Caitlin Moran of the Times of London asks several important questions about Christmas in the paper’s December 18 issue, the most important of which is, who wrote and performed the better Christmas song, Roy Wood of Wizzard or Noddy Holder of Slade?
Slade is one of the most underrated rock bands of all time, at least in the United States. The great pub rockers brought a delightful Scottish, working-class flair to hard rock in the early to mid 1970s (and some of the worst clothing fashions of all time), and made great, fun music well into the 1980s. You’ve probably heard Quiet Riot’s cover versions of Slade’s classic songs "Cum on Feel the Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," but Slade‘s originals are far superior. Slade is simply one of the fun-est rock bands ever.
Then of course there’s Wizzard, led by mad musical prodigy Roy Wood, about whom I’ve written earlier on this site. (Hit the search box for more.)
And the two wrote a pair of great Christmas rock songs. Roy wrote, performed, and produced "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" (see video here), and Noddy and his band put out "Merry Christmas Everybody," which Ms. Moran describes as Noddy’s attempt at "the great working-class Christmas song." Well, they’re both perfectly delightful, but the point of Christmas arguments is that you have to decide. Here’s what Moran has to say:
Slade v Wizzard: in the thrilling Merry Christmas Everybody, Noddy Holder intended to write the great working-class Christmas song. With its euphoric debauchery undercut with melancholy, and its Royle Family-like lyrics (“Does your granny always tell ya that the old songs are the best?/ Then she’s up and rock’n’rolling with the rest”), Merry Christmas Everybody does, to its endless credit, accurately simulate wandering round your home-town Woolie’s, drunk and whimsical on Christmas Eve, wondering whether to buy your mum a pink Ladyshave for £9.99. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, meanwhile, is so great that one simply goes along with Roy Wood’s assertion that it would be great if every day were Christmas Day. Rather than pausing for a minute and saying “Actually, Roy, if it were Christmas every day, the UK’s productivity rates would ensure that we were a Third World country by March, and we’d all have scoliosis from sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the spare room. And, indeed, would have noticed that the person most set to benefit from it being ‘Christmas every day’ would be someone famous mainly for having written a very big song about it being Christmas every day (ie, you).”
Winner: Slade. However much of a genius Wood is, there’s only one song that has Holder shouting “IT’S CHRIIIIIIISMUSSSSS!” Though honourable mention must be made of John and Yoko’s hilarious Happy Christmas (War Is Over), and the bit at the end where Lennon clearly can’t be bothered to write another verse of slightly pious yuletide doggerel, and he and Yoko go “ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH” instead.
I love her description of John Lennon’s song as pious and the lyrics as doggerel, though I would delete the word "slightly" and substitute something like "horrendously." But we’re in basic agreement on that one, I’d say.
Getting back to happier things, however, why not compare the two contenders yourself? Here’s the video for Roy’s and Wizzard’s "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday," and here’s a nice independent video of a couple of lads and their friends and rels larking about to Noddy’s and Slade’s "Merry Christmas Everybody!" Enjoy.
Slayed is also great. Gudbye t Jane is one of the best rock guitar grooves ever laid down, bar none.
John Bonham and Robert Plant were born in the Black Country (hence ‘Black Country Woman) but Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were both ‘southerners’.
I have a theory that the black country music was so good because the place was so unbearable in the 60’s and 70’s!
Thanks for the informative comment, Glyn. I agree that Slade Alive is a terrific album, and the concert you mention sounds like a great event.
Slade were neither from Scotland OR Birmingham! They were from Walsall and Wolverhampton in the English Midlands’ region of The Black Country (so called due to the amount of smoke and coal dust generated during the Industrial Revolution). Noddy’s accent is pure, broad Black Country! (and the spellings of the songs mimic this incredible, gritty accent – much maligned by the rest of England). Together with the nearby city of Birmingham, this region has produced such legends as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Roy Wood, Judas Priest, Dave Clark Five, The Move, Steve Gibbons, ELO etc etc. As for best Xmas song between the two? I love Roy’s stuff, but it HAS to be Slade! They were the first proper band I ever saw (at age 10!!) at Birmingham Town Hall in 1972. The support band was a new band from Ireland that had just released their first single (Whisky in the Jar) called Thin Lizzy. The support to the support (and not even on the bill!) were a COMPLETELY unknown band just arrived from America with a very sexy girl bass player – Suzi Quatro. If you can get hold of it check out Slade’s early album – “Slade Alive”. The unbelievable energy of their live act just leaps from the speakers and socks you between the eyes. They’d probably not long come out of their skinhead period when this was recorded – the only really ‘glam’ member of the band was Dave, the rest were pure rock with some musical hall theatricality thrown in. A hugely talented, vastly under-rated rock band that if anything were asphyxiated through their association in people’s minds with the Glam Rock movement.
Thanks again, Jimmy. There was a documentary about the origins of heavy metal on the VH1 TV network about a year ago, and Sabbath’s roots in Birmingham were heavily emphasized. Yet the program included not a word about the Move. What nonsense.
I don’t see Ms. Moran’s use of the word ‘slightly’ as ironic understatement but instead as a means of avoiding too great an offense against all the Lennon fanatics out there. Perhaps I’m too used to the disgusting political shibboleths of my dear United States to see that a person could write snarkily about the god Lennon in a major UK newspaper and expect to get away with it. But I doubt it.
Slade’s melodic songs really display another aspect of Noddy’s great voice and singing ability. I think he’s way underrated here in the States. I’d add “My, Oh My” to your list as well–it’s one of the great rock anthems, in my view.
They’re from Birmingham (non-Alabama) in fact, as is Roy Wood, as are Black Sabbath, ELO and probably some other someone I’m forgetting.
She says “slightly” and you say “horrendously” because she’s employing an English blend of understatement and irony.
I love Slade’s more melodic hits best, like Cuz I Luv You, How Does it Feel, and Far Far Away.
Thanks, JimmyD–I stand corrected on Slade’s unfortunate national origins. Still, just as you say, they’re great even if they aren’t Scots.
its nice to see Slade mentioned at any time,
as im a huge longtime fan.
By whcih i DONT mean that im HUGE,,ok?
ach,never mind,,i digress,,
Even though im Scottish, i have to break the news that Slade sadly arent.
They are rather disappointingly English instead,,DOH!
Id vote for Slade,but then again, i Wood,,Wood-nt i?
S.T., I really cannot vote myself on this important & burning issue, since I have not heard Mr. Wood’s song. However, I am rather familiar w/Slade, having picked up a CD compliation put out by Shout! Factory after reading about them for a long time (There was a good article in a recent issue of MOJO magazine). They are indeed a great band. The glam era in Britian in the early ’70s had a lot of great songs by Slade, as well as T.Rex. I think the problem w/them establishing a U.S. foothold (except for T. Rex having a hit w/”Bang A Gong”) was that they fell between two stools; they were too light for the emerging album rock/Rolling Stone crowd & too heavy for the teenybop contingent that started to dominate Top 40 radio.
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