You forget how it goes with the impending arrival of new product. I'm Getting Buried In The Morning and When I Look At My Baby appeared in Andy Kershaw's kitchen in the distant days of 2021. And Awkward Sean was given a live outing. But what about the CD itself? The Voltarol Years appeared on doormats around the end of February. So, what to make of it? The general feeling is that this is more reflective, rather than being filled with jocularity. I can live with that. Sometimes it can be a decade or more before you are hit by the subtleties of these songs. But I was immediately struck by Midnight Mass Murder. A live favourite if ever there was one, complete with chanting and pointing. In Beneath This Broken Headstone there is reference to Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy's Ah! Sweet Mystery Of Life. A favourite of my parents. And what of Oblong Of Dreams? There were tears in the passenger seat when we played that (others on Chris's site said they were "emotional" and "nearly lost it" during this song). That's how music can get you. I suspect that that one would have been a big hitter in John Peel's Festive Fifty, if the great man was still around.
It was 1979 when I took my English Literature O Level. At the time I was more bothered with the wordy offerings from the likes of Paul Weller and Joe Strummer. If only Oblong Of Dreams had been on the syllabus, instead of The Power And The Glory and Grey's Elegy.. well, who knows? Maybe I would have ended up with a doctorate of literature instead of being a dozy office boy writing this gubbins. It's a bit of a shame that Frequent Electric Trains couldn't make it onto the album. But maybe the recording of that was slightly outside regular HMHB business.
I doubt he'll be reading this, but thanks to my mate Legal Tony for letting me see an article from The Cricketer magazine. This was an interview with Nigel, going through his interest in the game and career highlights, bowling left-handed, batting right-handed, and a spot of wicket-keeping. You might not be surprised by this, particularly if you bring to mind the line in Them's The Vagaries, but Nigel comes across as a bit of a traditionalist. "It's only really Test cricket I like. Even then, I'm not a fan of anything new. I can't be bothered at all with one-day internationals, coloured shirts and balls, and the slogfest which is The Hundred. I don't even like the players having their names on their shirts."
The day after February's show in Sheffield, there was a gig by Half Mandolin Half Biscuit, at which we won some Half Can Half Biscuit in the raffle. We saw this off one cold Saturday night. It's a grand drop, although at 6.8% ABV you might want to know your limits. But we'll certainly be entering the raffle again next time if that's what is on offer. "Lovingly crafted in Yorkshire." So was I. The beer comes from Nightjar Brew Company, based in Mytholmroyd if you want to get in touch with them. You will not be disappointed.
I spotted an article on the BBC website concerning Ernie Shackleton's Endurance. "The Endurance 22 expedition, which includes the BBC's Dan Snow, is using underwater robots, helicopters and other state-of-the-art technology in a bid to be the first to locate and survey the wreck." Bad losers, take note.
Nigel was the guest on one of the Freak Zone programmes on 6 Music. Stuart Maconie had come along to the show at The Leadmill in Sheffield. The interview had been recorded there, in a chilly upstairs room. I can't claim to be a regular listener to Freak Zone. Parts of the playlist are particular dancefloor clearers, but each to their own. Derek Bailey and Tony Coe? Weren't they Hunslet's half-backs in the 1960s? I will have to re-visit their output some other time. I'll be sticking to Stuart's mighty teamwork with Mark Radcliffe. Nevertheless, Left Lyrics In Practice Room, Rogation Sunday and Awkward Sean were played. The conversation referred to the title of the CD. "I'm more of a Deep Heat kind of guy," confessed Nigel, as they discussed different pain treatments. They moved on to life during lockdown, as well as pre-gig rituals. "We all go out for a lasagne separately." Nigel made reference to Quest For Lasagne, being a side project. And he wondered aloud about wearing Joy Division Oven Gloves while out jogging? An interesting concept.
Early in March, the news came through that the wreck of Shackleton's boat had been found. Looks like they are leaving it at the bottom of the ocean, at least for the time being. I've recommended this book previously, but South is a fine read, detailing his journey.
Issue 90 of Vive Le Rock carried a quarter-of-page advert for HMHB's gigs between now and January 2023. An audit of the listing concluded that it was a true and fair view. Yes, they're at Nottingham, Durham, Cardiff, Leeds, Castleton, Birmingham, Blackpool, Norwich, Hull and London. The ad also helpfully stated that The Voltarol Years was "Out Feb Now". It made sense to me.
One cosy Sunday evening, Karen and I were wandering around the TV channels. We dropped on Leeds TV. Mike Read was presenting something called The Heritage Chart. Apparently, this appears on all the local channels on the Freeview system. (No, we don't have Sky.) The Members, Tears For Fears and, yes, Dean Friedman all featured. The chart seems to focus on acts from back in the day who are still making music nowadays. So HMHB would appear to qualify, although I'm not sure that too much material from The Voltarol Years will be appearing any time soon. Midnight Mass Murder on a programme presented by a man who had such a problem with Relax? Family show. It ain't going to happen.
