Things are changing in Biscuit World. Tickets went on sale for this one forty-eight weeks in advance. You never used to get that much notice. Those heady days are now long ago, when I used to turn up at The Duchess in Leeds on the night with cash in hand. And early in May (six weeks ahead of the show) we got word that it had sold out. The big city gigs all seem to "go" these days.
Big ups to the guy who was working the bar at Selby Town Hall when Karen and I were there to see The Fretless, a fiddle and cello quartet from Canada. He spotted my HMHB motorway junction t-shirt and said "I won't ask you for your opinion on Nerys Hughes."
I'll put forward the proposition that Judd Trump is the first ever Nigel Blackwell lookalike to become the World Snooker champion. And deservedly so. I would have liked to have seen him play Dave Gilbert in the final. That would have been a battle of the lookalikes. Stick a baseball cap on Gilbert's head, put a can of beer in his hand, and he becomes Andrew Fearn from Sleaford Mods.
There's an Archie in the royal family. Archie!! Maybe Meghan is a little bit Sex In The City. (Actually, it was Suits, wasn't it?) But there is a reference from the HMHB back catalogue for her and Harry...
"Bit of advice: call him Rupert, it fits, and besides it's a good name. Don't be calling him Fred or Archie, with all its cheeky but lovable working class scamp connotations, unless you really do have plans for him to spend his life in William Hill's waiting for them to weigh in at Newton Abbot."
I'll be in my mid-seventies by the time Archie is old enough to bet, but I'll be glad to offer advice.
Thanks to John for reminding us about the feature in Mojo. Readers were invited to comment on their favourite HMHB album, and from these, the magazine somehow formulated a chart. CSI: Ambleside ended up at the top of the tree. ("The first anyone should get before spreading both backwards and forwards" according to Nigel Tassell.) Karen was also quoted, but her comment was specifically about Everything's AOR, rather than McIntyre, Treadmore And Davitt as a whole. "If it doesn't lift your spirits, you're not human." I'd not read Mojo previously, which emphasises how out of touch I am. I'll be giving it another go some time soon, as long as they can get to work with checking their spelling. In the title of the most recent album, there is no "g" at the end of the third to last word, as they put it. Also, Probe Plus does not contain a hyphen, unlike in their spelling. I know I'm making a rod for my own back, but these things matter.
Hair Like Brian May Blues was featured on The Verb on Radio 3. Not the first time that the band has appeared on that particular station. I remember a session for the Andy Kershaw programme, when he was on late on Sunday evenings. All the songs will be noted somewhere, but I have memories of Nigel making a trumpet noise at the beginning of When The Evening Sun Goes Down.
Now is a good time to re-visit some football punditry, in both cases from before the Newcastle gig. I noted this... "Nigel also shared his thoughts on Tranmere's promotion chances. He reckons they have done well to be where they are, but they will still be in League Two next season."... and this... "Neil was a bit more specific than Nigel about Tranmere's promotion chances. He reckoned that they will lose to Forest Green in the play-off final." On the basis of those predictions, I think we can expect to see one or other or both on a Saturday sofa some time soon.
On the subject of Forest Green Rovers, I saw that their proposed move to a different town was knocked back. The Local Planning Authority surely looked up the lyrics to Bad Review before advising the club: "Don't ever come near Stroud".
Karen and I decided to break up the journey to Edinburgh. We opted for a night in Sunderland. This provided an opportunity to visit Seaham. Fifty per cent of me is from there. It's near enough half a century since I was last there. The water was decidedly choppy and the sky was total grey. Just another day at the seaside. We got the train back to Sunderland and ate at the Moti Raj restaurant. We agreed it was a top feed. With a bit more time, we would have tried to locate The Locarno, or is/was it The Mecca?. This was the location of a show by The Faces in 1973, which John Peel said was the best gig that he ever attended. Research has never been my strong point. I'll have a proper look the next time I'm there, although that could be a while.
