This is the 108th post in a weekly series. Read about it here and see the list of previous songs here. A new post about a different song is posted each Monday. You can listen to the songs in a Spotify playlist.
British band Slade never became became as big in America as in the band’s native England, where there was a time the band was almost as big as The Beatles. That was in part because the band’s number of hit singles rivaled that of fab four. By 1972, Slade had a string of hits, including three that reached Number 1 in the UK: “Coz I Luv You,” “Take Me Bak ‘Ome,” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.”
As much as the band’s members were known for producing hits, they became just as known for being wild party boys. Jon Kutner’s and Spencer Leigh’s 2005 book, “1000 UK Number One Hits,” said that after a particularly late night of partying, lead singer Noddy Holder was greeted by a hotel porter who said, “This is your nine o’clock call, Mr. Holder.”
After an especially memorable show in 1972 in which Holder fed off the crowd’s energy, he felt inspired to write a song based on the connection he felt with the audience. “When we were onstage, the audience was chanting along so loudly to every song that I couldn’t hear myself sing,” Holder said of the song that he originally called “Cum On Hear the Noize.” But because he “had felt the sound of the crowd pounding in my chest,” he changed the song to “Cum On Feel the Noize.” In the lyrics, Holder snidely addressed any critics and naysayers by singing, “So you think my singing’s out of time? It makes me money.”
According to “Look Wot I Dun: Don Powell of Slade,” the book that Powell and Lise Lyng Falkenberg wrote about the drummer’s time in the band, the band’s manager Chas Chandler employed a strategy when releasing “Cum On Feel the Noize” as a single:
Chas, his management assistant Johnny Steel and Polydor boss John Fruin came up with a plan together, to get the single straight up to number one. Singles were released on a Friday. Chas would get ‘Top Of The Pops’ for us on the Thursday, the day before the new release, so they had Friday, Saturday, and Monday’s sales, then the charts would come out on Tuesdays. Chas saw to it that we had the record played on the radio at least a week before release and, because of our success at the time, people would pre-order it. The shops would stack the records a week before, so they would be there on release day. It was a marketing scheme that actually worked.
Usually, when a record was released on a Friday, it wouldn’t be in the shops until a week later, but this way it was there the day of release. The kids could buy it from Friday and, because of that and pre-orders, we could enter the chart at Number 1.
And it worked. When “Cum On Feel the Noize” entered the UK charts in 1973, it entered at Number 1. That was the first time any single had done that since The Beatles’ “Get Back.” Slade would do it two more times in 1973, as both “Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me” and “Merry Xmas Everybody” entered the charts at Number 1. Though Slade’s chart success might have been most pronounced in the UK, the band managed to crack the Top 20 in many other countries. Slade had more modest success in the US during the ’70s, but as other artists have covered the band’s songs, Slade developed a fan base there.
“Sounds Like Slade” was a 1974 album by a band called The Hobos, and it was aptly named: The Hobos played a bunch of Slade songs in a way that indeed sounded like Slade. Among those songs was “Cum On Feel the Noize,” though surprisingly, the tracklist did not include “Merry Xmas Everybody.”
A few other bands covered the song around the time of its release, but the cover of “Cum On Feel the Noize” that became a hit and helped Slade break into the US was by Los Angeles band Quiet Riot. Appearing on the band’s 1983 album, “Metal Health,” Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” peaked at Number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number 45 in the UK. The song helped push “Metal Health” to the top of the Billboard 200, becoming the first album to do so.
The cover introduced US audiences to Slade and the world to Quiet Riot. But initially, the members of Quiet Riot didn’t want to cover it. Specifically, lead singer Kevin DuBrow didn’t want Quiet Riot to cover the song. In an interview with Songfacts, drummer Frank Banali said producer Spencer Proffer had pushed the idea of Quiet Riot recording “Cum On Feel the Noize.” But according to Banali, DuBrow wanted to be the one who wrote what Quiet Riot performed. If Quiet Riot had to record a Slade song, Banali said, DuBrow thought it should be “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” but was told no. So instead, the band members decided to intentionally record “Cum On Feel the Noize” in a way the producers could not use. But as Banali said in an interview with Michael Aubrecht, that plan didn’t work out:
Kevin was waiting for it to fall apart, but we just kept playing. It’s in my DNA to do the best job I can, so I vamped, and it turned out to work within the song. When we finished, the producer said it sounded great on the first take. The engineer happened to record it, and when we listened back, it worked. Kevin was furious.
But it became the band’s biggest hit, along with “Bang Your Head (Metal Health).” Quiet Riot did eventually record a cover of “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” which appeared on 1984’s “Condition Critical.” But that did not fare as well as “Cum On Feel the Noise,” as Quiet Riot’s “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” only reached Number 51 in the US.
Likewise, in the 35 years since Quiet Riot’s version, no cover of “Cum On Feel The Noize” had the same reach or success. But the song has continued to be covered. And parodied.
