It's a few months ago now. But in the middle of October, we found out about the passing of Mickey Bates. In the early days, he had administered the Probe Plus website, so had been a close contact of Geoff. I only met Mickey once, at a gig at Bilston, and Karen was a regular email correspondent with him. He sent us copies of his Leicester City fanzine, Bentley's Roof. We felt we knew him really well. A grand bloke. Best wishes to his daughter, Carly, and her family.
The day after October's gig in Wolverhampton, Karen and I (and several other Biscuiteers) made our way to the Pack Horse in Leeds (the one near the university, not the one in the city centre). The Hitchers, who had supported HMHB in Wolverhampton were playing. They in turn were supported by Indignation Meeting. Organisation was courtesy of Nigel/Exxo. He can put bills like this together whenever he likes. Indignation Meeting may have been making it up on the hoof as set lists were not available. Their drummer/vocalist/trumpeter Peter reckons he writes one or two songs a month. Peter, Michael, Hugo and Sally were joined by an additional guitarist, Keith. Among other of their songs we heard the following Electrification Abergynolwyn 41241 (Peter's favourite engine) That Leeds Feeling (their new single) And there was one about the train strike, and another inspired by a Hornby documentary. There was also some impressive basswork from Hugo, playing his instrument behind his head. The new Jimi Hendrix? Do yourself a favour and secure a copy of their CD, Trouble In The Shed.
The Hitchers carried on their fine form from the previous night. Only this time they played a fuller set. They make a fine noise. Good job I bought some ear plugs. This is only a small room. Niall handed over a set list.Even At Your Bravest
They listed a few options for the encore, but went for Mamma Mia. Hope we can get chance to see them again soon. If they don't come back to England, we may have to track them down in their homeland, Ireland. Might be slightly easier to catch Indignation Meeting, with them being based just down the road from us.
Life imitated art on our train back home after that show. A lady asked us which way the train was going to be heading. This would determine where she sat. She'll not sit backwards on the train. Them's the vagaries.
A little later, news came through about Neil breaking his wrist. As a consequence of that, the Holmfirth gig went out of the window, now re-scheduled for June this year. On the night of the cancelled gig, off the substitute's bench, we opted for Attila The Stockbroker at The Red Shed in Wakefield. A great bloke. Still belting out the poems after forty-four years at the top. We had other options that night. Crumbs were playing in Sowerby Bridge, Geoffrey Oi!cott were in South Elmsall It's the usual Sod's Law. There's that many weekends when nothing happens. And then everything piles in at once.
In the bleak midwinter, we did not have many other arrangements. We started off with The Soup Dragons, supported by BMX Bandits at The Brudenell. The Soup Dragons did a couple of new songs but by and large they trade on stuff from way back when. There's nothing wrong with their first few singles. Whole Wide World still sounds as good as ever. One of the very best pop songs.
Our first show of 2024 was by Nervous Twitch at The Brudenell in Leeds. Great band, great venue. The place has never got onto the HMHB agenda. They now seem to be regulars at Stylus when they are in the region.
Karen was poking around on the intranet (looking something up about Mighty Mighty), and came across a flyer for Burberries in Birmingham. HMHB played there on 14 October 1986, supported by no less than The Wonder Stuff. £4.00 in advance. £4.50 on the door. Those were the days. And afterwards there was a "hedonist disco" until two o'clock for all the dirty stop-outs.
Andrew spotted an article in Mojo, referencing HMHB. It linked various songs with kitchenware. "Where the post-punk colossi and protective thermal handwear for use while cooking meet. Life imitated art when the oven gloves featuring the cover of Unknown Pleasures were manufactured." Joy Division Oven Gloves was one of five songs featured.
Life imitating art again. Best not to name names, but a previously top-level footballer joined the ranks of the blue badge abusers when he was convicted of using a badge belonging to a chap who had died. And the BBC reported a story from Wales where the wrong body had been cremated at a funeral. Well, it was close enough to a HMHB reference. Just put it down as an "admin error", eh?