We took the train north on the morning of the gig. We had barely left Waverley station when we crossed paths with Andrew, with leg strapped but happily making a return to gig action. The afternoon gave us the opportunity to do a paper review. There was nothing in the Day By Day Guide in the freebie Edinburgh Reporter. Ho hum, there would surely be something in The Scotsman. Not so. Not a whisper. It was left to the promotion machine at The Edinburgh Evening News. A few familiar words in there, but something was better than nothing. "Famed for making ill-tempered music with a social conscience, Half Man Half Biscuit perform unofficial anthems of the underground. There's gonna be a riot down in Trumpton... er, The Liquid Room tonight. Doors 7.30pm, tickets £22." The time of the doors opening conflicted with our understanding. We would find out later if we were right in thinking that it was actually at 7.00pm. Also, they were showing a price for the tickets. Our belief was that the evening had sold out. Nevertheless, promotional staff were obviously working hard. When doing afternoon reconnaissance, we noticed a poster for the gig had been half ripped from the railings outside the venue, but had been replaced by the time we got back in the evening.
We met Tony and weaved our way up The Royal Mile to the venue. Karen noted how busy it was. I suggested that we go back when The Festival is on. Then we really would be faced with a wall of people. We took our places outside the entrance of the venue. A queue built up steadily. We said Hello to Nigel and Jo who were on their way to the pub. Andrew filled us in with the details of his dancing-related calf injury. And Matt from Lancing announced that he is no longer Matt from Lancing. He is now Matt from Worthing. We clearly don't know the right people. John from JD Meatyard peeped round the door to let a couple of mates in.
As promised, the doors were opened at 7.00 and we were in and down to the front. I went and had a chat with the guy running the merch stall. Sorry I didn't catch his name. To me, this was a new member of the Probe Plus empire. After that, I talked with Wirral Graham. He has been having car trouble. A recent example saw his vehicle breaking down on the route being taken by the Liverpool bus celebrating the Champions League win. Some people will do anything to get on the telly. (Un)fortunately he got it going again just in time to get out of the way. It was a bit of a drive tonight for Graham. Hope he got back home OK.
Ian from Northern Ireland came up to us. Bearing gifts as well. He had been to Denmark and got us a re-useable water bottle each. I suppose all bottles are re-useable in reality, but I will have to do something about saving the planet at some point. This seems like a good starting point. There was just time to shake hands with Hi Vis John before JD Meatyard started up. Just the two of them tonight, John and Gary. The line-up has varied many times down the years, with John being the one constant. I need to make myself more familiar with their work. I recognised some of their songs. Broken Arm Jesus and Batchain Pullers for example. The Outsider was about Captain Beefheart. They also included a couple of old favourites, St Peter Won't Let Me In and Northern Song. As ever, John was keen to sell his CDs, and chucked a Meatyard tshirt into the crowd. I hope that was paid for.
In the interval between the bands, Howie, travelling alone, came and said Hello. As did Postman Tony.
Upon arrival on stage, Nigel's first task was to place a Tunnock's teacake on top of Karl's amp. Not sure what that was all about, but sometimes you just have to go along with these ceremonial rituals. The inevitable photographer appeared for the first few songs. Nigel posed accordingly on the "No frills, handy for the hills" line. Once again, Nigel was without a musical instrument. "Where's your guitar?" came a shout. "I knew I'd forgotten something," Nigel replied. "Karl is a Two For One, like Victor Kiam."
"Where's your socks?" was the follow-up question. Nigel pointed out that he was in fact wearing socks, but they were part of a weird colour scheme, being flesh coloured. He was also wearing camel-coloured Veras shoes "made in Spain by a bloke from Cardiff." His reply to Postman Tony, who had asked the question, was "I remember you from previous bad shirts." (Later on, he was asked again about having no socks. He reached down and tugged at one of them to prove his point.)
"This is a song written in Sittinghurst," Nigel announced, hopefully. "We'll soon find out if it's the one I'm thinking of." No, it wasn't. The band then played Petty Sessions. "This is a song written in Sittinghurst," he said again, before they then began Joy In Leeuwarden straight after.
A request for 1966 And All That was the first to get the "That's one of ours" treatment. Nigel asked me if I had travelled by train. He then said that the band had intended to travel along the A702 to Craiglockhart where Wilfred Owen was hospitalised and wrote much of his poetry. "But we were delayed, admiring the ducks at Tebay. So we went on the motorway instead."