We did some reconnaissance work, making sure we could remember the location of Rock City. The Sunday before this show, we had been to see The Chats there. All good stuff, although the sound was cranked up a couple of notches too high. We left there, hoping for something a little more customer-friendly for HMHB.
Musical discovery of the year so far has been The Beer Snobs, thanks to Facebook. "The best band in Leeds." You've got to be able to back up a claim like that. Their song The Duchess concerns the city-centre venue where HMHB played several times during the 1990s. HMHB get a mention in the song, along with the promoter John Keenan and other acts who played there - Nirvana, Oasis, Muse, Radiohead and Bikini Kill.
The night before we hit Nottingham, we were in Leeds, at The Brudenell Social Club. Steve Ignorant was playing a selection of favourites from his days with Crass. Do They Owe Us A Living? Punk Is Dead. Big A Little A. I'm sure any of them would fit as HMHB cover versions.
On Gig Day, we were on the train in the morning. The National Justice Museum was suggested as a place to visit. Instead, we opted for looking at the pictures on their website and an afternoon's ligging. This provided an opportunity to find mention of the gig in the press. The Nottingham Post carried a review of a Stranglers gig at Rock City. And there was an advert for a show by Billy Ocean at The Royal Concert Hall. Chvrches, Corinne Bailey Rae, Killing Joke and Everything Everything were all mentioned in Metro. But there wasn't a peep anywhere about HMHB. Nothing unusual there. Also, we noted that both the Rock City and the Durham Gala websites describe the band as a "synth-infused trio from Usk".
Karen and I met with Tony at the pre-agreed place at the pre-agreed time. From there, it was a short walk through the city centre to the venue. On the way, we saw Miles and later caught up with Crapsons, getting a formal introduction to Pete, their new guitarist. Queuing up outside, we saw Karl trying and failing to get let in. Wrong wristband, you see. (Katharine and Karl reported seeing Neil having a similar problem. He was escorted to the Artists' Entrance.) And we caught up with Nigel and Denise, who had been out for a pop star pre-gig lasagne. So, true to form from the Maconie interview, that had been a successful quest. Steve, Postman Tony and Phil were also there, and Andrew who had spotted Stewart Lee in the locality. (That's the same Stewart Lee that I had seen in Wakefield a couple of weeks previously. Make sure you see his film about The Nightingales.) Other arrivals were Graham and Sarah, and Brian. Phil informed us that Midge Ure was playing this same night at Southampton Engine Rooms. It was a bit late to go there and heckle.
Inside the venue, I got talking to George, who was telling me about his pre-teen fandom of East European football. So that fits in nicely with HMHB. But the first job was to see Miles at the merch desk to buy Voltarol Years t-shirts for me and Karen. Graham Le Taxi had broken away from duties to be at the gig. Also got chatting with Mike, Andy and Nigel and Jo. The bar was selling water in cans. Only ever seen plastic bottles before. Better for the environment? Discuss.
It was one of those evenings when the venue opens up for Club Night immediately after the bands have finished. So Crapsons were on stage sharpish. Pete is one for using the space of the whole stage, prowling around. There was a little disagreement over the football shirt that he was wearing. The badge was a picture of Frank Sidebottom. I thought maybe it was Altrincham, being the team that Frank supported, but as Karen pointed out, it was of course Timperley Big Shorts. As ever, Crapsons put on a fine show. Marky's vocal delivery and Gilbert's drumming always hit the spot for me. Pete now adds to it all. Their new album, Songs To Make A Brew To, was part of my shopping list when I saw Miles. Should be on your shopping list too. Karl from HMHB is obviously a fan as well. He performed later on wearing a Crapsons t-shirt.
Their walk-on music was Pennsylvania 65000. Their set matched their typed out list as follows.Who'll Babysit The Goths?
Clotheslined By A Nun is a true story, written about an incident where Marky was walking past the chapel at the hospital. And he was, would you believe, clotheslined by a nun! Marky said that this was the second Crapsons gig in Nottingham. "There were ten people at our first gig here. We brought nine of them." There was a nice little tribute in the introduction to the "Resurrection" song... "His songs are great but he's a bit of a twat." And there is a grand line in Final Echo... "He's got one eye in Huyton / And the other in New Brighton."
In the interval, Howie showed up with Daz, who is unfortunately having to cut down on the gigs this year. Always grand to see you, Daz! Brian made a prediction for the first song - I'm Getting Buried In The Morning. And Andrew and I discussed the possibility of tonight's cover version. Originally recorded by local talent? We were thinking Paper Lace. Billy Don't Be A Hero of course. Or perhaps The Night Chicago Died. As it turned out, we weren't even close.
