And I thought you might like to know – the Jim Lea interview

Piano Forte: Jim Lea, still the quiet one, but happy to talk over old, new, borrowed and blue times.

It’s not, erm, everyday you get to talk to a childhood hero, but Jim Lea definitely falls into that category for me.

I was barely four when his band scored the first of six UK No.1 singles with ‘Coz I Luv You’ in late 1971, but my older brother was soon blasting lots of Slade out in our bedroom. What’s more, teen magazine coverage and Top of the Pops appearances ensured the megaphone-voiced guitarist Noddy Holder, lead guitarist/garish clothes-horse Dave Hill, gum-chewing drumming legend Don Powell, and multi-talented bass player/ violinist/ pianist Jim were as good as housemates to me.

The latter was always deemed the best musician, but also the quiet one. And that never changed. He never looked to stand out, and I guess that was relatively easy when Messrs. Hill and Holder shared the same stage. In fact, that’s why he chose to play bass rather than guitar, in a bid to just get on with it and put the music first. So I was mightily surprised when word reached me that he was up for an interview, plugging new EP, ‘Lost in Space’.

That release comes barely eight months after a triumphant return to Bilston’s Robin 2 in the heart of the band’s old Black Country heartland, Jim starring in an emotional Q&A session at the R&B club where he also staged a rare live appearance in 2002, a decade after the Lea-Holder songwriting team finally called time on the band that made their name.

What’s more, we ended up on the phone nearly an hour, Wolverhampton-born Jim proving to be one of my most engaging and definitely entertaining interviewees over the years.

It had been a shaky start, mind, my ice-breaking opening question met with a jocular response by this talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Perhaps it was just early nerves, but he quickly homed in on a rather awkward, ‘Where do I find you today, Jim?’ In essence, I might as well have said, ‘Hi Jim, when are you, Nod, Dave and Don getting back together again?’

He was parked up outside his gym – ‘just down the road ‘ from his rural South Staffordshire base – after a work-out, part of his on-going mission to regain full fitness after treatment for prostate cancer, having been diagnosed in 2014. And his energy levels appear to be on their way up again, Jim throwing my initial enquiry back with exaggerated quaintness, asking, ‘Where do I find you, kind sir?’ He was soon rolling though. And rocking.

“I just ate a couple of boiled eggs with spinach, and there’s an article I’m reading about creepy-crawlies, how without them we wouldn’t exist. So there you are, that’s how you find me, Malcolm!”

“I’ve got to get my testosterone back, so have to come to the gym, push myself to the limit so I don’t keep falling asleep all the time.”

Does music help you on the path towards recovery?

“Music? Well, not really. That’s just something that’s been around the whole of my life. It’s just there, you know. Especially songwriting. Once you’ve realised you can do it, I don’t think you can really stop. It’s essential.”

For some older musicians – Jim recently turned 69 – live performance helps keep them young, I suggest. But he’s – how can I put this? – hardly been a gig regular since quitting Slade.

“Ha ha! Well, the thing is, Malcolm, I don’t know how much you know about me, but I was always very low-key in the band, but did do one gig in 2002 that I can’t get away from, at the Robin Hood R’n’B club in Bilston.”

I butt in there and tell him I have my copy of the CD of that performance in front of me, part of a rather splendid gatefold version of his defining 2009 album, Therapy, billed under his Sunday name, James Whild Lea. And there’s a lot of energy on that recording, I suggest.

“I only ever played with energy. I was always loud .,.. and proud. But that gig – they still get phone calls at the club 16 years later, seeing if I’m coming back.”

You did go back for a recent Q&A session, didn’t you?

“Ah, you do know your stuff … yeah, I did. But that was a bit of a strange thing. I’d never done anything like that in my life. The only thing I’d done was stand up and talk to the crowd 16 years ago. Funny thing is that I’ve found some more footage, not great, but you can hear what I’m playing. At the end, I say to the audience, ‘I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been since Slade split. Well, it’s to get away from you lot! They then laugh, and I say, ‘You think I’m joking?’

