Music

Merry Xmas Everybody at 50: How a mother-in-law and John Lennon inspired Slade's festive cracker

Noddy Holder recalls the making of the song that no Christmas should be without

Slade performing Merry Xmas Everybody

Slade perform Merry Xmas Everybody in 1973

It was late summer 1973 when Noddy Holder first hollered “Iiiiiit’s Chriiiiiiiistmaaas!” An instant classic was born. Merry Xmas Everybody was released 50 years ago this Christmas and went straight in at number one in the UK singles chart, holding off other festive favourites including Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and Elton John’s Step Into Christmas

Recalling how this iconic track came about, Holder told The Big Issue: “Slade bass player Jim’s mother-in-law challenged him to come up with a Christmas song, like a Bing Crosby song that would last forever. Jim sort of pooh-poohed it at first. But then he took it as a challenge.  

“In 1967 I’d written a very hippie, psychedelic song called Buy Me a Rocking Chair and I’d played it to the band. And they all just said ‘rubbish’. So in the bin it went.  

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“But six years later, Jim remembered this song. He took the chorus and wrote a new verse. It sounded Christmassy and none of us were really sure it was the right thing to do at the time. But John Lennon had a big Christmas hit a couple of years before [Happy Xmas (War Is Over)] which made it a bit cooler. So I went away to my mum and dad’s, back into my old bedroom with a bottle of whisky. And I wrote all the lyrics that night. 

“We recorded it in New York. John Lennon was in the next-door studio. We actually used his keyboard for the intro of the record. We listened to it and it was bloody great. This was a hit record. Chas took it to the record company in London and they said, we’re gonna put everything behind this. This is a multi-million seller.”  

Merry Xmas Everybody was Slade’s sixth and final UK chart-topping single. It has been an integral part of Christmas ever since. Holder has described the song as his pension.  

Slade’s seasonal smash generates more than £500,000 in royalties each year and has returned to the UK singles charts 27 times since its initial release – including every year since downloads were included in 2007.  

“The record got released the first week in December and went straight to number one the first day,” recalls Holder. “That was our third song that year to go straight in at number one. Nobody had ever done that. Not even The Beatles. We had a gold record in the first week of release and it stayed at number one
till January.  

“The success was absolutely phenomenal. We were doing TV all over Europe. We had 40 hits, but people only remember Merry Xmas Everybody now.  

“We knew we’d got a hit record on our hands, but no way on earth did we think it would be going strong 50 years later.”

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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