Exclusive - Noddy Holder on Slade

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Interview by Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers

( For the full version of this interview, get the Harrogate Advertiser)

It’s every Slade fans’ dream come true. Just Noddy Holder, a man not known for giving in-depth interviews, answering any question you like in the intimate setting of Harrogate Theatre.

The much-loved lead singer of the biggest 70s glam rock band will be on stage with only interviewer Mark Radcliffe of BBC6 Music fame for protection.

If the former Slade frontman’s converation with me is anything to go by, the stories will flow thick and fast when the pair of them come to Harrogate Theatre in May.

Who knew, for example, that all your favourite punk bands were actually listening to Slade as they led their foul-mouthed assault on the musical establishment in 1976-77?

“The Damned and the Stranglers and even a couple of the Pistols would come back stage at our London shows,” this likeable national treasure tells me.

“Of course, they couldn’t admit that in public at the time. They had to pretend to hate all the ‘old’ bands.”

The ultra-chatty 66-year-old from Walsall hasn’t played with his bandmates Jim Lea, Dave Hill and Don Powell since he left the band in 1992.

But the interest in Slade hasn’t faded a bit since then, fuelled by the regular rappearance in the charts of their biggest hit, Merry Xmas Everybody.

It’s partly the enduring affection for the band and their ex-frontman, in particular, which explains why the normally reluctant Noddy is hitting the road - that and Mark Radcliffe.

“It was Mark’s idea. I’m on his radio shows quite often telling all these stories and we always ended up carrying on in the pub afterwards.

“He started badgering me to do a tour and I thought, since this is my 50th year as a professional in showbiz, I’d give it a try.”

Despite the over-the-top image, the platform shoes and massive sideburns in their heyday, there was always a more serious side to Slade - and that side was the music itself.

Outside of The Rolling Stones and U2, there’s not many rock bands who have managed to score hit singles in the UK on a regular basis for 20 years, as Slade did between 1971 and 1991.

That doesn’t happen by accident, as Noddy, who co-wrote most of the great tracks with bass player Jim Lea, happily admits.

“It took us a while to get it right. We’d been a band since 1966 when Chas Chandler, who’d been in The Animals, took us over.

“We already had a great sound but we hadn’t found our identity when it came to songs.

“Chas did two great things. He pushed me and Jim to start writing together and he simplified our arrangements in the studio.

“It was Chas who had the vision. We wrote Coz I Luv U in 20 minutes but weren’t convinced it was a hit. He was though and he was right.”

Taking all the energy and directness of their phenomenal live sound and replicating it in the studio proved a masterstroke.

Classic song followed classic, Gudbuy t’Jane, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Cum on Feel the Noize, all of them built first of all on Noddy’s exciting, sometimes frenzied classic rock n roll vocals - a Chas Chandler decision, Noddy reveals.

But the only thing worse than originally not having hits, he continues, was having them.

As the pressure to keep the wheels on the wagon mounted, the quiet tension between Slade’s artistic leanings and commercial necessities built up.

A return to the band’s early 70s hard rock roots revived their career and extended their hit-making days well beyond the glam rock era that spawned them into the 80s.

But it doesn’t sound like it was ever quiet the same again after the foot-stomping days of the early 70s to Noddy, however.

“When I left the band in 1992 we’d been together in the same line-up for 25 years. It had gotten stale and I was getting offers of work from TV and radio. It had become a treadmill.

“I tried my best to make it amicable but I don’t think they understood it at the time.”

Noddy Holder in Conversation with Mark Radcliffe takes place at Harrogate Theatre on Sunday, May 19.

For tickets, telephone 01423 502116 or visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk