Robin 2, Bilston, Thu 7th Nov 2019 (10/11/19)

Roger Green:

I went to a wedding, but only the night time. I don't know them that well. The first dance was You're The First, The Last, My Everything by Barry White. That's the one that they wanted. Clearly there wasn't going to be any Tallis. So I made my excuses and left.

In the Sheffield review, I mentioned Nigel's appearance in Nige Tassell's book The Bottom Corner. That was early in the season when Tranmere had blown a two-goal lead against Kidderminster. Nigel had reflected on this, saying that at least it had made for an interesting end to the match. Later on in the book, Nigel appears again. This is on the last day of the season. Having just seen Tranmere fail to make the play-offs at the last hurdle, Nigel mentions to the author that during this tense match, he had spent the whole game discussing a 1930s Liverpool murder case. Nige Tassell's book was published in 2016. You should be able to get a copy for Christmas for HMHB and/or football fans who are on your list. From there I moved on to Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat book, dealing with wartime deception, where a dead body containing false information was dropped in the sea off the Spanish coast, with the aim of convincing German intelligence of the need to divert resources. One of the documents was a false letter from a solicitor, a Mr Gwatkin. No mention of red bush tea, or fig rolls though.

There was an administrative obstacle surrounding this show. It was originally scheduled for the end of September. Somehow the HMHB juggernaut was able to slam the brakes on, and re-calibrate for the new date. It meant we had to wait a few more weeks to sample the delights of The Major chip shop. And I can't come to this place without harking back to the time when HMHB were joined on stage by Dean Friedman. The man himself playing along to The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman. A sight to behold.

Not much gigging to repot since the Sheffield show. We saw HMHB's fellow Wirral residents The Webb. And I also went to a match at Hemsworth Miners Welfare, taking in their newly built clubhouse extension. It would be a squeeze, but I can see HMHB fitting in there.

Karen and I went to see the new Ken Loach film. High quality as usual. We shared a smile when one of the characters sang Goodnight Irene, as covered live in the past by HMHB, as well as featuring on a 1992 Peel session.

On the Saturday before this show, Stuart Maconie was talking to one of his listeners (Rob in Telford) who was contributing to the regular feature The Chain. Rob said that he was coming along to this show. Stuart said that he would also try and get along. In the same programme, Stuart made reference to an Eno collaboration, involving the German electronic band Cluster, when he played a track from their collective efforts, released as an album in 1977. I wasn't made aware of his presence. Did anyone see him?

On the day of the gig we made our different ways to New Street station, from where we caught a tram to Bilston. We noticed another tram by the name of Ozzy Osbourne. Presumably they are all named after local celebs. There'll be a Jeff Lynne somewhere. And I can only hope that somewhere in the city there is a Robert Lloyd of The Nightingales gliding over the tracks. As usual, we called at The Major for fish and chips before checking in at The Robin's hotel, next door to the venue. A review of the papers didn't bring much to light. Nothing said in the Express And Star or the Metro. The local What's On mentioned the gig in its Listings section. There was also a half-page advert for stuff going on at The Robin. But that seemed to be it.

We caught the day's episode of Countdown with the dead funny Jenny Eclair guesting. After that, it was a cup of tea, bit of a snooze, and we were ready for the evening.

The first Biscuiteers that we met were Jay and Postman Tony, both of whom, like us, were stopping at The Robin. We had a chat with them before going into the venue to watch Miles setting up the merchandise stall aided by Mark. Oh yeah, and the band was also doing their sound check. I'm no good with these technicalities. Neil couldn't hear Carl through his monitor. He can't have been listening hard enough. Carl only sits a few feet away from him. There was also a problem with one of the lights shining into Neil's eyes. Blame that on Hazel O'Connor, who was playing there the previous night. "Did she have strict lighting instructions?" Nigel asked the technician.

None of that prevented Neil from dipping into the Manchester song book, with segments from Ceremony, Shadowplay and Fiery Jack. The band played four tunes in full, to check that everything was in order. A Lilac Harry Quinn What Made Colombia Famous She's In Broadstairs Busy Little Market Town

Andrew was propping up the bar, having sat out the soundcheck. I had a quick word with him before heading back to our room for a pre-gig cup of tea. As you do. Then we were back downstairs to queue to go in. No need to do so. We were let straight in and talked with Ian aka The Humdrum Express. He was setting up his Emporium on a table next to Miles. Soon he'll have to find space for a new CD. The big launch is at a show with TV Smith in Stourbridge at the end of January.

There were a few more Hellos. Ian had made his way from Belfast, while pondering how his travel plans to these shows might be affected post-Brexit. And I exchanged nods with Brian. Neil was also out front, having returned from the shop with a bottle of milk. At the soundcheck Nigel had told me there was some confusion over HMHB's stage time. Regular punters at this place are used to seeing them start at 9.00. Change of management, change of policy. The venue wanted a 9.30 start. Neil confirmed that they had come to a happy medium of 9.15.

