Neville ‘Noddy’ Holder is one of the great institutions of British rock. As the garishly trousered, top-hatted frontman of West Midlands glam yobs Slade, he helped soundtrack the early 70s with a string of Top 10 hits that peaked with the immortal festive anthem Merry Xmas Everybody. Since leaving the band in the early 90s, he’s branched out into acting, most notably in sitcom The Grimleys, and writing (his 1999 autobiography Who’s Crazee Now? was followed by 2014’s The World According To Noddy). He is also the voice of the lift announcements at Walsall art gallery.
Where do you stand politically?
I’m totally apolitical. I’ll still stand behind my socialist principles, but it doesn’t mean to say I vote one way or the other, because I still think a lot of money gets wasted. In my new book, The World According To Noddy, I’ve formed my own political party, called the Mama Weer All Crazee Now Party. My Chancellor Of The Exchequer is Gene Simmons. He came from Israel, went to America with no money, and now he’s become this very rich entrepreneur by being truthful and doing his own thing. I knew Gene many years ago, and he’s a go-getting guy. He’s made a big industry out of Kiss.
What in your life are you most proud of?
Well, I’m proud of my family, of course. But professionally, I’m proud of how my career went. When I left Slade in the early nineties, I’d been on the road for thirty years, and I’d had enough of the band. I wanted to break out and do other things, and luckily things came along. On my passport it says ‘Artiste’. Not ‘singer’ or ‘musician’ or anything, ‘Artiste’.
‘Artiste’ with an ‘e’? A bit poncy, isn’t it?
It is a bit poncy, but I’ve always been that way.
What can Noddy Holder do that nobody else can?
I can scream ‘It’s Christmas!’ at the top of my voice, only as Noddy Holder can do. I get asked to do it at least once a day, every day of the year. Around Christmas time I get it shouted at me twenty or thirty times a day. People think it’s the first time I’ve heard anybody do it. But nobody can do it like me.
Are you secretly a bitter, Scrooge-like figure hiding behind that song?
Oh no, I do love Christmas. I’m a traditionalist. I’m a patron of a local charity, the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, and they put on a Christmas party for disadvantaged and terminally ill kids. I appear at that as Santa every year. And I do dress as Santa at home now and again, to give the relatives a laugh. I cook the Christmas dinner an’ all. I’m the best cook in the house anyway.
Have you got a special way of doing roast potatoes?
Yes. It’s a secret, but I’ll tell you. You parboil ’em then shake ’em in fine semolina, then put ’em in the hot fat and they’ll always crisp up. That’s my chef tip of the day.
If you had not been a musician, what would have been?
I’d have been a teacher. I was all set when I was at school, all the teachers were pushing me. But when I left school, in 1962, you didn’t have much choice. The careers master would tell you you’ve either got to go and work in a bank, become a teacher, an accountant or lawyer. When I told the headmaster I was going to be a professional musician, well, that was the lowest of the low. My dad was the window cleaner at my school, and he got flak from the headmaster for years for letting me leave school to be a musician. Donkey’s years later I got to stick two fingers up at him. When we made it, I’d send postcards from Tokyo or New York or wherever we were.
Given Slade’s relaxed attitude to spelling, are you sure you would have made the best teacher?
[Laughs] I was a good pupil at English, actually. My lyric sheet was written in Black Country dialect – the way we spoke and the way we used to write on toilet walls. We got a lot of flak from the education authorities because of it. Then fifteen years later Prince started doing it as well. And then the hip-hop generation. I think we started all that text speak as well by doing that.
What’s your greatest regret?
At this point in my life, it’s that the four members of Slade can’t get together and sit down, have a laugh and a joke about our past. We’ve not been able to get over the hurdle of what happens when bands split up and egos and money comes into it. I never thought that would happen to Slade. I thought we’d always be four close mates, but it’s not worked out that way. I still see Dave [Hill] now and again when I’m in the Midlands.
Do you believe in God?
I believe there is something. Whether it’s God or not is another matter. I don’t think there’s a man with long white hair and a beard sitting on a throne up there waiting to invite me through the Pearly Gates. I think, and hope, there is an afterlife where I’m going to meet up with the nice people that I’ve met in my life, and be able to spend time with them again. I do look forward to that.
What will be written on your tombstone?
I’d like it to say: ‘Make ’em smile’.
When Slade Rocked The World: 1971–75 is out now on Salvo.