Four months is not much of a drought by HMHB standards. But I was starting to get the feeling that we were well overdue. And I had a demon to exorcise. My only other visit to Oxford had been to see a band including a couple of my mates. OK, I'll admit it. They were supporting Marillion. It may even have been at the same venue. That's how much of an impact it had. My main memory of the day was going to see Oxford United play a 0-0 draw at home to Grimsby Town in the afternoon. I just did a bit of searching. 29 August 1998 according to t'web.
I didn't have much time to explore the dreaming spires. Not that I had much chance. Signs up everywhere. "This college is closed to tourists." OK, I got the message. No rough Northern types carting rucksacks around with them. Maybe another time. So I was off down Iffley Road, where I was stopping. To my eternal shame, I didn't take more time to seek out ye olde running track. Perhaps I'll take that in when I'm back for a nosey around Magdalen College et al.
I wasn't far from Cowley Road, and the Academy didn't take a lot of finding. Very clearly, it's the "night life" end of town. And there is a very conveniently placed Tesco Express just across the road. I tried the brand new Roast Beef And Yorkshire Pudding wrap. It's a grower. Outside, I bumped into Tony who had driven down from Birmingham, and somehow had managed to find a parking space. I'd been told that the first band was on stage sharpish after the doors opened at 7.00. So we were straight in with our bar coded tickets. (My usual little gripe. Why do you get charged an admin fee when you have to do all the work yourself, when buying/printing/storing a ticket? Are refunds available for ink usage, and/or wear and tear on consumables?)
Ragged Claw were first on. You couldn't accuse them of outstaying their welcome. And they deserved a rousing farewell when they ended with a version of She's In Broadstairs. After that it was Probe Plus recording artistes Sonnenberg. One of the few bands who include a rug as part of their stage gear. The guy sitting on the rug plays what I would call fancy bongo things. Tony was happy to point to me that they are actually called tabla. All tax deductible, you would have thought. Support acts can vary greatly in quality, but these were both worth the early entrance.
As usual, when the clock struck nine it was time for HMHB. "Sorry, we brought the weather with us," announced Nigel. "When we go out, the sun goes in." Maybe it was a bit of a hangover from the Sonnenberg set, but they opened up with a particularly "lounge" version of Sealclubbing. Soon enough, Malcolm Shotton was spotted in the crowd. Where else would he be? On the football theme, I got a reminder from Nigel that Tranmere would be playing Donny Rovers again next season. Yes, thanks for that. Joy In Leeuwarden was apparently written by Nigel on horseback. There was a bit of chat about The Great Western pub in Wolverhampton. Blackwells bookshop also came up in general conversation. The band had visited the Museum Of Bygones ("nice place, but take a flask."). There was a request for Blood On The Quad (response: "that's more of a Cambridge one."). Also apparently "Norman Collier is at the Leveson tomorrow." Nigel seemed to think that The Derby was the main sporting occasion coming up at the weekend (clearly overlooking the BARLA Cup final). Talk about The Derby gave him an excuse to crack the one about backing a horse at 10 to 1, but it came in at 5 past 3. Staying on the sporting theme, he noted that the Olympic Torch was due in Birkenhead the day after this gig. "May God have mercy on it." Later on, he finished Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes with "...That's when I first said that the Torch would be abused." There was much mirth and merriment with the robotic rotating lights. One of them knocked over Neil's bottle of water, and when asked to do Visitor For Mr Edmonds, Nigel's response was that one of these lights should be able to play it. And we also got bits of the Space Odyssey "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave" line. Homes Under The Hammer is obviously a big favourite at the Blackwells'. But it has been troubling Nigel. He has just realized what is wrong - the guy presenting it appears to have his hands glued together. And then we got to 24 Hour Garage People. As usual, my hearing and my writing both fall to pieces at this point. I do my best! He seemed to fluff the line at the very start. "Weekend Quavers" instead of "pagans". Good to hear he was up to date with the radio station - Talk Sport instead of the antiquated Talk Radio. And the crisps are now Texas Barbeque Sauce flavour. Or should that be BBQ? They are a horrendous £2.84, as opposed to £2.39 at Sainsburys. There was something about the metal tray device being called a Roscoe in the trade ("a good server"). A minibus of local ramblers has pulled up in the forecourt. One wants Nitromors Boost, another is after a street map of Peterhead. I started to lose it badly when Nigel started going on about one of the ramblers called Lost Oliver. And there was a joke in there somewhere about the ramblers' treasurer. The guy behind the counter is doing a Dot To Dot of classic British motorcycles. And there was a repeat of the one about being a Ninth Dan in Origami. "You can laugh now, but wait till I turn you into a yacht." It was grand to hear Ordinary To Enschede after all these years. I can't be arsed checking back, but it IS years. There was much scratching of heads about the cover version. Apparently it's something to do with Robert Wyatt (well, I suppose it would be). His band Matching Mole did it originally, and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci covered it. I am a better person for knowing that.
Here's the full set:
Running Order Squabble Fest
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Joy In Leeuwarden
Left Lyrics In The Practice Room
All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman
National Shite Day
Bob Wilson Anchor Man
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
Joy Division Oven Gloves
Look Dad No Tunes
For What Is Chatteris?
Shit Arm Bad Tattoo
24 Hour Garage People
Little In The Way Of Sunshine
Rock N Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
Ordinary To Enschede
99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd
The encore was:
Fix It So She Thinks Of Me
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
Ta to Tony for some of the cultural references, and to Gomez for helping out with transport arrangements on the way home. Things shouldn't be quite so complicated for the Leeds show. There is also much talk about other gigs later in the year. Watch this space.