Ex-Slade Singer Noddy Holder Talks Turning Down AC/DC, Swearing at Freddie Mercury, and ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’
They're chiefly known for a handful of hit singles, including the perennial holiday favorite "Merry Xmas Everybody," but Slade actually racked up bunches of U.K. hits during their commercial peak — and former singer Noddy Holder looked fondly back on those years during a recent interview timed to promote the band's new box set, When Slade Rocked the World.
Given the time of year, it's only natural that talk turned to "Merry Xmas Everybody," whose unending seasonal appeal has generated an annual stream of royalty cash that Holder referred to as "a good pension plan" — even if its success has overshadowed a portion of the band's discography. "We had 40-odd hits and people still think the Christmas record was the one, but it’s been good to us," he agreed. "You wouldn’t believe the offers I get in December. I do appear as Santa for charity, real reindeer and everything, but people think I live in a cave all year and come out in December, shouting: 'It’s Chriiisstmasss!'"
In fact, as Holder recalled in the interview, he's had a remarkable career, starting out working as a roadie for a young Robert Plant by driving him around in his father's van. Those brushes with rock royalty continued in later years: the future members of Slade shared a studio with the Beatles while they were recording Sgt. Pepper's, and several years later, Holder enjoyed the Fab Four meeting of a lifetime.
"The best compliment I ever had was when we were recording 'Merry Xmas Everybody,'" said Holder. "John Lennon was next door and popped in and said: 'Great singer – he sounds like me.'"
Holder was later offered the opportunity to take over the lead vocal role in AC/DC after the death of Bon Scott but turned it down because as he put it, "my loyalty was to Slade." He also shared a memorably profane exchange with a young market vendor who'd later go on to legendary success as the frontman for Queen.
Asked about his signature sparkling top hat, Nolder recalled, "I got the idea after I saw Lulu with a sparkly dress, with the light bouncing off it. It’s actually an antique coachman’s hat with mirrors stuck on. It had its own flight case. I got the hat off a guy in Kensington market, called Freddie. He said: 'One day I’m gonna be a big pop star like you.' I said: 'F--- off, Freddie.' He became Freddie Mercury."
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