Stuart Maconie starts us off. He was presenting on 6 Music on the Sunday morning of the Glastonbury Festival, and quoted the lines from CORGI Registered Friends, where it is referred to as Glasto, and they put up the gun towers to keep the hippies away.
Those who witnessed Nigel's on-stage impression of a wood pigeon were able to compare and contrast when the same bird was featured on Radio 4's Tweet Of The Day. Nigel's version was far more accurate. There's a second career there. The new Percy Edwards?
During a visit to Whitby, Karen and I noticed a poster. As part of the town's Goth Festival, we saw that Clan Of Xymox are headlining one of the evenings. See Faithlift. Maybe that provides a chance to replenish your stock after a successful Car Boot sale. Further down the coast in Bridlington we visited Yips Chinese restaurant. Note that there was only one "p" in the name. The overlap grip on the chopsticks was never going to end well.
We decided to fill a blank weekend with a trip to Stockport. Karl has a number of side projects. One of which is playing with HMHB. For some years he has been a member of The Jalapenos. We splashed our way through the puddles to see them at The Arden Arms. If you're thinking of seeing them, don't go along expecting to hear the likes of Trumpton Riots or Every Time A Bell Rings. The Jalapenos are more for the Dr Feelgood and Buddy Holly fans among you. There was some great guitar work in there of course. We'll be catching Karl's other band The Band-Its as well.
I didn't hear Katharine Hamnett's appearance on Today on Radio Four, but I read a few excerpts on the BBC website. She said that proposals by MPs to impose a 1p Fashion Tax are "stupid". The site said that instead she is in favour of EU legislation making it mandatory for goods outside Europe to meet the same standards required by the region. "Wouldn't it be better to force brands to pay their workers properly, and not discharge toxic chemicals into the environment, rather than making them pay for the privilege to do that?" she was quoted as saying. I flicked through the report. It doesn't look like she said anything about her appearance in the works of HMHB. Someone else from one of the band's popular live numbers popped up briefly in Simon Armitage's memoirs, Gig. At one point he is interviewing David Gedge from The Wedding Present. Well actually, it is more of an "either/or" list. "Tea or coffee", "Magpie or Blue Peter". That kind of thing. One of the questions is "Mick McManus or Kendo Nagasaki?" I thought Gedge might have been quite sussed there, being of a similar vintage to myself, so was slightly disappointed in his answer. "Who are they?" Somebody needs to buy him McIntyre Treadmore And Davitt for Christmas. (I should have put an asterisk here, to note that The Wedding Present were playing this same venue the following evening. My mistake, not hanging around to quiz Gedge on this point.)
Forgive me if I briefly talk shop. Our bank needed to import a program onto our system, and sent along a guy to do the work. As you do, we got talking. I spotted his accent and said (as always in Yorkshire) "You're not from round here, are you?" He said he was from Birkenhead. Predictably I followed up with "Do you know Half Man Half Biscuit?" Equally as predictably, he replied "Never heard of them." I should have known better than to ask. I asked him about Skelly Records. He said it was closed. I'm sure that my contacts have told me differently, in fact I've seen photos recently which suggest that it is still open for business. I didn't bother asking him about The Webb, although we did manage to connect on Chris Boardman. Yes, he's from The Wirral. So, not a wasted morning. I suppose we can't all be finger-on-the-pulse indie kids.
I see The Checkatrade Trophy is no more. Will the song title be given an upgrade, I wonder? "Swerving The Leasing Dot Com" doesn't quite scan. Nigel may need to drop the "Dot". That's up to him.
Logistics is not my strong point. I ended up getting the train from Wakefield Westgate to Chesterfield. Ordinarily I would have breakfasted at Greggs at Westgate station, but was delayed in a queue at a barber's shop in Wakefield. Karen met me at Chesterfield station and drove us to Castleton. I held out until our arrival there. We took lunch at the excellently titled Castleton Fish And Chips shop. That hit the spot nicely. (Me: fish, chips, breadcake. Karen: chips and peas.)
On the journey, Karen pointed out the site where the Saltergate football ground had stood. I don't know any Chesterfield fans, but it must have not quite gone to plan. Getting a new ground, and then getting relegated to the National League. Good luck to them getting out of there. In an upward direction.
