We had many musical manoeuvres planned between the show in Bristol in March 2020 and this one (everything is relative). It began the night after the Bristol gig, when we were at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds to see Mush, fresh from a live performance on The Marc Riley Show on 6 Music. They were flogging their new album, 3D Routine.
The week after we were over to Selby Town Hall for a show by Pete Wylie. In with his big hits was a version of Johnny Thunders' You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory, as also covered on a previous occasion by HMHB. And on the way out, we saw a chap wearing a Dukla Prague home shirt. Ominous signs. Coronavirus was taking hold. The country was about to take a gig break. This proved to be our last live show of any sort for a while. And it would be the last sighting of a HMHB shirt for some time. The listings started to tumble. Scheduled performances in Ulverston, Durham and Nottingham were all tucked away into 2021. The Ulverston one, it turned out, was never to return. And when the Leeds one (originally lined up for November 2020) was also shoved back, then we were left with a totally blank year. And so it went on and went on. Our gig drought was eventually broken in June 2021 when we saw The Lodger and Crake play at Balne Lane Club in Wakefield. Some four hundred and fifty-five sleeps after the Wylie show. Sat down and distanced, though. No moshing just yet, thank you ladies and gentlemen.
As the summer went on, sport started to return. But football and horse racing in front of empty stands was no good to me. Neither was the continuing cancellation of gigs. Birmingham and Blackpool went by the by, pushed into 2021. And then subsequently into 2022.
In the midst of sports grounds being closed to paying spectators, a plot was hatched by Chris to have a load of Gubba cardboard cutouts at the Tranmere v Southend match. We contributed. We had hoped that they would still be evident when Tranmere featured in an FA Cup match a couple of months later. No such luck. Ah well.
What a treat to see a bothy on the Knoydart featured on Springwatch. September came and went. There was a reminder that this was the tenth anniversary of Dean Friedman's appearance on stage with HMHB at The Robin 2 in Bilston. A particular highlight of watching this band all these years was the encore that night. Dean sang his own song about Nigel Blackwell and stayed on stage to join in on The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman.
Going towards Christmas, it was clear that a number of the 2021 shows were being pushed back into 2022. However, I was happy to see that Frome has been added to the list of forthcoming gigs. A fine town with a fine venue. I wonder if there will be a Wurzels tribute act supporting again. There was a bumper Christmas edition of The Big Issue. It had a feature on Liverpool-based spoken-word artist Roy. One of the stories in his collection, Algorithm Party, is entitled Paintball's Coming Home. A coincidence, or a fan of the band? The same magazine had a feature on David Byrne of Talking Heads. He came out with this line, "I have collaborated with so many people and learned from each one. I have worked with Brian Eno on and off for decades and each time is different."
The lockdown was not a complete waste of time. It's a very spurious link to HMHB, but I discovered that Medicine Head (back in the day) released an album with the title Dark Side Of The Moon, about a year before Pink Floyd's arguably better known effort. And also, just a thought... Is Matt Hancock related to Ken Hancock? Another discovery was that D Lister Paul Ross presents a programme in the wee small hours on Talk Sport. Ring in and raise the topic of fridge freezers.
It was bound to happen at some point. The band has only ever had one manager. Mr Davies. All good things must come to an end. Geoff's appearance at gigs had been more and more sporadic, and his retirement was made public in July 2021. I don't know many people who saw The Beatles play live. And he certainly saw them more than any of the others. Happy retirement, Geoff, man.
At that time it had looked like Blackpool in October would be the first show, post-lockdown. But then that one toppled as well, and was re-arranged for 2022. So another few weeks of suffering. Although we were fed the scraps of an appearance on The Andy Kershaw Podcast. This surfaced early in August having been recorded the week before in Andy's kitchen. The songs were What Made Colombia Famous, When I Look At My Baby, Totnes Bickering Fair and after a short break the band came back with I'm Getting Buried In The Morning and a fine cover of X-Ray Spex's Germ Free Adolescence. Or is it "Adolescents"? Investigations proved inconclusive. The Kershaw recording also included discussion about what happens now that Geoff has retired, and the possibilities of a new album at some point.
Another new song emerged at the beginning of September as part of The Leftbank Soundtrack, "an animated music walk in Birkenhead". Frequent Electric Trains, as quoted on the building of the town's railway station. A bit of melancholy is never out of place. There seemed to be a paraphrasing of Captain Beefheart towards the end of the song. It sounded like "Ice cream for Quo" to us, which prompted us to play Beefheart's Ice Cream For Crow.
We noticed it was Bob Wilson Anchorman's 80th birthday at the end of October, shortly before HMHB returned to action. Happy belated birthday, Bob.
