The day after the Leeds gig, we had another short journey, to the Long Division festival in Wakefield. It gave us an excuse to visit one of our favourite eateries, The Smokehouse. The bands were OK, but there was no one setting our world on fire. We were drawn just as much to the peregrine falcons who live on the spire at the cathedral, as we were to a lot of the bands.
We try and keep tabs on The Humdrum Express who has been a regular support act whenever HMHB have played in the Midlands. Ian/Humdrum was a guest on a programme on Brum Radio hosted by Adrian Goldberg. The band has a new album out called Forward Defensive. I was particularly taken by The Gig Chatterer. Haven't we all met one of those? Adrian made reference to HMHB cancelling their appearance on Top Of The Pops, in order to go to a Tranmere game. Top Of The Pops? Ian was quick to correct him, saying that the programme was, of course, The Tube. One or two of you may already be familiar with this story.
We had a night in Stourbridge, attending Claptrap The Venue, to see the launch of Forward Defensive. Great to catch up with Ian, and good to hear that he has managed to secure a show supporting HMHB, when they play in Leamington Spa next March. He also bemoaned the lack of availability of the album on vinyl. Adele has been clogging up the presses. "If she had bought all the unsold vinyl copies of my last album, then I could have afforded to have this one pressed," added Ian. It was a grand set, as ever. And thanks to Ian for the set list which matched my scribbled notes.When Peter Shilton Tweets
And he played three songs in the encore. Can't remember seeing anyone cover a Frank Sidebottom song before now. The Best Dope song is apparently a cover of a song by Eyes, a local band.Guess Who's Been On Match Of The Day
As we move through the middle of 2022, it feels like live music has fairly much returned to normal. Some venues might not have the same appetite for gigs, and some bands might have felt the same as the virus, decided to go away, but stuff is clearly happening again. We were pleased to see Wirral band The Webb playing at Wharf Chambers in Leeds. Maybe that Sunday afternoon was a bit bright and sunny for a goth all-dayer, but that didn't affect the performance. They've got plenty in their diary, including an appearance at the recent Rebellion Festival in Blackpool.
Another red hot day in the middle of July saw us as at another all-dayer in Leeds. This time we were at The Brudenell. I had found out about this from talking with Michael and Sally at the HMHB show at Leeds Uni in June. Michael is in the band Indignation Meeting, with their thirteen-year-old son Peter. All good stuff, particularly their HMHB cover/pastiche The Bastard Son Of Ed Sheeran. Not everyone will know who Dean Friedman is. Perhaps that's why Peter changed the name. Look out for Indignation Meeting's CD, Trouble In The Shed, coming down the line. On the same bill were Bite Back, who were HMHB's support at that Leeds Uni gig. They were on in the afternoon, before the place had properly started to fill up. All the sunbathers missed a grand set. I made a prompt visit to the merch stall to pick up their CD, The Truth Demos.
Used To Be In Evil Gazebo mentions wine from the banks of the Garonne. The Tour De France passed by that way, crossing the river. The winner of the stage (and the winner of the overall race) was Jonas Vingegaard. He was presented with a bottle of red from one of the local vineyards.
The vinyl version of The Voltarol Years finally managed to barge its way through the pressing plants and onto turntables up and down the land. Such was demand that it rocketed to Number 12 in the vinyl charts. That is THE charts.
We had our annual pilgrimage to The Wirral. Our reason was a visit to The Cock And Pullet for a gig by The Band-Its, being Karl's side project. Or perhaps it is HMHB which is the side project. Saw Graham Le Taxi, Postman Tony and a few other familiar faces there. Unfortunately, we didn't actually see the band performing. You have to get in early if you want a decent line of sight. But we were well happy with what we heard, including one we didn't know, City Kids, a Pink Fairies song, later covered by Motorhead. Their show was split into two sets and the market is now open if you are placing bets on HMHB cover versions in the future. The Band-Its played these...
In the first set...New Rose
In the second set...Blitzkrieg Bop
In the encore...Pretty Vacant
If I'd thought on, I would have heckled for One Chord Wonders, but you only ever think about these things afterwards. We'll be travelling west to see The Band-Its again, some time. Even if there is some more squaring up at the end of the evening. Two punters a-pushing and a-shoving each other. One ends up on the floor. Beer spilled. You can guess the rest.
Thanks to Mickey B. for forwarding the latest copy of the Leicester City fanzine The Roof. His fingerprints (or those of some other follower of HMHB) appear in one of the articles. One refers to Graham Cross whose sporting career encompassed both City and the Leicestershire cricket team. He played in a Benson And Hedges Cup final against Middlesex. "Crossy didn't do a lot in the Final - 2 overs for 9 runs, one catch and a duck in the county's reply, out LBW, fookin' hell, by Fred Titmus.".
