Electric Ballroom, Camden, London, Fri 20th January 2023 (22/01/23)

Roger Green:

Countdown is a good place to spot HMHB references. In one episode, there were two, quite close together, with Wassail and Gazebos both scoring highly in the word puzzles. Radcliffe and Maconie also chip in on their shows on 6 Music. On one occasion, they were talking about ways to relieve boredom. Referring to the line in The Best Things In Life, Stuart suggested writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro. After all, who hasn't done that?

Santa sourced a CD boxset for Karen, featuring the collected works of fellow C86ers Bogshed. If HMHB had never existed, and if Bogshed had continued to operate beyond their demise around 1987, then it is possible that I would have been writing reviews about that fine band instead. Only saw them once, one Sunday evening at The Leadmill, not long before they called it a day. At the back end of November 2022, just before the release of their collection, with a horrible irony it was announced that Mike Bryson, their bassist, had passed away. That is three out of the four of them who have now gone before. We all arrived at HMHB from different musical directions. For me, Bogshed was a central stopping-off point before the HMHB journey began. RIP, Mike.

Normally at the back end of a year, we would have been busy taking in a variety of gigs. Instead, our attention turned to moving house. So we've been limited to a single trip to The Wharf Chambers in Leeds to see Indignation Meeting supporting Zounds. Well actually, being devoid of energy with the move, we just stopped for Indignation Meeting. A possibility for the support role the next time HMHB play in the city?

You would have thought there might be a better line of communication between the Railworkers Union and the HMHB fanbase. Grant Shapps ought to get involved in the negotiations. His cousin Mick Jones was in The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite, the latter of which also featured Grant's brother. Maybe Grant would be sympathetic to gig-goers, and get the whole thing sorted. Hmmm, doubt it though. Not many of these gigs get cancelled. But Hull, scheduled for the week before Christmas went by the way. Re-scheduled for the end of April. The strike had led to Chris's site turning into a Swap Shop operation, with folk able to get rid where they were unable to attend. But then everything was slammed into reverse by the re-arrangement. Unfortunately a few folk were unable to get to London. The same mad scramble came into play. Hope everyone is sorted as we work our way through the calendar this year. Leamington Spa, Stowmarket, Cambridge, Hull, Edinburgh and Llangollen announced so far.

Very, very sorry to hear about Taylo. It's always sad to hear about the passing of a fellow fan. I can't say I spent a lot of time in his company, but I have vague memories of being in a group of us pre-gig in the pub before one of the Manchester shows. Deepest sympathies to Loop.

Ta once again to Mickey for another fine edition of his Leicester City fanzine, Bentley's Roof. Ta also to the folk who put together the excellent mag Vive Le Rock. Although I don't quite agree with their Top 50 albums of 2022. The Voltarol Years. Where is it? However, the album got a mention in The Times list of readers' favourite albums of the year. And The Herald managed to fit ICTBCAC into their ten alternative Christmas songs "that you might actually manage to enjoy".

Christmas 2022 came round, and I was still reading books which Santa had delivered in 2021. John Cooper Clarke's I Wanna Be Yours. Go get it. One of those books where you imagine the author's voice reading it out loud to you. And he knows how to tell a tale. Compare and contrast his work with that of HMHB... "I wasn't seeing so much of Liz at this point. We hadn't fallen out, but she'd acquired a bunch of snooty philosophy student pals who were busy exploring the real meaning of a cupboard." And later on, he undertakes relaxation therapy, in an attempt to bring him off the heroin... "It was like the light at the end of the tunnel that turns out to be an oncoming train."

After finishing I Wanna Be Yours, I moved on to a book by sports reporter and HMHB fan John Anderson. A Great Face For Radio follows him from his start as an insurance broker, to life as an international sports reporter. It was published a decade ago, so better late than never. Not finished it yet but it's a fine read. There's a marvellous example of how to talk to non-English speakers: "Do you speak English or am I going to have to shout?" And there is a tale about Carl Lewis. Having seen Ben Johnson, eyes a-bulging, whizz past him in the 100 metres final in the 1988 Olympics, Lewis was beaten into second place a few days later in the 200 metres. His press conference was packed with folk wanting to know about his disappointment, but the first question was: "Mister Johnson, could you tell us how you are enjoying life here in South Korea?" After all these years, there can't be that many copies of John's book left for sale. So, get shopping. I hope John's copyright people are OK with all that. I had hoped to get his signature on the book tonight. Some other time, eh?

