The Welly, Hull, Fri 24th Jan 2020 (26/01/20)

Roger Green:

In one of many idle moments towards the end of 2019, Karen and I gave not much consideration to our year-end awards. Our best HMHB gig was actually the final one, in Oxford at the end of November. Almost certainly because it was the most recent in the memory. By the same token, the Hull gig is the best one in 2020. At least until they rock up in Northampton in February.

Best gig (non-HMHB) could have gone to any number of recipients. The Chats, The Chesterfields and Edwyn Collins were all on fine form when we saw them. Sometimes the HMHB mosh pit can get a bit pushy and shovey, but it was put to shame by The Chats' followers. There were a number of signs in and around the hall. I quote. "Please refrain from Circle Pits, Walls Of Death, Crowd Surfing and Drink Throwing. They are dangerous and can cause harm." Pretty much all of that was ignored. There was more crowd surfing inside the first minute at the Chats show than I've witnessed in all my time seeing HMHB. I remember a guy in a Tranmere shirt doing this at the gig in Kendal, but I don't recall anything before or since. The Chats' guitarist and drummer also jumped into the mosh, with members of the support band replacing them on stage. That may be something for Karl and Carl to consider. Carl should also note how their drummer also jumped from the balcony onto the stage when they returned for the encore.

But for Best Sing-a-long Gig Of The Year, it's hard to look past The Wurzels, when they were in Leeds in August. Best album goes to Edwyn, because it's just about the only one I bought this year. Best film? Same quandary. Not seen many. We'll share it between a documentary about The Wedding Present, and Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You. Best book was Rob Dee's Wanna Buy A Record?, dealing with the whys and wherefores of running a record company in Wakefield. Like you do.

On 6 Music, Radcliffe And Maconie didn't quite get it right when they asked Goldie to pick the tracks on their First, Last, Everything feature. One of his choices was a Judy Tzuke track. With reference to When The Evening Sun Goes Down, the song should have taken us up to the news. But this was played afterwards. They can do better than that, and often do.

I don't really do spring cleaning. Or summer or autumn or winter. The nearest I get is to browse through bags full of stuff which I should have thrown away years previously. That is how I came across a copy of Backbeat, a listings magazine based in Leeds. I can remember similar operations called Sandman and Panic, but I don't recall this, which I must have picked up from the counter at Jumbo Records during some or other expedition into the city. The mag covered the period from November 1998 to January 1999 and had a preview of HMHB's show at The Duchess on 27th November. I hope Tez won't mind me copying his article.

"With the release of their seventh album, Birkenhead bards Half Man Half Biscuit are Four Lads Who Shook The Wirral. It's good to see that Nigel and the boys have lost none of their wit and perception over the years, as well as picking up the ability to play a few chords. The songs are the usual selection of keenly observed vignettes, and unlike most of what passes for satire these days, manage to hit the target every time. Oh, and you can mosh to them."

"Highlights: Four Skinny Indie Kids, probably the funniest song ever written about spotty guitar bands, and Ready Steady Goa, where 'Mr Leary' is rhymed with 'Pint Of Beery'. But the prize this time goes to Turn A Blind Eye, based on Pastor Niemoeller's famous poem. It features the line 'Then they came for Eamonn Holmes / And I applauded.' You'll have to hear it for full effect."

"While Four Lads is as a rule rather more restrained than their previous effort, the hilarious Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road, it's still a quintessential Biccies album. And Biccies albums being what they are, there's always the odd question which arises from their acute observations, honed from years of daytime TV, obscure LPs and Tranmere Rovers games. This time round it's What Does Mariella Frostrup Actually Do? Worth the price of admission alone, methinks. These Biscuits will never go stale."

Tez missed a bit from the line about Eamonn Holmes, but no matter. In the magazine, next to the article is a picture of Carl, Ken, Nigel and Neil taken by "Tony". A great feature. Very interesting to see a perspective on the band from way back when.

I've not spotted much mention of HMHB round and about. The line in Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train came to mind when I heard Radcliffe And Maconie play Careful With That Axe Eugene by Pink Floyd on their show. I had read about it, but had never heard the Floyd track before. It's all grist to the mill, but I can't see me racing out to the shops to track it down.

Seeing Paul Zenon guesting on Countdown in a Ramones tshirt reminded me of a comment from Nigel at a gig in the past. Nigel had wondered out loud about people wearing such clothing. If you were to ask them about the fifth track from the third album, would they know what you were talking about? Mind you, if somebody asked me that about HMHB, it might take me a while to think of the answer. And even then I would be wrong.

In other news, it's good to hear that The Humdrum Express have an impending CD release. It features a full band, although Ian the frontman often appears on his own when supporting HMHB (in the past at The Robin, Bilston.) Ultracrepidarian Soup is out on Cynical Thrills Records. Available in good record shops, and probably some bad ones. And I'm sure there is some way of obtaining it over the internet, or by some other modern means. You can already find a video of the opening song, Motivational Wall Art. Hopefully The Humdrum Express will get a gig with HMHB some time soon, so that we can hear the songs played live. The King Of Spain? Isn't that Ashley Giles?

I also note that Peter Ross has a book out later in the year. Peter came to a HMHB gig in Holmfirth a few years back, and an article on The Biscuiteers followed in The Big Issue. The title of the book is A Tomb With A View. Please note, it looks like you have to be under the soil if you want to get a mention. More on that to follow in due course.

A relatively local gig meant that I didn't have to jump out of bed quite so early. Plenty of time to stroll to my barber's. A very pleasant conversation there, as usual, on this occasion centring around the merits of going out for a curry on Christmas Day. "No washing up," she noted. I even had time to call for a sausage butty at the local café. Here there was a discussion about local folk who had died during the year. Maybe some will make it into Peter's book.

The journey to these gigs often takes in Fitzwilliam station. For the off peak trains, Northern Rail are generous enough to provide roughly one carriage per passenger. That got me to Doncaster. I had time to call at The Leopard, where I pondered over the location of The Outlook, the scene of a Sex Pistols show back in '77. It's not there anymore, seemingly swallowed up by the Frenchgate Centre. My mate Alan was at the gig, and described it as being near the railway station. One day I'll find out for sure.

Back at the train station, Platform 8 saw the arrival of the Hull train. Karen was already on board, and off we went, calling at Goole and Brough. As you do when visiting a port, we called at Nandos for lunch. This was close to the Travelodge where we were staying. Tony was also staying there, and arrived at the same time as us. Once inside, Karen was good enough to do the papers review. We had Metro, The Yorkshire Post and Hull Daily Mail. Not a breath in any of them on the HMHB show. Actually we also had The Pontefract And Castleford Express with us. There wasn't anything in there either.

There was much confusion over the opening time at The Welly. The tickets for the show specifically said 6.30, but word had got round that it would be 7.30. There was only one way to find out for sure. We were not far from the venue when we met Matt, who had already cased the joint. The big wooden gates were locked. So, 7.30 it would be. Just an hour to kill. Plenty of other folk turned up for a 6.30 opening, so by the time the bolts were pulled back on the gates, there was a veritable bus queue heading up the road.

Brian was another early arrival, and like many others headed for the pub, rather than hang around. We also met Carl who had sneaked out from backstage and was heading for Al Pacinos pizza shop across the road. I didn't catch the name of the guy with him, but he seemed to be in an official capacity, taking a particular interest in the discrepancy with the opening time. Mates from my locality, Katherine and Karl walked past, also on their way for pre-gig food. John, Elizabeth, Graham, Sarah, Andrew and Postman Tony were all in the bus queue when the gates were opened.

First port of call was to have a chat with Miles on the merchandise stall. I was interested to note a major advancement in the workings of the HMHB empire. The stall now accepts credit card payments. I was there to witness the first transaction. This really was akin to the moon landings. Birkenhead, there was a problem. The system cut out. Miles looked towards the wall. The connection was not connecting. He tapped a few numbers into the device. Information Technology is not my strong point. I didn't really understand what was going on. But I agreed with the comment from the customer. "Technology hates humanity," he said. He's not far wrong. The situation was solved by Miles saving the guy's purchases behind the counter, and they would complete the transaction "later". I had a gig to attend, and was unable to follow this mini-drama as it unfolded. I caught up with Miles at the end of the night. All was good. I'll get the details of the solution next time I see him. But I'm pleased to report that Probe Plus is now operating in the twenty-first century. I'll catch up one day.

