Another avalanche of media coverage ahead of this gig. This time it was an article in New Statesman. If that magazine was not so reactionary, surely they would change their name to New Statesperson. Isn't that more appropriate for the 21st century? Judging from my inability to find a copy anywhere, it clearly isn't left-wing enough for Pontefract. I had to travel to the more moderate, cosmopolitan centre of Wakefield to track it down. The article ("The fine art of giving offence") was written by Julie Burchill, late of New Musical Express before it went down the acronym (and difficult to find, just like New Statesman) route. It's all good stuff, although I had to read the bit again where she said that the recent Bristol gig was her first HMHB show. As always, whenever anyone says they have never seen the band live before, I beg to ask the question "Just where exactly have you been?" And the old Tranmere Rovers / The Tube chestnut was dragged out again. You start to wonder if people read this and don't actually know what The Tube was, and are similarly unaware of the story behind HMHB's booking. If that's you, then I can't be bothered to reel it out. You will have to look it up.
There is another avalanche on the way. Courtesy of Peter, who is a proper writer. He is putting together a piece on HMHB fans, which is due to appear in The Big Issue at some point. Having been interviewed by him down the phone while sitting in Karen's car in the middle of Bawtry, I met up with him in Sid's Café to discuss matters. Over the course of the day, he talked with various folk: the band, management of the band, and fans of the band. The whole thing is due to appear some time in April. Can't remember whether he said the 11th or the 18th.
At the gig, Andrew was standing next to me. He told me that he had appeared recently on Eggheads. Jeremy Vine had asked Andrew about his interests. Andrew had mentioned about following Half Man Half Biscuit and had generally chatted about the band. But, sadly, it was all subject to the editorial chop, and none of it appeared when the programme was screened.
More BBC censorship to report, I'm afraid. On the Saturday morning I had texted Mary Anne Hobbs, asking her to play Nove On The Sly. I thought Mary Anne might have been keen to do so, with her getting a mention and all that. Sadly, no!
Anything to claim a tenuous link to the band, I raised what is left of one of my eyebrows when I found out that I share a birthday with Yuri Gagarin. At least I did, for a handful of years, before his unfortunate, and rapid, demise. On the subject of my birthday, the night before the gig Karen took me for a late celebration, to Thai On The Square in the middle of Wakefield. If Thai food is your thing, then this is the place for you. We opted for a set meal. Seafood is not Karen's thing, so I scoffed the prawn dish myself. Everything else also scored high marks. We'll definitely be back there maybe one day when, who knows, HMHB are back in town. If you do that though, chaps, please give Unity Hall a go.
I don't normally get behind the wheel for gigs, but I generally make an exception for Holmfirth. Steady, scenic ride, taking in the A638, B6378, A61, A636 and A635. Although I still hate the junction where it crosses the A629. Hate? Maybe that's a bit strong. But it is fair to say that I have failed to wholeheartedly embrace this particular junction. Having safely negotiated that obstacle, we were in Holmfirth soon enough. It was surprisingly easy to find a space in the Old Bridge car park. And off we headed for some local hospitality in the shape of Scufflers Café. There was a slight downer when we realised that the background music was True by Spandau Ballet. We battled through. Next up we were singing along (quietly) to a previous HMHB cover, The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies. Things got even better with God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, and we finished our drinks while listening to Madness' version of It Must Be Love. We sprinted for the door when Boris Gardner's I Want To Wake Up With You started up. But all in all, it was a pleasant spot.
One of the great things about shows at this venue, is that you can sidle in to the sound check. They may have done some songs before I got there, but When The Evening Sun Goes Down, Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess, Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis and Stuck Up A Hornbeam all sounded fine. I would have said it was a bit trebly, but the professionals round and about all seemed happy. I tried to get some info out of Geoff about possible shows in the future. It doesn't sound like there is much going on after Cambridge in June, but I find it hard to believe that that will be it for the rest of the year.
From there, I made haste in the direction of Hollowgate Fisheries. Nice chip butty. But there was a fair queue in there. I've seen incidents of social disorder when folk have had to wait that long for their chips, but it was worth the delay. While I was inside the shop, Karen was waiting outside, and she later told me something that makes me realise how great this band is. I am old enough to remember the times when the news featured the likes of The Bay City Rollers or The Osmonds getting mobbed by their fans, whenever they landed at an airport. With HMHB, this principle happens in reverse. Karen was mobbed outside the chip shop by Nigel, Neil and Denise (Nigel's wife). They saw the queue and decided to head for the pizza place next door. I remember in Blackburn, Carl took a photo of me and Tony. We were saying "No, no, surely it's us that should be taking a picture of you." Bloody pop stars, eh.
Then it was back to the Picturedrome. Not that we are excitable types, but Karen, Tony and I were in the first half dozen through the door when the place opened. Apparently it was a sell out. A blue wristband was supplied on entry. Soon we were joined by Andrew, Daz, Jay, Lee, Katharine, Karl and John the King Of Hi Vis. Howie was there as well, but a leg injury is currently keeping him away from the mosh pit.