Matt made it in good time after a steady four-hour drive from the south coast. John was there as well, and we got talking to Tim about his social media appearance doing the vocals on Repetition at a Fall karaoke night, backed by The Fallen Women. Howie and Daz turned up, and there was just time to say Hello to Ian and Mariana before Rocking Robin came over the PA.

This was the cue for The Humdrum Express to appear. Are we allowed to refer to Ian as The Mighty Humdrum Express yet? This was the best I've ever seen him play. The jokes and general lyrical witticisms were coming thick and fast. "The last time I was here, I was heckled by someone who looked like Steve Bruce. I don't know if she's here again tonight?" "This one's about my fear of chestnut trees. I hope to conker it one day." "There's a sale on at Dunelm. Free AC/DC pillowcase with every Ed Sheeran bed cover." "This is an old sea shanty written by Ronnie Hazelhurst." "Never trust a man who owns a Chubby Brown collection." "When I was on holiday in Greece, I was mistaken for one of The Proclaimers." "How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb? Some obscure number you've never heard of." "I was asked to describe myself in three words. I said Highly Efficient." And he read out a letter from "Jay, aged 36" which ended up in Jay's possession, so you might have to ask him for details of the contents. Ian kept referring to Crackerjack, and got the reply accordingly. "I thought you might have been too young and orderly to know what to do," said Ian. "All these memories," he continued. "We've got XTC coming up next."

This was top form from The Humdrum Express. We'll have to make our minds up about that album launch gig. Thanks also for handing over a set list (handwritten) before he had even started playing. His songs were as follows...

Copy Cats
Double Edged Swords
Curse Of The Modern Musician
Lookalike Bond
Motivational Wall Art
Online Beer Club
Leopard Print Onesie
End Of Part One
The Day My Career Died

Sally was at her first gig for a while. We were catching up when Rocking Robin struck up again. It was the Dobby Day version, according to Tony. Rocking Robin faded away and was replaced by Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto (thanks again to Tony for the info). The music was the perfect accompaniment to watching Nigel trying to untangle his guitar lead, before plugging in. Tshirt news was that Karl was in a Bite Back number. And Neil was in a Count Arthur Strong shirt. On stage water was courtesy of Font Hill. Well, I suppose it was actually courtesy of the venue.

"That was written by Tchaikovsky," said Nigel, "And this is a song written by Jeff Blockley," he added, before the set opened with She's In Broadstairs. (Jeff Blockley was mentioned again, later in the show. Seemingly, Faithlift is about him.) We were told that CORGI Registered Friends is a true story. As usual in the live environment, that one featured an admirable whistling interlude by Neil.

There was an exchange between Nigel and Postman Tony, who had messed up his shout for God Gave Us Life. A fine example of how not to heckle, Nigel suggested. And Nigel complimented Postman Tony on his Dukla Prague top. One day that would be found under his stairs, along with the George Foreman grill.

Renfield's Afoot was said to be a true story. After Terminus, Denise Lewis was spotted in the crowd. Nigel reckoned that she always liked to keep a low profile at gigs in the past. But now that Katarina Johnson-Thompson has become successful, Denise wants to be recognised. Nigel talked about the band's route to the gig. It was M53, M56 and M6. "Much better than taking the A41, where you get stuck behind a tractor," he added.

Nigel poked around in the carrier bag that he brought with him onto stage. Normally he is in there to grab a packet of crisps. But this time it was for the capo for his guitar. "Everything in there is essential," he pointed out. Nigel pondered out load about the meaning of the word "capo". Possibly with the help of Google, Tony came up with a translation from the Italian. "Head of the fretboard."

I'm afraid I lost the thread of a conversation about Crossroads. Jim Baines (played by John Forgeham) and Sharon Metcalf's shenanigans. Producers Hazel Adair and Peter Ling got a mention. Someone shouted Benny, but Nigel thought that was a bit cliched. Nigel forgot the opening line to Monmore. It came to him eventually. And there was another verbal mix-up at the beginning of Time Flies By. There were also a couple of occasions when the strap of his guitar came loose. If he's on your Christmas list, that could be an idea for a pressie. When not busy with the strap, Nigel noticed that Neil was playing Autosuggestion by Joy Division.

Nigel said he had been working on a film about vegan cannibals. They won't eat apples, but they will eat humans. One scene involves two of them eating a clown. One says to the other "Does this taste funny to you?". There was a shout of "12th December" which initially puzzled Nigel. He said that McVities are likely to bring out a new biscuit, "The Brexit Bar", probably made from marshmallow and chocolate. Having correctly stated that marshmallow is a plant, Nigel was disappointed to be reminded that chocolate is also derived from a plant.