“So I said to the audience when I walked on this time, ‘Guess what? I said that 16 years ago and here I am again, talking to you lot again!”

Did you recognise some of the faces out there?

“Yeah, and I was mobbed on the way in and on the way out.”

They’d probably been queuing out in sleeping bags for 16 years, just in case you changed your mind and put on a repeat-performance.

“Ha ha! I tell you what, I wouldn’t be surprised with some of them. It’s amazing. They were about 30 deep. I was properly mobbed … more than I was in the days of the band. They were shoving things to sign in my face and all that. I had to get my arms in the air to sign anything, I was getting so squashed. They were from Moscow, Sweden … all over.”

Perhaps they got a flight over from Denmark with Don Powell.

“Ha! I didn’t see Don there.”

Maybe he was hiding at the back, chewing gum in the 31st row.

“Yeah. Well, some of them had come from a long way away.”

Far, far away, to be precise (I didn’t add). When Slade finally split in 1992, after more than a quarter-century of sterling public service, Noddy Holder went on to an array of media engagements, from radio presenting to writing (notably 1999 autobiography Who’s Crazee Now) and TV cameos, including his memorable acting role as Mr Holder in cult ITV comedy drama The Grimleys (1997/2001), Coronation Street (2000), Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere (2004), and even Bob the Builder (2001). Listeners to Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe’s BBC radio shows also got to hear him a lot, and Nod’s occasionally out on the road talking about his illustrious career with the latter.

Meanwhile, Dave and Don, both previously interviewed on this site (see links at the end), have also written accounts of their story (Dave with So Here It Is last year and Don with Look Wot I Dun in 2013), still touring as Slade and remaining as busy to this day around the world, having been out there without Nod and Jim longer than they were with them. Yep, there’s a  staggering thought.

As for Jim, he seemed to just happily step back to the South Staffordshire countryside to write and record on his own, away from the spotlight. But there seems to have been a slight shift of late. Does he keep in touch with his old bandmates?

“We’ve all lost contact with one another, which is by the by, really. It’s okay for me though, because I‘ve always been writing and sticking things down on tape recorders or whatever was there at the time – computers and what-not. And I always play all my own instruments, so I’m self-supporting!”

What do you head for first when writing songs? Piano? Guitar?

“I used to write on the piano … but then I found it was much better to use some paper.”

I fell for that. But while he’s a joker, he’s also an amazing musican, first shining on violin in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra. Did that very different world provide a good grounding for him?

“To tell you the truth, with the violin playing, my Grandad was the leader of the orchestra at the Hippodrome in Wolverhampton, mainly in the variety days. He died a horrible death of throat cancer, and I was born nine months to the day after. Actually, I was a month late coming out – I must have been gripping on the womb walls. I was reluctant even then!

“Anyway, my Mum said to me when I was about nine, ‘Your grandmother and I have been wondering if you might want to play violin’. I wasn’t bothered really, but went along for lessons. and though I didn’t really like them, I kind of picked it up, and was later in the youth orchestra.

“But I always felt I was a bit out of place there, listening to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and The Yardbirds – a bit of (Eric) Clapton. I was thinking, ‘How does he get his guitar to sound like a violin? Because he was really the first who came along in Britain who was able to bend strings to play the blues. I didn’t know anything about that. I was still at school. But I was talking to him about it at the Tommy premiere (1975) and told him I’d wanted to come down to The Marquee but was only a little kid and didn’t know how to get to London and find him, ask how he got his guitar to sound like a violin.

“He said, ‘Well, you should have come down, I would have shown you. You’re shy, like me, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not very forthcoming’. He then said, ‘Why don’t you come around and have a play?’ But I never did.”

Well I’m sure the offer’s still there.

“Erm … I don’t know, he seemed a very nice bloke. He said he was also shy and could understand me, and how Chas ( former Animals bass player Chas Chandler, the Slade and Jimi Hendrix Experience manager) had told him what I was like. But he said, ‘You’re writing all those songs and doing a great job of it’. That was wonderful, but I wanted to get away. I didn’t want to get dragged into anything. I didn’t know if there’d be any follow-up to that, but whoever you talk to …. I’ve blanked so many people! Big names, you know.”

