You know it’s really Christmas when Roy Wood dusts down his military jacket and pitches his tent in his spiritual home, which is the Robin 2 in Bilston.
You have to treat with a certain amount of awe a guy who is such an icon he gets to have a whole bar named after him and Woody’s Bar, the parlour of the Robin is a sight to behold.
Adorned with life-size prints of Roy Wood in all his glam finery, it’s a pre-gig watering hole of huge charm. Quite why Roy Wood isn’t afforded the same adulation as other 1960s and 70s trail-blazers is beyond me.
His run of classic songs with the Move, Wizzard, early Electric Light Orchestra and as a solo artist is as fine as those by Bowie, Slade and Bolan. His skill as a musician, arranger and producer easily surpasses the above.
Granted, he’s as guilty as Slade, Sweet and the vile Gary Glitter for perpetrating the hod carriers in Bacofoil look that typifies the seventies and still appalls all but the least sensitive of us today. But there was always more to Woody than that.
And I’m perpetually wondering what it is about the Midlands that made it responsible for the two best Christmas songs. Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody is and will always remain the best, it’s Black Country-hollered "It’s Christmas!" will always get the party started.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizzard is almost as good. It’s Phil Spector refracted through a pint of Banks’s and all of us of a certain age will remember scary Wood and an army of school kids on Top Of The Pops. It’ll be the last song he plays at the Robin on Wednesday after a torrent of pop gems such as See My Baby Jive, Blackberry Way and Flowers In The Rain.
Tickets from the Robin’s box office on 01902 401211 for a bargain #12.50.
Speaking of Slade, you just gotta check out Cum On Feel The Noize, the Slade story as told by Alan Parker and Steve Grantley, a cumbersome but fabulous volume that tells of the rise and fall of Bilston’s finest in words and pictures.
Just as Woody’s genius is enshrined in a bar, Noddy’s epitaph will be in the lift announcements in Walsall’s New Art Gallery. Anyway, this book has it all - from the early days as a skinhead band, through the golden years to the decline and an unexpected triumph at the Reading Festival and finally calling it a day as the classic line-up.
It’s the pictures that tell the real story. Page after page of Nod, Don, Dave and Jim from the pages of Jackie and other teen mags.
Never have so many awful outfits been seen in 160 pages. Noddy’s iconic mirror topper and Dave Hill’s Super Yob guitar are as splendid as ever.
Reading the words it’s amazing to remember that, back then, a band could cause a national educational debate simply by mis-spelling their song titles. Cum On Feel The Noize is published by Carlton Books at #14.99.
Big gig of the week is Iron Maiden at the NIA tonight. Yet another rock institution that can do no wrong.
My embarrassing confession this week stems from an interview I did with their Born Again Christian drummer Nicko McBrain ten or more years ago. A nice guy, we got along famously until I dropped the question about how he’d had to relearn his craft after losing an arm in a car crash.
McBrain hung up and I felt mortified when a colleague told me I’d got him mixed up with Def Leppard’s unfortunate Rick Allen.