The night Slade were on in 1972 the place was packed to capacity. It was getting really hot as Bruce Benson was winding up his DJ marathon. The Ballroom could be hot at the best of times but that night there was no air at all. I was offstage by the side entrance door with my back against the door and my feet on the pillar trying to keep the groupies out. I lost count of the number of pregnant wives Noddy Holder supposedly had! When Slade first appeared out of the dressing room, my first thought was how small they were and my second was how terrified they looked when they saw the heaving mass squashed up against the stage.
They went on and the whole place went berserk. About 10 minutes into the act, bouncers were hauling fainting punters over the stage and depositing them on the floor in the artistes lounge. I went to see if I could do anything and there were bodies everywhere. One lad who was wearing one of the multi-coloured suede jackets so popular at the time, had steam coming off him.
I didn't see much of Slade on stage.... I spent the evening pouring water down kid's throats.
At the end of the gig, Slade went off, Paul Gray turned the disco decks back on and all the fuses blew. The gear was soaking wet. Webmaster
Slade autographs June 1972
Luton News June 29, 1972
Scenes of young girls fainting and near hysteria swept through the California Ballroom on Saturday night as one of the largest crowds ever packed in to see top pop group Slade.
Over 1300 people jammed the dance floor. (see footnote) Exit doors were burst open as the crowd fought for air. Girls were hoisted high on boyfriend's shoulders clear of the crush. Resident disc jockey at the Cali - weekend haunt of hundreds of Luton teenagers - Bruce Benson said: "It was Beatlemania all over again". He made repeated requests during the evening for people to move away from the massive amplifiers in case they toppled under pressure.
The disc jockey said afterwards: "I saw several girls faint. I certainly cannot remember a bigger crowd". The crowd started a continuous "we want Slade" chant over an hour before the group - who's latest release 'Take me bak ome' is currently number two in the charts - appeared on stage.
Slade's lead guitarist Dave Hill said afterwards: "The audience reaction was tremendous but I felt really sorry for the kids. They were packed in like sardines.
Footnote: The California had a stated capacity of around 3000. The night of the Slade gig we believe there were around 3,500 in the Ballroom and probably another 500 in the bars and the car park.
Dave sketched by the webmaster
at the California in 1972