The drive also took us past Chesterfield Petanque Club. Maybe they have nicked all the football team's best players? Barlow Church Flower Festival ("refreshments available") looked like the place to be, but we whizzed past. And we couldn't be arsed stopping to see Little John's grave at Hathersage. Karen safely negotiated her bugbear, Owler Bar roundabout. After noting the presence of the cement works in Hope, we arrived in Castleton.
We did the usual venue reconnaissance. The rain was pretty much non-stop all day, causing incidental dampness to my notepad. Nothing of any great consequence though. We bought a copy of The Buxton Advertiser (no mention of HMHB in the Gig Guide) and then checked in at our home for the night, The Peak Hotel.
The original plan was to do some walking (maybe address Mam Tor) but the rain and a familiar condition (Can't Be Arsed fatigue) put paid to that. Instead we guzzled coffee and lemon drizzle cake, and snoozed the afternoon away.
We were back out into the rain to join the early evening queue. Weaving our way along the lanes, we could hear the soundcheck version of Worried Man Blues drifting through the air. Surely the venue must get complaints about noise? But that probably explains the early finish (everything was done by 10 o'clock). And of course, everyone would have followed Ted Moult's advice on double glazing decades ago. We heard Nigel ask for the sound to be "a bit more rocky" (he made a similar request during the gig itself). And they played A Lilac Harry Quinn.
Andrew, Matt and Brian also chose to get wet while queuing up. The gate was opened at 7 o'clock and we were faced with a dilemma. The standing area was split. There was an upper and lower level. Our regular choice is to go for the Inside Left position as we face the stage. That would have meant being on the lower level. Instead we opted for the upper. It was a bit weird being on eye level with the band. Anything to be different.
Nigel came out front to talk to a couple of his mates. I managed to grab a quick word. He said the band had had a nightmare journey. It started with a road closure due to someone throwing themself off a bridge. And the A56 was slow all the way. That's Friday afternoons on the roads for you. Graham, from the same part of the world, reported similar problems. And Tony had experienced the same on his drive from Moseley.
Jealous Guy by Roxy Music was played on the PA. I was then involved in a conversation about examples of cover versions which are better than the original. Serious Drinking's Young Hearts Run Free always comes to mind. Tonight JD Meatyard were a duo. John, as usual, with the guitar and vocals. Gary was hitting the drums. They had plenty of old favourites in their set. Cross With Broken Arm Jesus. The Batchain Pullers. Northern Song (as John reminded us, this was a John Peel Festive Fifty chartbound sound). It is always a pleasure to hear Ubu @ Erics. And they finished with Blow It Out Your Arse. As John pointed out, there was no merch stall tonight, so for now it was strictly mail order.
I noticed John and Elizabeth, and Nigel/Exford on the lower level. I wasn't able to speak with Howie and Daz, so was left guessing their pre-gig pub crawl. Postman Tony, standing out in his postman cagoule said Hello. HMHB walked on stage at 8 o'clock prompt. "First time we've had donkey jackets and candles on the rider," announced Nigel. Later he said "If you get bored, don't go wandering off." And he added, to the band, "That canary still hasn't come back." It is worth noting that while Nigel did not have his guitar for every single song, he played it for about three quarters of the set. The axe warrior is back.
Some other time I'll get an explanation of the hand movement that seemed to define "Bollocko". There was a discussion about the local river. Nigel said that he had not had chance to read any local information because they had arrived late. Nigel was asked if he knew the river running through Castleton. He guessed the Goyt. The response was that Nigel did know. It was the Noe (play on words). He said in Welsh it would be pronounced Noy. Nigel asked what it was a tributary of. He was told it ran into the Goyt. I got a tap on the shoulder from my rivers correspondent who told me that that is not the case. (The river in the cave is Peakshole Water which joins the River Noe in Hope. The Noe flows into the Derbyshire Derwent which in turn enters into the River Trent, and then to the Humber Estuary.) As Nigel commented, "There is a tea-towel in there somewhere."
There were outbreaks of on-stage sport during the set. Nigel did some under-arm bowling at the end of Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert. The "slower ball" in Ode To Joyce also now leads to a more pronounced pause in the song. And I have a mental photo of Nigel's wicket-keeping during Joy Division Oven Gloves. A perfect study of the art. Later on in the set, Nigel drove a shot down the fairway in The Unfortunate Gwatkin.
Carl moved from the drums to the side of the stage for Paintball's Coming Home, and did some filming of the crowd and venue. There were some amendments to the lyrics of this song. "They say It Is What It Is and Gin O'Clock / You OK, hun?" And another verse ran "They've got an ice cream maker and a George Foreman grill / They're gathering dust in the back of the cupboard."
