Friday, 24 March 2017

The Genius Of Half Man Half Biscuit #10

So there I was, looking at my schedule with the 10th and final instalment of this series all written up.  Then this dropped into my Inbox - a second contribution from the boy Webbie from Football And Music. Now I'm not going to pass up the offer of a free article, especially one penned by such an all round decent bloke and top blogger, so I decided to extend the series beyond my initial 10-part plan, especially as CC has also since contributed another piece as well.

So this week, not only do we get a very rare and obscure track by the Biscuits, but also the tale of one of Webbie's brushes with fame. Oh, he's such a name-dropper...

My next attempt to write about the genius of HMHB and one single track: the difficulty I’m sure that many other contributors have is selecting a Half Man Half Biscuit song that nobody else has chosen. I then decided to go for an (unreleased) Peel Session recording.

Let’s start with the title: Mars Ultras (You’ll Never Leave The Station) - a title which alludes to football but the tune isn’t about football or even contains any reference to that in the song. It goes on to name-drop some notable pop stars from the 80’s/90’s with Dave Stewart (Tourists/Eurythmics), George O’Dowd (Boy George - Culture Club), “the girl from Deacon Blue” (Lorraine McIntosh) and Sinitta.

(A crap celebrity spot for you - At the end of the 1980’s/beginning of the 90’s I found myself living and working in Henley-on-Thames.  Henley is well known for being the refuge for many in the light entertainment industry. It wasn’t a surprise to see Sandra Dickinson in Waitrose or Rodney Bewes in Pizza Express. But it was unexpected when spotting Dave Stewart in WH Smith. He was there with his Mam (I assumed, it was an older woman who accompanied him) and Mr Stewart went into the music department and bought himself the new Inspiral Carpets album on cassette. They must have been there for lunch, I then saw them drive off later in an open top car. Crap celeb spot finished, back to the song...)

I didn’t know of this HMHB tune at the time, otherwise I would have been singing it in my head.

  “Quick, run, hide
  Here comes Dave Stewart
  Walking up the drive
  With that look in his eye…”

I like how Nigel Blackwell goes on to wish Boy George all the best. Well actually…

  “George O’Dowd
  So glad you’re happy
  All fit and well
  After going through the hell
  Of being a pop star”

Nigel then throws in a side reference to George Formby (Oh Mr Woo), as well as a surrogate (Bill) Grundy. (I wonder who he had in mind?) and finishes the 2nd verse of the song with yet another name drop of Richard and Judy.

The ability to paint pictures with words is genius. Mr Blackwell does this with aplomb. At the end of the song as you will hear in the audio, John Peel wonders who was playing the power drill in the chorus. That’s right. A power drill. Genius.

I have to say, I also love Peely's Dave Stewart anecdote at the very end.


  1. Don't you DARE consider finishing this series ! I've still got another contribution in progress. I'm sure there are others out there who want this to continue.

    (By the way I did actually see them Dickinson and Bewes in the places mentioned)

    1. It's ending as a weekly series next week, but I'm still accepting contributions for a second run or something.

  2. I've been incredibly negligent in leaving comments during this series, but have enjoyed it immensely. I also have a contribution in mind, which I'll try to put together and send over when I get a mo'.

  3. Always great to see Webbie mining the Peel Sessions. Just feels right.

  4. I'm willing to come back in with a few more to keep this fantastic series Webbie says, it was all about trying to come up with songs avoiding what others may have been covering. Keep an eye on your inbox!

    One thing has struck me. As music fans, we will all have our disagreements on the merits or otherwise of singers and bands. But we seem to have a collective love for HMHB. And rightly so...