A couple of weeks before the Holmfirth gig, HMHB appeared on the Gideon Coe show on 6 Music. This was from a live appearance in 1998 at The Royal Festival Hall, as part of John Peel's Meltdown. Pun intended? The songs played were listed as Secret Gig, Running Order Squabble Fest, Four Skinny Indie Kids, Bad Review and 4AD3DCD. A good way of preparing for the return of their live music. But Gid got it wrong here. "Secret Gig" was actually A Shropshire Lad. And at the end of the concert, they sneaked in the last bit of Yipps (My Baby's Got The).
Came the day. Holmfirth here we come. It's one of the few venues that is easier by car than by public transport. So we tootled through the drizzle along the A645, A636 and A635, taking in Sandal (Asda already pulled out with pre-Christmas shoppers), Scissett, Denby Dale and New Mill without an "s" at the end.
There is no better gig hotel than The Old Bridge, being a matter of feet from the Picturedrome. We were parked up in good time to visit the Daisy Lane bookshop. Some places never change. Fortunately. A quid bought me Cricket Is My Life by Len Hutton. From there, Karen and I moved on to the Magic Rock bar where we had a Yorkshire Sharing Board, known in some quarters as Ploughman's Lunch. Yum. The feast continued at the Holme Coffee House with tea and cake ahead of an afternoon of lazing around. We were still not used to this gigging lark.
Having stocked up with fish and chips from the excellent shop on Hollowgate, where we had bumped into Andrew, we spent time trying to earwig the band's soundcheck from afar. I may have heard Neil playing the bass line to Shadowplay. Then there was Carl testing out the drums, and Karl, Nigel and Neil all giving it "One-Two-One-Two-One-Two-One-Two" over their microphones. They all came together for a rendition of A Lilac Harry Quinn. Hearing that, folks... For me, HMHB live, that was normality back with us. They followed with When The Evening Sun Goes Down. And then Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss. At which point some bugger shut the hall door, so the sound became more muffled. But that seemed to be the end of it in any case.
The press review was limited to The Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Not a whisper about this show. So I turned to the back page, as you do. Huddersfield Town's finances are "fine" and the club is "not for sale". You read it here first. Unless you also got the paper.
We faced up to the short walk to the Picturedrome entrance. We were in good time for the 7.30 opening of the doors. Already ahead of us in the queue were Andrew, Brian, Tony and Graham and Sarah. Great to see everyone again after so long. Brian did my trick - left his ticket in his room. Good job it wasn't in his other trousers back at home.
When the doors opened, we were down to the front of the hall. I could see Miles at the shop and went to say Hello, not knowing that a new t-shirt was in stock. It's available in white and details an aerosol spraying the words "Half Man Half Biscuit". The can contains the warning "Use Only As Directed". A clue to a future release, one might venture? Or maybe just securing a bit of business ahead of Christmas? I also invested in the CD by tonight's support act The Stepford Wives. Had the briefest of chats with their singer. I established that the band is from Saddleworth. If you need to know anything else about them, you'll have to ask them yourself.
More arrivals at the gig were Nigel and Jo from Goole, and Katherine and Karl. Postman Tony was there, and I saw Mike through the crowd. Daz and Howie made their customary appearance just before HMHB hit the stage. Daz announced that he was going to see Pontefract Collieries F.C. play on his way home on the Saturday. Mr and Mrs Exford also appeared. As did Graham Le Taxi. John appeared to have a king of hi vis rival, but went above and beyond by now adopting a hi vis facemask as well as his waistcoat. Trousers next time? And boots maybe?
The Stepford Wives had the same set-up as HMHB, i.e. guitarist on vocals, lead guitarist to his right, bass player to his left, and drummer behind him. There were some floppy fringes on display and Karen felt there was a bit of Harry Potter in the way the drummer looked. They were a bit rockie, a bit indie, it goes down nicely. Ta to the guitarist for the set list.They Never End Old Enough Better Way DMM WY Another Number Pineapple All The Things
HMHB's appearance was at a touch after nine o'clock. Way past our normal bedtime, particularly during lockdown. The walk-on music was My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) by Neil Young - this being Young's birthday, according to Tony, who handed Nigel a bundle of CDs. Nigel made a big play of cleansing his hands after shaking hands with other folk in the front row. Karl was sporting a snazzy Moon Wiring Club tshirt. The others were in plainer tops.
After twenty months, we might have wondered about what their first song might be. They have opened up many times with The Light At The End Of The Tunnel. That would have been one of the favourites. But I didn't expect Renfield's Afoot, welcome though it was. Nigel had a new guitar in, it must be said, Manchester City colours. It helps if you plug the thing in, of course. After a couple of songs, he finally got that sorted out. Nigel mentioned calling at some Services on the way to the gig, but I didn't catch the name.
There was a shout for "Anything from Godcore!" The band then played an improvised opening to one such song, and a bit of conversation with the guy who had shouted the request. "It's Fear My Wraith, not Feel My Wrath," clarified Nigel. Later he said that this venue, when it was a cinema, was the first place in Britain to show moving pictures. And he wheeled out the old one about when the manager died in 1982. There was a procession round town, and the funeral was at 1.15, 4.20 and 7.30. (Might not have got the times right there.)