And it wasn't long before JD Meatyard were on stage. John's backing band has taken various forms in recent times. Sometimes, he hasn't had any backing at all. Tonight, Gary was hitting the drums and Tamsin was playing guitar. "Not bad for a fifty-minute rehearsal," as John said. He was still full on with the vocal performance of Sad Song Of A Singer Songwriter, St Peter Won't Let Me In and Standing On The Shoulders. He's still got the Celtic beanie as well. Karen and I smiled when he referred to a night in Sheffield where we had seen him headlining. A few of the people there had left during the course of his show. "Daily Mail readers," as he remarked.
Even Tony was baffled by the HMHB walk-on music ("could be Bartok") before it became clear that it was in fact George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue. "One of Geoff's," Nigel pointed out, before starting the first song. "It's all downhill from here." In the final line of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes, Nigel pointed to Neil and sang "That's when I told him that Tranmere would only finish eighth."
There was a shout about typing out set lists. Nigel replied that it would be nice to have something with which to type out the list. And in any case, it usually changes about five minutes before they come on stage, and sometimes even during the set. He also pointed out that the band went dry stone walling in Birdsedge on their way to Holmfirth.
After Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess, Nigel had two things he wanted to draw our attention to. First was Rushed Breakfasts In Soap Operas. Adam Woodyatt running out with a slice of toast does not convince him. And secondly, Chas 'n' Dave's hit Gertcha refers to Poland knocking England out of the World Cup. This is not actually what happened. England and Poland drew 1-1 at Wembley in a group qualification match. It did not directly represent Poland knocking England out. Nigel said he wrote to the record company "recently" about this, bearing in mind the match took place in 1973.
Ken was the first man in Wallasey to have Pacman. Nigel told a couple of jokes which might not look so good written down. How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Put it in the microwave until its bill withers. And then he told the only other joke that he knows that also contains the word "withers". How do you get within these walls? Sit on a radiator until your googie withers. You had to be there. And a vague memory of Within These Walls and Googie Withers might help.
The "for sure" at the end of Joy In Leeuwarden led to Nigel adding "Steve McClaren in Holland. For sure." He had seen on the notice board at Chester Zoo that someone was selling a theramin. And he remains keen on making corrections at that place when an incorrect "g" is added at the end of "orang utan". There was a shout of "Super White Army", referring to Tranmere. Nigel replied "Not today", having seen their result, a 0-0 draw at Dover. When the band was packing away at the end of the night, I discussed this further with him. Tranmere are one of about half a dozen teams in the National League who are vying for two places in the play-offs. Although they currently sit in fourth place, there are plenty of teams just below them with games in hand, who can overtake them. So a win today would have come in handy.
There was a false start to Stuck Up A Hornbeam. "This starts with C, doesn't it?" said Nigel, before getting it right second time round. "If I have any aspirations," he said, "it is to board one of those buses that have Sorry Not In Service on the front. Three have gone past me in the last week. And you never see the drivers' faces." Nigel said at one point that the feedback from Ken's side of the stage sounded like the whole Sub Pop back catalogue. Nigel had meant to change the lyric in The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman from "tumour" to "puma". But he forgot. He referred back to Chester Zoo. He bought a sticker saying I Hate Pizza And I Hate Jesus. "I stuck it in the window. Now I never get visitors."
The "Oh Vienna" shout at the end of Bane Of Constance was followed by a discussion about Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face keeping the Ultravox song from the top of the charts. Nigel told a joke about going to a traffic warden's funeral. As they were lowering the coffin, there was a shout from inside. "I'm not dead, yet," came the voice. "I'm sorry," said the vicar, "but all the paperwork has been done."
Tony impressed Nigel by spotting a snippet of Pancho And Leftie by Townes Van Zandt. That's a new one to me. During National Shite Day, Nigel mentioned about picking up his Solpadeine Plus in the bit where he mentions Boots. There was a shout of "What did God give us, Neil?" Nigel asked if the guy who shouted this was actually The Rotherham Postie's replacement. "He's like Sisyphus." That is the guy in mythology who was condemned to rolling a boulder up the side of the mountain. And when it rolled back down, he had to start again. You will know what he means if you have been at a gig where the opening line of God Gave Us Life has been repeated time and time again.
Stuck Up A Hornbeam met with the approval of the local witten. There were shouts for "Godcore". Nigel gave us a couple of bars from Fretwork Homework ("That's all I know.") and when asked for Satin Tour Jacket, he said that a few years ago they played it, but noticed after a minute that the crowd were talking among themselves.
Afterwards Carl was slightly apologetic for the performance of the Fall cover. I didn't see anything that warranted an apology. A great band doing a great song originally done by another great band. Not much wrong with that.
There was a slightly longer set list than normal. As follows.Irk The Purists
And three in the encoreTrumpton Riots
Thanks as ever to Tony and Karen for technical points. Poor effort from Sainsburys on the Sunday morning. There was no Non League Paper in stock. So I went to the newsagent at the top of Victoria Street. No problems there. And I had a good chat with Bob And Sue after breakfast. They had come from over the hills to the show. They said they wouldn't be going to any of the ones in May or June, but hopefully there will be something back in the north later in the year. Before that, I've got a new place, Southampton, to tick off.