Nothing quite marks the start of the festive season like hearing Noddy Holder screaming “it’s Christmas!” as you traipse around the supermarket.
But for Slade guitarist Dave Hill, Merry Xmas Everybody is the song that ensures the band he formed alongisde fellow Midlanders Holder, Jim Lea and Don Powell over 50 years ago remains in the public eye as he sets out to tour the UK again this winter.
“Slade’s success didn’t happen overnight but boy, were we big when we took off,” says Dave, ahead of Slade’s appearance in Wrexham later this month.
“We had 23 top twenty hits and six number one singles. Three of these went straight to the number one spot – a first, not even matched by The Beatles.
“Topping it all was Merry Xmas Everybody which sold over one million copies. We also had six smash LPs, and one time had the number one and two spots on the LP chart. All this made Slade the biggest band in the UK in the 70s, and we were massive all over the world, too.”
He’s not wrong. With their yobbish anthems ruling the airwaves of 70s Britain, Dave’s outlandish costumes, hair styles, shoes and make up, also made Slade one of the visually defining groups of the glam era.
Now in his newly released autobiography, So Here It Is, Dave charts more than 50 years in the music industry, as well as revealing his struggle to recover from the stroke he suffered four years ago and then an accident which badly damaged his arm.
He says: “Over the years, when people hear stories about my life, they always said: ‘Write it down, Dave!’
“I turned 70 this year and for 50 of those years Slade have been a major part of my life so it seems the right time to finally to share my story.
“I’ve got plenty of funny tales but also some others which show that my life hasn’t been all rock ‘n’ roll.
“Most of all, I wanted to tell it as it is, and tell it my way.”
In the book, Dave, who lives near Wolverhampton with wife Jan, reveals that he has struggled with depression in recent years following surgery for a double hernia.
“Slade had some great years but fashions change and the break-up of the original band was heartbreaking. I thought that would be it for me,” says the father-of-three.
“I battled through depression and got over a stroke, and decided to carry on doing the thing which I do best: I went back on the road with Slade. I’ve seen more of the world, and more fans, in the last 25 years than I did when the band were at their most famous.”
Dave was born in Devon, the son of a mechanic, but moved back with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. He bought his first guitar from a mail order catalogue and received a few lessons from a local teacher before teaching himself to play. He then worked in an office for Tarmac Limited for over two years before becoming a full-time professional musician.
“I had a smashing mum and dad, but things were tough growing up in post-war Britain and my life really changed when I heard rock ‘n’ roll music,” he admits.
“I said goodbye to an office job at Tarmac and never looked back. I played in various groups before fame came knocking at my door.”
After the break-up of the original band, Dave helped and supported local and national charities before he eventually reformed Slade with Don. A quarter of a century later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans.
“Writing my book has been bit like researching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?,” he laughs.
“I discovered that my mum and dad had pretended to be married, and even had a false wedding. Also, the burden of having an illegitimate daughter, my half sister, was a shame that nearly drove my mum to suicide.
“There’s quite a few other surprises in my book too. Like the time Carol, my sister, was kidnapped and Jan, my wife, was held hostage in a bank robbery.”
Now as he prepares to go back on the road for Slade’s annual Merry Christmas Everybody tour, Dave is content that he’s finally told his story.
“I’ll always be the boy from Wolverhampton, where I still live, with my wife of over 40 years, surrounded by my kids and grandkids,” he chuckles.
“But I’m also still Dave Hill, Superyob, rocking the world with Slade!”
Slade play Wrexham William Aston Hall on Saturday December 16. Box Office No – 0844 888 9991 / Website: www.glyndwr.ac.uk
So Here It Is by Dave Hill, £20, Unbound publishing