Well, I doubt if anyone could properly take exception. At this point I tell Jim how another band I grew to love, The Undertones, also turned out to appreciate Slade and that glam-rock era. What’s more, like Slade they came over as boys-next-door, with no hint of pretentiousness, and a little wary of other musicians, occasionally turning down encores with others nosing around backstage. And that inspired another Jim anecdote.

“Yeah, it’s really strange, because the band I joined … when I was at school, I didn’t have any equipment, but I played in a little band, and …”

Was this Nick and the Axemen?

“Yeah, it was, then we changed our name to The Stalkers, and were really into stuff like The Yardbirds and that whole burgeoning scene with John Mayall at the forefront, and the Graham Bond Organisation with Jack Bruce, and I loved all that. But I left that behind and got into Dylan, then left that behind and went into Memphis Slim. When I was that sort of age, I was moody and a bit angry, wanting people to piss off and leave me alone. I wanted to find somebody who nobody had ever heard of, and Memphis Slim was my man. I wasn’t fully grown, and looked like a child, with rosy cheeks and a bass as big as me, and in the ’60s you couldn’t go into pubs if you were a child, and I couldn’t have got away with it. But I went to see a concert where the ’N Betweens were playing.”

Fine Tuning: The pared-down ‘N Betweens in ’67. From the left – Dave Hill, Don Powell, Jim Lea, Noddy Holder (Photo:

They were local heroes at the time, weren’t they?

“They were, yeah. They were really fantastic. And getting back to what you were saying, the backing sounded like The Undertones. I always felt when ‘Teenage Kicks’ came on the radio, it sounded like the early ‘N Betweens. It was really pushed forward … it’s difficult to explain, but it was exciting, and the sound was really great.”

Do you remember well your ‘N Betweens audition at the Blue Flame club (on premises which later housed Club Lafayette, less than half a mile from Wolves’ Molineux base) as a 16-year-old?

“Yes, I went along with no equipment, my bass in a polythene bag, and I was the last to be  auditioned.”

Did that add to your nerves, that pressure of being last up?

“Yeah, because unbeknown to me, when I walked in there was … they had this singer, then …”

Was that Johnny Howells?

“Johnny Howells! Bloody hell, you have done your homework! He was a good singer and a really good harp player as well. They were doing all that sort of blues stuff, but it really didn’t sound like blues. It sounded very English, and this big, ‘Waahhhh!’”

Was that the Mighty Wah? I’m not sure. It sounded more like a big cat announcing himself, Jim getting into the part. And he’s still going.

“A bit like that, but a lot louder, y’know. But anyway, I walked into the Blue Flame Club and they were on stage and there was a guy who looked like a blond Mick Jagger, playing, and he was singing ‘My Girl’. And it sounded fantastic. So I was thinking, ‘Oh my God’. He went home, but unbeknown to me they’d told him he’d got the job. But then I walked up there. Don told me later, ‘We looked out there and said, ‘Is there anybody else out there?” Because when you’ve got the lights on stage, all you can see is the light and anyone right down the front. He was told, ‘There’s a little kid out there with a bass as big as him, in a polythene bag. And they agreed, ‘we’ll get him up and let him play a song, then we’ll send him home.’ Of course, they didn’t reckon with what they were going to get!”

Well, you clearly impressed.

“Yeah, well, Dave broke a string and Don said, ‘Hey mate, come over here.’ He’s got this quick wit and he said, ‘It says here you play the violin, is that right?’ I said yeah, and he said, ‘Do you play anything else?’ I said, ‘Well, a bit of piano and err ..’ and I just lied and said, ‘Oh, and the cello’, which I’d never even played. He said, ‘Ooh, cello as well?’ and I said, ‘Well, I didn’t get very far with that.’ And he said, ‘Did the spike keep sticking in your neck?’

“And I’m not kidding you, Malcolm. Imagine all the tension in me, and the nerves… whenever I tell people about this … do you know that wonderful thing when you get one of those big hour-glasses and just turn it upside down, with all the sand just coming through, going the opposite way to what it was? That’s exactly what I felt like when Don said that. It just calmed me.

“Then Dave said, ‘Hey mate, we’re just going to check out this string, and it’ll be you and me playing – quiet, no band. I wanna see if you’re bluffing, ‘cos you play really fast. But then, I wasn’t nervous at all, and just thought, ‘Bring it on, what you’ve got.’ And I think I was auditioning Dave rather than the other way around. I was playing nothing like a bass player, playing really fast, doing riffs, doing chords, doing drum parts, doing sax parts. You name it, I was doing it. But I got the job!”

I gather your Mum wasn’t so pleased at you turning down offered places at art college and the youth orchestra to join.

“Oh yeah, my Mum and my Gran didn’t like it at all, because I was really turning my back on the youth orchestra and anything like that. I got into loads of art schools. Big ones. But again, I was really nervous when the acceptances came through. I was just a little kid at those interviews, really out of my depth. But as the years went by, you’d meet all these people, in a bar somewhere, or having come to see Slade at a meet and greet. Someone said, ‘I saw you when you came to Hornsey Art College and we felt, ‘We’ve got to have this lad’. But that was a long way from home. They’d have around 200 applicants but only be taking around 20. And if you lived at a distance you’d have even less chance. So I said, ‘But you said at the time my work wasn’t any good. And he said, ‘It wasn’t that. It was just you – you were so different. We said we’ve got to have that lad here.’ And all the people I bumped into said the same thing. So I must have been scared, but must have come across in some esoteric way.”

Glammed Up: Slade in their pomp. From the left – Dave Hill, Noddy Holder, Don Powell, Jim Lea.

How long did it take your Mum to forgive you? When did she finally realise you had a ‘proper’ job after all?

“Oh, I think about two years ago! I played her something I’d written, with me playing cello, double bass, and my Mum said, ‘That sounds great, James. Do you know, you could have done something with yourself.’ So does that answer your question?”

I think it does. And what age is your Mum now then?

“She’s 93. She’s had a lot of trouble with osteoporosis and became housebound earlier on this year, out of the blue. But I’m always down there. I looked after my Dad, and I looked after my elder brother, who died of dementia.”

I saw you’d been raising funds for the Dementia UK charity – which provides specialist dementia support for families through its Admiral Nurse service – through recent events, not least through sales of the limited-edition An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2 DVD.

“Well, my dad died of it and my older brother had vascular dementia, becoming difficult and violent with it. I think we’ve all been touched by it, but it’s the managing of it. Before they go into places where they can’t be managed anymore, it’s the controlling of it – giving them a life, walking around with them and all that. My Mum did it with my brother and I did it with my brother with her, because the rest of my family were all working.

“While we were on holiday, my Mother said to me, ‘James, you said you wanted to give to charity, and dementia is just sort of left somehow at the back of all these various charities. It’s a terrible thing and we’ve had two people in our family affected. Will you give them a thought?’ And I said, ‘Mum, you know what? You’re absolutely right.’ It’s a terrible thing, but the dementia charities are so glad when you give to them. And at the Robin Hood we raised just over eight grand by the time we’d finished … in just three hours.”

At this point Jim overhears my other half talking in the background and remarks on it, leading me to telling him that at 29 years together we’re still some way behind him and his beloved Louise. Is that right it’s now 45 years of married life for him?

“Erm, probably! You know a lot, Malcolm. More than me anyway. I’d have to work it out. The thing is that we got together in 1966 and didn’t even bother about the getting married bit, because we were an item, y’know … I liked her. And I was never a womaniser.”

I’m sure you were surrounded by temptation, with a lot of opportunities over the years.

“Yeah, but I was never interested. People always told me I was different, and there you are again, I suppose. I’ve been with my wife for 52 years, which must be a record in rock’n’roll terms. And the thing is, as time goes by, you change – you’re not the same people. We got together when we were 16 and 15.”

Classic Cinema: Slade In Flame, the 1975 film soundtrack

Are you suggesting it’s like meeting a new partner every few years, but staying faithful?

