Fame is ‘not for the faint-hearted’, but it certainly helped set up a nice pension plan for Noddy Holder. The former Slade frontman talks family, royalties and reunions with Hannah Stephenson
His trademark mirrored top hat is now locked in a bank vault, his annual royalty cheque from bestselling festive hit Merry Xmas Everybody provides a lucrative pension, and former Slade frontman Noddy Holder has his feet firmly on the ground.
“I don’t think a day goes by when someone doesn’t shout, ‘It’s Christmas’, at me. Merry Xmas Everybody is 41 years old. It’s a pension plan we never realised would happen,” says the 68-year-old.
Today, he lives comfortably in Manchester with his second wife Suzan, still enjoys a good party - although not to the same extent as 40 years ago - and remains as much fun to talk to as his hits were to sing along to, from Cum On Feel The Noize to Mama Weer All Crazee Now.
“We were a very happy-go-lucky band and we remained that way for most of our career. But towards the end, we’d spent 25 years together, the same four guys, as a band, and after that amount of time you’re going to start having differences with one another. For me, the fun had gone.”
He took time off in the mid-Eighties, when he split from his first wife, Leandra, with whom he has daughters Jessica and Charisse.
“My personal life was in turmoil. I was going through a divorce and had two kids who had to cope with the divorce, and my dad was very ill. .”
Personality clashes, egos and ‘musical differences’ put the final nail in Slade’s coffin in the early Nineties.
After leaving, Holder forged a radio and TV career, with radio shows and voice-over work. He also appeared in ITV’s The Grimleys and had a cameo in an episode of Coronation Street.
Holder was awarded the MBE in 2000 for his services to showbusiness. Today, he is happily married to TV producer Suzan Price, 20 years his junior, with whom he has a son, Django, named after jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
“In my first marriage, I was away touring and my daughters didn’t know any different from that. I don’t think I was a bad dad first time around, it was just circumstances that took me away from the family a lot more.
“I did miss out on a load of stuff, and you can’t get that time back.
“With my second marriage, I had a child and I wasn’t going to do the same thing again.”
Many of his thoughts are charted in The World According To Noddy, in which he shares accounts of his days on the road, celebrity gossip and general musings about fame, friendship and fatherhood, his dislike of social media, how he manages the ups and downs of modern life and the tough realities of ageing.
They had Django when Holder was 49, but he has no qualms about being an older dad.
“All my friends were aghast that I would contemplate having a kid at 49. They thought I was mad. My second wife really wanted a baby, and I just knew it was the right thing to do.”
He and Suzan have an unusually good relationship with his ex-wife.
“Suzan is probably closer to my first wife than I am! My daughters used to come and stay and they got on really well with Suzan. Every divorce is painful, but it was as civilised as it possibly could be and we both wanted the best for our two daughters.”
The book is peppered with stories about Slade, the band from the Black Country, who partied hard with drink rather than drugs.
“I don’t know whether it was to do with our upbringing and where we came from in the Black Country. We didn’t change much i when we became famous. We had that working-class ethic that we worked hard and we played hard.”
“We were never a cool band, we were a successful band. We wanted number one singles and albums, from the day we formed in 1966. We weren’t bothered about what the critics said about us.”
But while other bands, like Spandau Ballet and Culture Club, put their off-stage spats to one side for reunion tours, it’s not something Holder can ever see happening with Slade.
He doesn’t keep in touch, although two of the original line-up - Dave Hill and Don Powell - are still touring as Slade, with two other musicians. The original bass player Jim Lea, with whom Holder wrote many of their hits, was unhappy about that, but Holder says life’s too short to bear grudges.
“We had 25 years as a band and I didn’t want to get into a ruckus with them. We never get together. We’ve been in the same room about twice in the last 20 years.
“I would much rather we were close friends, but some of them have chips on their shoulders which are 30 years old.”
Today, making a name for yourself is a very different business, he says, although TV talent shows began long before The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent were conceived.
“We had Opportunity Knocks and New Faces. The only difference now is that they are big, spectacular TV shows.
“Fame is not for the faint-hearted.If you are looking to get into the business just for fame, you might as well forget it, because you’re not going to be around for very long. What it takes is hard work.
He still misses the music, although he went on tour last year with his pal, Radio 6 DJ Mark Radcliffe to do An Audience With Noddy Holder.
Now semi-retired, he splits his time between the UK and Portugal, where he has a house, but would like to carry on writing, feels he has a solo album in him and has lectured at Liverpool University, where his son is studying sound technology.
“I do try to instil in the students that success is all down to hard work. You don’t get nothing for nothing.”
:: The World According To Noddy by Nodder Holder is published by Constable, priced £8.99.