Though “Cum On Feel the Noize” helped bring mainstream attention to American metal, the song was covered by at least two British punk bands in the ’80s: One Way System…
…and The Crack.
In both cases, the bands slogged through the song noisily and unapologetically. Which seemed perfect for the theme of the song.
The song got a more polished and quirky version when recorded for BBC TV show “Glam Metal Detectives.” The show featured, among other things, a rock group that saw its mission statement as “saving the planet’s ecology with top-hit records.” A soundtrack album of sorts was released in 1995, in which the Glam Metal Detectives themselves sang “Cum On Feel the Noize” over a multilayered track of scratches, samples, and drumbeats. It was definitely noisy. Or, rather, “noizy.”
Oasis released a version of “Cum On Feel the Noize” on the single for “Don’t Look Back In Anger.” Whereas the Quiet Riot version had been marked by its plodding drums and produced polish, the Oasis cover was messier, with fuzzier guitars.
Bran Van 3000 was a Canadian collective that combined elements of rock, hip hop, and electronica. With “Cum On Feel the Noize” on the group’s 1997 debut “Glee,” Bran Van 3000 vacillated between various tempos, slowing down only to speed up, then slow down again. Freewheeling and all over the place as it was, it wasn’t a disaster, and was actually somewhat soothing. Only somewhat, though.
The Shirehorses was a duo comprising two BBC radio DJs who spoofed and parodied several hit songs. In their hands, “Cum On Feel the Noize” became “Cum On Skweeze Me Boilz,” which should give you an indication about what kind of parody it is. If juvenile humor about asses and pimples is not your bag, then skip it. (But if it is your bag, then you will probably be delighted.)
In the “Merry Xmas Everybody” post, I mentioned that former Generation X guitarist Derwood Andrews released a covers album called “Cover Yer Arse.” Andrews’ take on “Cum On Feel the Noize” was less “noize” and more “feel,” as it was more tender than the Slade version (and certainly the Quiet Riot Cover).
Parody lounge act Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine developed a name by picking well-known songs from the ’80s and irreverently performing them in a faux-earnest lounge style. The 2012 album “Back In Black Tie” targeted metal songs, and on “Cum On Feel the Noize,” Cheese sang Holder’s lyrics with a seriousness appropriate for a funeral.
ApologetiX is a parody band of a different sort, taking popular songs and rewriting them to include Christian and Biblical themes. As an example, the band’s version of “Spirit In The Sky” corrected some of Norman Greenbaum’s theological mistakes. On the 2015 album, “Music Is As Music Does,” ApologetiX recast “Cum On Feel the Noize” as “Come On Heal The Boy,” a story about a possessed child:
So you think I’ve got an evil child
Tell his mummy
We both know why, we both know why
So I think a demon’s down inside
It makes him grumpy
It won’t go fly, It won’t go fly
Help me, Lord
So come on, heal the boy!
First lock the doors!
He’ll get wild, wild, wild
Wild, wild, wild
Come on, heal the boy!
First lock the doors!
He’ll get wild, wild, wild
Though you think I’ve got a puny faith
I’m just so worried
And we both know why, we both know why
I know my belief is out of shape
It’s been malnourished
And it won’t grow right, it won’t grow right
Help me, Lord
No, don’t go!
On the same album, ApologetiX recorded The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride” as “Addicted to Christ” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” as “Be Like David Was.”
In previous posts, I’ve looked at cover songs that were huge hits while the source material was unknown. Except “Cum On Feel the Noize” is unlike previous songs in the Cover Songs Uncovered series because how one views Slade and Quiet Riot depends on where you are. In the UK, Slade was a huge pillar of British music and the only reason to know Quiet Riot was because the band covered a few Slade songs. But in the US, the generation of fans who came up watching metal videos on MTV probably thought of the Quiet Riot as an original. Those differences in perspective can be seen in these covers: the Derwood Andrews version appeared on a compilation called “Hair Apparent: The Main Man Records Tribute to Hair Bands,” but the version by The Hobos was on a Slade tribute record.
In a way, Slade and Quiet Riot have come to share custody of the song. For Slade, the song helped establish their legacy as a powerhouse that could top the charts in the UK. That the band had other Number 1 singles meant that “Cum On Feel the Noize” was not necessarily the band’s defining work. For Quiet Riot, though, that cover probably is the defining work. For his part, lead singer DuBrow continued to dislike the song, even after the song made him and his band famous. In The Independent’s obituary for DuBrow, he was quoted as having said, “They conned us into doing it. It’s a pop song. Our influences were much more in the Led Zeppelin vein.”
And yet, DuBrow seemingly came to terms with his legacy being tied to the song. “I never loved that song,” he told Glenn Hughes, “but at the same token, I never thought we were the greatest songwriters in the world.”
I won’t bang my head to disagree with that sentiment.