Winter Gardens, Blackpool, Fri 7th October 2022 (09/10/22)

Roger Green:

The first tenuous HMHB link came a couple of days after September's Birmingham gig. On 6 Music, Mark Radcliffe mentioned Jan Akkerman. I didn't realise he had left Focus, either voluntarily or otherwise. But that would explain his presence in I Can't Believe It's Not Focus.

Karen came up with some interesting celebrity trivia when trawling the internet. She was looking for Famous People Born In Blackpool. Robert Smith was on the list. Yes, Robert Smith of The Cure. Seemingly the family moved to Crawley when he was very young. May we be treated to a cover of 'A Forest' tonight?

One did not want to be particularly irreverent during such a monumental occasion. But the pipers leading the coffin at The Queen's funeral struck up The Skye Boat Song. We each raised an eyebrow. It needed Neil's vocal and/or whistling, as featured at the beginning of Awkward Sean.

As is often the case, these shows are announced well in advance. For example, The Liquid Room in Edinburgh. On sale in September 2022 for a gig in May 2023. All good stuff, and Karen as ever was quick on the draw. But some of these add-on fees... Tsk...

Italy played England in a match in football's Nations Cup competition. We noticed an advert for Voltarol going round on the electronic advertising board surrounding the pitch. "The joy of movement" was the strapline. I'll confirm that if/when I require the product.

Bothies tend not to be particularly newsworthy. You have to refer to the HMHB back catalogue if you want to hear them mentioned (Tommy Walsh's Eco House). But more recently there was an article (22 to 28 August issue) in Big Issue North. I would never have guessed that there is a Mountain Bothies Association. And they have a Bothy Code, so go steady if you are calling by. No mention of The Knoydart though.

"Chatteris - the town to be scrapped from the bus route map" Thus ran the headline on a BBC website article. For what are Chatteris bus stops?

In early September, Stuart Maconie put out a call for suggestions for content for a Spoken Word edition of his Freak Zone programme on 6 Music. Karen mentally rifled through the HMHB music box and put in three suggestions. Any one of Used To Be In Evil Gazebo and/or Tour Jacket With Detachable Sleeves and/or Footprints. Stuart chose the latter. Most will agree that this band does not get enough airplay, so one tiny morsel will have to do for now.

About 6.30am on 6 Music on the morning before this gig, with it being National Poetry Day, Chris Hawkins played Dynamite And Feathers, a piece by PJ Smith aka Roy. At such an early hour, I thought I might have dreamt this, but was glad to see John confirming that he had been listening as well. All well and good, but it sounded to me like PJ had half-inched a fair chunk of Twenty-Four Hour Garage People. With particular reference to the Pringles, scotch eggs and jar of Marmite. I hope, at the very least, there is an acknowledgement somewhere for HMHB. Too much of a coincidence? Sampling in music is here, there and everywhere these days. Can't remember ever seeing it in poetry though.

The Guardian produced a chart, listing their Greatest 100 BBC Musical Performances - Ranked. HMHB were in with a bullet at 52 with their first session for John Peel's programme in 1985. Not sure why the appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test didn't get in. The Trumpton Riots and All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, with Nigel in his Ajax shirt, and Neil looking about twelve years old. I would agree with the high rating for Bob Marley And The Wailers' debut on The Old Grey Whistle Test (Number 3 in the chart) and their rendition of Stir It Up. Always happy to look that up on the web. Had the band perhaps been out for a little smoke before they started filming? I had a query with the paper's idea that The Fall were "Peel's favourite band". I beg to differ. Surely that would be Captain Beefheart? I've got a cassette somewhere of the all-time Festive 50 which was compiled from listeners' votes. Beefheart's Big Eyed Beans From Venus appeared, after which Peel said "There was none finer. Not even The Fall."

Big Ups to Tracy Brabin, mayor of West Yorkshire, for implementing a £2 bus journey policy. That got us into Wakefield. From there it was a train into Leeds and another one to Blackpool. It was a great pleasure to be sharing a carriage with a bunch of heavy drinkers. Stag parties take a familiar form. Riga must have been out of their range.

Having arrived in town we headed to Nando's for some traditional seaside grub. On the way there, the first Biscuiteer we saw was Steve, on his lonesome at Costa. We waved through the window and later admired his photo on Facebook of the tower. We wandered around the outside of Winter Gardens, trying to work out where the entrance might be for the HMHB show. Plenty of other stuff going on in plenty of rooms. War Horse: The Concert, for example. Nigel would refer to this later.

We then saw Postman Tony on his way to his digs. He gave us a pointer to where the gig might be. At the back of the building? That sounded about right, totally out of public view.

The paper review just took in The Blackpool Gazette. No What's On guide. The front page had a headline "School Breakfasts Under Health Review" with a picture of a dream plate. Three sausages, two fried eggs, bacon, two black puddings, two hash browns, pile of mushrooms, fried tomatoes, baked beans and some toast and marmalade. What can possibly be wrong with that? And the back page had some Blackpool FC news, with manager Michael Appleton raving about Charlie Patino, on loan from Arsenal. The nearest the paper got to music news was a feature on The Grumbleweeds. A prototype HMHB or what?

We were promptly on our way, with an eye on getting to the front of the queue. But we were beaten to it by Tony, Andrew, Phil and Alison. Alison told us how her first visit to this place had been in the sixties. Mike And Bernie Winters were at the top of the bill. She couldn't remember whether it was The Seekers or Peter, Paul And Mary supporting them. And if she had been there a week later, she could have seen The Beatles.

Inside, on my way back from the bar, I got talking to Drew and Chris. There was plenty of speculation about possible gigs to go in the diary. We shall see what we shall see. Lee turned up. No longer Lee from Rotherham, he is now Lee from Scunthorpe. He was with Louise, at her first HMHB gig. Good to see that Lee still has the Denis Bell / Torquay gear. I asked him if Scunthorpe Baths still hosts gigs, having seen The Damned there many years ago. Potential for a HMHB gig?

Next to show up was John. He was with Thorsten, who had flown in from Germany for his first HMHB show since 2019. Also appearing as the evening went on were Elizabeth, Postman Tony, Steve, Ian, Howie, Daz and Lou, all in time for the arrival of JD Meatyard.

JD was on his own tonight. No backing band, although he was accompanied on stage at various times by a photographer. I recognised the opening song, Ubu At Eric's, and Karen spotted Casper's Ballroom. All or most of his set was new stuff, with one or two familiar references ("Sister Ray" and "All Tomorrow's Parties", with another one talking about "ripping it up and starting again"). He has a new album out, which I believe he was also promoting the previous night. JD said it was "a joy to be on the same bill as HMHB" and his departing message was "love everybody or shut the fuck up".

Graham and Sarah, Ian, Andy (with his "Get Turmeric" tshirt) and Graham Le Taxi arrived. I also noted John's t-shirt ("Hank & Roy & Bill"). Like us and many others, Andy's travel arrangements had been affected by the weekend's train strike. He had been able to borrow a company van but was having to return it by 11 o'clock on the Saturday morning. Foot down then. Hello also to Mr and Mrs Exford, who were in the middle of a keen mosh pit for much of HMHB's set.

HMHB were heralded by the playing of the theme to The Rockford Files. I knew it from somewhere, but it was identified by Andrew. Brian tapped me on the shoulder to say that this is also Tranmere Rovers' walk-on music.

"Are you alright for bags?" then "OK, Carl?" was the prompt for the opening song, A Lilac Harry Quinn. Plain shirts all round for the band, except for Karl's Hawkwind t-shirt. There were some bright lights at the front of the stage. I could have positioned myself better; the price of standing at the front was having to shield my eyes. Nigel made the most of the lighting by making shadow puppets. I couldn't comment either way on their quality.

Nigel apologised to anyone who had turned up expecting to see War Horse, noting that it was available "over there" in one of the other rooms. He had thought about joining in, playing Dusty Carpet, the racehorse which has never been beaten.

We noted that Karl was playing his new red Telecaster guitar. However, he changed back to his older green model part way through the show. Still bedding it in?

The instruction in Renfield's Afoot was "for those remotely interested" to meet in the café car park. Nigel spoke about the cost of Blackpool's illuminations. It reminded him of their old gas meter at home. His dad wound the meter back so far that the reading came up in Roman numerals.

Neil sang a few lines of The Green Leaves Of Summer before the band played Awkward Sean. Nigel asked if anyone had been to the Alan Bradley Memorial, being a Coronation Street character who met a grim ending in Blackpool. The character had been played by Mark Eden, who was married in real life to the actress Sue Nichols, who, of course, plays Audrey (and was in Rentaghost - never a favourite programme in the Blackwell household). This provided a link to this old one from Nigel. "What's got three legs and likes fish and chips? Don and Ivy Brennan." There was talk about Rhyl, and Nigel's mum moving there to clean sheets. Sorry, didn't grasp the full extent of the exchange.

Caroline Lucas was spotted in the crowd. "Any time this year with that wheelbarrow, Caroline." He added that Caroline owns the skeleton of Fatty Arbuckle. I'll look back through these notes some time. I'm sure he said someone else owned that previously. Huddersfield Graham said that Neil was wearing two watches. Hard to tell from such a distance, but it might have been a watch and a wristband.

Karl was changing his guitar while the rest of the band started When I Look At My Baby. It was an audience takeover with the vocals. Nigel turned his mike round. At the end of the song he said "Thank you. Thank YOU. We should try and do that more often."

There was some jockey talk. Yves Saint-Martin, Terry Biddlecombe and Scobie Breasley all got a mention. On the theme of horses, we also had Nigel's impersonation of the starter at the Grand National. Worth the admission money alone. And it would have been rude to not include some George Formby here. Nigel gave us a fair blast of In My Little Snapshot Album.

We were in Blackpool and it had to happen sooner or later. Postman Tony's shout of "Stanley Mortensen" was to be expected at the end of 1966 And All That. In the absence of that song, he just shouted it anyway. In reply, Nigel purred about a goal that Blackpool's Mickey Walsh scored against Scunthorpe, with, I'm sure he said, commentary from Barry Davies. Walsh had a colleague running in the middle of the field. "That's the ball," suggested Barry, before Walsh turned and lashed the ball into the goal. "Which," explained Nigel, "leads us nicely into this..." All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit followed. The £3.10 for the transformer was said to be expensive in the days of Mickey Walsh, "but it meant a second mortgage in the days of Stanley Mortensen." The mention of Mortensen made me wonder about something fundamental to this song. Nigel is the same age as me and will remember the change from the old pounds-shillings-and-pence currency to the current decimalised system. So, therefore does the transformer cost Three Pounds And Ten Pence as we currently know it? Or was it Three Pounds And Ten Shillings under the old system. I'll check with Nigel the next time I catch him.

Fiona Bruce was spotted. "Much as it pains me, you are not the answer on Question Time," said Nigel. "It should be Victoria Derbyshire or Martine Croxall instead." Karl played a snippet of Jethro Tull's Aqualung... Seemingly Ian Anderson from that band also wrote "Moulinex makes things simple, and that includes the price.

"Anyone here from Gosport?" asked Nigel. When someone said yes, he followed up with "Which part?" and got them stumped. West Gosport was offered up eventually. He turned to Carl, and said "Told you.".

"I've got nothing to do with the start of this one," said Nigel ahead of Every Time A Bell Rings, thereby firing the others into action. This song also had Nigel quoting from the film. "Do you know me? Do you know me, Bert?". And he played his guitar behind his head, Hendrixesque. Not sure whether or not Hendrix's guitar lead unplugged itself when he was doing this. But Blackwell's certainly did. That's showbiz. There seemed to be a bit of confusion within the band at the start of Oblong Of Dreams, but it all came together magnificently in the end. Harking back to John Peel, no doubts that this one would have scored highly in this year's Festive Fifty. Same goes for Midnight Mass Murder, as near as you are going to get to being on a football terrace without, you know, being on a football terrace. At the end of which, Nigel confirmed it as a "true story".

"Michael Morpurgo, ladies and gentlemen!" announced Nigel, pointing towards the back of the hall. Maybe he was taking a break from his own creation, War Horse. John asked if Nigel knew who the drummer in Focus was. "The one with the sticks" was the reply.

When the band returned for the encore, Nigel realised he had forgotten something. He beat a hasty retreat and returned with his trusty caravan guitar. He tested it out and said, "Sounds good to me." Nice lyric work and nice footwork during God Gave Us Life, with Nigel side shuffling across the stage. "God gave us life so that we can get driven to the woods to sing the wrong verse entirely." Those given to us tonight were Nick Ferrari, Alan Carr, James Martin, Saturday cookery shows in general, Andi Peters, Esther McVey, a rickety chair, and also Lionel Blair. Finished off with a "bless you".

Ceremony was played. We discussed this song. Is it Joy Division or New Order? Or both? Ian Curtis wrote the words, so does that make it Joy Division? But New Order had the hit. Whatever.

Here is what was played by HMHB:

A Lilac Harry Quinn
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Irk The Purists
Renfield's Afoot
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Awkward Sean
Look Dad No Tunes
For What Is Chatteris?
Big Man Up Front
Improv Workshop Mimeshow Gobshite
The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman
When I Look At My Baby
She's In Broadstairs
Vatican Broadside
Persian Rug Sale At The URC
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
National Shite Day
Floreat Inertia
Midnight Mass Murder
Every Time A Bell Rings
The Trumpton Riots
Oblong Of Dreams
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Everything's AOR

And then in the encore :

Time Flies By (When You're A Driver Of A Train)
God Gave Us Life
Joy Division Oven Gloves

At one point, Nigel said that everyone in the band was working to a different set list. He wasn't joking according to the audit of Karl's list. Paintball's Coming Home was due to be played after Dean Friedman but was replaced by When I Look At My Baby. Fix It So She Dreams Of Me was dropped - having originally been placed between Dukla Prague and National Shite Day. There is a note on Karl's list which says "Village Maybe". Time Flies By was a late addition.

When he left the stage, Nigel wore a rabbit mask whilst pipping a car horn. There must be some deeper meaning.

There were a few Hellos after the band had finished. Pete from Weston Super Mare, telling me about an oil rig masquerading as an art installation on their sea front. And nice to meet Kate who said a quick Hi. Hope her brother, Bob, has a speedy recovery.

With this being the last of the Covid re-arrangements (originally October 2020, then put back twelve months, then put back another twelve months), can we finally, finally say that normality has returned?

Back at our bijou lodgings (Premier Inn) we caught a bit of Country Music At The BBC. A couple of Biscuit Influencers were in there. Shania Twain's That Don't Impress Me Much ("so, you're Brad Friedel?") and Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues ("I shot a man in Tesco...").

A number of options were available the night after this show. A few folk were going to see The Undertones in Lytham. If we had known in advance we might have stopped in Blackpool and gone to see Biteback. I told Hocky this when I saw him as we were all being shoved out of the door. Instead, Karen and I opted for a lift home off Andrew early on the Saturday. He has a miniature library of music at his fingertips in his motor. There is a fair bit of German music in his collection. It's a few years since I have heard Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle. And I would never have known that Puff The Magic Dragon was covered as Paff, Der Zauberdrachen by Marlene Dietrich.

A mention for Brian. He has been caught out by the sell-out of the Norwich gig. He said he would be happy to buy from anybody who has a spare. Like with me, IT stuff does not come naturally to him, but if you post a message somewhere out in Internetland, then he might see it. Hope to catch you there, Brian.