I was, frankly, still reeling from having heard Do They Know It's Christmas a couple of weeks earlier while sitting in a pub in Wakefield. Compliments of the season to you, from the middle of October. Also reeling from seeing Sparks in Nottingham, the day after the HMHB show in Holmfirth. Possibly, but only possibly, the best gig I've ever been to. Whatever it is, the Mael brothers (aged 72 and 69) still have it.
We decided to break up the journey to Glasgow by dropping in at Wigan. Sad to see that the site of The Casino is now occupied by the kind of massive shopping mall located in most towns these days. Only the customary blue plaque remains. Strangely, the Wigan Warriors Walk Of Fame appeared to include a section on George Formby. While looking at the statue of Billy Boston further up the road, we spotted Gallimore's restaurant. Two courses for £11.95 was as good an offer as we were likely to get. We were well fed, and made a note to call again next time we are on the way to a HMHB show. Sadly, the Iceland/Peach Majestic trail continues to lead nowhere. Nigel must have dropped lucky with the four-for-a-pound offer that he mentioned previously. The Wigan store only had Luxury Salted Caramel in stock. And they were three for £1.75. Peach remains out of reach, as Karen put it.
The train ride to Glasgow ran an hour late. Virgin's usual ruthless efficiency was affected by congestion at Lancaster, a speed restriction near Carlisle, and a goods train struggling its way uphill further along the line. No matter, we weren't in a rush. Nevertheless, Karen is on the case with negotiating a refund. Cop for that, Branson! (The day after this show, we were on another train that was delayed, with the reason being "awkward passengers".)
When we got to Glasgow we were straight out to remind ourselves of the location of the ABC. When standing outside, we met John and Graham who were also acclimatising themselves. Neil also showed up while we were there, with a traditional pop star lunch - a couple of bags of crisps and a can of pop. The band had stayed locally on the Friday night, but were heading home after the gig, needing to return the van to the hire company before they closed at noon on Saturday. It maybe also gave time to get to the Halifax v Tranmere FA Cup Qualifying match.
After luncheon at Nandos, we gave due consideration to what the papers were saying about the gig. We had already established that there was total silence in Metro (although that paper managed to find the space for Suzi Quatro's show at the SSE Hyrdro, as well as a mention for Guns2Roses, who were appearing in the other room at the ABC, at the same time as HMHB). The Herald reviewed a Gary Numan show, but there was nothing about HMHB. Justin Currie, erstwhile lead singer with Del Amitri, had a show at the ABC the night after HMHB. That warranted a full page in the Evening Times, but again, nothing about HMHB. There were plenty of posters up at the venue, advertising other acts who were appearing. But the Probe Plus machine had clearly not been plugged in or switched on. Much as we have come to expect. (The Evening Times did redeem themselves though. I got a free goody bag with the paper. There was a substantial carrier bag, containing a can of Irn Bru Xtra - "extra taste, no sugar", a Tunnock's Caramel Log and a packet of Golden Wonder salt and vinegar crisps.)
Many of the newspaper inches were taken up with recent developments with the Scotland football team. Gordon Strachan had recently departed from the job as their manager. This subject was raised in the evening during the show. Nigel had been heckled by some fans from Ireland, and had claimed that "I don't do international football." He was asked who he thought might become the next Scotland manager. "Justin Fletcher should be the manager," offered Nigel, "with Nana Knickerbocker as the Director Of Football."
Venues like to pack in the punters. As with many other places, ABC show bands in the first part of the evening. Then they get everybody out of the building and re-open with a disco, club night, rave or whatever they call them. So because of the ten o'clock throw-out everything was running slightly earlier than usual for these gigs. Doors were due to open at 6.30. Karen and I met Tony and we arrived in good time, although not early enough to beat Andrew and Doug from Edinburgh, at his first HMHB gig, to the front of the queue. A lot of the usual faces were there soon enough. Jordan, Emily, Matt. Just as the security personnel were opening the place up, there was a scuffle outside in the street. Nothing to see here, and we all shuffled our way inside.
With Ken having missed the two previous gigs, at Bath and Holmfirth, people were keen to know how things are going with him. Neil had told us that Ken would be missing tonight's show, as well as the one in Hull in November. Rather than playing as a three-piece, the band had drafted in Karl. He played a couple of HMHB gigs in 2007, when covering for Ken's absence. That was in Frome (28 February) and Cardiff (1 March). It seems that Ken continues to be on the mend and he hopes to be back on stage in 2018.
When inside, I was impressed to hear The Fall's "Lost In Music" (off to see them in Wakefield a week after this) and The Jesus And Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey". We caught up again with John (Happy 60th for next Tuesday). He was positively mobbed in his Hi Vis gear, accepting two offers to appear on selfies. That made Tony wonder if it is really a selfie if you ask someone else to appear in your picture. Valid point. During the afternoon we had seen Pete nosing around outside The Works. During the gig he was spotted on the very front row. We also saw Jay and Mike. There was no support act tonight. Instead it was us, just talking. It was great to see Peter Ross again. I said I hoped his book, The Passion Of Harry Bingo, was shifting some units. Later on, there was also an on-stage recommendation from Nigel. Praise doesn't come from a higher place. The stage was quite high. Peter was there with his mate Barry, who got him into the band in the first place.
