The Things We Say. The day I met Noddy

Well, thank goodness Diff was awake – I knew he’d get it, and first too.

He did.

Dear reader, let me introduce you to Mr. Douglas Futers, Popular Music aficionado extraordinaire. He knows everything about everything and  has been to more gigs than we’ve had collective  hot dinners. He’s seen Hawkwind (‘Silver Machine’ Remember?) 742 times and is now deaf as a post.

Of course! It was Noddy Holder, the band was Slade and the record, the evergreen ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ a hit for the band first time around, Christmas 1973 (Flares, Strikes, ‘For mash say Smash’ and Advocaat)

If you didn’t know, and although you probably really couldn’t give a shit, I’m going to tell you anyway; the story is that this seasonal ditty which has etched its way into our national consciousness, along with Turkey, old St. Nick and Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ was in fact recorded over a blistering hot week in New York, late summer of that year. Apparently, Lennon (that’s John, Liverpool, musician not Aaron, Spurs, winger) was in the next studio recording ‘Mind Games’ at the time.

The song was a hotch-potch of snippets that Nod and Jim Lee had lying around. They were given the final touch, it is reported when (I love this …)  Nod “After an evening out drinking worked through the night at his mother’s house in Walsall to write the lyrics, which he completed in one draft.” You see? a genuine slice of British Popular Culture. Bowie, meantime, earnestly doing his Willliam Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’ must have been wondering where he went wrong.

Anyway, it just so happens that last week I had occasion to be in Birmingham. We took our eldest up there so he could attend an Open Day at Aston University, which is, in case you don’t know slap-bang in the centre of town. Wouldn’t have been my choice personally, it has to be said. To me, Brum has always been where people speak with a speech impediment rather than an accent; A place to be avoided at all costs, using one of the myriad motorways which appear designed expressly for such a purpose.

Anyway, we drop Laddo off, and from where, when we’ve turned the corner, he makes for the lecture theatre to hear all about International Business with Spanish. Or, if he were more like me at that age, make for the nearest pub, to really start ‘getting the taste’ for the West Midlands and the good folk therein.

We’re left with a couple of hours to kill, and as we’re over the road from the ‘Bullring’ Birmingham’s infamous shopping centre we decide to nip in and take a look. Well: pleasantly surprised is the reaction. They’ve made a damned fine job of re-inventing the ‘old’ Bullring which I last saw in about 1979, and was, let’s face it not only an eyesore, but an earsore, armsore and legsore it was so bad. Not so today. In fact it looks like every other modern shopping centre in whatever city or town you care to mention.

I was still pondering this transformation in the Bullring gents toilets, whilst drying my hands. I was using one of these new-fangled blown air hand driers. Similar to,  but not the Dyson airblade, it looked like an open letterbox in the wall. And, it was pretty pathetic: a brief vision passed before my eyes of the Facia of this thing being removed to reveal two wheezing old men blowing through it from behind. This nightmarish thought was soon banished by an awareness that someone was standing behind me…

I turned and looked. It was only Noddy Holder! The owner of the best pair of lungs this side of the Mississippi Delta!

What to say? I can’t come over all fawning fan – I’m nearly 50: No, no, no that won’t do. What about a ‘cooler’ approach? Drop in a ‘Blokey’ comment which might initiate a conversation.

That’s it! I figured.

Of all the things I could have said or asked him – such as ‘What was it really like to work with Dave Hill?’

‘Why the Mirror Hat, Nod? and how did you keep it on?’

Failing that, ”Ere Noddy, you know when Don Powell lost his memory, were there ever things you told him that hadn’t happened, just for a laugh?

No, of all the things … What do I venture forth with?

    “These hand driers are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard”

He looked at me and snorted a snort which was somewhere half way between ‘Yeah’ and ‘What the **** are you talking about?’ – I’m still analysing it.

….and made his way out.

Moral of the story: Be prepared! Get a notebook, list everyone famous you would like to meet. Add 2 or 3 questions for each and carry it round with you at all times!

© Andy Daly  2010

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