Ahead of When The Evening Sun Goes Down, Nigel said "This was originally called What's The Point, Maureen, done in 1974 by Ed Hennessy's Thought Process." He also gave us a bit of Duane Eddy's Peter Gunn. "I played that in the shop, to test the guitar out."
"Knock knock... Knock knock... Knock knock... Knock knock... Who's there?... Philip Glass." No, me neither. Something to do with minimalism.
Nigel mentioned How Green Is My Valley, and said that when he and Neil were at film college, they went to Butlins at Pwllheli to make a film called How Clean Is My Chalet. A whopping lie? Nigel mimed an extended nose like Pinocchio. When introducing Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss, he said "I quite like this one, actually."
Whenever Nigel used to go to a Fancy Dress party, he would go as his mate. No need to dress up. Dickie Davies Eyes was said to be "about a man with a Mallen streak". And What Made Colombia Famous is "about loads of people that I know, and loads of people that you know." That one was preceded by a snippet of Black Night. And from looking at Karl's set list, which he kindly handed over, this was a late addition.
Tony nudged me and said "I can't believe I've got a philosophy degree, yet I enjoy singing along to There Is Nothing Better In Life Than Writing On The Sole Of Your Slipper With A Biro On A Saturday Night Instead Of Going To The Pub." This band gets you like that, mate.
Nigel was asked "Are you going to win the FA Cup?" He chose to answer in the first person. "Am I going to win the FA Cup? Well, yeah, I beat Leyton Orient in the First Round and I'm hoping some of the Premier League clubs are going to put out weakened teams." He also related a story from the 1977 FA Cup final, won by Manchester United, who were captained by Martin Buchan. As they were watching this, his Dad said to him as faux commentary "And Buchan climbs the Thirty-Nine steps to receive the FA Cup."
Joy Division Oven Gloves was originally by Lord somebody or other. Didn't catch the name, I'm afraid. Nor did the many other folk that I asked. Hosanna, the jazz snobs are all going home. "Yeah, but I'm one of them," said Nigel. He was going to open a jazz pub with a Jack Teagarden. And he told us about Alf Roberts and his Therapy Leopard in Bulawayo, one of the deleted scenes from Coronation Street.
During Footprints, it was a shame that the boy had risen at mid-day, as he had missed his favourites, Homes Under The Hammer and The Sheriffs Are Coming. He was particularly upset at missing Homes Under The Hammer as he had noticed lately that Martin Roberts appeared to be going through some marital strife i.e. looking scruffy. In fact, it looks like he has covered himself in glue and rolled around in a skip before presenting the programme.
Before Look Dad No Tunes, Nigel reached into his top pocket for a small package. A couple of guys had approached him earlier in the day, having travelled from Glasgow. Their mate Francis had got them into HMHB in the 1980s. Sadly Francis had passed away and clearly couldn't be at the gig although, as Nigel said, a little bit of him was there. Nigel scattered his ashes on the stage while the crowd gave three cheers for Francis. Touching.
Exemplary drumming from Carl in Irk The Purists, and Nigel knelt and bowed down to Carl during What Do I Get?
There was some impressive on-stage high-kicking during Restless Legs. I spotted that Neil still has his "arshall" amp. And Nigel came back for the encore with his caravan guitar. I didn't note which song, but we had an example of Nigel shuffling across the stage on his knees. Always a highlight. Here is how the evening went.Renfield's Afoot Terminus Bob Wilson Anchorman Sealclubbing Joy In Leeuwarden When The Evening Sun Goes Down Asparagus Next Left A Lilac Harry Quinn Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss Dickie Davies Eyes Vatican Broadside Surging Out Of Convalescence What Made Colombia Famous Look Dad No Tunes The Best Things In Life (end bit) Joy Division Oven Gloves National Shite Day Irk The Purists Footprints Everything's AOR Restless Legs 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 Ninety-Nine Per Cent Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd
And for the encoreEvery Time A Bell Rings What Do I Get? The Trumpton Riots
Worth noting here that "Bob Todd" was not on Karl's list. Maybe a last-minute addition, or maybe Nigel just didn't write it down. And that was it. Official. HMHB are back in action. And not long before they are back at it. A fortnight, and they are on stage in Frome. A few of us were stopping next door at The Old Bridge. There was quite a gathering at breakfast. Thanks to Karen, Tony, Postman Tony and John for helping out with the notes. At this summit meeting, it was noted that there was a "D" on Nigel's guitar. Karen then did some research and identified it as a Duesenberg, with Tony suggesting it was a Starplayer model.
Hello to George who was leaving as we arrived for breakfast. And I understand from John that Phil and Karen from Wigan are after me. In a good way, I hope.