HMV Empire, Coventry, Fri 12th Apr 2024 (13/04/24)

Roger Green:

Our first visit to Coventry since January 2017. That was when HMHB last played here. Mouldy Old Dough was the walk-on music and has been a regular earworm since.

Our gig-going has finally got going again. We were at a show to celebrate the 60th birthday of Jim, the frontman with Shatner. They supported HMHB on their most recent appearance in York. We also caught Pete Wylie when he appeared at The Brudenell. Come Back, Sinful, The Story Of The Blues. Still as good as ever.

We noticed that Coronation Hall in Ulverston has started to host gigs again. HMHB were last there in God Knows When. Hope the band can get back onto their listings. You may have seen that a show in Cardiff on 7 March next year has landed in the diary. So that's a total of three, along with Holmfirth in June and Sheffield in October. All is quiet on the Western Front.

Our trips to the cinema are about on a par with gigs and general nights out. The Bob Marley film, One Love, is worth seeing, and we are going to try and catch the one about Amy Winehouse. We went to An Evening With John Robb* at Selby Town Hall, where he was plugging his book The Art Of Darkness (The History Of Goth). No mention of Dai Young in there, but you'll like the book if Goth was along your route to HMHB. With either the spoken word, or the written word, John is always good value.

You might want to track down the fanzine Lunchtime For The Wild Youth. Their coverage of The Best Albums Of 1985 includes a lengthy piece on Back In The DHSS which also acknowledges the continuing high standard of more recent releases.

We went to see Echo And The Bunnymen at the impressive Sheffield City Hall. Maybe one day HMHB will be able to fill the three levels at that place. There are now six Bunnymen rather than four of them in previous times. The band has a fine back catalogue, a lot of which was played. Rescue, Bring On The Dancing Horses, Never Stop, Over The Wall, The Killing Moon, The Cutter, Lips Like Sugar. All good stuff, referring me back to a time before HMHB came onto my radar. Although the following morning, the experience was spoiled slightly when we found that Greggs shops were out of action up and down the country due to a computer glitch.

Being a RM Qualtrough completist, and being a fairly frequent customer of Jumbo Records in Leeds, I noted an article on the BBC website. It suggested that the number of independent record shops (461) is way higher than ten years ago (122). But the article says that, although there has been a steady increase in vinyl, just 8% of all music sales are now in physical form. Streaming subscriptions seem to be the way to go. Not for me though. Next time there is a HMHB release, I'll be back in the queue at Miles's stall.

Classic FM played their 2024 Hall Of Fame. There were a couple of HMHB links in the top three. Ascending/Descending? There is only a slight difference.
In at 3 Fantasia On A Theme by Thomas Tallis - Ralph Vaughan Williams
In at 2 The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams
And top of the pile was Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov. I'm sure the band has delved into his back catalogue for walk-on music. I had a very pleasant (if chilly) afternoon with my sister at the first race meeting of the season at Pontefract. With my mind on the Crossroads line in Hair Like Brian May Blues, I piled some brass on to a horse by the name of Robert Johnson in one of the races. Nothing doing. The devil built a bypass at the bend at the bottom of the closing straight.

We noticed all-round celebrity John Robins' appearance on Taskmaster. He was wearing a HMHB aerosol tshirt. Guess what? I was wearing mine as well! Although mine is white, whereas John's was yellow. At the gig, Miles and Matt reported that these items were now flying out of the door. There's the ominous power of television for you.

I know it's not HMHB business, but I raised a glass to Kurt Cobain on the Friday before this gig. 5th April was the thirtieth anniversary of him deciding that this world wasn't for him. Nirvana's Never Mind and Bleach helped to fill the gap while HMHB were having their little rest at the start of the nineties. Thirty years ago! I am getting old. (*The inevitable asterisk. Check out John's interview with Nirvana in Sounds from before the gods that made the gods were born.)

We were pleased to see the new Crapsons CD landing in the post. Half-Time Executions has six songs, so does not detain you for long. Nor does it make much of a dint in your bank account. Buy now. It whetted our appetite for seeing them in Coventry.

Karen and I are not normally ones for tribute acts. But we accepted an invite to a 60th birthday party where two live bands were playing. Buzzcrocks were first up. A bit of a clue there as to which band's songs they were playing. And maybe also their physical state. I couldn't possibly comment. Plastic Letters were also on the bill. We might have expected just Blondie songs, but they played a wider mix of stuff from the late seventies.

The day of the gig came round. We drove to Andrew's, and he then drove us to Coventry. On the way, we noted Chris Moyles now appears on Radio X, along with a guy called Toby Tarrant. Son of Chris? Plenty of stations available on the car radio, but all much of a muchness. Top marks (again) to Andrew. It's not the first time that a HMHB gig has coincided with a train strike. We would have struggled with this one without him getting behind the wheel. Andrew had a fair selection of music on his memory stick. Don't think we would have heard Die Toten Hosen, Bauhaus and very early Human League on the radio.

Once in Coventry we wandered into the city, had pizzas at Zizzi, and then were joined by Phill, Gilly and Daisy in our quest to find the venue. Andrew's on-screen map helped us to locate the place, where the band was unloading their gear, and Miles was doing the same with the merch. It didn't strike me as an easy place to find. Fortunately, Andrew is better than me with these new-fangled gadgets. We also saw Mike nosing around town, perhaps also seeking out the venue.

When we went back to queue up, we met Niall, who gave us updates on The Hitchers and Half Arsed Half Biscuit issues. Always happy to be corrected, but I reckon he was the winner of the Travelled Furthest award. Alex and Lynn joined the queue. When inside the venue, there was some impressive stuff on the PA. Deaf School. The Jam. The Undertones. The Stranglers. Steppenwolf. The Ruts. The Mekons, The Hitchers, The La's, Eddie And The Hot Rods, The Rezillos. And the usual crowd started to mill around. Chris, John, Elizabeth, Peter, Steve, Postman Tony and Brian (Nigel wished him Happy Birthday from the stage). Andy, Graham Le Taxi, Drew, Gomez and Howie all came to say Hello. And we raised a glass to Micky Bates, who would quite likely have been at this, one of his local gigs.

Crapsons made their entrance to The Hunting of the Snark: The Snooker Song by Mike Batt. Better known to us as "Snookering You Tonight" from Big Break. This band gets better every time I see them. As mentioned earlier, the new album is a Must Buy. Marky, Gilbert and Pete have one or two commitments over the summer. I just wish we lived nearer The Wirral, so that we could catch them. All very lively stuff. I noticed Gilbert in a Pizzatramp t-shirt. Marky pointed out that their song Fuck Off is not long enough to qualify for a payment from Spotify when downloaded. I was pleased to hear that Poor Old Prince Philip was incorporated into You Don't Know When You're Going To Die. Ian Brown Is The Resurrection is about "some fellow called Ian from Warrington". Marky has three cats - Raggy, Moose and Barry - you find out something new every day. A Crapsons plectrum fell into Karen's possession, and I bought a Half-Time Executions t-shirt. So I reckon that just about makes us Crapsons completists. Nigel may want a word with them though, about typing out their set-lists. Here is how it looked...

Checking In To A And E
Single Greatest Game You've Ever Seen
Who'll Babysit The Goths?
Park People
Fuck Off
Fuck Off Again
Elephant In The Room
You Don't Know When You're Going To Die
Mustn't Grumble
Jenny Doody Is A Grass
Ian Brown Is The Resurrection
Spoiler Alert
Clotheslined By A Nun
Kings Of The Council Estate

As with their last time in Coventry, HMHB's walk-on music was Lieutenant Pigeon's Mouldy Old Dough. We were encouraged to join in. After a couple of songs, Nigel pointed out Liza Tarbuck in the crowd. Those pallets she wanted were in the van. Karl was wearing an Aircooled t-shirt with a picture of a leopard and on it. Being at the back of the stage, Carl was too far away for me to see the design on his t-shirt.