We saw Attila The Stockbroker performing at Wakefield Labour Club, on his way to appearing for a few nights on the fringe of The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He was talking about his Early Music project Barnstormer 1649. Sometimes he writes 'new' music for them. Seemingly this irks the purists, prompting him to mention the HMHB song.
Nige Tassell's new book hit the streets. It looks at the bands who appeared on NME's C86 cassette, in a sort of where-are-they-now way. It had been intended for Santa to deal with this at Christmas, but we couldn't resist having a peep at the HMHB chapter. Much mirth. Especially the awards ceremony that is remembered by Nigel as the first time he ate salmon mousse, rather than winning the award for the best selling indie album of 1986.
Karen told me about a video meeting at work. She told everyone she was going to see Half Man Half Biscuit in a cave in Castleton. One of her colleagues piped up. "Shouldn't that be Half Caveman Half Biscuit?" It was funny at the time. This show served as a reminder that HMHB sell out places these days, particularly the smaller venues such as this one. There were plenty of messages going out from folk who had been caught out. When I first started following HMHB on a frequent basis, one of the regular haunts was The Duchess in Leeds. In the 1980s, you could just roll up and hand over cash on the door. No problem. These days we hit the button as soon as gigs are announced, which tends to be nine months or so in advance. As Fred Pontin used to say... Book Early! That's wise advice from Fred. Of course, not everyone has the funds to hand in advance. But that's the way the ball bounces.
Train strikes affected journeys to this gig for a lot of folk. We opted for the car, with a satnav-dictated route along various high roads and low roads. We decided to sack that off for the ride home. Motorways and A-roads for us.
Our first Biscuiteer sighting was Postman Tony striding purposefully towards Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, where beer was being taken. Later on we saw Andy, whose plans for a journey from John O'Groats to Lands End had been scuppered. The three of us looked up at the peak of Mam Tor, sighed and decided that the climb would be put off for another time.
It would have been rude not to have bought lunch from the Castleton Fish And Chips shop. Top class, and finished off with a chocolate cone from Bradwell's ice cream cabin. We also noted the Three Roofs café, where Karen pointed out to me the correct plural spelling in the name. I'm always getting the hoof/roof thing mixed up. Other calorific input came courtesy of Peveril Stores And Bakery. Chicken salad sarnie for tea, and a packet of orange chocolate biccies. Yum.
We ambled round the graveyard at St Edmunds church ("Children - please do not climb on the gravestones"), and wandered back to our own place of rest, Ye Olde Nag's Head. On the way we saw Niall from Half Arsed Half Biscuit. They haven't played since 2018, nor has he seen HMHB for a similar length of time. Torture. But that's how things have been.
Once we were checked in, we saw Jenny Eclair presenting Countdown. A quick chorus from You're Hard, and we were struggling for laughs.
Phil sent us a message from outside the venue. He had been listening to HMHB doing their soundcheck. Three songs were played:Terminus
We then set off out. Ye Olde Nag's Head is only about a five-minute walk from the venue. On the way we bumped into the band, who were on the hunt for grub. Phil was outside the cavern on his lonesome. We got talking to Alison before Tony arrived, watching and listening to the many jackdaws patrolling the entrance to the cave. Apparently, they have a habit of dropping rocks on folk down below. The bastards. Fortunately, we didn't see any evidence of that, first-hand or second-hand. After a brief chat with Team Merch (Miles and Pete), the queue built up - Postman Tony, Katherine, Karl, Steve, Andy , Graham Le Taxi, Huddersfield Graham and Sarah all arriving. Huddersfield Graham told me he had been talking about the number of times people had seen this mighty band. Chris was also in the conversation. I would have to consult with my mate Mark, who has a comprehensive list of gigs we went to from the eighties onwards. Without that full audit, I think tonight was my 178th evening with HMHB. Nothing better to do, you see.
On our previous visit here we opted for the upper standing area. But this was now out of bounds, being seating. So instead we went for the balcony, where Karen and I squeezed in. I was in a conversation between Tony (Birmingham City) and Mike (Watford), who were discussing the recent match between their two sides. Sounds like Watford's star man is their goalie. Could be struggling if he goes.
When considering the surroundings, Phil said to me "This is the archetype rock gig." Can't argue with that. He also mentioned that you would need to be careful if stage diving. I'll say. Some of those sheer drops look jolly dangerous.
These gigs usually have a support act, but not tonight. HMHB were on stage at 8 o'clock, with a 10 o'clock curfew. Didn't have a clue about the walk-on music. Tony got a delayed response from Shazam and told me Aguirre II by Popol Vuh. I'll go with that.
"Hello, Speedwell," was Nigel's opening gambit, ahead of the first song, Joy In Leeuwarden. In Renfield's Afoot, waterproofs were, in capital letters, ESSENTIAL. 'A notable lyric change was "Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Flintstone."
Martine Croxall ("very under-rated") was spotted in the crowd. There was some advice to her from the stage. "Bring him round the back. They'll never find him." Don Letts was also spotted later. "Any time for that extension lead back, Don." And to the rest of us "Four grand on a Shar Pei, and it's not even a pedigree!".
I got found out for not knowing the name of the horses in Kes where Billy was supposed to place a bet for his brother. Brian rescued the situation with Crackpot and Tell Him He's Dead. Linked to this film, Nigel also spoke about the recent death of Duggie Brown, who played the milkman in Kes.
I didn't know the song from Neil at the beginning of Awkward Sean. Thanks to Phil for identifying that this was a bit of Oh! What A Beautiful Morning. Similarly, later on Nigel sang a snippet of what I thought was The Velvet Underground's Heroin. I was confused by Solpadine appearing in the song instead. Thanks to Karen for spotting that. Nigel pointed in Karl's direction on the "New Mills" line in The Light At The End Of The Tunnel.
I'm sure I heard Nigel muttering the words to Have You Seen Her? More likely to be a variation on the theme. Rock 'n' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools was about finding a Twirl that you'd forgotten about previously. In Ninety-Nine Per Cent Of Gargoyles, Marilyn Monroe was on the scag. Nigel enquired if it was dry ice fogging up the stage, or just rising mist from the back of the cave. It looked like Carl was going to fall down there, as he seemed so far away from us,
Neil was wearing his Hats Off To Steve Hanley t-shirt. There is a line at the bottom of the shirt. I'll try and decipher that if he wears it again when I'm standing a bit closer. Unfortunately, we had some pushing and shoving in our little section. Same advice as usual to anyone who needs to be at the front... Get there early.
"Anyone in here from Stonehaven? Anyone in here from Tavistock?" asked Nigel. He said the actress Hermione Baddeley was from there. She appeared in Brighton Rock, and her sister Angela played Mrs Bridges in Upstairs Downstairs. He gave us a stern "Ruby!" just to emphasise the point.
There was a birthday dedication from Nigel. "Matt Vallans is fifty today." An Arsenal fan, perhaps, as Nigel added "We're the only team with a one hundred per cent record at Highbury."
In reply to a heckle, Nigel said that he couldn't hear what was said. He would wait for the echo to bounce back off the rocks, and would deal with it later. He said the acoustics reminded him of Echo Rock on the Sychnant Pass near Conwy. The folks in Edale would just about be hearing Joy in Leeuwarden around about now. In reply to a request, which he heard correctly, Nigel gave the standard response "Yeah, that's one of ours."
Tony said to me that the beginning of PRS Yearbook sounded like La Bamba. Later in the same song, we got a demonstration of Nigel's golf swing. Straight down the middle. Nigel raised a glass to Judith Durham of The Seekers, who died a few days before this gig.
Another heckle got the reply "You sound just like Phil Mitchell" from Nigel. He said that he had fallen down the stairs, and his wife asked him if that was Eastenders finishing early. (I had to ask Karen to explain that one.). The same guy had a special request in the encore. The John Ganley Stance. We heard a few lines of a song with a similar title, but with one word changed. Nigel mused on whether John is Len's brother, and if, perhaps he referees table tennis matches. Desmond Douglas was mentioned.
During Every Time A Bell Rings, Nigel broke off from the recorded lyric and quoted from It's A Wonderful Life, "Hey Bert, do you know me?".
Immense thanks to Brian for passing on the set list. Brian was able to secure one for himself too. Here's what the band played, compared with the list. Everything in order here.Joy In Leeuwarden
And the encore wasThe John Ganley Stance
Karen had hoped that, given the setting, I, Trog might be included in the list. Alas, no. We made a very loose appointment to meet folk in the pub afterwards. But our bed was also calling us. There'll be another time for beers. Lovely listening to someone throwing up outside our room window. And there was the sound of a shop alarm bouncing round the middle of town at 4.45am, with an encore an hour later, and again at 6.25. Charming.
On the Saturday morning I went for a stroll round and about, wearing my 90 Bisodol t-shirt. I exchanged Hellos with a chap coming the other way who was similarly attired. We are not alone.