Out in the hall, I took up my place at the front with Karen, Tony, Andrew and Matt, pausing only to note and be impressed by the chap in the hi vis coat with the word "Insecurity" on the back. Neil popped round to say Hello. Bearing in mind Tranmere's recent success (beating Watford in a FA Cup replay), I asked him if he was going to their match in the next round, against Manchester United. Sadly Neil had had to give his ticket away, as he was having to work on the day of the match.

Dogminder were the support for the second gig running, having finished off 2019 in Oxford. Did I write this last time? They distinctly remind me of an American duo called Schwervon from a few years ago. That is a compliment. Quirky and listenable. Just don't ask me to explain that. It would have been nice to hear their reading of She's In Broadstairs again, although we don't have long to wait for HMHB's rendition. Understandably, there appears to be a bit of jostling for the support at these shows. I hope that Dogminder can get to the top of the pile again soon.

I wish the interval music had been louder. I'm sure I heard Rescue by Echo And The Bunnymen and Spike Milligan's Tape Recorder by The Membranes. But I was able to catch up with Paul who had seen The Skids play a home town gig in Dunfermline. He was also holding his breath on the night of the gig while The Pars were bringing an unbeaten run to the end by turning Dundee over. More football chat with Nigel and Jo. I had clocked Goole's football ground when the train passed through their home town. Nigel said that Dean Windass had become chairman of the club. It lasted twelve days. After that, I just had time to exchange nods with Mike, Lee and Andy, and to waft away the smoke machine output, before HMHB entered the stage.

Thanks to Tony for identifying the walk-on music, being Hal-An-Tow, sung by local folk music royalty The Watersons. Nigel was straight in with a celebrity spot, pointing out Jeff Hemmerman, a Hull City favourite from the 1970s. A couple of clothing notes. Carl was wearing a Palestine football shirt, while Karl's t-shirt was "Tripping In The Elizabethan Sense", referring to Moon Wiring Club. The following morning, Karen and I listened to one of their tracks. It's not easy listening.

There was a note from Nigel from the band's journey to the show. "We went to Hartshead Moor services. We only stopped for a piss. It's freezing up there. I had to put my hood up." There were a couple of false starts with the songs. Nigel had forgotten to put his guitar on for the start of Baguette Dilemma. Renfield's Afoot was rather shambolic. "He's no Richard Thompson, is he?" said Nigel, pointing to Neil, although it must be said the vocals in that song were also mixed up. "True story!" he added.

"Anyone in from Hessle?" asked Nigel. "Or Summergangs?" And then he asked if anyone was in from Baltimore. There was no reply. "Told you," he said to Karl. Nigel also said that we should never trust anyone who removes their bath, and replaces it with a shower. "We all like a David Gower, but we also like a Felix Magath," he continued. Is that official rhyming slang? Nigel remembered having a bath on Sunday afternoons while listening to Sing Something Simple. There was a little discussion over that programme. Nigel thought it featured The Mike Sammes Singers, but Tony corrected him, saying that it was actually The Cliff Adams Singers. "You gave me a dirty look of Oh So Wrong," added Nigel. Having given it due consideration, later Tony told me that actually The Mike Sammes Singers may have taken over when The Cliff Adams Singers left the show.

A couple of Nigel's old jokes were featured tonight. "What does DNA stand for? National Association of Dyslexics." The other one stemmed from Nigel noticing that the chap in the crowd right in front of him was wearing a number of badges. One of these was of a cat. Nigel told us about his own cat called Norris, adopted from a neighbour who moved house. Nigel said that he was telling his mate about Norris, and about how the cat buries his own shit. The neighbour said that there was nothing special about a cat doing that. But Nigel noted that Norris uses a shovel to do so.