As so often when not carrying the guitar, Nigel did a variety of sporting mimes. At one point he was on the bowling green. Another time, he was serving at table tennis. Not a sporting mime, but towards the end of the show he walked across the stage on his knees while holding his ankles behind his back.
What Made Colombia Famous "could be" dedicated to Michael Gove. Allegedly. But Nigel added that it could be applied to anyone really "apart from us four", There was talk about Le Tour. I think Nigel referred to one of the leading competitors as Nairo "Flattering To Deceive All The Time" Quintana. Nigel said he is a Trek fan. But with a couple of reservations. He didn't seem overjoyed that they had signed Richie Porte. And he suspected that Bauke Mollema's participation in the Giro d'Italia might affect his chances in Le Tour.
Nigel reported the recent death of the man who invented predictive texting. "His funfair is next monkey."
Sometimes you don't pick up on the call that prompts a response from Nigel. I'm afraid I didn't hear the shout that caused him to reply "That's your problem. You can get pills for it." Nigel liked the short heckle of "Blaby's in Leicestershire" from elsewhere in the crowd.
Nigel muttered as he unwound the lead from his mike stand. "Just like Ken Goodwin," he said. "The funniest man who ever lived." Nigel borrowed a joke from Tony. "I had a theramin but I sold it. It was sat in the corner. I never touched it."
And there was a shout for Justin Edinburgh, the Orient manager who had died the week before. Nigel agreed that Justin had done well to turn things around at that club. There was a shout from the balcony for Depressed Beyond Tablets. Nigel said he didn't know how to play it "but if you've got a band , then come down and you play it." Someone else called out "What did God give us?" He replied "Some deity that I do not follow has given us a new series of Top Gear. With Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness at 8 o'clock on Sundays. I might just start going to the Sunday evening service."
A concerned attendee asked Nigel how was his motor neurone. He replied by saying that he had been to see his doctor. The doctor told Nigel that he had hypochondria. Nigel's reply was "Fucking hell! Not that as well?"
Nigel recommended looking something up on You Tube, being Surfing With Steve And Edi Amin by Helen Keller. Ok, we'll do that. With not playing a guitar, Nigel has taken to wandering around the stage (when not regularly standing with one foot on his monitor). Towards the end of Every Time A Bell Rings, he stood on the rails at the back. It looked good, but I'm guessing it could be a Health And Safety breach.
In reply to a shout for Everything's AOR, he said "That's another one of ours. That's uncanny!"
Paintball's Coming Home included "They watch the brand new Top Gear show" and "They say It Is What It Is and Back In The Day" among its regular lines, along with something about going to Peaky Blinders themed pubs.
After The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman, Nigel told the tale about the first time that the band met Dean. "It was at this place. I thought he was going to punch me". He also discussed the time when Dean appeared on stage with the band at Bilston. The band were going out for some chips and asked him if he wanted anything. Dean said "I'm good" and was still there on his own when the band returned. "Lovely fellow," as Nigel said. And by the way, Bette Midler had a Puma in tonight's version of the song. Another change of lyric was in 99% Of Gargoyles, where Marilyn Monroe was on the scag.
The cover version of a Skids song would have been a lot more impressive if Nigel could have done the Richard Jobson dance all the way through, instead of just for a few bars at the end. "I wanted to do Circus Games" he said afterwards. Ready when you are, with that one.
I haven't always had a great time at The Liquid Room. But, for me, this was by far the band's best show there. Previously I've found it a bit claustrophobic, but tonight the same features provided a great, intimate atmosphere. Another early finish, we were all cleared out by about ten o'clock.
A quick word on clothing. Karl was wearing an Achtung Gravy t-shirt, this being the name of a work by The Lancashire Hotpots. Carl's t-shirt, meanwhile, seemed to be a triangle as used to set the balls up on a snooker table. Throughout the gig Nigel kept digging into a huge bag of crisps. Keeps hunger at bay, I suppose.
I didn't manage to get a set list, someone had nabbed Karl's, so there's no auditing involved here. I just hope that my data capture facility was functioning properly. I reckon the set went like this.The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
And in the encore...The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman
A quick hello to Paul, Gillian, Elizabeth and Huddersfield Graham, and I was off down the road to The Albanach with Karen, Tony, Andrew and Matt. Only seven more sleeps and we would be able to do it all again, in Holmfirth.