A quick note on attire. Nigel and Karl were both wearing long-sleeved shirts during the main set. Carl had a t-shirt with a picture of a Blue Tit in flight, and the words "Super Tit". Neil was wearing an Appleton Cricket Club shirt. We believe their wicket-keeper was in attendance tonight. Possibly taking some tips from Nigel's demonstration.
God Gave Us Life was brought right up to date. To the day. He also gave us M56 tailbacks. He also gave us M60 tailbacks. He also gave us Len Goodman. He also gave us Freddie Flintoff. He also gave us Paddy McGuiness. He also gave us Walter De La Mare. He also gave us Lionel Blair, being the sole survivor from the original recording.
Nigel went poking around in the carrier bag which he brought on stage with him. Detritus from a packed lunch? There was definitely a banana in there, and Andrew spotted a flask. Very rock and roll. There was a chant from the hordes of "Neil Crossley is a rock and roll genius." Nigel turned to him and said "It's skiffle really, isn't it?" After Running Order Squabble Fest, Nigel muttered "you're going on after Neanderthal Man."
In Renfield's Afoot, visitors were advised to wear "waterproof clothing, maybe a Berghaus or some other thermal layering system." At the end of All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, Nigel shouted The final "Errrr" from the side of the stage down the cave, for maximum echo.
In We Built This Village, it thrilled Nigel to see cavers out moshing, and vice versa. He told us the tale about a skeleton being found down the cave. It had a medallion round its neck, saying "Derbyshire Hide And Seek Champion 1922".
I can't remember hearing David Wainwright's Feet in a live environment before. A good healthy singalong which did not come close to preparing for what followed. This is all good stuff, every golden minute of it. But every now and then, it all rises above that greatness. Such was the case with the cover of Johnny Thunders' Born To Lose. Performed adequately by the band.
Nigel asked for his guitar sound to be "fuzzier" for National Shite Day. "You know, like if I had a pedal." As Nigel was tuning up for Time Flies By, Neil commented that it was a nice guitar sound. Nigel responded "Is it in the right key though?"
When the band came back for the encore, Nigel said he appreciated how everyone had come out to see the band on such a lousy evening. "Lousy to some," he added. "I quite like this weather." Nigel was taken by the tea shop further down the road from the venue. He said it was closed when he was there earlier in the evening and hoped that someone in the crowd would have chance to try it on the Saturday. Perhaps it would be someone who was camping overnight. Alternatively, they might stand accused of loitering within tent.
There was a shout for "Chatteris". As ever, Nigel's response was "Yeah, that's one of ours." We followed Nigel's advice to check out Red Star Brewery (online, that is). Established 2015. They do brewery tours. What's not to like?
Sound Of The Suburbs was an interesting choice of cover version. Compare and contrast Castleton with The Suburbs. And we noted that it was still "Sky replica kit" getting a mention in Every Time A Bell Rings. It hasn't moved on to Ineos yet.
The full set was made up like this:She's In Broadstairs
And in the encore we hadFuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Thanks to Karl for the set list. There were a few additions and deletions. "Bad Wools" had been scheduled between Joy Division Oven Gloves and Running Order Squabble Fest. Worried Man Blues and Dukla Prague swapped places. Time Flies By was not in the original list. Nor was Fred Titmus.
I find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between one show and another. I remain evangelical about this band, constantly trying to come along, and being constantly frustrated by their determination to stay in their comfort zone. Trust me. There is no better night out to be had. But tonight felt like one of the best. I became aware that there were people at the back who did not have a great view. That's not the first time I've heard that said at a HMHB show. But for me, perhaps it was the unusual nature of the venue. Was it a weird closer-to-nature feeling? Was it Born To Lose - a fine, fine song for the band to cover? This was right up there.
Time for a few more Hellos at the end of the evening. Ian and Mariana were there. As were Katherine and Karl, ahead of their trip to New York. Best t-shirt of the evening award goes to the lady I was talking to at the end of the evening. Sorry, didn't catch your name, but the Cresta number was impressive. How do you get hold of stuff like that? We left the venue with Graham, who was then driving back to The Wirral in order to get straight into a shift in his taxi. Hopefully he and the rest of us will have dried off in time for Cambridge on the first Friday in September.