Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Yes, the influential Jamaican Reggae star shuffled off this mortal coil in May 1981 so it couldn’t be him, and anyway, this bloke was white. Who was he?
It is the night before Christmas and I am in the ‘Bullring’ Birmingham’s famous shopping centre and snow is falling. I last saw the ‘Old’ Bullring in about 1979. It was, let’s face it not only an eyesore, but an earsore, armsore and legsore it was so bad. Not so today. It is very tidy (in fact bang tidy) neat and very busy.
I am still pondering this transformation in the gents toilets, whilst drying my hands. I am using one of these new-fangled blown air hand driers. Similar to the Dyson airblade, it looks like an open letterbox in the wall. It is pretty pathetic. A 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. Who was he? Not Bob Marley as we’ve summised, (too white, too alive) Joe Cocker? (too young) Justin Bieber? (too old)
‘Alright’ he said in a gravelly West Midlands accent (as opposed to a gravelly hill interchange) while he moved to use the hand dryer. Of course! It was only Noddy Holder! The owner of the best pair of lungs this side of the Mississippi Delta and singer of the best Christmas song ever. The band was Slade and the record, the evergreen ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ a hit for the band first time round, Christmas 1973.
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, Santa Claus and Dickens’ ‘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 Noddy and Jim Lee had lying around. They were given the final touch, it is reported when (I love this …) Noddy “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 crafted in a Walsall two-up two- down after a night on the ale. Bowie, meantime, earnestly doing his Willliam Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’ must have been wondering where he went wrong.
What to say? I can’t be seen as a fawning fan: 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 teapot’
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.
Of course what I should have done was wish him a ‘Merry Christmas’, for he knows how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim and Dave Hill observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
Have a Happy Christmas
With apologies to Charles Dickens. ‘A Christmas Carol’ a contrived piece of seasonal nonsense from ‘Sitting Comfortably?’
Here’s wishing all our readers a peaceful, happy, healthy 2012.