During the Meadow Of Consolation part of Tending The Wrong Grave, Nigel's response to Karl's guitar work was "I didn't expect to hear the sound of the M6". Karl's skill extended to the sound of a glebe cow drooling, which earned him a round of applause.

Thanks again to Tony for providing the title of the song that preceded Vatican Broadside. It was Fuck All The Perfect People by Chip Taylor.

Nigel reprised a couple of jokes. The one about going to an Indonesian restaurant and having the pelican curry. "The food was OK, but the bill was massive." And also the one about the manager of the local cinema dying recently. His funeral is on Tuesday at 1.30, 5.15 and 7.45."

When drawn into a conversation about cycling up the hills in North Wales, Nigel suggested "We should just do a separate show about that." And he expressed doubt about the Dexy's Midnight Runners appearance on Top Of The Pops, where they performed Jackie Wilson Said, with a picture of Jocky Wilson in the background. I must have imagined it then. He said that his favourite Scottish darts player from that era was Rab Smith.

In the encore, Nigel suggested that they start We Built This Village "like the Eagles". He counted in "Two-Three-Four." So that's how they do it. At the end of the show there was a swift catch up with Mike, and farewell to others before we went outside to find burgers on sale. That's a new sideline for the venue. We declined though. We were back to our room in preparation for a trip to the Oblong Of Dreams the day after. Thanks to Karl for the set list which enabled comparison with what was actually played.

She's In Broadstairs
CORGI Registered Friends
Bob Wilson - Anchorman
Renfield's Afoot
Ode To Joyce
What Made Colombia Famous
Monmore, Hare's Running
Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
Floreat Inertia
Vatican Broadside
A Lilac Harry Quinn
Joy Division Oven Gloves
Urge For Offal
The Trumpton Riots
National Shite Day
For What Is Chatteris
Gubba Lookalikes
Busy Little Market Town
Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Mod. Diff. V Diff. Hard Severe
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Everything's AOR

And in the encore they did

We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
What Do I Get?
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Every Time A Bell Rings

That was all exactly the same as Karl's list, with one exception. Fred Titmus must have been a late addition, as it doesn't appear on the list.

We headed in a northwesterly direction the following morning. Graham Le Taxi picked us up from Lime Street station and very kindly took us on a tour of the Wirral, particularly taking in sites linked with HMHB songs, and some things which were not linked at all. In no particular order we saw the studio (Vulcan) where HMHB recorded Back In The DHSS, Probe Plus HQ, Boaty McBoatface, the twenty-four hour garage, Umberstone Covert, John Peel's home village, Royden Park, Tranmere Rovers' ground (complete with an early picture of HMHB - the one in the dugout), and the phone box which Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark immortalised in Red Frame / White Light. This was all above and beyond the call of duty from Graham. In addition, thanks for the album, purchased from the Air Ambulance charity shop. You Came Into My Life by Roger Green. Worth every penny, I'm sure. All I need now is to find a record player that works. Ta also for the lift to The Band-Its gig in the evening. This is one of our Karl's other bands. They were playing at Stanley's Cask in New Brighton. We were staying just down the road at a Travelodge with a panoramic view of the city lights of Liverpool. From one full house in Bilston to another one here. Although I would argue that Stanley's Cask is considerably smaller than the Robin 2. Rather than summarise their songs as "a bit punky", it is probably best to list their whole set. It was actually two sets.

The first part was

In A Rut
Something Better Change
Eton Rifles
What Do I Get?
London Calling
Brand New Cadillac
Sound Of The Suburbs
Babylon's Burning
Jimmy Jimmy
Down At The Doctor's
Pump It Up
Hey Joe

The second half was

New Rose
Neat Neat Neat
Going Underground
In The City
20th Century Boy
Hell Raiser
Jilted John
Swords Of A Thousand Men
London Lady
No More Heroes
God Save The Queen
Pretty Vacant
English Civil War
Go Buddy Go
Teenage Kicks
My Perfect Cousin
Ever Fallen In Love

And Hurry Up Harry in the encore.

This was a fine night out. Eighty-three miles from home and I knew more people in there than if I'd gone up to my local. Big thanks to Karl, and big Hellos to Postman Tony, Nigel/Exford, Marc and Becki from The Webb, Becki's sister (Sian?), Nigel, Denise and Aimi and all the bar staff who kept tapping me on the shoulder because I was blocking their route to the cellar. I felt like we were old friends by the end of the evening. Nigel recommended his mate's café, Caffe Cream on the front in New Brighton. We were there for breakfast the morning after. Bacon, mushroom and scrambled egg on toast. Top quality.

Later on we saw Postman Tony on the train back to Liverpool. Re-fill coffees at the Wetherspoons at Lime Street station, and we were onto the train back east. This was a grand few days. Already looking forward to the Oxford show.