Andy Richardson: Noddy Holder’s not just for Christmas!
There must be times when he must absolutely despair.
You know, when he thinks that other people imagine he lives in a cave for 51 weeks of the year and only comes out at Christmas. Because Christmas – or, more accurately, Chriiiiiiiistmaaaaaas, is the thing that Noddy Holder is best known for. And it’s only September. God luv ‘im.
As remarkable as it may seem, the totemic, iconic, King of the Black Country that is Noddy ‘Nod McNod’ Holder, is a 365-days-a-year concern.
A veteran at the ripe old age of 71, he loves pizza, a beer, was awarded the Freedom of Walsall in 2014 and remains a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Just like his rock star mate, Robert Plant. What is it about Black Country rock stars and the Wolves? The old gold and black has a compelling allure for all of them.
Nod is back on the promo trail for his new album – actually, it’s an old album – Slade Alive!
It was recorded 45 years ago in the Command Studios, off Piccadilly, in London, when Slade were near the height of their fame. Regular number one hit makers at the time, it was released to plug the gap between albums – filling time before their subsequent number one smasheroonie Slayed? – which featured Gudbuy T’Jane, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Let The Good Times Roll and other badly-spelled-but-improbably-infectious choons.
It’ll be the 45th anniversary of Slade Alive later this month and the record will be reissued in all-singing, all-dancing super deluxe style.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of Slade. Four lads from Walsall, Bilston, Wolverhampton and Holbeton, in Devon – that’s Dave, though he soon moved to Wulver’ampten, at the age of one, before attending Highfields Secondary School.
They weren’t expected to walk all over The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Jackson 5, Mungo Jerry, Elvis Presley, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones – oh, hang on, and Benny Hill – with their raucous blend of up and at ‘em glam. Hell no. Their dad-rock-pub-rock-glam-rock was supposed to be confined to the pubs and clubs of Willenhall, Wolves and Bilston.
But during a halcyon era from 1972 onwards, they took over from Don McClean, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry, Strawbs and 10CC at the top of the singles chart. Demand for them was so rabid that they didn’t have time to record another record when the fans wanted it. So their manager, the ever-savvy Chas Chandler, booked a room in London for three nights where they stuffed 300 people into a 150-capacity club – then blasted their eardrums to kingdom come with riotous rock’n’roll.
Forty five years on, Noddy still loves it. Remarkably, it’s his favourite record. “I think it had the essence of what Slade was all about as a band. It was very basic and raw, it captured a mood and it also helped set us apart from other pop acts. We weren’t just a singles band anymore – we had a credible, raunchy hit album too. We were pop and we were cool. It was perfect.”
Dave Hill is equally effusive: “My memories of ‘Slade Alive!’ [are based around] the principle I hold dear to this day and the very reason I formed a band in the first place. . . Live performance! I believe ‘Slade Alive!’ is such a great album because it’s Slade ‘live on stage,’ at our very best! Our success was based on that album and the principle that we were a great live rock and roll band of our generation.”
Four-and-a-half decades later, it’s easy to forget just how important the Black Country’s finest were. In an age of downloads and streaming, of catch-up and a la carte programming, Slade look like interlopers from a different planet.
And yet they were almost Beatles-esque in their appeal. They were the Oasis of their day – a band who became colossal, who embodied the sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll mythology of an age when anything went. And, remarkably, they did most of it while they were still living at home with their mums and dads.
Noel Gallagher – no slouch as a rock’n’roll star, after shipping 70 million records and spending 765 weeks on the chart between 1995 and 2005, is an avid fan. As is Joey Ramone, who based his act on Noddy Holder as the Ramones became one of punk’s greatest bands.
Noddy no longer lives in the Black Country. Though his idea of a good night out includes a pint of Batham’s and a packet of scratchings. His rock’n’roll stories are legendary – he used to drive Robert Plant to gigs in his dad’s window-cleaning van, among other things.
It’s easy to let the mists of time dull our memories of Slade’s magnificence and only think of them when it gets to Christmas. We shouldn’t, however. Because as Slade Alive shows; at their best, they were completely untouchable.