My second ever gig in Clitheroe. The first was in June 1985 (thirty-two years previously!?! My, how time flies!) when I was at a gig at the castle. Radio Lancashire was doing a live outside broadcast, featuring The Fall. Three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. Not the time of day when you would normally expect to see that band, but from memory they were nevertheless on fine form. Top DJ Steve Barker was introducing the show. Well, he must be a top DJ if he has guests like that.
Thanks to Gomez for the note about a documentary on Channel 5 concerning Restless Legs Syndrome. But sadly the producers overlooked a very obvious choice for the soundtrack.
Karen and I were idling one Saturday afternoon when Liz Kershaw invited requests for songs with an age-related theme. Immediately we processed a "shout out" for Old Age Killed My Teenage Bride which she played. Another time, we were caught in the middle of a series of train cancellations at Leeds train station. There were problems with the line to Selby and passengers/customers were pointed towards a Rail Replacement Bus Service. But a few yards away, there was another sign lazily advertising a Bus Replacement Service. We assumed these people have never heard National Shite Day.
On completing Robert Wyatt's biography, Different Every Time, I was pleased to see reference to a real-life Eno collaboration. And congratulations to Graham for taking part in Danny Baker's Sausage Sandwich game on Five Live, choosing Dukla Prague as his team.
I took the opportunity to read Mark Whitby's study of The Festive Fifty. I was a regular listener of this annual event when John Peel used to present it (somewhere about my house is a cassette of the Top Ten recorded on my parents' stereo in 1978. I'll find it again one day.) Since Peel's departure, I have not followed it at all, although I am pleased to see that it remains a feature on the web on Dandelion Radio. There were some interesting references to HMHB in the book (shortest track ever to appear in a Festive Fifty - Vatican Broadside) and the author calculated the band as the tenth most successful band in its history, in terms of total appearances. And with a total of nineteen tracks, they are the sixth most successful act in its history. Only PJ Harvey, New Order, The Smiths, The Wedding Present and The Fall appear above them in that respect. The book only goes up to 2014, so there remains plenty of opportunity to climb further up the league. However the most pedantic among us would be disappointed by the number of spelling mistakes, typos and general errors that litter the book. One in particular is beyond acceptance. The name of HMHB's guitarist is Ken Hancock, not Keith Hancock (see the section on longest uninterrupted runs). A complaint to the author is required. Formally. A good book otherwise, though.
The gig was carefully scheduled for the day after a General Election, so after a night of dipping in and out of the results we left Wakefield (Labour hold) for a relatively epic journey, changing at Leeds and Blackburn, arriving in Clitheroe (Ribble Valley, Conservatives hold) around the middle of the afternoon. The last leg took its time. We were told there were "trespassers on the line". We were put in mind of The Coroner's Footnote, proving yet again that life imitates art. Having arrived in Clitheroe, we had taken only a few paces from the train when Tony collared us. His equally unwieldy journey from Birmingham via Wigan and Bolton had taken him onto the same train as us. Just round the corner we bumped into John who had been doing some venue reconnaissance. We also went to make sure that we knew where we were going, and to be ready for any unusual start times. As it was, we were given some orthodox information. JD Meatyard at 8.00, HMHB at 9.00. More importantly, the guy working on the box office gave us a top tip when we asked him where we could get some food. He gave us a couple of suggestions, one of which we called at. Let me be clear about this. Stansfields is the business! I went for the ham, cheese and salad sandwich with a sausage roll chaser. Quality stuff. Karen was equally delighted with the hot roast lamb number. Oh yes, and the peanut chocolate square rounded it off well. Fat bastard? Me? Stansfields is noted for future reference, although it could be another thirty-two years before I am back.
The paper review begins and ends with the Clitheroe Advertiser And Times ("trusted news since 1868"). In amongst the stories about a country lane flasher and the Pendleton village duck race, there was a sizeable feature on the HMHB show. Often you just see "articles" which are cut and pasted from general promotional material. However, Tony Dewhurst put some effort in, with a lot of his piece coming seemingly from a conversation with Geoff. Nothing new about the accompanying photo though. It was the "dug out" shot of the 1980s band line-up. And just one howler to note, Tony. The band name "Half Man, Half Biscuit" does not contain a comma.
We were staying at The Old Post House, not far from the station and not far from the venue. In fact nothing in Clitheroe is very far from anywhere else. Tony was staying there too, so we liaised to meet him in reception and walk round to The Grand. Even with a relatively prompt getaway, we were beaten to the front of the queue by Sally. Jay was also there, and we had a chat with Gary from JD Meatyard. Matt turned up, after a heroic six-hour drive from Lancing. We discussed the aptness of Elected by Alice Cooper being a tip for HMHB's cover version. Not even close, as it turned out. It ended up being an old Magazine favourite. Good to see Geoff at the show as he doesn't get to all of them nowadays. We also saw Nigel and Jo who had driven over from Goole, Graham from Liverpool was also there, and Pete from Worksop stood beside me in the absence of Andrew who was in Russia. Any excuse to miss a gig. I shook hands with Hi Vis John just as JD Meatyard began, and Howie and Daz also turned up in time for HMHB. There was also an exchange of nods with Ian and Mariana. Get well soon, Postman Tony. Your space in the moshpit is being held for you.
