‘Mr Jolly’ Slade guitarist Dave Hill opens up about his years of depression

Posted on Nov 28 2017 - 3:18pm by admin

“I’m always smiling and people tell me I look as though I never have a bad day,” says Dave, 71, best known as one of the founding members of Seventies glam rock group Slade. 

Yet despite selling millions of records – their classic Christmas anthem Merry Xmas Everybody has charted every year since 1973 – Dave has battled depression on and off for more than 10 years. 

His newly released autobiography, So Here It Is, which charts more than 50 years in the music industry, also reveals his struggle to recover from the stroke he suffered four years ago and then an accident which badly damaged his arm. 

Dave, who lives near Wolverhampton with wife Jan, first experienced depression 10 years ago after surgery for a double hernia. 

“I was really in a dark hole and on medication,” admits the father of three grown-up children – Jade, Bibi and Sam – and grandfather of three.  

Dave Hill and the Slade in the 1970sREX/SHUTTERSTOCK/GETTY

Dave Hill confessed he has battled depression on and off for more than 10 years

“While I’d always been ‘Mr Jolly’, I wasn’t ‘Mr Jolly’ then. 

“I lost confidence. 

“I was even nervous that kicking my leg up on stage would cause another hernia.” 

He adds: “It was a very dark time. 

“I couldn’t cry and I couldn’t go into the garden, so it was covered in weeds.  

“While I still got an endorphin rush from going on stage, sometimes I hoped I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.” 

Dave saw a psychiatrist, who told him he was depressed and prescribed antidepressants, gradually tweaking the dose until he recovered. 

According to the mental health charity Mind, depression is defined as low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, it can mean just being in low spirits. 

However severe depression can be life-threatening because it can make sufferers feel suicidal or want to give up on life.  

Slade dressed as MosqueteersGETTY

Slade have sold millions of records and their Christmas song has charted every year since 1973

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveals that one in five of us will be diagnosed with the debilitating condition at some point in our lives. 

A variety of causes often combine to trigger depression. 

Upsetting or stressful life events such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries can be a trigger. 

Yet experts say that if a close family member has had depression in the past, it raises the risk of suffering from the condition. 

As Dave and his younger sister Carol had seen their mum battle depression throughout her life for which she was admitted to psychiatric wards and received electric shock treatment, he believes it may have influenced his own mental health problems.  

Dave Hill playing a guitar in concertGETTY

Dave suffered a stroke in 2010 while performing in Germany

“At the lowest point of depression, I couldn’t see clearly and I’d think – as my mum did – I’d done something wrong,” admits Dave. 

Then in July 2010, Dave was performing on stage in Nuremberg, Germany, when he suffered a stroke. 

His son Sam who was with him at the time took him to hospital where doctors put him on statins and medication for high blood pressure. 

The stroke left Dave’s left arm weak and he worried about whether he would ever play again. 

“I was lying in hospital crying,” he admits. 

“I felt I’d let everybody down.”  

Dave Hill in the 1970sGETTY

Dave and his younger sister Carol saw their mum fighting depression throughout her life

His wife Jan flew out to be with him and his medical team reassured him that it had been a small stroke and his arm would gradually recover enough to allow him to play the guitar again. 

“What a contrast to what happened to mum. 

“She worked as a secretary and typist until she damaged her wrist and was told she’d never type again,” says Dave. 

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and sent her spiralling down. 

“Yet soon after my stroke, I wandered into the hospital flower shop and that wonderful flower scent just hit me and I felt the whole elation of being alive.” 

He was diligent with his rehabilitation exercises and after three months was back on stage.  

Slade in the 1970sGETTY

Ever-smiling Dave has always been known as ‘Mr Jolly’

Dave says having the stroke also changed his perspective on life and he now delegates much of his planning and admin to his trusted assistant Abbie. 

“Before that, I’d plan everything down to the last detail which was exhausting,” says Dave. 

“Now I’ve changed. 

“I think if we miss a plane, it might actually lead to a new opportunity and another day in a lovely place. 

“I don’t get stressed.” 

Disaster struck again though when Slade played the final show of their UK tour in Brighton in December last year.  

Dave Hill playing a guitar wearing a Christmas hatGETTY

Dave says having the stroke also changed his perspective on life

The following morning, as Dave strolled along the promenade, he was knocked down by a cyclist, badly injuring his face and arm. 

“I felt a ‘clunk-click’ in my arm and knew something was badly wrong,” he recalls. 

Dave walked back to the hotel, where the band’s sound engineer took one look at his injured face and called a taxi to take him to hospital. 

X-rays showed a serious fracture to his elbow and the surgeon said there was a risk that full movement would never return. 

“Immediately I thought of my mum and that wrist injury and the doctor telling her she’d never work again,” he says. 

The doctor also warned there was a risk of a second stroke.  

Slade in concert in the 1970sGETTY

Dave speaks about his life, career, Slade and depression in his newly-released autobiography

Luckily the surgery was successful and after months of physiotherapy to help his arm recover, he was able to go back to playing the guitar again. 

“It’s been 50 years and counting with Slade and I’m rich in family and in wonderful experiences too,” says Dave. 

“Now I’m just enjoying every day as it comes and working on my gift which is playing music and entertaining people. 

“The life I’ve lived has always been the romance of the road.” 

So Here It Is by Dave Hill, £20, Unbound publishing.

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