There was much puzzled shaking of heads at the pre-Walk On music. A big thank you to Alan who had one of those app things on his phone that recognises pieces of music. That pulled out the name Leonard Bernstein and was telling us Adaggio Allegro, which I thought might be the style of music rather than the title of it. Later on, Karen was able to narrow it down to a piece from the film On The Waterfront. That particular piece had finished before anyone appeared on stage. Something very different followed. Never Ever by All Saints was playing when the band walked on.
The first celebrity spot of the evening was "Carol Kirkwood, ladies and gentlemen" ahead of the opening song, The Light At The End Of The Tunnel. During Uffington Wassail, Nigel pulled his amp over, and managed to get it upright again with the help of one of the stage crew. "Should get a longer lead. I've seen the film," he said before moving back a couple steps, to make sure it didn't happen again.
"Killermont Street," said Nigel, "is a great name for a street, but it's bad for getting onto the one way system on West Nile Street." He pointed towards Primark on Sauchiehall Street at the appropriate point in National Shite Day. And they finally got the Rail Replacement sign right after all these years.
Nigel had been talking to a lorry driver who said the M6 had been like Wacky Races. This reminded Nigel of the time he saw an interview with one of Hanna Barbera. So he told the lorry driver the story about it. They said that they used the same template for Red Max as for Dick Dastardly. They were asked if they ever wanted Dick Dastardly to win. They said that whenever Red Max won it was therefore secretly a victory for Dick Dastardly. But by the time he got to the end of this tale, the lorry driver had fucked off. Still talking about the M6, Nigel pointed at Tony and said "I bet you went to Tebay like a dirty great cliché. Was Southwaite not good enough for you?" Nigel said they went to Tebay anyway, in order to get some Venezuelan chocolate for Neil.
Ron Seal made one of his flying stage entrances. The following morning we saw Ron in a more deflated state of being, in the pocket of Martin, who said he was taking Ron to Detroit. There was another example of spotting celebrities. "Pam Ferris, ladies and gentlemen." Nigel also remarked how he loved the idea of Greggs having bouncers.
There was an exchange between Nigel and a Partick Thistle fan. "You think you've got it bad. You should try three years in the National League. I know how John McCarthy must have felt all those years tied to a radiator." At one point Nigel looked out into the crowd and spotted some light in the far corner. "Ah, it's the cloakroom. I've never been to a gig and left my coat in the cloakroom. You just dress for the weather."
There was a Watersons moment. According to Tony, Nigel sang a couple of verses of one of their songs, Hal-An-Tow. There was also a Belle And Sebastian moment. Nigel had written out the words to The Boy With The Arab Strap, but could not read them while playing the guitar, so Neil held the sheet close enough for Nigel to see. There was a shout for Old Tige. "That's one of ours," replied Nigel. (Technicality. Is it really one of theirs?) There was another elongated comedy pause after "Let it happen, bass player."
I couldn't make out all of the conversation about Later, but Nigel pointed out that it now clashes with Match Of The Day. As previously, there was a modernised God Gave Us Life. Len Goodman, Nick Ferrari, Loose Women, Mickey Flanagan, Keith Lemon, Freddie Flintoff, Phil Tufnell, Richard Littlejohn, Matthew Horne and Lionel Blair were all in there. As were "Jimmy Carr... Alan Carr...Badly parked cars." After that, Nigel started talking about the front cover of Abbey Road. "While everyone is focussed on Paul McCartney's feet, I am focussed on the badly parked Volkswagen. No self-respecting traffic warden would own that album." After which he told the joke about the traffic warden's funeral. They were lowering the coffin into the grave, when there was a knocking from the inside and a voice shouting "But I'm not dead." The vicar replied "Sorry, but all the paperwork has been done."
Towards the end of the gig, there was a buzzing from Nigel's amp. After much studying Neil turned it off, then turned it back on again. "The man's a genius," commented Nigel. And Neil replied "Thirty years of that." During Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off, the line was "... The Father, Son and Donny Most."
I reckon the set list was as follows:The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train Stuck Up A Hornbeam Running Order Squabble Fest Uffington Wassail Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus Bad Review Numanoid Hang-Glide Petty Sessions Look Dad No Tunes Bob Wilson Anchorman Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off For What Is Chatteris? Twenty-Seven Yards of Dental Floss Rock 'n' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit Restless Legs ("Here's a condition") National Shite Day Tommy Walsh's Eco House Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train The Trumpton Riots 1966 And All That The Boy With The Arab Strap / Vatican Broadside God Gave Us Life We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune Joy Division Oven Gloves
And in the encore:Them's The Vagaries I Think We're Alone Now Everything's AOR
Bit of a surprise. Renfield's Afoot seems to have been dropped already. No time to hang around. We are all shooed out of the door. Just time to say a quick goodbye to Peter and Barry. Various people were heading for various pubs. Paul, Matt, Andrew, Karen and I somehow all managed to squeeze into the Pot Still. Didn't stop long. We needed some air. Only four weeks to the Hull show, and then that looks like it for the year.