“Yes, my wife and I are nothing like we were when we met. I went heavily in mid-life into finding out who or what I was. And when I came out the other end, I wasn’t the person I went searching for at all.

“Did you see that documentary, Elvis Presley: The Searcher (HBO, 2018)? They’re kind of saying Elvis was always searching. And I was always searching. But I didn’t know what I was searching for, and didn’t know I was morphing into what I am now, which is nothing like I was. I now know who and what I am. And it was well worth doing. And you can hear that on Therapy too.”

Now you’re courting a few interviews, you’re bound to get those inevitable questions about band reunions, so I best not disappoint you now and miss that one out. So Jim (I drag my question out for full effect), when are you going to get The Dummies back together again?

For a short while, there’s silence at the end of the line, followed by a real belly laugh.

”That was a bit of a curveball, Malc! Ha!”

He soon composes himself again though.

“Dave Clarke, when he set this interview up, texted me and told me, ‘Malcolm will calm you on your mobile.’ So I texted back and asked, ‘Do I need calming?’ He said, ‘That’s predictive texting for you’, and I said, ‘Yeah, tell me about it!’ But that was a real curveball, and one that did more than calm me down!”

For those not in the know, The Dummies was a late 1979 side-project involving Jim and younger brother Frank (who earlier sat in for Don Powell after the tragic accident that led to his girlfriend’s death and major surgery and hospitalisation for the Slade drummer), wondering if their material would be better received if recorded by another band. They released three singles, all receiving plenty of radio airplay, but sales suffered from distribution problems. And when Slade split in 1992, an album, A Day in the Life of The Dummies, was released. gathering all the material recorded by the brothers.

“Yeah, The Dummies was just Frank on the drums and me on guitar. Of course, I played bass in Slade because I didn’t really want to be noticed, but when I did the Robin Hood in 2002 I walked on stage with my guitar, with everyone going, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be terrible!’ That night, I also had a drummer I didn’t know personally (Michael Tongue), plus Dave Caitlin-Birch, the bass player from the Bootleg Beatles and World Party. Karl Wallinger (World Party’s frontman) had rented a flat of mine. That’s how I got to know Dave. And when we cracked on … I mean, bloody hell! It almost knocked me off the stage. People have since told me that when I walked on, they thought it was going to be terrible, worrying about hearing me sing, and knowing I was so shy. They weren’t ready for what they got!”

It’s certainly a very powerful performance, judging by the recording.

“That’s all I ever did. Even going back to that audition in January 1966, and before that. I bumped into a woman a few weeks ago, who took me back. They used to put me in for these violin competitions, and because I was shy and not into the norm, there was this kind of anger coming out of me, because I didn’t really want to be there. And this was the mother of a girl who would win all these competitions, and she said how they had followed my career. I remembered her daughter and always thought if she was there, she was going to win anyway. But she told me she later gave up, got married, and that was that.

“She also said, ‘If every I saw your name on the rota, we’d say, ‘It’s that lad again!’ They used to be frightened of me. But I said, ‘What on earth are you talking about? There’d be seven people and I’d come fifth’. But she said, ‘Yes, but Jim, you weren’t like anyone else’. I told her I was really nervous and she said, ‘You didn’t look it. You played with fire. It was as if you were going to break the violin’.”

I take it you never did break a violin.

“My Grandad’s violin was an heirloom and the neck broke on that, but I got it fixed, and that’s what led me – in making reparations to my Grandma, – to do this big string thing. Whether anyone will ever hear it, I don’t know, but I really like it.”

One of the tracks you re-imagined with The Dummies was one of my favourites, ‘When the Lights Are Out’, from 1974’s Old, New, Borrowed and Blue album.

“Yeah, I had a big argument with Chas (Chandler) about that. We were going to Australia, travelling first class, and there used to be this bubble in the 747s where the restaurant would be. It wasn’t posh or anything, it was just like a café, and Chas and I spent about 10 hours arguing about which should be the next single. Chas was going for ‘Everyday’ and I said ‘When the Lights Are Out’, because it was more up tempo. And we could have released ‘Everyday’ afterwards.