"Here's one from yesteryear," Nigel announced, ahead of Dickie Davies Eyes. There was a shout for Do Y'Ken Ted Moult which led to an impromptu performance of the first verse. Nigel gave up after that. "It's been a long while," he said, but added "...And in a similar vein," before they played Look Dad No Tunes.

Nigel wished a happy birthday to Nick and Howie. Nigel said that he himself shared his birthday with WG Grace and Nelson Mandella. Howie replied that he was born on the same day that Winston Churchill had died. There was one single shout of "What did God give us, Neil?" Nigel spoke out front, addressing the "desk"."I don't mind the smoke machine, or dry ice, but I'm a potential epileptic, so please go easy on the lights."

Tony asked if Nigel was going to Tranmere's game against Manchester United. Nigel talked about the match against Watford the night before. "When it went to extra-time, I thought the tide was going to come in. Everybody was talking about the money from playing Manchester United. It's all about the finance, not the romance. It's not Hereford v Newcastle or Colchester v Leeds". After Vatican Broadside, he said "I can sing that on Monday." He also sang a song which comes from the Tranmere end when the opposition claim they are a bunch of Scousers. (Thanks to Gomez for providing the words. At least this is his version of the song.) "Don't be mistaken and don't be misled / We are not Scousers, we're from Birkenhead / You can fuck your cathedrals and your pier head/ We are not Scousers, we're from Birkenhead / Birkenhead la la la" As a proviso, Nigel added "It's a wonderful city though. I'll grant you that."

There was another false start when it came to We Built This Village. "We'll play it together, like The Eagles," Nigel suggested to Karl. After Dukla Prague, Nigel said that he owned Striker. He also adapted a football game, based on tiddlywinks, and played on a sheet of hardboard. Pitch marked out with a Berol marker pen. Different teams had different coloured tiddlywinks. For example, West Ham (featuring Pop Robson) had the claret ones, while Hull City with the amber ones and Jeff Hemmerman and Roger De Vries in their team, went on a long unbeaten run. The game was ruined one day, when it was left out in the rain. During the course of that story, we got an interesting insight into Neil's younger days. While Nigel was playing Striker, Neil had Total Control Racing.

When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Nigel fielded a shout for Blue Badge Abuser ("We ought to do that one"), and a request for Freebird. He also wondered about the possibility of playing Paradise By The Dashboard Light and/or Spectre Versus Rector. I'm sure they could segway one into the other if they really tried. After Bob Wilson Anchorman, Nigel added "great goalkeeper, mind". There was some very, very token Ian Curtis dancing during She's Lost Control. Nigel needs to work on that.

The evening went like this:

She's In Broadstairs
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Baguette Dilemma For The Booker Prize Guy
Renfield's Afoot
Ode To Joyce
What Made Colombia Famous
Dickie Davies Eyes
(A portion of) D'Ye Ken Ted Moult
Look Dad No Tunes
Totnes Bickering Fair
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
Petty Sessions
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Old Age Killed My Teenage Bride
Shit Arm Bad Tattoo
For What Is Chatteris?
National Shite Day
Floreat Inertia
Vatican Broadside
Every Time A Bell Rings
Them's The Vagaries
Joy Division Oven Gloves
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
The Trumpton Riots

And in the encore:

Bob Wilson Anchor Man
She's Lost Control
Everything's AOR

Thanks to Karl for the set list. Examination shows that Look Dad No Tunes and Totnes Bickering Fair swapped places. As mentioned, Ted Moult was not originally planned. Nor was Fred Titmus, which was preceded by Nigel going round the rest of the band, suggesting that they play it.

We headed straight back to our digs straight after the show. It was a "late" show, i.e. 11 o'clock finish. We weren't really minded to have a beer. Andrew had a fair walk back to the Premier Inn on the east side of the river. As I type this twenty-four hours later, he may just about have got there. On the Saturday we got the train to Leeds. Postman Tony was on board. We shared tales of the punk bands that none of us got to see. He stopped on the train, heading to Manchester. We had an appointment at Leeds Town Hall with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Thought they might have gone to the expense of a t-shirt stall. No such luck.