Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

He was ditched by ‘Grumpy Old Men’ for not being grumpy enough

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The Independent Online

I would like to talk to you about a rock star. So universally popular is this man that when the multimillion-pound New Art Gallery in Walsall was built, his voice was chosen for the lifts to announce the floor levels. A local lad, you see, and one to be proud of. Even in his heyday, he never took drugs. Or behaved like, well, everyone else. An attempt to drive a car into a swimming pool ended up with it stalling on the patio. And rather than hurl televisions from hotel windows, after he had checked in, our hero far preferred to settle down to do a bit of DIY in the room, fixing wobbly shelves and the like. Who is this paragon of virtue who used to travel with a screwdriver, and later a full-size tool kit, in his luggage?

It is none other than Noddy Holder, lead singer of the Seventies glam pop band Slade and, inter alia, composer of the world’s most successful Christmas pop record. Indeed, as he explained to the papers this weekend, royalties from “Merry Xmas Everybody”, which took him an afternoon to write, still net him half a million pounds a year. Not that that has spoiled him; indeed, the quiet sagacity of Neville John Holder (the Seventies nickname was simply a sign of the times) is such that I hope a lifestyle self-help book gathering his wisdom and not insignificant wit is en route for Christmas. Which is a word he has yelled at him quite a bit, apparently. Not a day goes past but someone shouts “It’s Christmaaaaaaas” at him (for those born after 1980, and who have never experienced an office party in December, this is the denouement of the song).

There’s more. Two other members of Slade have reunited and are now doing the college circuit as Slade II, reprising Holder’s evergreen numbers such as “Cum on Feel The Noize”. Sans Noddy. Cheeky! He could jump up and down and hire expensive lawyers to see what could be done to protect his name, but he just can’t be bothered. Too much hassle. He has his royalties and his voiceovers and his cult status and he is content. He took time at the height of his fame to look after his ageing parents. He even gets on well with his first wife. And he was ditched by Grumpy Old Men for not being grumpy enough, which is a pity because I think he would make rather good television. Compared with the other icons of popular culture we are all supposed to look up to, N. Holder towers above them all.

You won’t catch him being stupidly vain and trying to Photoshop away weight (Beyoncé last week, apparently). Or booking 35 bedrooms at the Sanderson Hotel so he can “see the capital from every angle” (Ricky Martin, allegedly). Or insisting on puppies and kittens to play with before he does a voice over (a pre-performance rider from Mariah Carey). How about Madonna, sometime role model and icon to many of us middle-aged women? Ordered her hotel bedroom to be painted orange in order to help with … her meditation. And of course we cannot forget aged hell raisers such as The Who, Joe Walsh and so on, whose hotel trashing was legendary. Probably still is, the duffers.

Holder won’t be given a TV show, of course, because compared with this, Noddy’s world seems boring, being so quiet and ordinary. But it’s probably worth remembering why silly demands, huge court cases costing millions and vain, diva-style behaviour got in the papers in the first place, which is namely because it was deemed outrageous, not because it was laudable. Only somewhere along the way, sort of halfway between the demands of Elizabeth Taylor and the wilfulness of Princess Diana, it became impressive and remarkable to behave like that, and then everyone followed suit.