As the singer with chart-topping ’70s rockers Slade, Noddy Holder is used to spreading cheer. His band’s colourful glam rock image means Noddy’s trademark outfit – a tartan suit and huge top hat with outlandish mirrors stuck to it – remains one of the most popular outfits for fancy-dress parties. At Christmas, Noddy and his band’s classic 1973 smash Merry Xmas Everybody is as much a part of British life as fish and chips, curry and a pint. At 75, Noddy has earned his happy semi-retirement. Having enjoyed six No 1 singles with Slade, he now spends half the year in Portugal with his wife Suzan. The only cloud is Slade themselves. Since he quit the band in 1992, Noddy has stopped performing – and the four members of the heavy metal Slade are virtually guaranteed never to get back together.
Sadly for fans, even the potential lure of a lucrative reunion tour would be unlikely to do it, admits Noddy.
“I doubt it’ll happen again with the band. A miracle would have to happen for all four of us to start peace and loving together.
You never know, but we might be falling off our mortal coils by then.”
After Noddy walked out, guitarist Dave Hill, bassist Jim Lea and drummer Don Powell carried on in various line-ups.
But they ended up playing holiday camps rather than the huge arenas Slade starred in during their heyday.
A bitter split between Dave and Don last year finally called time on the band, which formed in the West Midlands in 1966.
Explaining the break-up, Noddy reveals: “Every band splits up for one of five reasons: egos, money, drink and drugs, women or musical differences.
With Slade, it was all five.” Noddy wrote Slade’s hits, including crazily spelled chart-toppers such as Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum On Feel The Noize and Coz I Luv You, with bassist Jim.
He recalled: “Jim wanted to take over in the studio. He kept telling us he could write better songs on his own. In the end, I got tired of hearing it.
“I said I’d get out of the way, so that Jim could take the band in another direction. It was tiring, and I never wanted to be part of a band that was just treading water.”
But neither did Noddy want to be a solo performer.
Instead, he’s become a TV and radio presenter. He also acts, having played classical music teacher Neville Holder in five series of hit ITV sitcom The Grimleys alongside, among others, Amanda Holden and Brian Conley.
That was written by Jed Mercurio, creator of BBC1 smash dramas The Bodyguard and Line Of Duty.
“I follow Jed’s career and I knew he was a brilliant writer,” says Noddy. “He’s a proper Midlands guy with a great Black Country humour. Everything Jed does is superb.”
Mostly, Noddy is happy to focus on his family. He and Suzan live in Cheshire when they’re not in Portugal.
Lockdown has been tough because Noddy misses his two young grandchildren, a 10-year-old granddaughter and three-year-old grandson.
He dotes on his grandkids after missing his own two elder children, daughters Jessica and Charisse, when he was away touring with Slade.
“What I’ve hated most about lockdown is not being able to see my grandkids,” says Noddy, who also has a 26-year-old son, Django.
“I missed a lot of my two elder kids growing up, as I was on the road all the time. I thought: ‘Oh, I’ll make it up with the grandkids’.
The pandemic has slowed all of that down. It’s good that we’re starting to come out of lockdown, but the grandkids’ Christmas presents are still here.”
Noddy’s sadness about missing a normal Christmas is why he’s starring in a hilarious new ad for Pret A Manger.
The sandwich chain has put its popular Christmas Sandwich, filled with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, back on sale until the first week of August.
Pret says it’s to compensate for customers who couldn’t buy the sarnie during lockdown last Christmas.
“Christmas was hard on everyone last year,” says Noddy. “Making up for it with their Christmas sandwich is a fun idea by Pret.
“I like that it helps raise money for the homeless too. Plus, me and Django are huge fans of that sandwich.”
Although it’s the middle of summer, Noddy still can’t escape Christmas and his famous shout of “It’s Christmaaaas!”, which he bellows at the start of Merry Xmas Everybody.
He laughs: “There’s not a day goes by when I don’t walk down the street and have somebody shout: ‘It’s Christmaaaas!’ at me. In December, it’ll be 40 or 50 people shouting it at me every day.
“It’s a bit weird, but I’m used to it after nearly 50 years. It’s very funny, because I only shouted ‘It’s Christmaaaas!’ as an ad-lib near the end of us making the song.”
Merry Xmas Everybody is the nation’s favourite festive anthem, but it was actually written partially as a protest song.
On its release in 1973, Britain was in economic turmoil. High earners like Slade had a staggering 93 per cent of their income taxed.
Noddy recalled: “The economy was in chaos and there were strikes all the time.
“Loads of other bands became tax exiles. Silly us, we wanted to support the country, so we paid our 93 per cent tax, which the government totally wasted.
I came up with the line ‘Look to the future, it’s only just begun’, because the country couldn’t get any worse.
At the time, Merry Xmas Everybody brightened Christmas up because we were going through such a hard period.
The song still does that for anyone having a tough Christmas, I think.
None of us expected that song to still be going strong 48 years later, but I’m very proud that it still sounds good today.
It’s the band’s pension plan, as we still make money off it every year. And it’s nice when little kids tell me they’ve sung it at their Christmas carol concert.”
Although his hair is shorter now, Noddy still sports his famous sideburns and wears a colourful patterned red shirt for our interview.
Slade were famed for their outrageous stage clothes, which Noddy feels also helped cheer everyone up.
“The country wanted exciting records that put a smile on people’s faces,” he explains.
“We were spearheads of that, and it’s why glam rock happened. It was a bit of fantasy for everyone.”
Even before they found fame, Slade set out to catch everyone’s eye with their stage wear.
Noddy remembers: “When we formed the band, me and Dave wanted Slade to have a colourful image. My tartan suit came from the music hall artists I loved, like Max Miller.
“The top hat with mirrors was thanks to Lulu. In the late 60s, I saw Lulu on TV wearing a sparkly dress.
“Whenever the cameras caught it, dazzling lights came off her dress. I thought, ‘If I could somehow do that on stage…’”
He bought the giant top hat from Kensington Market in West London, while his bandmate Jim’s wife found the mirrors which Noddy stuck on.
The hat dazzled audiences and was so important to Slade’s look that it had its own flight case. Noddy laughs: “Our roadies were under strict instructions not to let the hat out of their sight, or they’d face the guillotine.”
Also at Kensington Market, Noddy and Dave bought shirts from another stall – run by future Queen superstars Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor.
“We’d had a couple of hits by the time we bought our gear from Freddie and Roger,” said Noddy.
“Freddie would tell me: ‘I’m going to be a big rock star like you one day.’ And I’d tell him: ‘Oh, f*** off, Freddie, that’ll never happen.’
“I was very pally with Queen, and Freddie always remembered me saying that. He’s such a loss.”
If Noddy is unlikely to get back on stage, he doesn’t mind. He summarises: “My attitude is, if it looks like fun, I’ll do it. If not, why bother? I’m happy with my lot.”
The Christmas Sandwich is available in Pret A Manger nationwide until the first week of August, and can also be ordered via Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. 50p from each sandwich goes to The Pret Foundation