With reference to Coventry City's change kit from some years back, Nigel commented "Can I just say at this early stage that I quite liked the brown shirt?" Later on, Nigel recreated the famous Coventry move where the ball was flicked two-footed into the air, and then volleyed into the net, using a bottle of water. Really, where else do you get that kind of cultural reference point? "Should be allowed now, just for pure inventiveness," said Nigel.

In Renfield's Afoot, the advertisement decreed "BOOKING ESSENTIAL" in capital letters. The arrival time was seven o'clock, in anticipation of a seven-thirty start. In addition, a packed lunch was recommended. Surely that is a bit late for lunch, but we are all different. He noted that they were happening again this year. "It's as if The Council haven't listened to our album.".

Nigel raised a glass in tribute to Andy Martin, and wished Brian from Bury a Happy Birthday. The latter did not get a good reception when his favourite team became known (it's the red half of Manchester). "They hate you with a vengeance," concluded Nigel.

There was a jumbling of words in I'm Getting Buried In The Morning - "A flick got switched" rather than the more usual "A switch got flicked". There was a similar thing during God Gave Us Life, " that we could play in the ball with the street..." I didn't catch all the names in God Gave Us Life, but Rod Liddle, Paddy McGuinness, Micah Richards ("crap pundit, just makes comments so he can laugh."), Sam Quek, Alan Carr, him over there and Lionel Blair all featured. At the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes, the line was "That's when I first said a re-make of The Wicker Man won't work." Nigel said that he watches the original in 'real time' every year i.e. May Day.

We had a spot of Dean Martin from Nigel... "When you swim in a creek / And a fish bites your cheek / That's a moray." That turned out to be the introduction to Awkward Sean, deputising for Neil, who was struggling with his voice. During Surging Out Of Convalescence, he attempted to lick his elbow. No. Not possible.

There was a story about a coach trip to Pompeii. A Texan said "Where are you from?" The answer was "Birkenhead." The guy from Texas followed up with "What state is that in?" To which the reply was "Similar to this." Nigel turned towards the soundman and asked him to turn the monitor up. Using sign language, of course, which ended up with the line from Vision On..."We are sorry, we cannot return your pictures..."

A conversation with a punter led to the question "Who's your favourite character in Deadwood?" The venue was previously a cinema, so there was a repeat of the old line about the death of the former manager. "His funeral is on Tuesday at 2.30, 5.30 and 7.45."

There was a slight diversion when a bloke sat down by the railing in front of me and Tony, and started filming the band. Or maybe he was just taking photos. Well, I suppose we should look out for the results in some media outlet or other in the coming days.

"This is about people who should know better on Christmas Eve," announced Nigel, in advance of Midnight Mass Murder. He saw a Tranmere-supporting mate in the crowd and asked "Are you going to Newport tomorrow?" before adding "Dead rubber games are the best." Nigel also handed out a tip for The Grand National meeting (taking place the day after this show). "Dusty Carpet in the second race. Never been beaten..."

Just another gripe from Nigel. When he gets leaflets through the door, he does not like to see the phrase "Cans of drink". This was prompted by the others having cans on stage. Showbiz can be brutal like that. This evening was the usual standard from the band. No new songs yet. All good stuff.

Bob Wilson Anchorman
Irk The Purists
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Renfield's Afoot
Running Order Squabble Fest
I'm Getting Buried In The Morning
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
In A Suffolk Ditch
When I Look At My Baby
God Gave Us Life
Floreat Inertia
Awkward Sean
Petty Sessions
Surging Out Of Convalescence
The Best Things In Life (just the "slippers" bit)
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
National Shite Day
Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train
Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
Every Time A Bell Rings
Midnight Mass Murder
Song To The Siren / Vatican Broadside
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
Everything's AOR
Joy Division Oven Gloves

And then in the encore...

Oblong Of Dreams
Pretty In Pink
The Trumpton Riots

That all matched up against Karl's set list which he kindly handed over.

After chatting with Crapsons about this, that and the other, I stopped for a beer in the bar with Karen, Tony, Andrew, Gilly, Daisy and Phill. And then we dispersed, agreeing to meet again in Holmfirth. See everybody there.