Noddy Holder reveals how he found Christmas 'spirit' to write Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody'

13 December 2023, 13:33 | Updated: 13 December 2023, 13:49

There was a secret ingredient to Slade's timeless Christmas song 'Merry Xmas Everybody'.
There was a secret ingredient to Slade's timeless Christmas song 'Merry Xmas Everybody'. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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It's arguably the UK's most beloved Christmas song.

What started out as a "hippy-trippy" song about a rocking chair later became a rocking Christmas classic after a festive injection of Christmas spirit.

But the spirit that transformed Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody' was quite literally a spirit according to singer Noddy Holder.

After a big night on the booze at his parent's home in the Midlands, Noddy revealed it was a bottle of whiskey that inspired the festive lyrics to their most lucrative song.

'Merry Xmas Everybody' rocketed to number one in the UK charts at Christmas in 1973, and is still one of the country's favourites, receiving airplay almost every day when Christmas comes around.

The song generates an estimated £500,000 in royalties every years, and is credited with starting the annual race to snatch the coveted Christmas number one spot.

Though, it might've been a different story for Noddy Holder and Slade, had he not got drunk as a skunk on whiskey one fateful night.

Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody (Official Top Of The Pops Video)

In a 2011 interview with PRS Music's magazine, M, Noddy recalled the night the lyrics came to him:

"The idea for a Christmas song came from [co-writer] Jimmy Lea's auntie, who suggested we do a perennial-type song like 'Happy Birthday'," Noddy said.

"The song that eventually became 'Merry Xmas Everybody' was written in 1967. It was a hippy-trippy thing and the chorus went: "So won't you buy me a rocking chair to watch the world go by / Buy me a looking glass to look me in the eye-eye-eye…"

"Anyway, one night in 1973 I was staying at my parents' in the Midlands after a few drinks down the local pub," he continued.

"The whisky bottle came out when I got in and I rewrote that earlier song in two hours, using the same music for the chorus but changing the words and adding the verses."

"I wanted it to paint a picture of a typical working-class Christmas, you know, granny getting up and having a dance and worrying about how much room there is with all the relatives around."

Slade in 1973. (Photo by Jorgen Angel/Redferns)
Slade in 1973. (Photo by Jorgen Angel/Redferns). Picture: Getty

"I played it to Jim [Lea] and he didn't really say much - he never did - but I knew he secretly liked it. Then I played it to our manager Chas Chandler, who was Jimi Hendrix's old manager, and he liked it."

"We cut it in the US at the end of the hot summer of 1973. The studio was in an office block and we sang the chorus in the stairwell next to the studio to get that echoey effect."

"Four English blokes singing about Christmas…" Noddy joked. "The office workers must have thought we were mad!"

"Then we took it back to England and played it to Polydor, and they flipped. It went straight to number one and sold one million copies in the first week. It was up to that point the fastest-selling single ever in the UK."

"We knew we had a big hit when we wrote it, but for it to be still going strong so many years later… well, we never imagined."

'Merry Xmas Everybody' sold a million copies in the first week after its 1973 release.
'Merry Xmas Everybody' sold a million copies in the first week after its 1973 release. Picture: Alamy

Slade's record company Polydor had to utilise its French pressing plant to keep up with the demand for the single, after it sold a million copies in its first week.

It went straight in at the top of the charts on 15th December 15 1973 and stayed there for a total of five weeks on its original release.

Thanks to the age of streaming and digital downloads however, 'Merry Xmas Everybody' has re-entered the top 100 of the UK charts since 2006.

In 2009, royalties body PRS For Music estimated the 42% of the global population had heard the song, which has since been covered by the likes of Oasis, Tony Christie, Robbie Williams, and power pop band Cheap Trick.

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