Saturday, 13 October 2018

An Appreciation of Half Man Half Biscuit on National Album Day


I'm not a fan of National anything Day, and I'm sure Nigel Blackwell is of the same opinion, he did write "National Shite Day", the closer on "CSI Ambleside" . When people say "Oh I'm only into 80's or 90's" music , if you mention Half Man Half Biscuit they just gawp and go on about ABC or Duran Duran (both fine bands).

I cant't remember the first song of their's I heard , whether it was "Trumpton Riots" or "All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit", but the latter made me go out and buy their their first album, and I just loved "Dickie Davies Eyes" and was disturbed when they split after that hit number one in the Independant Charts.

There is a lot in the Guardian about the band and until I read this I didn't know Nigel did advert voice overs, the article is here but there are quite a few see here. This is the bit about how the first album came about.

"Their record label then, as now, is Probe Plus - as ramshackle and free-spirited an independent as one could find anywhere. Probe operates from the Liverpool home of its proprietor, Geoff Davies, whose rambling Sefton Park manse is cluttered with Biscuit ephemera. Some of HMHB's more celebrated merchandise includes collectors' item teatowels (Some Call It Godcore tour - six dates in eight weeks) and the almost unobtainable McIntyre, Treadmore & Davitt mugs. They are an unusual pop group. Blackwell is a most unusual fellow.

Davies vividly remembers him coming into the Probe shop with his demo tape. "I looked at the back of the cassette and it was full of things like The Len Ganley Stance and Venus In Flares. I said to him: 'If the songs are half as good as the titles, we'll do it.' I was listening to the tape with my partner that night as we drove home and neither of us could believe what we were hearing. The lyrics and the subjects were astonishing, and probably actionable - but I called Nige the next day to say that we'd do an album."

To Davies's astonishment, Blackwell turned up on his doorstep a couple of days later with the finished master tapes of the album. "He just said to me: 'This is it. I've done it. That'll be £40, please.'"

"I might've told him it was 40," concedes Blackwell, "but I think it was more like 30. We recorded at Vulcan Studios. They'd just got in this eight-track studio upstairs and Half Man Half Biscuit were the guinea pigs. We went in. We did it. We put it out." "

Their site here has a list of a lot of radio sessions , and the Brampton one contains the definitive version of "24 Hour Garage People" and a three way interview between Andy Kershaw, Geoff Davies and Nigel Blackwell, in which Andy describes them as England's premier folk band. These were available for free download but removed when people started selling them when John Peel passed on, but I do have copies of the sessions and if you want a copy please contact me.

I love their very black humour "Blood On The Quad" , social observation "Lord Hereford's Knob" and pure charm "What Is Chatteris" and they always leave you with a smile on your face.

The lyric project here allows you to read their lyrics and enjoy the sheer poetry of Nigel's penmanship.

If there's a record of their's missing from your collection today is a good day to fill that hole.

Have a good one.

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