acted
totally natural. All of them were careful with their money, not saying
in flash hotels which was unusual for successful groups. Most of them
spent money like water, but not Slade.
Could you say some words about the Slade as persons
in their heyday? Jimmy Lea is always seemed to be serious, extremely
talented, shy bass-player (the way bassplayers are), Noddy Holder is
a cool guy, nobody's fool. Dave Hill - a fashionable, flamboyant lead
guitarist, Don Powell - amicable, earthbound, practical guy. Could you
say your impressions?
It's a long time ago now (25+ years) but my impressions
pretty much tally with what you've just said. Noddy was the most fun...
a laugh a minute guy, seriously into pulling girls, drinking, partying;
- Jim was more serious, more reserved; - Dave was an oddball, couldn't
quite make him out; Don was like Noddy.
Did you need a special meetings, interviews with a
band members, management, families to write a Slade bio?
Yes... I stayed in Wolverhampton for about a week
and interviewed them all during my stay. I also visited or revisited
various 'Slade' sites. I interviewed Chas in London.
Was it a hard job or kinda pleasure to write a Slade book?
It was fun...
Who had initially the idea to do a biography for Slade?
How did they choose you or it was your idea? When did you start it to
I think it was my idea. I started the research about a year before
it was published.
I see your Slade book as "the truest official
biography ever made". Could you say please, have you experienced
any pressure from band's management when you were writing about the
hard times, rises and falls?
Mmmm... no act wants to be represented in a bad light
and most are reluctant to talk about their failures. This wasn't the
case with Slade at the time I wrote the book. Later, however, they've
been more reluctant to talk about their career in the late seventies,
when things weren't going well for them. So for me to have included
that material was not just a bit of a coup but quite unusual. I think
bands on the whole are less honest with journalists today than they
used to be.
Do you believe that Slade had a good chances in 80's
but they couldn't take it completely in 83-84's? Especially in the USA?
I think they just ran out of energy. I think they
were bored with each other. It's very difficult to make it twice. They'd
done it once but didn't have the reserves of strength to do it again
in the Eighties. Things just weren't right.
Did you do something for Slade in 78-80's when you were at the RCA?
No. Slade arrived at RCA after I quit.
How do you think - could they have a place on musical
market in 90's if they would continue to write a songs in key of "Universe"
and "Radio Wall of Sound"?
That's too hypothetical to answer, like asking me
if The Beatles would reform if John hadn't been killed... Noddy is no
longer interested in the band. And that doesn't interest Jim. Also..
they have forged their own lives outside of the group. Dave and Don
never quite managed to do that.
Why Ritchie Blackmore once called Slade as Melody Maker staff band in
Perhaps he thought Slade didn't deserve the coverage
they got, but I don't see why he should be complaining because Purple
got plenty of coverage.
Is there anything what could bring classic Slade line-up
together again? Should we wait for a classic Slade reunion?
No chance. As far as I am aware, Noddy is happy being
a DJ and isn't remotely interested in reviving the group.
Could you say some words about Chas Chandler. He's
still looking as incredibly important person in band's history.
I was very sad when Chas died. Indeed, I even wrote
an obituary on him for Record Collector magazine... I liked Chas a lot.
Without him Slade wouldn't have happened...
Have you a wish to write a continue about 84-91's
Slade years? How would you describe that time in a few words?
I've really lost touch with them, so unless I interviewed
them again I wouldn't know what to write. I'd have to modify the end
of the book because it ends on a upbeat note which is probably not quite
so appropriate now as it was when I originally wrote it. But there isn't
really much to say, so it's probably best that the book stays as it
Could you say a some words about your musical likes and dislikes?
I always loved The Who, first and foremost, which is why I produced
their 4CD box set and why I have been more closely associated with them
than anybody else.
But along the way I've also loved Presley, Lennon, Paul Simon, Steely
Dan, Van Morrison, Gram Parsons/The Byrds, Bruce Springsteen, REM, Crowded
House and many more.
Do you have any plans for a new rock book, and if
you have could you name the band you'll do it for?
No plans really. I don't have the time. I just try and improve books
written by others. The last two I wrote were CD shaped books in the
Omnibus Complete Guide to the Music Of... series. I did books on The
Who and Paul Simon.
I just spent almost as much time editing and working on the Keith Moon
biography (see above) as I did on the Slade book... and the Moon book
was written by someone else!
How could you compare your life in your rock-n-roll days and your life
Please understand that I no longer follow the activities of the various
groups about whom I wrote with the same enthusiasm I once did. Aside
from The Who (who continue to employ me as an archivist), I have lost
touch with most of them. Time was when I saw Slade once or twice a week;
now I might see them once every three years.
My family (two children, aged 3 and 6) are my priority. I spent 15-20
years at the sharp end of the music industry, staying out late, watching
bands, hanging out with musicians. Now I go home and read my children
a bedtime story and get to bed early myself because I know they will
wake me up early in the morning! I'm 51 now...
© 1998 Alexander
, Khabarovsk Russia. No part of this article may be used
or reproduced without expressed written permission. It was published
in 1998 in the Russian nationwide musical magazine "Music Box" (as "The
Interview of this Issue").
Thanks to Alexander Filimonenko for the interview!