Aug 07

SLADE – “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me”

FT + Popular45 comments • 4,893 views

#333, 30th June 1973

“Cleverness” wasn’t usually something Slade aimed for – though you wouldn’t necessarily call them stupid – but on “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” even they dip a toe into metatext: “Can’t you learn to spell?” Mostly, though, this is Slade’s warm, sentimental side given rein. The glorious intro promises a full-on monster anthem but this is mostly Noddy’s show, with the band happy to jog along behind while he belts out the chorus and sells you on the reflective (in Slade terms) verses. It’s only towards the end that they wake up, remember they’re a rock band, and turn “Skweeze Me” into the rave-up it wants to be.



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  1. 1
    Rosie on 15 Aug 2007 #

    I think it’s probably safe to say that this isn’t about Vietnam, Northern Ireland, or critical appraisals of the Marxist philosophy (see Matching Mole at around this time, a cult band if ever there was one!) Which is not to say there isn’t a political statement to be found in there at all – even if it’s a cheerful two-fingered salute to the smug Middle-Englanders currently running the country!

    But this if probably Slade being playfully self-referential and having a grand old time about it. Slade in overdrive, cruising along on their reputation.

    Oddly enough, this is one I thought I remembered, and then discovered that alone amongst Slade’s number ones I have little recollection of it. At the moment I’m inclined to think that this, rather than Take Me Bak ‘Ome, is the real runt of the litter. Over the last few weeks I’ve rather come to like the spareness and near-despair of TMB’O. But maybe this one will grow on me too.

    Probably a 4 from me.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 15 Aug 2007 #

    Even Slade admitted that the formula was by now getting a little too comfortable – thus their deliberately atypical follow-up to this one, “My Frend Stan,” which dutifully stopped at number two to teach them not to try it – but “Skweeze” is still pretty thrilling, from its opening, Pistols-inspiring bass/drums helter skelter, landing into the consomme of guitar noise with an attack and confidence possibly unparalleled at the period.

    6 is a fair mark since this isn’t one of their classics, but what does Dale say about it? “Ooh, I love this one.”

    In a fairer world, both “O Caroline” and “Signed Curtain” would have been number one singles for Matching Mole.

  3. 3
    Erithian on 15 Aug 2007 #

    Warm and sentimental? “When a girl’s meaning yes she says no”? Even at an age when I didn’t realise the implications of that line, I still thought it was pretty unfair – what’s a girl to say when she means no?!

    The usual great party tune, and the number one that ended my primary school days. Not that I associate it with that event from memory, oddly enough.

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    mike on 15 Aug 2007 #

    This is precisely the point at which Slade could have slid into reductionist self-parody, a trap which they sidestepped in the nick of time with My Friend Stan, but Skweeze Me Pleeze me j-u-s-t gets away with repeating the wilfully dumb Mama/Noize stompalong formula for one last time, cheerfully giving us exactly what we wanted.

    But there was always more to Slade than wilfully dumb stompalongs, as the singles leading up to, and away from, the central Mama/Jane/Noize/Skweeze run demonstrate, and I for one prefer the earlier and the later (Old New Borrowed Blue/Slade In Flame) material.

    There was the sense of a line being ruled here. This was the last of the misspelt hits (and so it was a neat trick to include that “Can’t you learn to spell” line, as, well, they DID), although there was a brief subsequent half-hearted flirtation with reversed N’s and S’s. It was then fairly swiftly followed up by the Sladest compilation of greatest hits and earlier pre-fame material, thus clearing the decks for a certain calming down, and a partial re-invention. (But that’s without taking into account the biggest hit of all, which does rather bugger up my suggested timeline!)

    Speaking personally, Skweeze Me ruled a line in my own 11-year old life, being the last Number One before my parents announced their divorce – a bolt from the blue, which took immediate effect, and ensured that, like Slade, I could never be quite so all-embracingly dumb (“When a girl’s meaning yes she says no”, well REALLY!) and daft and uncomplicatedly gleeful again…

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    Marcello Carlin on 15 Aug 2007 #

    Ah but there is that “i” missing from “My Frend Stan” (at least on my copy).

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    katstevens on 15 Aug 2007 #

    Ah, this isn’t bad. Catchy chorus and plenty of bounce. One of the things I like about the Slade tracks I’ve heard is their meaty, melodic basslines. It’s a shame that on this song the bass follows the chords almost exactly and fails to press my ‘omg’ button. However I would happily dance to this at a young person’s disco!

    I didn’t know this one before today either – clearly my knowledge of 1973 is somewhat lacking!

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    Marcello Carlin on 15 Aug 2007 #

    Aye, Jim Lea’s a seriously underrated bass player.

