There is only one man on the planet who could challenge Santa for the title of Mr Christmas. Step forward Noddy Holder, the legendary Slade frontman, whose voice hollering ‘It’s CHRISTMAAAAAAAS’ rings (and rings and rings) in everyone’s ears from about October onwards.
Imagine the state of your ears if that familiar festive refrain came, at pneumatic-drill decibel level, from just across the pillow in your own bed, though.
‘It does wake you from your slumber somewhat when he does it on Christmas morning, which he does,’ admits Mrs Noddy Holder, who is more softly spoken than her husband (not that it would be hard).
‘It certainly dislodges ear wax. You hear better all day, but it does make me laugh when he does it. Everyone bellows “It’s CHRISTMAAAAAAAS” on Christmas morning, though, don’t they? I’m sure my dad did it. And if anyone is entitled to do it, it’s Nod.’
Pictured left: Noddy and his wife Suzan. Pictured right: Noddy performs on Top of the Pops in London, December 1973
For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to be Noddy Holder — or a member of his family — at this time of year Suzan Holder gives a fascinating insight into the mixed blessing that comes with writing Christmas’s catchiest pop song.
The author and former TV producer, who has been with ‘Nod the God’ (her words) for 32 years, sympathises with shoppers who are treated to the sound of Merry Xmas Everybody on a loop.
Hilariously, she has spent her life with Noddy wondering if it’s just them. ‘I have said to Nod, “Is there something inside you, like a microchip that activates it to play when we walk into a shop?”
‘It used to get quite embarrassing when our son Django was little because when it came on he’d be leaping up and down saying “Daddy, it’s your song”, which kind of draws the crowds in John Lewis.’
Going out for Christmas dinner can be problematic, too, she adds, ‘because if you are sitting down and it comes on — well, you can’t exactly ask them to turn it off. I mean, it’s not a problem. It’s just odd when people look at you.
Pictured: Noddy, Suzan and Django. Noddy said: ‘Django used to get confused when they played Merry Xmas Everybody during his Christmas dinner at school’
‘Django used to get confused when they played it during his Christmas dinner at school.
‘He’d come home and say that when it came to the bit where Daddy sings “IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAAAS”, everyone —pupils, teachers, dinner ladies — would turn and look at him. It’s just weird. What do they expect us to do?’
Given that Noddy himself has called the song his pension and it is rumoured to make him anything up to £500,000 a year in royalties, doesn’t she just shout “KERCHING!” every time it comes on? ‘Well I don’t, but Nod might,’ she grins.
It has to be said that Christmas chez Mr and Mrs Noddy at their lovely Cheshire home sounds like an absolute riot.
She tells me that one Boxing Day she and her son were playing The Beatles Rock Band sing-along game on his Wii when Noddy decided to show them how it was done.
‘I was doing quite well with Twist And Shout but Nod said, “No, give it here” and all I can say is thank God the neighbours weren’t in. The foundations shook. He really does do something remarkable when he wants to project. It’s like a valve opens in his throat.’
Pictured: Slade, studio group portrait, London, 1975. Clockwise from bottom left: Dave Hill, Don Powell, Noddy Holder, Jim Lea
Curiously, with her more dulcet tones, Suzan still won the game. ‘His voice didn’t seem to register on the Wii. Maybe he broke it.’
So we know what Christmas with the Holders sounds like — loud! — but what about the rest? Well, it seems Noddy cooks dinner and likes to decorate the tree himself, while Suzan bakes the Christmas cake, ‘although he feeds it with whisky and brandy and everything really. By Christmas Day it’s just fruit soup’.
Is Noddy a Christmas jumper man? Pah! It turns out Noddy is a Christmas pyjama man.
‘He likes a snazzy ’jama,’ says Mrs Noddy. ‘His favourite is a set of cowboy pyjamas. I saw them in a film and ordered a pair — from Texas — for myself, but they were American sizes and looked ridiculous.
‘Nod said “Let me try them” and they were lovely on him. Really brought out the blue in his eyes. He’s got five more pairs now and, not to give too much away, but he might be finding another pair under the Christmas tree this year.’
Before we proceed, we should point out that Suzan, 56, really does call her husband Nod. His real name is Neville, improbably enough, ‘but no one calls him Neville apart from his mother.
Pictured left: Noddy hugs son Django after receiving CBE. Pictured right: Suzan relaxing in the family home
‘Sometimes people who want to look as if they know him say “And how is Neville?” but that just highlights to me that they don’t know him at all. He calls himself Noddy.’
They met when she was 24 and working as a TV producer in Birmingham. He — mid-40s, already a rock god, albeit it a very West Midlands sort of rock god — was a guest on the late-night show she was working on.
He asked, casually, if she’d like to go for a drink afterwards. She said yes, ‘but I have to say I didn’t have rock-star-asking-me-out vibes. That didn’t occur to me at all’.
Several non-dates followed, where they saw each other ‘with other people around’ before he asked for a proper date. She promptly freaked out, realising that she was being wooed by Noddy Holder.
‘I knew nothing about him other than he was famous and in a band and was older than I was (by 20 years). It was in the pre-Google days so I panicked. I needed to know “Is he married? Are there any drink, drugs, sex scandals I need to be aware of?”’
Basics established — he had been married, with two daughters, then in their teens; no, he had not been the subject of any major tabloid exposes — she concluded there was ‘nothing that put me off’.