In the run-up to Christmas the office radio blurted out the usual conveyor belt of seasonal "favourites". And I caught bits of 6 Music at various points. But not once did I hear It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas. We had to make do with viewing the video on the internet. Again.
6 October to 9 February. That's a fair gap between gigs. I ran out of fingers and toes, but if we exclude the Covid situation, I think that is the longest wait since the first half of 2015, going from the Edinburgh show to the one in Wakefield.
Good to see another HMHB gig added to the diary. The band returns to The Leadmill in Sheffield in October. Add this to the shows in Coventry and Holmfirth, and don't hang about sorting tickets out. I would also like to add to the applause for a Half Mandolin Half Biscuit show the day after the gig at The Leadmill. As previous? Same pub, same time? Seems like it is happening. Details to follow.
I bought a copy of a magazine produced by the makers of Uncut, detailing the 500 Greatest Albums Of The 1980s. All interesting stuff of course, with plenty of Smiths, Cure and Banshees in there. Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love was top of the pile. I was interested to see where Back In The DHSS ended up. I'm still trying to find it. Must be a mis-print somewhere.
In a similar vein, the BBC website listed "eleven albums that defined 1994". All well and good for fans of Blur, Jeff Buckley, Manic Street Preachers, Nas, Oasis, Orbital, Portishead, The Prodigy, Suede, Tori Amos and Underworld. Too late for This Leaden Pall, and too early for Some Call It Godcore.
HMHB got a spin on Radcliffe And Maconie's show on 6 Music on the Tea Time Theme Time feature. We tapped our toes to The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train but couldn't get the link between that and the two other songs which were played.
Memo to Exxo. In your excellent investigation of Station-To-Venue distances, you stipulate that you are referring to "recent" gigs. Therefore, I am not sure if March 2000 qualifies. But I would have thought that Doncaster's The Leopard would score very highly. I can't see in my mind how it would pitch against the Liverpool venue, but it would give The Cockpit and Fibbers a run for their money. One day, when I have totally run out of things to do, I will pace them out. Compare and contrast.
Strikes on the trains had been coming and going. And there had been some grim weather in the days immediately prior to this gig. But all was good on the day. On board at Wakefield Westgate. And straight through to Newcastle, courtesy of Cross Country Trains. We were outside and immediately across the road to The Newcastle Tap, to fill up with their excellent pizzas. Wish I'd known about that place on our previous visits.
No press review this time. I went into Central News, only to find that they didn't sell newspapers. Bit of a misnomer, if you ask me. I couldn't be arsed traipsing round town, so we were off to our digs for a nice cup of tea and an episode of Countdown. After that, I went for a stroll round the block and saw my first Biscuiteer of the day, being Lorna who had jetted in from The States. Not long after that, we assembled for the not-particularly-difficult walk to the venue. We could have done with it being a tad warmer when we were standing outside in the street, but in the second week of February, how warm would we expect it to be? Nigel and Neil walked past. We said Hello, and Neil reported that his wrist is back to full working order.
Many others assembled. Drew and John. Andrew, Phill, Huddersfield Graham, Sarah, Steve, Postman Tony, John B, Lou, Brian, Katharine, Karl, Colin, Andy (making his way home from Budapest) and Graham Le Taxi were all part of the sold-out crowd. At least I'm fairly sure it sold out. These days, that happens regularly.
Tonight's support was Vincent Whyte. John had suggested that he is a bit like Jake Thackray. I also saw a bit of, ahem, Dean Friedman in there. Vincent said he had just been on tour, and was now privileged to be supporting HMHB. He said something about a new album. I should have had a nosey at the merch stall. You might need to trawl the internet to find Vincent's products. I might have got some of these song titles wrong (and almost certainly missed some out), but this is as close as I can get.Let's Not Be Strangers
There was decent music on the PA. I heard I Don't Mind by Buzzcocks and Mountain Energi by The Fall. And even Joy Division Oven Gloves got a play. George appeared just ahead of HMHB's arrival on stage. The theme to The Rockford Files was the walk-on music. "A blast from the past" according to Nigel.