“But I was singing that track, and when I spoke to Chas years later he said, ‘To be quite honest, Jim, when I first saw the band I saw what you could do and saw what you were like, and then you started writing and I thought he’s going to see what he can do and then he’ll leave the band. So I didn’t give you a lot of interviews and I sort of kept you away from the press and a raised profile. But if we’d have had ‘When the Lights Are Out’ as a single, you’d have been having your face in the camera, and that to me was a danger.’

“And when I saw this Elvis documentary, I saw how Colonel Tom Parker wouldn’t let anyone who he thought was a threat to come near him. And to Chas, there was a threat that I would leave the band.”

Talking of Chas Chandler, what about his link with Jimi Hendrix? I know you were a big fan, as indicated by your cover of ‘Hey Joe’ for the Robin 2 gig.

“Yeah, and I’m sure I would have played with Hendrix. We were skinheads at the time, and Chas called us down to London. We couldn’t work out why and it took us around five hours to get there. Eventually, after lots of small talk, he told us that Jimi had rung him up and asked him to manage him again. And I said, ‘Well, I think it’s fantastic’. Jimi Hendrix was my hero, you see, and I thought I’d get to play with him. I wouldn’t have left the band but I would have loved to have played with him. I played bass like he played guitar. I wasn’t bothered about bass players.”

Come to think of it, there’s a Hendrix feel to ‘Goin’ Bak to Birmingham’ on the latest EP, a track you also played during that 2002 live show.

“Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny with the Robin thing. So many people said that up on that stage I played as well as Jimi Hendrix. But from when I rang Mike at the Robin to ask if it was a good idea – because I wasn’t going to play Slade songs, but songs that inspired me – I knew what I wanted to do, but only had about five weeks to get up to speed with a guitar.”

So tell me more about this latest release, your ‘Lost in Space’ EP?

“Well, Frank, my younger brother, who is often kicking my ass, said,‘What about an EP? I’ve been talking to the record company’. And I said, ‘Fine, we’ll do an EP’. He then said, ‘When can I have the tracks?’ So I said, ‘When do you need them?’ and he said, ‘Next Monday’. I said, ‘You what?’

“Of course, I can’t sing now because of throat trouble, that lack of testosterone. But I hunted around quickly and found some songs I felt might fit the bill. They’d got finished vocals on them but only sketchy backing. So I threw something at it, and that’s what you hear, because we only had a few days to get it together. ‘Megadrive’ was already done.”

That was the song I was going to mention first. Proof, as if it needed proving, that you can still write a great melody.

“Oh yeah, there was always a melody. It’s always memorable, whatever it is. Even my string thing is memorable … but it’s beautiful as well.”

The title track, ‘Lost in Space’, has a nice kind of George Harrison and Tom Petty vibe to it, I ventured.

“Ha! Funny you say that. Not many people have compared it to anything else, but I’ve had Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty mentioned. Nobody’s said George Harrison before. Even Del Amitri were mentioned. I can’t see that, but I can’t see any of those. I just put it down and forget about it, then I’m on to the next song.”

On two of the songs, I could hear some heavy metal band coming in and having a lot of fun with them. ‘Pure Power’ has a real anthemic feel, and ‘What in the World’ is another heavy rocker. In short, you haven’t lost that metal edge.

“I can still rock out, you know. It’s just having the energy to do it. That’s the trouble.”

That got Jim back on the subject of his memorable 2002 show at the Robin 2, and then the late 2017 Q&A event.

Strings Attached: Jim Lea with his violin

“The boss there rang and said, ‘The phone’s ringing off the hook. Everyone’s saying, ‘When are you going to come back?’ I said, ‘I’m never coming back. I’m going to make an album, and it’s going to be called Therapy. And it’s gonna be psychologically-based. But he said, ‘Well, if you wanna come and play, any time …’

“When he rang the day after that show, he said, ‘I stood at the bar and thought I might watch one number. But when you walked on stage I almost felt sick. I thought it was going to be a disaster. It was so loud and powerful, and I’d never heard anything like it in my whole career, playing in bands or at the Robin. But I took a swig of my pint and looked up, and I saw you playing guitar, one-handed with one hand up in the air, and you were singing. And I thought, ‘I can’t go home’. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.’ And his right-hand man was a big AC/DC fan who’d seen all the gigs he’d put on there and felt that had to be the best.