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    Mark G on 15 Aug 2007 #

    and “My Friend Stan” had a reversed ‘N’ on the label/sleeve.

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    Doctor Casino on 15 Aug 2007 #

    On first listen: A few too many trips to the well for this group, I think. But who knows – “Mama” grew on me a great deal in the time after its Popular turn. I dunno, though, this one really feels empty somehow – not spiritually, but aurally. It feels like a demo…there’s a hole in the mix.

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    jeff w on 15 Aug 2007 #

    The amusing thing (to me) about those reversed ‘N’s is that when the song got ‘covered’ on one of those Top Of The Pops compilations of chart hits, the record company reproduced them faithfully on the sleeve and the label.

    A shame then that the anonymous session musician singing lead couldn’t have reproduced Noddy’s vocals a bit more faithfully.

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    Billy Smart on 15 Aug 2007 #

    1985 Top 50 smash ‘Myzterious Mizter Jones’ was a late attempt to revive the mispelt formula.

    Like Dr. Casino, this always sounds muddy to me, like something that’s been taped off the radio. It takes until the free-spirited “Wauuugh! Hauuugh!” of the chorus until I can really enter into the spirit of the thing. But its usual effect upon me is to remind me of other Slade songs that I’d rather be listening to.

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    Marcello Carlin on 16 Aug 2007 #

    I have never knowingly heard “Myzterious Mizter Jones” even though I own it on the Slade box set. Says a lot dunnit?

    From their late period I quite liked their Big Country ripoff “Run Runaway,” albeit mainly for the video which involved Magnus Magnusson, the Dagenham Girl Pipers and Dave Hill playing his plugged-in guitar atop a castle in the middle of a thunderstorm, inter alia.

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    mike on 16 Aug 2007 #

    Here’s a Fascinating Fact: “My Frend Stan” spent three weeks at #1 in the Republic of Ireland, whereas “Skweeze Me” only managed one week (same as the UK).

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    Marcello Carlin on 16 Aug 2007 #

    “Skweeze Me” was actually top for three weeks in Britain, Mike.

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    Waldo on 17 Aug 2007 #

    There’s no question that this simply rode in on the coat-tails of the brilliant COFTN and owed its coming straight in at the top largely to advanced orders. I actually think very little of SMPM as a track in itself, although in retropsect the intro was indeed Pistols-inspiring, as Marcello says. Apart from that, I think it goes nowhere fast. Cobbled together from nothing, it seems to me.

    Rosie – I assume by “Smug Little Englanders currently running the country”, you were referring to Ted back in the day and not to the actual current administration, who are smug, English-hating Sweaties, of course?

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    Erithian on 17 Aug 2007 #

    Count to ten before replying to that one…

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    Rosie on 17 Aug 2007 #

    Waldo, yes I meant Ted and the Selsdon wannabes. And I’m not going to be drawn on the second part.

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    Rosie on 17 Aug 2007 #

    Tom, can you delete this one please?

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    intothefireuk on 20 Aug 2007 #

    Late to the party on this one and pretty much my thoughts are in line with the concensus. This was & is one of Slades weaker songs and was no doubt at No.1 due to their overwhelming popularity at the time. Noddys vocals are just plain un-appetising when he shreiks out the chorus. Like stilletos down a blackboard. My No.1 of choice at this time would have been the awesome ‘Life On Mars’ Bowie’s oddly late released ‘My Way’ inspired consideration on the eternal fascination with fame & the silver screen. Another artist at the height of his powers but strangely unable to translate that into No.1 singles until much later.

    Slade did at least though continue Glam’s domination for a while. Hopefully I’m not giving anything away by saying their reign at the top was ended by a fairly unlikely effort about as un-glam as you can get.

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    Marcello Carlin on 20 Aug 2007 #

    “Life On Mars” is the most overrated pile of turnip tosspotism ever committed in the name of pop – so up itself I can’t even bear to append the question mark to the title as written on the la-bel five points Dignified Don.

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    Erithian on 20 Aug 2007 #

    Oh, get off that fence MC!

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    intothefireuk on 20 Aug 2007 #

    Not a fan then Mr Carlin ? Pretentious ? Yes – that’s the point isn’t it ?

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    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I sometimes used to think that there existed good and bad pretentiousness, but as with the notion of good and bad stress it’s a bit of a chimera. There’s nothing wrong with successful pretentiousness since that is the literal purpose of art (in direct flaunting of the second commandment) but failed pretentiousness is like failed capitalism; its failure leaves an embarrassing stench under the diplomatic carpet.