Nigel played the main set in a checked shirt, before changing into a Birkenhead t-shirt for the encore (the typeface being the same as that used by Motorhead). Carl was wearing a CND design. Neil's t-shirt was "Birkenhead Underground Sound" and Karl's was Imperial Wax. Nigel played the whole gig in glasses. A first? Not that it matters.
Nigel asked someone "Are you OK for bags?" He followed up with "How many Nectar points have you got? I prefer Tesco Club Card. The staff are nicer, and you can get cheap Belvitas". In Bob Wilson Anchorman, on the line about Stephenson the Engineer, he pointed offstage, I suppose in the direction where Stephenson might have been working in days gone by.
"I remember that shirt from last time we were here," Nigel said to another punter. "It would benefit from an inside aerial". "This is about living on death row" was the announcement ahead of I'm Getting Buried In The Morning. In Renfield's Afoot we had "Booking was essential, even though it was free" as well as "Strictly no dogs, because they are going to climb into the trees and worry the bats." "True story", added Nigel at the end of the song.
It may have been a nod to the region's musical heritage when Neil sang a few lines from The Animals' We've Got To Get Out Of This Place as the introduction to Awkward Sean. There was a spotting of a celebrity. "Reeta Chakrabrati, ladies and gentlemen. I know it's your birthday, but there's no need to be leaning on the de-fibrilator."
A message was passed on from the floor. "Turn the vocals up, please." God Gave Us Life contained a few namechecks. God also gave us Richard Littlejohn, Alan Sugar, Alan Carr, VAR. Novelty Socks, Lawrence Fox, Isla St Clair and Lionel Blair. There was an extended singalong of the chorus. "It's like The Everly Brothers," said Nigel. "He smokes 'Eavily, and you drink 'Eavily."
"Anyone in from Weybridge?" Nigel asked, before talking about Alfred The Great's archbishop, Plegmund. "I was writing a song about him. But nothing came of it, so I wrote this instead..." The song being 1966 And All That. Postman Tony surged to the front to offer the "Stanley Mortensen" line at the end. When I Look At My Baby is another true story.
The band had called at the Northumberland Cheese Museum where Nigel made the mistake of asking for Dairylea. He added that crumbly Cheshire is his favourite, but Red Leicester (or possibly Lancashire) is the best one if you are making cheese on toast. He said that they had called at a restaurant on Westgate where they had had pelican curry. ("Nice meal, but the bill was massive.")
Niall from The Hitchers put in a guest appearance, taking the lead vocal on For What Is Chatteris, and playing the famed caravan guitar while doing so. ("He's got the job," announced Nigel afterwards.) In Lark Descending, Nigel did the usual trick of sticking his plectrum to his forehead. He asked about the Metro system around Newcastle and compared it with the transport system in Liverpool. "The new trains are too quiet, so if you are talking, everyone can hear you."
An extract from Song To The Siren came before Vatican Broadside, containing an improvised lyric about Geoffrey from Rainbow. "This is a song about Gosforth," Nigel said, ahead of Persian Rug Sale At The URC. In Every Time A Bell Rings, he pointed towards Kendal at the allotted time. And the "Wiggo" line produced a staged yawn. There was more pointing (towards The Quantocks) in Joy Division Oven Gloves.
Here is how the evening went:She's In Broadstairs
And in the encore:The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)
Thanks to Karl for the setlist, which was written on a torn sandwich bag. All present and correct.
On the way out, there were a couple more Hellos with folk we had not seen earlier. Jilly and Daisy. Paul. Mike. Apologies to Niall for not hanging about afterwards. Showsec were keen to clear out the venue and surrounding streets. Karen, Lorna, Andrew, Tony, Phill and I headed to the hotel bar. And in due course, back home on the Saturday morning, where we could begin the countdown to the Coventry gig.