Another Andrew turned up, being Karen's work colleague and HMHB first-timer. Accompanied by two others, Laia and Pau, both from Catalonia, showing the international reach of the band. It turns out that Fred Titmus and Bob Wilson are not well-known figures round that way. Yet.
John Barry's Main Theme To "Zulu" announced HMHB's appearance on stage. It was followed by some narrative from the film. ("I don't even like Richard Burton in that bit," said Nigel.). "We were supposed to have started before the talking bit," he added. "Reach into pocket and get set list." he noted to himself. "Take swig of water. Say something that is pleasing only to oneself." And then a burst of "Washing machines live longer with Calgon."
Nigel and Karl dipped out of the second chorus of "Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus". Just testing, to see if we were paying attention? Or was it, perhaps, a cock-up?
"Anyone in from Bridport?" asked Nigel. "And anybody from Kelso?" No, there wasn't, so Nigel turned to Karl and said, "You'll be all right then." In Renfield's Afoot, once again he emphasised that police flashlights should NOT be brought, as they would frighten the bats. Nigel asked "Anyone in from St Ann's?" He said his aunt lives there, at Beacon Hill Rise. We are invited to pop round for tea and perhaps an apricot madelaine. She had a chameleon which died of exhaustion after walking across a tartan rug.
Maybe it was just me, but tonight's rendition of Sealclubbing seemed particularly easygoing. I think it could be referred to as a "Lounge" version. Karl was doing the bulk of the backing vocals tonight, as it became apparent Neil might've had a throat issue. If that is the case, get well soon.
Nigel explained their route to the gig...... They had stopped off at Woollaton Hall, Tesco meal deal, Edwardian frippery etc
Martin shouted for "Chatteris" just before it was played. Nigel said that if Martin predicted the following one right as well, he would be asking him for the next set of lottery numbers.
There was an administrative bungle where Nigel opened a bottle of water when he already had one open. Easy mistake to make though. Fraser Hines was spotted in the crowd. We saw some excellent showmanship from Karl, playing the guitar behind his head during Hedley Verityesque. Afterwards, Nigel said to Karl, "I nearly went for the defibrillator there."
George shouted to Nigel but got his words muddled. He was invited to start his heckle again. It was a question about Awkward Sean's neighbour pointing at the roof. What was he pointing at? Nigel said he didn't know.
Praise was given for the colour of the buses in Nottingham. There was a shout that they don't run on time though. Nigel responded by saying that "Ours run on time, but they are very dull. It's swings and roundabouts." It was either during or just after What Made Colombia Famous that Nigel took a snort of Vicks Sinex (or some other nasal inhaler product).
There was a shout of "Get your fuckin' hedge cut" just as Nigel had a gob full of crisps. Maybe a request for the song. Maybe just an instruction to Nigel. Carol Klein was spotted in the crowd. "Did you get that concrete?" Nigel asked her. "He's not going to drown himself. You've still got my secateurs, by the way"
Nigel sang the opening line of Song To The Siren before going in to Vatican Broadside. There was a change to the line in I Hate Nerys Hughes. On the recorded version it goes: "They all went down the social and they claimed their Supplementary." But on this occasion, that last word was definitely changed. It might have been "Documentary".
Mentions were made of Forest. Ian Storey-Moore and Philip Zinkernagel. And for balance "I see County have got a big game tomorrow," Nigel observed, referring to the match between Notts County and Chesterfield in the National League (big police presence at the train station when we were back there on the Saturday morning). He added that he was aware that Sheffield are the oldest club, but stated that County are the oldest league club. Cue much debate in the pub after the gig.
When the band came back for the encore, there was talk about Mr Udagawa and Paul Robinson out of Neighbours. Mr Udagawa had "a shit TV career", only appearing in eleven episodes. The caravan guitar appeared for Every Time A Bell Rings.
The show went like this:This Leaden Pall
And in the encore:Oblong Of Dreams
Thanks to Karl for the set list. An audit showed that Vatican Broadside was a late addition. No other discrepancies to report. A mention also to Carl. Grand drumming as always. When venues have moats like this, it feels like he is miles away, even from us in the front row.
Afterwards, a few of us crammed into the bar at The Bell, which claims to be the oldest inn in Nottingham, not to be confused with Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, which claims to be the oldest inn in England. Not sure how that works. They can sort it out between themselves. No matter. Postman Tony, Andrew, Phil, me, Karen, Tony, Graham, Sarah, Lou, Chris, Chris's mate, Brian, John, Steve and Martin all fitted in to the bar somehow.
Later, Andrew (from Karen's work) shared a link with us from See Tickets - "If you like HMHB, you may also like these." It listed The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Elton John, Lady Ga Ga, Phil Collins and Queen featuring Adam Lambert. Yeah, right, we'll be giving all of them a go. But not until after we hit Durham in April. Ta to Kaz as ever, for helping out here.