When this gig was announced, I thought "The Grand" might be a mighty nineteenth-century theatre - framed, signed photos on the wall of Gielgud, Olivier etc., that kind of set up. Maybe it was like that back in the day, but in 2017 we have a modern set-up. Box Office at the front of the building, leading into the bar area, and the performance hall at the back. Reminded me a bit of The Apex at Bury St Edmunds, if you know that place, albeit on a smaller scale. Seats round the edge of the hall gave it a slightly skool disko feel, until the place started to fill up. They also had some roped-off Reserved Seating at the back for the VIPs. Not sure how much they would have been able to see though. Far better to be at the front, pressed up against the stage.
JD Meatyard tend to not go for dynamic stage entrances. The PA music was good stuff overall - bit of Joy Division, The Smiths and The The, for example. But John, Michael and Gary just seemed to barge in with their opening song, Green Flags And Holy Water. They followed up with most of the tracks from their new CD Collectivism, such as Here Come The Haters, Ubu At Erics and Those Were The Days. The set also included old favourites Lies, Lies And Government and Jesse James, along with their usual, mighty cover of Sweet Jane. John and the band remain as fiery as ever ("Bye, bye Theresa" was slipped in during Jesse James). John said that Gideon Coe had played one of the songs from the CD. You would hope that that helps to shift a few units. Hoping to see these again soon. I would expect them to be supporting at one or two of the HMHB shows between now and Christmas.
Almost without exception, Tony's assistance is required when identifying HMHB's walk-on music. He was pretty sure it was "the middle bit" from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. I really couldn't argue either way. If you want to query this, he will be standing at the front at the gig at The Leadmill in August.
Nigel was wearing spectacles when the band arrived on stage. During the gig he said that he could read road signs without his glasses, but this was the first time for a while that he had been able to see the mixing desk. We also noticed Carl's Fugazi-inspired 3743BMTS t-shirt. "This is an old Kenny Loggins number," Nigel announced before opening up the set with Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess. At the end of that song there was a shout from the crowd, "Is that for Theresa May?"
Karen said that after Petty Sessions there was a shout of "Ooh you are awful," to which Nigel replied that it was just like Dick Emery was in the room. He continued by saying that while a lot of people could remember the catchphrases from Emery's show, not many could recall the names of the characters. Tony suggested "Lampwick" for one of them, but the lack of other suggestions, points towards Nigel being correct. He then said "This was written by Dick Emery" before they played Joy In Leeuwarden.
There was a discussion about walking the hills round and about Clitheroe, which led into the first joke of the evening. Nigel was telling his mate that he had the cleverest cat in the world. When it did its business it used to then bury it. His mate said that all cats do that. "Not with a fucking shovel!" was Nigel's reply. Cue drum roll from Carl.
In answer to a question from the crowd, Nigel pointed out that both he and Ken get haircuts before a gig. "It's a well-oiled machine." As proved by the Rossi/Parfitt routine during A Lilac Harry Quinn. There was another question, about going to the castle. Nigel was disappointed to find that it closes at 4.30 even during the summer. "What would Prince Rupert have thought of closing the castle at 4.30?" he pondered. "That's puritans for you," replied Tony.
Bad Review included a line of "Ooh My Coocachoo". Nigel obviously knew some of the people in the crowd. They said something about Jegsy Dodd. Nigel said Jegsy was "turning into Sid James" and was a poet first, and taxi driver second. He said he nearly ran into him on his bike the other day. He suggested that Taxi Driver Run Over By Cyclist would have made a good headline. There was also a complaint from one of these guys that their minibus had become more expensive than planned, because someone had not shown up. This gave Nigel the chance to tell them where they had gone wrong. They should have caught the X1 bus to Preston and then got the local services from there to Clitheroe. This brought him to the brutalist architecture of Preston bus station. Nigel said that everyone in Preston wants it to be knocked down, but those outside Preston are protesting about it. Must go one day.
During Bob Wilson Anchorman, Nigel looked to one side for "Kent" and to the other side for "Gwent". He explained that all the stories in the songs are true, except for Dukla Prague. He said he actually used to have Striker. Neil chipped in to say that he used to have World Cup Striker.
Errors And Omissions section... For some time I've been saying that Ken and Neil have swapped instruments at certain points in these shows (for instance at this one, where the band played Bane Of Constance and Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss). At Clitheroe, I noticed that this isn't quite true. Yes, they swap positions on the stage. And yes, Ken plays Neil's bass. But I spotted that Neil actually has his own guitar, which he took back to his side of the stage afterwards. And when Ken came back, he picked up his guitar which he had left behind his monitor. Apologies for misleading reports to this effect in previous reviews.
Nigel said that Ken was the first man in Wallasey to get an apprenticeship at a blacksmith's. "He's the right build." At the interview he was asked if he had ever shoed a horse. "No," was the reply, "but I have told a donkey to fuck off." (Another drum roll from Carl.)
Jordan's repeated request for Our Tune resulted in the opening riff from Nigel. Tommy Walsh's Eco House was "a song I wrote in Manningtree". Mr Krzywicki made an appearance as the offender with the ski lodge in Vitas Gerulaitis. There was a brief extract from D' Ye Ken Ted Moult at the beginning of the encore. Here is how the whole thing went...Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess
And the encore was99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd
A couple of the pubs in town were a bit busy, so Karen, Tony and I opted for The Rose And Crown. We were competing against the back end of Fusion's set, but we managed to nail down some of the bits that I hadn't heard properly at the gig, as well as making out some of my substandard handwriting. Thanks to both of them. We expect to be doing much the same thing in Sheffield at the beginning of August.