Following the New Year Honours list, I'm looking forward to the amendment to the song... "Woke up around eleven, with hair like Sir Brian May."

The Guardian ran a feature on "the best music our writers discovered this year". Tim Jonze opted for Bob Wilson Anchorman. "It's hard to think of a record that could possibly be any less relevant in 2022, and thank God for that."

Transport issues were few. Grand Central put out messages about our train from Wakefield Kirkgate being delayed. Not so. It was actually bang on time, and away we went to London. There were plenty of other locals on board, heading for the capital. And there were plenty of Strongbow/Smirnoff combinations being taken at the next table. Like you do

A quick march along Euston Road, via Nandos for lunch, and we checked in at our home for the night, being one of several Premier Inns dotted round and about. Not much of a papers review. I picked up a copy of Metro, which was silent about HMHB. They mentioned that Black Flag are back in business. And they were also upping Brentford's chances of qualifying for Europe. Tight-arsed Yorkshireman couldn't do with sticking his hand in his pocket and buying a paper. I was saving up for the bottles of water at £3 a throw.

We were a twenty-five minute strole from the venue. Karen, Tony, Phill, Andrew and I formed a posse and took the walk along Eversholt Street in that direction. At the venue, extremely friendly staff were setting up the security barriers. I loaded up with some tidy caramelised peanuts from a street vendor and chatted with Neil and Stuart who were off to a cheese restaurant before the gig. Caramelised peanuts. Cheese restaurants. It's all there in Camden.

While the queue built up, we got talking to Lorna. Originally from Glasgow, she is now based in New Hampshire where she presents a radio show, Global Heartbeat on WSCA Radio. Lorna also reminded me of a band called Hugh Reed And The Velvet Underpants, and their marvellous song I've Just Had My Car Nicked. I remember seeing them supporting HMHB at the original Fibbers in York decades ago. Nice to meet you, Lorna. Hope to see you again at the Edinburgh gig.

As soon as I was inside I had a word with Miles and Pete at the merch stall. Nothing new on the shelves, but there is a new gig, in Llangollen in July. Sounds like a good plan to press the button immediately for that one. It will go.

There were some fine songs coming out of the PA. Totally Wired, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Devo, Buzzcocks, Wire, Gang Of Four, Iggy Pop. And it was grand to catch up with many of the usual crew. Hellos were exchanged with Jay, Brian (who was with a mate whose last HMHB show was in 1999 – why do folk leave it so long?), Steve, Postman Tony, John, George, Huddersfield Graham, Andy, Graham Le Taxi, Kev, Daz, Lou, Howie, Paul, Mike and Tracey.

Support act for the evening was JD Meatyard. He has a new album out , which explains why I didn't know much of what he was playing. I recognised covers of Hello, I Love You and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. And he played his old favourites A Political Song (Blow It Out Yr Arse) and Ubu At Erics. John was also doing a couple of other shows while he was over from Spain. We'll have to give him a go if he ever gets to Yorkshire.

The walk-on music was Lieutenant Pigeon's Mouldy Old Dough. First job was to check out the clothing choices. Nigel's long-sleeved item was Der Ring Des Nibelungen – Wagner's Ring Cycle according to Tony. Ta to Karen for checking the spelling. Later, someone asked Nigel what his shirt said, he replied "Nothing, it can't talk". Karl had an Inner City Unit t-shirt. Nigel switched guitars, and did quite a few songs without one, before bringing out the caravan for the encore. "OK for bags?" was his opening line.

Someone, somewhere, please remind me to stop standing right in front of the speakers. I can't hear everything that is said, and my ears were still buzzing the day after. So anyway... In Renfield's Afoot, BOOKING ESSENTIAL and NO DOGS were in capital letters. When he did have his guitar, the newish one, Nigel let us have a bit of the Peter Gunn theme. He was having difficulties with the strap again. "Anyone in from The Marshall Islands?" he asked. They would have had a bit of a trip to get to this gig. Neil sang lines from The Streets Of London before the band played Awkward Sean.