“This last time, at the end of the Q&A, he told me everyone was crying. I didn’t have a band but had backing tracks, and played along with them. But I was very tired because I hadn’t played since the cancer. And I didn’t know the crowd were crying, because of the lighting.

“At the end, I was mobbed again on the way out, but finally got to the car and was driven off, then went to have a dinner with my family. But my brother Frank wasn’t there, and we were all waiting, starving. He only came in about an hour later. I said, ‘Where the heck have you been?’ And he said, ‘James, I stayed ‘til the death. Everybody was crying and hugging each other, people who didn’t even know each other, and then the boss of the club was walking towards me and I said, ’Mike, what’s going on?’ And he said, People won’t go home. It’s as if James has risen from the dead’. Then Frank noticed he was crying as well, asked why, and was told, ‘I haven’t got a bloody clue. It’s just all so emotional!”

“Someone also told me Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre was set to play that night, and wondered if he had the right venue. He was asking, ‘Why are all these people crying?’ He was told, ‘Jim Lea from Slade has just done a Q&A’. And he said, ‘Bloody hell!’”

Well, you’ve spoken about therapy, and you did train as a psychotherapist a few years ago. Maybe you’ve released some kind of energy in the room.

“Well, when my brother said, ‘What about a Q&A at the Robin?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay’, my wife couldn’t quit believe I’d said that. But I just thought it was another way of pushing myself forward as a person.”

Noize Merchants: The first of three Slade singles to top the UK charts in ’73

So where are you at with your cancer treatment now?

“Wolverhampton’s NHS really looked after me, but then sent me to Leeds for treatment.”

Was that at the aptly-nicknamed Jimmy’s (St James’s University Hospital)?

“It was, yeah. I’d go up there a couple of times a year and stay up, and have got to know people up there, and we’re just one big happy family when we go. So although the treatment was uncomfortable to have, it’s been brilliant. In fact, we went up there for my wife’s birthday – for no other reason – on April 1st. I was up there about three months, then I had these injections. But I’ve finished those now.”

You’ve said no to a Robin 2 return, but I’m still hoping we can tempt you out for another gig at some stage.

“I tell you what, Malcolm. I would love to do it if I got the energy back. I was talking to one guitarist about that live DVD and he said, ‘You were giving it a lot of energy. I know what I do leaves me tired. You could do a gig, but you couldn’t do that again’. And I was kind of dropping at one point.”

Well, hopefully you’ll be back to full fitness soon, and we may see that day yet.

“Yeah, well, I would love to do it if I got the energy back. My brother’s got all sorts of ideas to get me up there. I’m just looking at the back of this copy of the Big Issue, and it’s got an advert for a festival (Cropredy’s Fairport Convention in Oxfordshire next month) with Brian Wilson, The Oyster Band, Police Dog Hogan, Smith & Brewer … so maybe you might be seeing me down the bottom at one of those.”

That would be brilliant. I look forward to that. And until then, there’s always that amazing Slade and solo back-catalogue.

Whild Living: Jim Lea looks back on an amazing career, before, during and after his Slade years

To catch up with this website’s feature/interview with Dave Hill, from December 2015, head here. And for our conversation with Don Powell from December 2017, try here. You can also check out the lowdown on Noddy Holder’s live show with Mark Radcliffe from May 2013 via this link, and find a WriteWyattUK appreciation of Slade from December 2012 here.  

Jim Lea’s six-track EP ‘Lost In Space’ is out now, with details of that, plus the limited-edition An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2, various versions of the Therapy album, and lots more product available from his website.   




About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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7 Responses to And I thought you might like to know – the Jim Lea interview

  1. Dave Kemp says:

    Malcolm – Great interview with Jim! Ta!

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