Where, oh where, does the time go? It's over a third of a year since the Blackburn gig. 137 days, there or thereabouts. 0.3753425 years if you prefer it in decimals. In the relativity of the universe as a whole, that is actually quite a small gap. But in Biscuit Time, it's an age. Fortunately the summer has not been a total waste. The Chills, The Wedding Present, The Ainsley Band, Cowtown, The Fall (a virtuoso performance by Mark E Smith in York on what would have been John Peel's 75th birthday), Cactus Knife, Yawning Dog, One Day After School, The Sunbeams, John Otway (both with and without Wild Willy Barrett), Dead Party Scene, Loz Campbell, The Cribs, The Lovely Eggs, Milky Wimpshake, Mario Goetze (his goal in the World Cup final, and Germany's resultant victory, meant that I coined it in with sixty big pounds), Mi Mye and Sleaford Mods combined to help me through the hiatus.
The train route to this place holds no surprises now. Change at Birmingham New Street, on to Wolverhampton, and then the 25a bus to Bilston. Although there was a delay, apparently caused by a "trespasser" on the line between Berwick and Newcastle. Apparently the gentleman in question was taken away by the authorities before the train got to him, but the inevitability of life imitating art leads one to The Coroner's Footnote. I was glad to see the Fighting Cocks supermarket still acting as a landmark on the bus route. It was even better to see The Major chip shop on the precinct in Bilston still operating at full output. Karen had drawn my attention to a number of reviews on Trip Advisor. 9 people rated it as Excellent, 5 as Very Good and 3 as Terrible. Some folk are very hard to please. Either the reviewers, or the shop of course, must have been having a bad day. This is one of the best chip shops that I know. I would certainly be delighted to be pointed in the direction of a better one.
From there it was on to the venue. I was able to take a quick look at one of the rooms at the Robin 2 Hotel. I would say "Compact, but meets all requirements." And apparently the breakfasts score highly. Always an important factor. I'll stop there one day, but I've always thought the logisitics of stopping in Wolverhampton have meant that one stage is cut out from the return home. Karen and I spotted a minimal amount of publicity for the gig. HMHB's name appeared on a poster outside the venue, near the one for a "Tina Tuner" tribute act. My, how we laughed. And there was no mention at all in The Express And Star. Would you expect it to be any other way?
There was steady business in Woody's Bar. We met Tony there, before we joined the surge into the venue. It wasn't too long before JD Meatyard opened the show. It was actually just John on his own this time, but his passion for his work made up for the lack in numbers. Excellent versions of the Singer/Songwriter one, along with Standing On The Shoulders and the one about St Peter. And he even fitted in a bit of showmanship. Taking a swig of Guinness, he played the guitar one-handed. "That is the avant garde bit," he said.
We had caught two songs in HMHB's early evening sound check. They played Totnes and one of the new ones, Old Age Killed My Teenage Bride (available on the Urge For Offal CD very soon in good and bad record shops). The band were on stage for a standard 9 o'clock start. There was no walk-on music. The only accompaniment was a bit of whooping and hollering. "That's another one of our dynamic entrances," announced Nigel after he had eventually found the lead, to plug his guitar in. There was a bit of chat involving the two guys who were wearing Barnstoneworth shirts. One had McIntyre's name on the back. The other had Davitt. "Treadmore must still be in The White Rose," commented Nigel. He introduced the first song, Asparagus Next Left, with "This is a wary song about rural areas." After a couple of songs he started talking to me about the band's route to the gig. There had been some incident or other on the motorway, so Nigel ("I am a human satnav") had guided Neil, somewhat controversially, around the A55 and A483 via Oswestry towards Bilston. It's not a part of the world that I know particularly well, so I couldn't possibly comment. He reminded the rest of the band that Reflections In A Flat starts in E Minor, which gave him the excuse to run out the old line about "Every toilet in the world flushes in E Minor." This One's For Now (another one on the new CD) is the song that I had previously known as You're So Beige. It also had the "As told to the boil on the cab driver's neck" line added to it at the end. I congratulated Gomez for putting up an admirable effort as a one-man moshpit. With a couple of exceptions, it was all a bit quiet out there. (By the way, Gomez contacted me the day after this gig to say he was in Kidderminster and had spotted a Blackwell Street and a Crossley Park.) Nigel pondered over the question "Is Magnus Pyke dead? If so, it must have happened on a busy news day." Nigel claimed that he knows the name of the actor playing every part in Coronation Street "up to about 1982", because the credits used to roll quite slowly, whereas nowadays they whizz by. A couple of punters put him to the test, but Emily Bishop, for example, was not the stern examination he might have expected. During Capel Curig we had some stage craft from Ken. My best description is a very steady, very measured, Chuck Berry duck walk. The kind that you do when you don't want to hurt yourself. Shouts for "Too Much Too Young" were approaching the quantity that we might expect for "What Did God Us, Neil?" "We can do Guns Of Navarone," replied Nigel. He sang a bit of Enjoy Yourself, the line that says it's later than you think. Nigel, of course, had to qualify that line. "Except it never is (later than you think)." There was a bit of Radio Four talk. Nigel told us of the time when Geoff Davies had got him a spot on a Radio Four discussion programme "at half past seven in the morning", he was keen to point out. The other people on the programme were Libby Purves, a stripper from Eastenders, the head of the British Hedgehog Society, and David Jason. Quality stuff, by the sounds of it. There was a bloke behind me who was filming the gig. Apologies to anyone who is watching this on You Tube, because I kept bumping into him. And that's what I'm like when I'm sober! More shouts for Too Much Too Young led to Nigel expressing preference for Friday Night Saturday Morning. One guy came storming to the front demanding to hear 27 Yards Of Dental Floss. "I've been to see you sixteen times, and you've never played it!" "What's the first line? I can't remember it," replied Nigel. The punter couldn't remember it either. So it was left at that. Gomez told me how he, Howie and Daz had walked to Bilston from Wolverhampton bus station after discovering that the tram wasn't operating. I wasn't sure what was wrong with the bus, but it was their choice. The cover was a Beatles song which I had never heard before. You live and learn. Applause at the end were pretty thunderous. It looked like they might come back for a second encore, before the lights went up. The King Of High Vis was kind enough to grab a set list from the stage for Karen. It makes an interesting comparison with what they actually played. This is what Nigel wrote for the set list...Asparagus
And this is how I reckon it actually went...Asparagus Next Left
And in the encore there was:When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Big thanks to Tony for the lift back to Wolverhampton. It was great to see my friend Kath at her first HMHB gig since they played Kentish Town a few years back. Surprised not to see Dave and his mates, who are normally at the Midlands shows. And it would have been interesting to hear Nigel's thoughts on the Dads Army re-make. Maybe that's one for next time. At least there is not as long wait this time round.