Nigel asked if anyone was in from Tavistock. "Do you know Mad Macca?" He praised their falconry centre, "but take some sandwiches because the café is shite". The "They're absolutely crazy" line in Petty Sessions was accompanied by a stifled yawn.

"This is about the trauma of a bereaved mind," announced Nigel. "Oh, no it's not, it's this one..." He corrected himself, and the band played Bob Wilson Anchorman. There was a bit of a Parfitt/Rossi thing during that song. "I stole this from Judee Sill," was said ahead of Look Dad No Tunes.

Not exactly sure what he was referring to, but Nigel had seen someone's t-shirt in the crowd and pointed out that it could be improved by adding an external TV aerial. "This is about people we all know" was the pre-amble for What Made Colombia Famous. He spotted Beth Tweddle. "Any time with those step ladders, Beth." Something was said about a Residents bootleg, and Nigel reminded everyone that "you don't get this with Newton Faulkner."

Big Man Up Front was about someone signing in at Dignitas and then complaining about being given Cheerios for breakfast. Neil's fan club began chanting his name at one point. Nigel observed someone in the crowd had taken off their jumper. "Makes a change to be warm enough to do that," he noted "We've turned the dial on our gas meter so far back, it's now in Roman numerals."

Nigel said that everyone has air fryers and log burners these days. He has had two log burners for twenty years. But now, because log burners are fashionable, you can't get the wood. He said to Postman Tony, "I bet you've got a log burner." Postman Tony said he didn't because he lives in a high rise. "Oh yes, how northern are we?" replied Nigel, "I forgot you live in Collyhurst. This next one's for you," said Nigel. "In fact it's the polar opposite of Collyhurst," And then they played For What Is Chatteris. Nigel also talked about famous people from Collyhurst, including Nobby Stiles and Les Dawson. He said he had read Nobby's autobiography.

I can't remember the subject matter, but Nigel sang "He's fat, he's round, he thinks he's Ezra Pound."

It happens every now and then... At the beginning of For What Is Chatteris, Nigel was floundering for the opening line. We all helped him out. Nigel was also struggling when trying to adjust the height of his microphone. "Only been doing this for forty years," he muttered. There was a pause in proceedings whilst he dealt with a shoelace "it's loose, arguably worse than being undone". A snippet of Black Night preceded What Made Colombia Famous. Likewise, That's A Moray came before Vatican Broadside.

There was further celebrity spotting. "Damian Grammaticus, ladies and gentlemen. Or is he just passing by?" Nigel dedicated Midnight Mass Murder to his local vicar, a chap going by the name of Reverend John Thomas. I can't help but wonder if/when the line about "full Sky replica kit" will change to "full Ineos replica kit". For the encore, Nigel came on with a paper bag. Food or medication? A bit of both, apparently. And there was the traditional farewell message: "Have a good weekend, weatherwise or otherwise."

Thanks to Carl for screwing up his set list and chucking it to me. I'm glad I can still catch. The evening went like this:

Renfield's Afoot
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Awkward Sean
Petty Sessions
Bob Wilson Anchorman
Look Dad No Tunes
I'm Getting Buried In The Morning
What Made Colombia Famous
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
Big Man Up Front
Rock 'n' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
For What Is Chatteris?
Vatican Broadside
Grafting Haddock In The George
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Surging Out Of Convalescence
When I Look At My Baby
National Shite Day
Midnight Mass Murder
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
Twydale's Lament
Everything's AOR
The Trumpton Riots
Every Time A Bell Rings

And the encore featured:

Oblong Of Dreams
I Fought The Law
Joy Division Oven Gloves

The audit of the set list tells us that Terminus was originally scheduled to come between National Shite Day and Midnight Mass Murder. But it got dropped. On the other hand, Sealclubbing was a spur of the moment inclusion. "I just want to play it," said Nigel. All good stuff, as we have come to expect. Hopefully the girl who was pulled over the barrier by security was ok in the end. A dozen or so of us headed to The Lyttleton Arms, back in the direction of Euston. From there it was to bed, and then back north on the Saturday morning. I always have a good time when I go to London, but somehow I can never get used to the crowds. Small town boy, you see. I reckon I will cope better with Leamington Spa in April.