Noddy Holder remembers Christmas hit written after a trip to the pub

Half a century after Slade recorded their massive hit single Merry Xmas Everybody, Noddy Holder said strangers still ask him to shout his “It’s Christmas” catchphrase.

In an interview with the BBC, the 77-year-old said the words were written after a trip to the pub.

The melody was taken from a song he wrote and discarded six years previously.

But the recording of the number one single was far from easy.

Speaking to BBC presenter Tony Snell for a special podcast, he said the band was inspired to release a Christmas song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s single Happy Xmas (War Is Over) the previous year.

Slade had already claimed five number ones by this stage, were at their peak and had been pushed by their record label to release a Christmas single.

They dug out the first song Holder had written in 1967, which he called Buy Me a Rocking Chair.

He said it had been written in their “hippy dippy psychedelic days” and had been dismissed by the band at the time.

But he said bassist Jim Lea had agreed that it could be revived.

Holder said: “I went to the local pub in Wolverhampton and went back to my mum and dad’s after and I sat up all night with a bottle of whisky and wrote the total lyrics that night.”

Slade in the 1970s

Slade were one of the biggest bands of their time in the UK and recorded six number one singles

The song was recorded on a hot September day at a studio in New York, but the band had been dealt a blow earlier in the year when drummer Don Powell was involved in a car crash in Wolverhampton.

He was severely injured and his fiancee, Angela Morris was killed. Holder said they were told at the time their drummer was close to death.

A loss of memory meant Powell had to relearn the drums and could only play them for a short time before having to stop.

But Holder said their engineer was a “clever cookie” and was able to stitch together the sections of the song they recorded, so that afterwards “you couldn’t tell”.

Looking back, 50 years later, he said: “It was the hardest song we ever had to record.”

Noddy Holder in March 2023

Noddy Holder is still asked to shout his catchphrase but said “I take it in good heart, it’s what I’m known for”

Merry Xmas Everybody was released in the first week of December 1973 and thanks to the band’s popularity at the time, it sold 500,000 records through pre-orders, taking it straight to the top of the charts.

Holder said their record company, who had told him “we’ve got to put everything behind this record”, were over the moon at the sales, and added: “They were making serious dough from us.”

The song was able to hold off rival Christmas singles from both Wizzard and Elton John, selling a million singles over the festive period.

It was their sixth and final UK number one.

Noddy Holder in 2022

Holder, pictured here at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, has been fighting oesophageal cancer

In 2018, Holder was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and told he only had a few months to live.

He said while he would never be clear of it, he was “on a level playing field at the moment”, and determined to enjoy himself.

“I was more worried for my missus and my kids and my grandkids than I was for me,” he said.

“I do live life day to day, and I thought well I’ve done a lot of good stuff in my life, I’ve had a lot of fun if the end is within sight in six months I’ll see it through.”

Holder also said he still dresses up as Santa every year and wakes his wife on Christmas morning with a loud “It’s Christmas!”, before cooking the Christmas dinner and spending the rest of the day in his pyjamas.

One item of clothing he does not wear though is his famous mirrored top hat, which he showed off on Top of the Pops that year.

He said it is a “bit battered” now and was kept in a bank vault in New York for safety.

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