She had no clue what to wear on a date with a rock god and ‘didn’t want him to think I was a TV Twinkie’, so she wore combat trousers and an army jacket. ‘At our wedding he told everyone I was also wearing a balaclava, but it was a snood,’ she points out.
‘It was just so mad. I mean, I never imagined I would end up being a rock star’s wife and if I had imagined it, I’d never have thought of Nod. His wasn’t one of the posters on my wall, put it that way.’
Pictured: Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jimmy Lea and Don Powell in 1973
Which rock stars were? Well, her ‘true love’ was Elvis ‘but there was never a chance for us because he died’. Then, aged about 12, she worshipped Donny Osmond, before moving on to David Essex then ZZ Top. What a lurch. Hilariously, she met Donny Osmond while on Noddy’s arm.
‘We were at an aftershow party when I spotted Donny Osmond and Noddy said, “Shall I introduce you?”. I said, “You DO NOT know Donny Osmond!”, but of course he did. Donny walked by and said “Alright Nod”. Nod said, “I’m famous. Don’t you get it?”.’
Anyway, it was love then and still is now. ‘I quickly realised he was the most amazing man I had ever met. He’s happier in his own skin than anyone I know.
‘He’s a proper live-for-today person, doesn’t fret about the past or worry about the future. He’s also funny — and he thinks I’m funny. We have laughed our way through 32 years.’ They even laughed through the early date where he took her on a romantic drive — to the Sellafield nuclear plant (‘I put the car windows up quick’).
That he’s a musician, often to be found crooning in the kitchen, is also a bonus. ‘I do have such a respect for songwriters. I write novels and it takes me 90,000 words to tell a story.
‘To be able to write a song which lasts for three minutes — one which makes someone laugh, cry — it’s incredible. And I still think it’s wonderful when I walk into the kitchen and Nod is playing his guitar. It’s a very attractive thing.’
The pair married 18 years ago, when their son was nine years old. The decision to have a child was not taken lightly, she admits. Noddy already had daughters Jess and Charisse from his first marriage to dress designer Leandra Russell, which ended in 1984.
Pictured left: Noddy Holder, London, 1974. Pictured right: Suzan in front of Christmas tree
‘So I was a stepmother, which was wonderful, I loved that, but when I brought up the subject [of them having a family together], Noddy said “I’ve done all that” and I said “But you’ve ended up with a younger woman who hasn’t”.
‘We put it on hold for a couple of years, then I said, “About that thing…” and he said he’d thought about it and, yes, let’s go for it. And then, of course, we had Django and he was delighted.
‘I think he knew me very well, but it was a considered thing. For all his rock and roll traits, he’s not an impulsive man and, annoyingly, he is often right.’
Both of his daughters now have children, which makes Noddy a grandfather twice over. Of course he dresses up as Father Christmas for Isabelle, 12, and Beau, five. And guess what song they all sing…?
Suzan, meanwhile, is no mere rock wife. She has had a stellar career in her own right (she is a former executive producer of Loose Women), ran a theatre school and has more recently written two novels, both riotous rom-coms with rock chick twists.
Shake It Up, Beverley features a middle-aged woman with a Beatles obsession; Rock ’n’ Rose, her most recent book, takes her heroine to Memphis. But why on earth hasn’t she written a real-life guide to being a rock wife? She says that when she published her novels even her editor wasn’t aware whom she was married to.
‘I did not want to be that person about whom people say “She’s only got that book deal because of her husband”.’
Suzan is also patently not the sort to crave the limelight. She says that on their wedding day (‘There was a jukebox and children sliding on their knees’) she was mortified ‘because for once people were looking at me. Normally, I’m really happy for Noddy to be the flamboyant one, because he is!’
When she walked down the aisle, he heckled her. ‘He shouted, from the front, “What time do you call this?”, but it was brilliant.
‘It took all the attention back to him and he knew I needed that.’
Mr Flamboyant —renowned for his mad mirror hats, clashing colours and big stompy boots — has a much bigger wardrobe than his wife.
She says that in recent years, as her novel writing has demanded she have a more public image, she has let him dress her, ‘and he’s surprisingly good at it’.
‘Noddy Holder is my personal stylist,’ she laughs. ‘Although for my last book launch, I was complaining about not knowing what to wear and Nod said he would take me shopping and buy whatever I wanted.
‘We trooped up and down Regent Street doing the whole Pretty Woman thing.’
It wasn’t a huge success. ‘All we bought was a salt beef sandwich, then when we got home Noddy went through my wardrobe and unearthed a Vivienne Westwood dress. I said I couldn’t wear it — it made me look ridiculous.
‘I put it on and he agreed. Then he put it on — and he looked amazing. He carried it off. It’s the only time, that I know of, that he has dressed up in my clothes, though.’ Apart from the cowboy pyjamas? ‘They were unisex.’
That aside, she says that his presence in her life encourages her to be a little louder herself.
‘He’s given me a lot of confidence,’ Suzan says. ‘I’m more of a worrier. “What will people think?” Nod’s attitude is, “Do it, don’t worry what anyone else thinks, live for today”.’
Especially if today is CHRISTMAAAAAAS? ‘Oh, Noddy Holder is not just for Christmas,’ she says, sagely. ‘He is for life.’