Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Noddy Holder

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the former Slade frontman takes the ultimate test

In 1980, Slade played Reading festival after which artist pulled out?

Ozzy Osbourne.”


“We were given three days’ notice and were bottom of the list of who they’d tried! [Laughs] Our guitarist, Dave Hill, had left the band and we were near-enough split-up, but our manager talked him into doing the festival to finish on a high. We went down a storm and it turned our careers around. Dave decided to stay, and it set us on our path through the ‘80s.”

You’re a good mate of Ozzy’s and have told stories about how he’d come round for dinner and end up passed out with his face in the meal and how Sharon Osbourne once fired a shotgun at you after you kept him out drinking once on her birthday…

“Yes! It was always an adventure hanging out with Ozzy and you never knew what would happen. I remember sitting in a London pub with him and next to us was a guy reading a newspaper printed in Arabic. Ozzy leans over to the guy and asks, ‘Hey you, what’s me horoscope?’ He’s the funniest, most switched-on bloke in rock‘n’roll. I’ve plenty of Ozzy stories – none of them printable!”

Which actor once tweeted on Christmas Day: ‘Spare a thought for those working extra hard today. The Armed Forces, Police, Fire Service. Ambulance Crews, Noddy Holder’s accountant’?  

Simon Pegg.”


“Some people think ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ is Slade’s only hit, but we had 40 other hits and were around a long time. But that song is a good legacy to have and puts a smile on people’s faces. There isn’t a day that goes by when somebody doesn’t shout  ‘IT’S CHRISSSSTMASS!’ at me, and it probably happens 50 times a day during December! But I appreciate people’s love for it. It was the best day’s work we ever did.”

On a similarly festive note, is it true you were once caught by the police herding a donkey in the middle of the road whilst dressed as Joseph on acid?!

“It was shortly after ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ was released, and my best mate threw a nativity-themed party. I wanted to go as the Angel Gabriel but he protested that I was as far removed from angel as anybody could get! So I put a tea-towel on my head, wore a tool-belt and went as Joseph. I left the party early at 1am and got in my Mercedes sports car, and everything went psychedelic. Somebody had spiked my drink with a hallucinogenic drug!

“As I was driving down these country lanes keeping off the main roads, I saw this donkey blocking the road. I didn’t know if it was real or if I was just tripping! As I’m trying to push this donkey on its hind legs from behind back into the field, suddenly the police pull up and think I’m shagging this donkey from behind! They asked: ‘Alright Noddy, what have you been up to now?’. They could see I was space-y. I told them I’d been to a party and got stuck behind this donkey that won’t budge. They asked: ‘What have you been celebrating?’. Because I was dressed as Joseph, I replied: ‘Well, my wife’s just had a kid tonight!’ [Laughs] They thought it was funny and said, ‘We’ve heard them all now!'”

In your 2014 book, The World According To Noddy: Life Lessons Learned In and Out of Rock & Roll, you list your fantasy government cabinet. Which band do you suggest to be your government’s public relations officers?

“Christ, you’re going back a few years now! I can’t remember. Tell me.”

WRONG. You’d appoint OasisNoel and Liam Gallagher – to the role.

“[Laughs] The Gallaghers are the last of the great, British, sarcastic, humorous rock stars. That’s gone out of business now. They’ve taken the piss out of everybody and that’s why they’d be a great government PR couple because they don’t give a toss what they say!”

Noel Gallagher once wrote “No Slade = No Oasis,” and did a rendition of ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ for The Royle Family’s 2002 Christmas special, while Oasis covered ‘Cum On Feel the Noize’…

‘When they did their 1996 Maine Road homecoming, Noel invited me along and told his wife at the time, Meg Mathews, to take a picture of my surprised reaction when they encored with ‘Cum On Feel the Noize’. The crowd went wally for it, it was a great version and introduced us to a new generation.”


Slade were parodied by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in a series of sketches. According to them, what did Dave Hill use to cut his hair?

“I knew Vic and Bob before, because I’d been in the pilot of Shooting Stars, and they were Slade fans. They sent me a copy before it aired and I thought it was the funniest thing going! They used a Fray Bentos can to cut Dave’s hair.”

CORRECT. They parody you with your famous mirrored top-hat, which apparently has a connection to Queen

“The myth that’s grown is that Freddie Mercury sold me the hat, but the only connection is I bought it from the same Kensington market where he had a stall. We knew Queen well and got on great. Freddie once said to me: ‘Noddy, I’m going to be a big pop rock star like you one day!’, and I dismissively replied: ‘Yeah right! Fuck off, Freddie!’ [Laughs] And then he formed Queen and went from strength to strength. The last time I saw Freddie was in the late ‘80s when he was coming out of a club in Switzerland. He hugged me and whispered to me: ‘Thank you for everything, Noddy’. Those were the last words he ever said to me.”

Which indie band once described your vocals as like “John Lennon screaming down a chimney”?

[Laughs] “I’ve never heard that one before! Who was that?”

WRONG. It’s Saint Etienne – particularly member/writer Bob Stanley.

