Neville John ‘Noddy’ Holder was born in June 1946 in Walsall. He formed his first band, The Rockin’ Phantoms, at the age of 13 and left school after O levels to take a job in a car parts firm while pursuing a music career. The band became The Memphis Cut-Outs, who became popular enough on the local scene for Holder to quit the day job. He went on to join The Mavericks, who were signed by Columbia in 1965, and were signed to the same management company as The N’ Betweens, who included future Slade members guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell. The two bands shared bills and bonded, laying the foundations for Holder’s next move.
In 1966, Powell and Hill convinced Holder to join their new group, along with multi-instrumentalist Jim Lea, which they named Ambrose Slade. After their debut album, 1969’s Beginnings, flopped, they changed their name to Slade and adopted a skinhead image for the following year’s Play It Loud. When that failed to catch the public’s imagination, the band turned to glam rock and swiftly became one of Britain’s biggest bands, with Slayed? (1972) reaching No 1 after their breakthrough single Get Down And Get With It. The next few years saw Slademania take Britain by storm with a run of classic, hit singles (mostly chart-toppers) that gave English teachers the nation over sleepless nights including Coz I Luv You, Take Me Bak ’Ome, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Gudbuy T’Jane, Cum On Feel The Noize, Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me and Merry Xmas Everybody.
Noddy Holder left Slade in 1992 but remained a familiar figure on our TV screens, most notably as a team captain on BBC1’s music series A Question Of Pop and playing the music teacher Neville Holder in the ITV comedy drama The Grimleys. In 2000, Holder was awarded the MBE for his services to showbusiness. In October this year, Holder revealed to The Big Issue that he’d been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018 and had been given six months to live, after which he underwent experimental chemotherapy treatment. Holder said, “I kept it very low key because I didn’t want people to just think of me as a cancer victim – though I don’t call it a victim because that’s the wrong word.”
Speaking to The Big Issue for his Letter to My Younger Self, Noddy Holder reflected on his determination to make it as a musician and revealed that he’d been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018 and had been given six months to live, after which he underwent experimental chemotherapy treatment.
At 16 I was just about to leave school. I’d done pretty well, I’d got six O levels. And all the teachers were pushing me to stay at school. But by the time I was 16 I’d already formed a semi-professional amateur band at school, and I’d been gigging constantly on weekends around working men’s clubs, youth clubs, weddings, anywhere we could get a gig really. So my heart was set on becoming a professional musician. Now back in 1961, 62, if you chose that as a profession, you were a black sheep, wasting your time, throwing it all away. Especially in the working-class area where I come from. Being a professional musician was not looked on as a bona fide job. People thought you were a bit of a beatnik.
My dad used to sing around the working men’s clubs. He was a great singer but he never had any aspirations. When I was seven, I was sitting with my mum in the audience one Sunday night and he called me up to sing. He called out, “come on Neville”, and I sang a song by a country and western artist called Frankie Laine in my little soprano voice. It was the first time I’d ever sang into a microphone and it brought the place down. That was my first taste of applause. After that I used to get up every week. Then I founded a very basic little rock’n’roll band at school. So when I got to 16 I said to my mum and dad, “I want to leave school. I want to go out and try to make a success as a musician.” And they didn’t try to stop me. They said, “give it a couple of years, he’ll get it out of his system then he’ll get back to his studies.” The teachers were mad at me. They said, “You’ll never do anything as a musician.” And for years I was just scrambling around trying to make a living – until I got my first hit record. And then I was sending my mum and dad postcards from Tokyo and New York.