If ever you want to compare and contrast with the tale from 'Twenty Four Hour Garage People', go to Tamworth railway station. They don't have any cafes on site, but outside the station there is a catering van. The lady in the van doesn't wear a red corporate jumper and doesn't do Leadbelly impressions. But she is very helpful and sells top grade sandwiches. I went for corned beef and tomato and had a very pleasant chat with her. As it should be. My route to Northampton led to me changing trains at Tamworth and Rugby. If You're ever in that area, then you ought to give this venture your support.
When I got to Northampton, my first task was to locate the venue. My second task was to have a wander round town. The main street was much as many other main streets. Marks and Spencer and BHS held prime sites, and the further I went, I came across the likes of Cash Generator and Cashino. As you do. Who said that all town centres look the same? Not everywhere has a Jesus Centre though. Maybe it was one of their people who came up to me and asked "How are you today, sir?". It was nice of him to ask, but ultimately none of his business. Elsewhere you had Watts furniture store (established 1895) still going strong, but there was another building, which I would guess was maybe a grand department store in a previous life, but now occupied by Sports Direct and H and M. I called into That's Entertainment, expecting perhaps to find a section solely devoted to local geezers Bauhaus. No such luck. It was easier to find stuff by Huddersfield Choral Society. And one day, please can someone explain to me what is meant by "Urban" music. There was a whole corner of the store devoted to that heading. Isn't it better just to describe it as "music"? It's me showing I' out of touch, I know. It started many years ago, when I could never quite find where the line was between "Punk" and "New Wave". Back outside in the precinct, I also puzzled over "Northampton Sculpture". May have to go back to that at some time.
The HMHB marketing machine was at its usual level of ruthless efficiency. Not a word in the Chronicle And Echo, and there was an apparent lack of posters around the place. Maybe they gave it up as a bad job in the face of a show by Steeleye Span. Another food tip. Try the Wok Inn. Tony and I tried it for our pre-gig feed. I went for the prawn toast starter, with chicken cashew nuts for main. Admittedly we were less taken by the background music. Very Radio Two Sunday Morning. A very poor cover of Minnie Ripperton's 'Loving You' was in there. Don't even try it if you are not going to go for the high notes. But you get what you are given, and we didn't let it spoil the meal.
From the outside, I was expecting the Roadmender to be some sort of art centre. But it was just a conventional venue on the inside. Bar, concert room, toilets (complete with lights not working). Shifty Chicken Shed were supporting. They were on stage prompt at 7.30. I remember seeing them at one of the Bilston gigs when they did an interesting version of Kate Bush's 'Army Dreamers'. Tonight they opened with The Clash's 'Rock The Casbah'. Except, not how The Clash did it. They have a fair array of instruments - a couple of saxophones, swanee whistle (Tony identified this), washboard, megaphone and even a bell (unused). It would take a better man than me to categorise their music. I'll stick with "Urban" until I'm told differently. Although they say they are from Shropshire. So maybe they are "Rural". I got one of their CDs from Geoff's stall ("Town" on the Moron Records label) so maybe that will give me a clue. I was impressed by the keyboard player's ATV t-shirt (the television company, not the band), although I was a little worried about the tendency of band members to put instruments to their mouths after they have been on the floor. Health and Safety issue?
A blast of Tchaikovsky announced HMHB's entrance. Nigel was carrying a yellow Wet Floor sign, as he is entitled to. We were told that 'Joy In Leeuwarden' was written by a Chepstow dentist. There was a bit of banter with Nigel about local celebs. I offered Bauhaus, and was given Nanette Newman back, and Francis Crick (?), one of the guys who discovered DNA, which in turn gave him the excuse for the joke about what does DNA stand for? National Dyslexic Association. We were told that the band had used the M6 Toll Road. "Here's a song about something that should never have been," was the introduction to 'Bob Wilson Anchorman'. Ken was the the first man in Wallasey to wear Thinsulate. Ian Ormondroyd was spotted in the crowd. "Useful to have round the house for changing lightbulbs," commented Nigel. Which in turn led to another joke. "How many A and R men does it take to change a lightbulb? Can I come back to you on that one?" We also got another go at the Pointless theme, while Ken was tuning up. Nigel started telling me about the scene in the film where Kes's brother gives him money to place on a horse, but instead he buys some chips and then gets a thumping when his brother finds out the horse had won. There was a bit about Private Godfrey and a line about him saying that in the normal course of events we would all be sitting round the fire, reading. There was a very short snippet of Climie Fisher, following a shout from the crowd. During 'When The Evening Sun Goes Down' we got the line "how do the road menders get to work?" I'm sure Nigel said that the Royal Variety Hall is in Leeds. Did he mean City Varieties? A few observations from 'Twenty Four Hour Garage People', which returned to the set list... Talk Sport is now the radio station. It's sour cream and onion crisps ("there has never been sour cream and chives"). They cost a staggering £2.48! The metal tray device is called a Millmoor, because they were first used at Rotherham United. Yeah, whatever. And surely in that case they should now be called New Yorks. The people in the queue are from the Happy To Stand And Wait Society. The guy in the garage is wearing a 'Keep Calm And Listen To Toto' t-shirt. Not only did we have 'Joy Division Oven Gloves', but also a cover version. And the venom in 'A Country Practice' was still evident.The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
And in the encore....For What Is Chatteris
After that, it was back to the Wetherspoons for a general discussion about the Gig Of The Year award. Everybody agreed that Brighton and Stockton were probably the best two. Special mention also to Stowmarket, as much for the occasion as anything else. And the morris dancing at Birmingham was worth seeing. But then again, it's all good stuff isn't it? One day I'm sure something will come along that will draw me away from these gigs. Whatever it is, it'll have to be wholesome entertainment. Until that happens, I'm booked in for Ilminster, Bristol, London, Leamington Spa and Holmfirth. Happy 2014.