“I like that description! Talking of John Lennon… we were once recording in the same studio. We’d finish at 10pm and he’d arrive later and record through the night. He once walked in early while our manager Chas Chandler was mixing one of our tracks, and said: ‘I like this band. I love this bloody singer – he sounds like me!’. That was the best praise I ever had. John Lennon didn’t compliment very many people!”

What unusual method of transport did Slade arrive at the premiere of your 1975 film Slade In Flame aboard?

“A fire engine.”

CORRECT. The gritty flick has been hailed as ‘The Citizen Kane of rock musicals’ by film critic Mark Kermode.

“It was a PR’s idea to stick us on a fire engine because the fictional band we played in the film were called Flame. And it was bloody freezing! We sat through the celebrity-packed premiere soaked from the rain. I enjoy acting. I played an English teacher in the ITV comedy The Grimleys, which was a good joke as Slade were not known for our spelling! During that time, I went to an award ceremony and got pissed with the Coronation Street cast, who were drunkenly joking to the producers: ‘You should get Noddy in the 40th anniversary live show!’. Two days later, the producers phoned me saying they’d created a character for me as the man who saves the cobbles from being dug up!”


Which rock band titled their 1975 live album ‘Alive!’ in tribute to Slade?

“I believe it was Kiss?”


“Before becoming Kiss, they came to see us play in New York and thought there was nothing like us in America, so freely admit they took our sound and image and made it into this big Kiss machine. Then in homage to us, they named their live album Kiss ‘Alive!’ after our 1972 live album ‘Slade Alive!’

Bands including the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Mötley Crüe cite Slade as an influence. Any namecheck ever surprised you?

“I never would have imagined we’d influenced Kurt Cobain* and we only found about that years later. As a kid, he’d seen us at a Seattle show. We were a bona fide loud, brash, over-the-top, anthem-slinging act and at that age, he’d probably never saw anything like us in America and got off on it.”

*Cobain once described Slade as ‘a band that would never bend over’. 


According to your 1999 autobiography Noddy Holder: Who’s Crazee Now?, how much did a man in Frankfurt once pay you to defecate on a plate of glass above him?

[Raucous laughter] “This is when I played the clubs in Germany. When I left school in the early ‘60s, I was earning £8 a week for a 45-hour week, so when I was offered to go to Germany for £20 per week and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I packed in my job and became a professional musician. But £20 didn’t go far and the club owner had a fetish where he liked to lie in a bath with a plate of glass over him and he’d pay you to take a shit on him. When he asked me to do it, I thought, ‘I’ve gotta have a crap anyway, so why not get paid for it?’ I upped him on his price and used to get £25 for it which was a hell of a lot of money in 1964!”

CORRECT. Did you yell IT’S CHRISSSSTMASS!’ while doing it?

[Laughs] “It was easy money! He used to get off on it and it was simple: in and out of the bath, no messing about! I got paid in Deutschmarks and it saw me through the hard times.”

Sylvain Sylvain once claimed that Iggy Pop introduced the New York Dolls to the concept of the aforementioned ‘plate job’. Slade toured with Iggy. What was that like?

“Erm… well, it was different, I’ll put it like that! Iggy opened for us in America before he was well-known and he was a total madman. We were both into shocking audiences, but whereas we’d do it with our crazy look, Iggy would slash himself with razors and jump into the audience trying to get them to beat him up. Each night, he was carried out of the show to hospital. If one of Slade nicked one of his girls who were hanging outside the hotel after the gig, he’d throw a wobbler and slash himself again. Then he’d get carted off to hospital again. He was a real drama queen! He was a great guy – but he was more of an eccentric than Dave Hill – and that’s saying something!” [Laughs]

Which rock band did you turn down the opportunity to join in 1980?

“Well, that would be AC/DC.”


“I never got the call directly from them, but I found out later they wanted me to replace [frontman] Bon Scott when he died, but were cut off at the pass by our management. I was loyal to Slade and wouldn’t have left the band anyway.”

In 2006, you appeared in the video for which song by pop pranksters Misty’s Big Adventure?

“Oh God, yes! I’ve done so much that’s it hard to remember everything. Go on – tell me.”

WRONG. It was ‘Fashion Parade’. You’ve always said you’d never re-join Slade since departing in 1992 but, earlier this year, you seemed to express interest in reuniting the band’s original line-up for the Glastonbury Legends slot…

“That quote was twisted. If said if we were offered it, it would be difficult to get everybody to agree to do it. There’s always been some point in the years we’ve [been] split up where some of the band have been at loggerheads. We’d need glass screens between us onstage, separate hotels and separate cars! I never said I wanted to do Glastonbury, and we’ve gone past the point of no-return in terms of coming back and playing together. The last time we were all in a room together was around 15 years ago; we lasted 30 minutes before we were arguing about the same things we did the day before we split in the 1990s! How would we manage a tour when we can’t even last an hour in a room together? [Laughs]

“I look back on Slade with great affection and me and Dave have put aside our differences and I see him occasionally; even when we had past disagreements, we were always able to pick up the phone to each other and thrash it out.”

The verdict: 7/10

“That’s good! I’ve always liked being better than average – that’s my ego kicking in! [Laughs]”

Slade’s new live boxset, ’All The World Is A Stage’, featuring three previously unreleased live albums, is out now