    “Life On Mars?” from that question mark downwards is an example of failed pretentiousness; indeed it is a failed pop single – a two-year-old album track pressed into abrupt 45 action to promote the back catalogue. Bowie’s attempts to do a Hockney/Ballard remix of “American Pie” flounder under the unsupportable weight of all its misfiring lyrical metaphors, the pomp-prog musical backing (complete with Rick Wakeman) which in a parallel world would have been the Moody Blues and Bowie’s own, exceptionally unpleasant yowling vocal.

    It’s probably no accident that Bowie’s songs tend to work better when sung and performed by others; “All The Young Dudes,” for instance, has equally preposterous lyrics (Dylan after all these years still had so much to answer for) but Ian Hunter and Mott attack the song with such fervour that you believe them, are swept along with the flow. The fact that Lulu and Kurt could elicit such diverse meanings from “The Man Who Sold The World,” each giving an entirely individualistic reading of the line “I thought you died a long, a long, long time ago” indicates the ruined nobility which a good interpreter can evoke from an initially unpromising song.

    The two best versions of “Life On Mars?” on record both treat the song with studied irreverence; Co.Ro’s Euro happy hardcore version – a shock smash hit at Club Poptimism – works for the same reasons as Peter Noone’s “Oh You Pretty Things”; in each instance, the singer clearly hasn’t a clue what Bowie is going on about but does their best anyway – in Co.Ro’s case, the dropped diphthongs and mangled vowels actually help stir the words into the nonsensical bouillabase that they constituted all along. In contrast, Django Bates and Human Chain’s reading from a couple of years ago succeeds by out-arthousing the arthouse man with its Bartokian string quartet reharmonisations, singer Josefine Lindstrand’s equally uncomprehending vocal, trademark Loose Tubes chord changes and saxophonists Iain Ballamy and David Sanborn (! – but then the latter did play on Young Americans) attempting to out-Ornette each other. Its pretentiousness is now so ludicrous yet bold that it succeeds.

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    Tom on 21 Aug 2007 #

    What did you think of the final episode though? ;)

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    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    It got a bit silly when they had to give Leo McKern a shave and haircut before resuscitating him.

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    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    One Sunday afternoon, many many years ago, in a pub near Vauxhall station, I saw a drag queen lip-synching to the Barbra Streisand version of “Life On Mars”, while on an ecstasy comedown (me, not the drag queen, although You Never Know). It bombed so badly that she threatened to perform it all over again.

    Many many years later, in the same pub, on an ecstasy plateau, I danced and sang, lustily, to the *other* Eurodance cover of “Life On Mars”, whose lyrics suddenly struck me as The Most Brilliantly Prescient Commentary On Blair’s Britain That I Had Ever Heard, Oh My God Oh My God.

    But the Co.Ro version does take a lot of beating, I do agree – especially the obligatory dinky little Motiv8-style riff that they stick on after the chorus…

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    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Tom – The last episode, yes. As Marcello says, when Leo walked into the House of Lords through the St Stephens entrance having alighted the crazy bus driven by the dwarf, it had finished its orbit of the planet Silly.

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    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Ah no, that was a crazy lorry with bars on the side! I think you may be mixing it up with Hope and Keen’s Crazy Bus.

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    intothefireuk on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Marcello – you are obviously in Bowie denial. I can’t let you get away with your misguided dismissal. If a failed pop single can sustain the number 3 position for three weeks then I’d like a few myself. LOM is classic Bowie and indeed classic Ronson, who arranged it. Yes Wakeman played piano but it is one of his better moments (he still plays it at his own gigs). The dense lyric interweaves images and iconic references into a meditation on the vagueries of fame & the media & although it leaves plenty of room for interpretation it doesn’t, to these ears owe anything to American Pie. Bowie, himself provides a magnificent vocal performance reaching notes he never quite could again. It is rare that I prefer an interpretation of an artists songs over the original artist performance and it is testament to the quality of an artists songs that reasonable cover versions can be made at all. Bowie’s version of LOM though has no parallels. However ATYD by Mott is one example (although, of course Bowie sings the chorus) and both Lulu (with Bowie again) & Kurt made very reasonable attempts at TMWSTW – the original, though still stands.

    I also quite liked Linda Lewis’ Rock-A-Doodle-Doo at this time especially the middle bit.

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    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I must say that in all these years, it’s never occurred to me to try and pin down what LOM is “about”. It works for me as an impressionistic piece, where the sounds of the words are as key as the fractured images that they conjure up… and taken in that respect, it works beautifully for me. (But then I was brought up on the “nonsense” of Lear and Milligan et al, and Summer 1973 was my Sitwell/Walton Facade phase, so…)

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