Noddy Holder: ‘You can’t evaluate how much I made from Merry Xmas Everybody’

Studio portrait of English rock group Slade, posed in London circa 1975. Clockwise, from front: singer Noddy Holder, bassist Jim Lea, drummer Don Powell and guitarist Dave Hill - Michael Putland /Hulton Archive
Studio portrait of English rock group Slade, posed in London circa 1975. Clockwise, from front: singer Noddy Holder, bassist Jim Lea, drummer Don Powell and guitarist Dave Hill - Michael Putland /Hulton Archive

Neville “Noddy” Holder MBE, 76, is the musician who found fame in the early 1970s as the lead singer of Slade. The group had 13 UK Top 40 albums and 24 UK Top 40 singles, including six No 1 hits, among them Coz I Luv You, Mama Weer All ­Crazee Now, Cum on Feel the Noize and the million-plus seller Merry Xmas Every­body.

Since he left Slade in 1992 he has branched out into acting and radio presenting. He lives in Cheshire with his wife, Suzan.

How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?

I grew up in Walsall, in the Black Country, in a terraced house where three families shared a backyard toilet. My mum was a school cleaner, my dad a window cleaner. Bartering went on: for cleaning the butcher’s windows he got bits of meat. I’d help in the holidays.

My uncle built me a puppet theatre. At seven, quite the entrepreneur, I’d put on puppet shows and charge kids a penny to watch – then save it for buying records. My parents never had a bank account. I had a piggy bank and they bought me £2 worth of Premium Bonds, which I still have.

My dad had a greenhouse and sold tomatoes and potatoes near the bus stop. So making money whichever way was instilled in me. In bands, I went through everything with a fine-tooth comb, budgeting for tours to keep our heads above water.

Before Slade (in the late 1960s the band were called the ’N Betweens), we had no business manager. We weren’t earning a lot doing clubs; after paying for petrol or new tyres on the van, we’d split the rest four ways. We were five years touring like that before we had a hit. When we started selling records, we had to take on managers, accountants, lawyers; you’d lose control. Suddenly, it’s too big and you’re touring the world.

noddy holder slade - Ray Tang/Shutterstock
noddy holder slade - Ray Tang/Shutterstock

What was your first job?

I got six O-levels and left school. The teachers banged my ear to stay on and go to university or teacher training, but I was spending a lot of time in a band. My dad sang round the working men’s clubs and dragged me up on stage at age seven to sing with a guy on piano – my first taste of applause. I had brought the place down and that was it.

My dad was the school’s window cleaner and the teachers went berserk at him for letting me leave school to become a musician. For five years, before I had chart success, they went on at him. When we had our first hit he said: “I’ve just had a postcard from our Neville. He’s in Tokyo this week, then Sydney and New York.” They replied: “Well, you still should have made him stay at school.” My parents didn’t know if I’d make a living out of it but didn’t stand in my way.

How did you spend your first Slade money?

My first record royalty pay cheque was £5,000 [£48,000 today] in 1972, and I blew £4,500 on a blue Mercedes open-topped sports car. I hadn’t got a house, mostly lived on the road, and when home still lived with Mum and Dad on the council estate, where I parked it outside their house. Everyone loved it because I was the local boy on Top of the Pops.

Noddy Holder of British glam rock group Slade - Anwar Hussein /Hulton Archive
Noddy Holder of British glam rock group Slade - Anwar Hussein /Hulton Archive

How did you manage increasing wealth?

In the 1970s we made money from millions of record sales around the world. But what hits us? 93pc tax. One year we paid more tax than we earned, because we paid tax on assets as well. If we’d spent a year sitting on a Jamaican beach we’d have been financially better off. But we couldn’t: the UK was our base and you had to keep momentum going. You were on top of the tree and the record company and management were on your back to make more money, sell more records.

How many records have Slade sold?

I know in the 1970s we were at more than 50 million.

Have you invested in property?

In the 1970s we bought nice houses in the Midlands. Now I have the house I live in and a couple of other properties as investments. I’ve recently sold 10 acres of forest in the Midlands, which I bought in the 1970s for conservation. I made a profit, but it was never about money; it’s staying as forest.

Have you had trouble paying bills?

Lots of times. In 1968 the band I was in before Slade went to the Bahamas to play. The promoter put us up in this posh hotel with Frank Sinatra’s yacht outside, and after the six weeks he went bust and did a runner from the island. The hotel told us he hadn’t paid them.

We had run up horrendous room service bills and had to stay 16 weeks – all four of us in one room – giving them half our money to pay off the debt.

Noddy holder slade - Michael Putland /Hulton Archive
Noddy holder slade - Michael Putland /Hulton Archive

Have you done adverts?

Many. In 1992 the band wasn’t getting on as well as before and I went to try other things such as acting. My main revenue, other than residual Slade earnings, was from voiceovers: radio and TV adverts. The most lucrative paid hundreds of thousands of pounds. I was also the voice of lots of animated characters, like the boy Dudley Sidebottom in an ad for Cadbury’s, which people didn’t ­realise was me.

Do you earn a lot from Merry Xmas Everybody?

You can’t evaluate it. It’s used in TV shows, adverts, all sorts. It sold a million just in the UK when it came out in 1973 in the weeks before Christmas and has been a steady stream of income ever since – so quite a lot of money.

A couple of the band who didn’t write it say they earned no money from it, but they earn the same as myself and Jim [Lea], the other writer, for performing on it. They don’t get the writing royalties, as they didn’t write it, but a big chunk of our writing monies paid a lot of touring expenses.

How have your earnings changed since Slade?

I’ve done very well, mainly through voiceovers and adverts. And I’m still getting my residual royalties as a songwriter and performer. You could have a good year if somebody uses songs like Merry Xmas Everybody. We had 40 other hits and two or three, such as Cum on Feel the Noize, get used regularly in adverts.

Slade’s new live five-CD box set, All The World Is A Stage (with three previously unreleased concerts), will be out on Friday