Yesterday I travelled to Bilston near Wolverhampton. Bilston isn’t the most exotic place in the world. In fact it’s not even the most exotic place in the Wolverhampton area. I couldn’t say for sure but I suspect that title may well go to Dudley as it has a zoo. Bilston, though not particularly attractive, is very friendly and is the most distant place I have travelled to since my blogging commenced.
I drove approximately forty miles in the dark, the driving rain, the road works on the M4 motorway and the rush hour traffic to get to Michael Wood Services on the M5. Here I met my friend Malcolm from Bristol.
Malcolm, although not a football fan, was wearing his replica Dukla Prague shirt. I once thought about getting one myself but then I realised that so many people had them that I’d look like a sheep. Malcolm, thanks to his Association Football naivety, wasn’t a sheep as his was a home shirt while the norm was a Dukla Prague away shirt. I think I might dabble into the world of Honved if ever the need to be buying such a garment overcomes me.
From the service station we drove another seventy miles in heavy traffic and bad weather; Malcolm at the wheel. And then, Bilston! Our third visit. We knew where to park, where the venue was for our evening’s entertainment and where to go for a pint, though the pub we had in mind had shut down because the global economic downturn had hit even Bilston.
Rested and refreshed we strode excitedly along to the fashionable Mount Pleasant district of the town, to a place called The Robin 2; a shrine to rock music of the West Midlands and a place where the likes of Slade, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath performed during their formative years.
But last night we were there to see Half Man Half Biscuit (again). Singer, songwriter, guitarist, Tranmere Rovers fan and funny man, Nigel Blackwell, is the bossfella of a band that has been churning out witty, sarcastic and surreal lyrics backed by folk/punk music since 1985. Commercially they’ve never really made it but that adds to the magic for me. The vast majority of the audience is usually made up of fat old farts in their fifties but that adds to the magic to me too. And speaking in terms of numbers rather than waistlines, the audience is never all that big so you can always see what's going on and feel as intimate as ever you'd want to be with four blokes from the Wirral.
Making music like it used to be, making references to football how it used to be, slagging off the middle class bourgeoisie and the fact that their latest album, released last autumn, is called 90 Bisodol (Crimond) makes them heroes in my world where so many heroes have faded away to nothing.
It was a cracking gig, enhanced once again by new material, and all I could think about on my way home was my next trip to Bilston . . . though I have also seen them in Exeter, Frome and downtown Wolverhampton.
Try to have a listen to:
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit; or
I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan; or
Joy Division Oven Gloves.
Restless Legs (Eraserhead Parody video)
Listen very carefully to those lyrics and you’ll never look back.
And have a look at their website too:
Half Man Half Website