Friday, 17 March 2017

The Genius of Half Man Half Biscuit #9

Here's the third and final offering from JC and one that gives us a different perspective of things regarding the pitfalls of cultural references.

An unexpected turn of events or circumstances many years later can bring a cringe factor to things.  This includes music. For instance, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty most likely squirm at how they invited the now disgraced Gary Glitter to be such a big part of The Timelords #1 hit Doctorin' The Tardis back in 1988 (or maybe Bill, ever the maverick and controversialist, actually revels in it and will claim he knew all along that Glitter was a dodgy fuck and his involvement in this massive but novelty single was evidence that the music and wider entertainment industry will forgive anything as long as it makes money).

But I wonder what the more down-to-earth and all-round decent bloke Nigel Blackwell thinks of the fact that he once name-checked Rod Hull in a lyric.  Of all the possible candidates to be the subject matter of a song questioning why so many good people die tragically young while others continued to be annoying presences on our televison screens, he couldn't have selected anyone worse.

The reason being, in 1999, some 12 years after Rod Hull Is Alive - Why? was released on the band's second LP 'Back Again In The DHSS', Rod Hull died in a freak and ghastly domestic accident; having climbed onto the roof of his home in an effort to improve the reception from his television aerial (not, I hasten to add, for a show he himself was part of) , he slipped and crashed down through an adjoining greenhouse, succumbing to his horrific injuries en route to hospital.  For HMHB, that joke wasn't and really couldn't be funny anymore.

It's a real shame for it remains a highly relevant song  that was never solely about Rod Hull but more a commentary on the nature of fame. It's also incredibly prophetic in that its dig at the British Royal Family is via an attack on Sarah Ferguson, the wife of the then second-in-line to the throne, who just a few years later would become best known for being photographed topless while sucking the toes of an American businessman.

If the song had instead been dedicated to any of a number of 80s entertainers who many years later have been unveiled as taking advantage of their position and power to sexually exploit others, we would be looking rather differently today at Rod Hull Is Alive - Why? and listening to it with glee everytime it comes on. It certainly, unlike other HMHB songs from the era, is impossible to sing along to when you know the backstory. It remains however, my guilty pleasure.

Cheers JC. Yet another great piece.


  1. Good piece JC and a great song.

  2. It's the same with Bob Wilson - Anchorman. Used to love that song but after he was treated for prostrate cancer...

    1. oh and there's the 'curse of HMHB'

  3. Oh god, I didn't know about that HMHB track 'til now (but it's great). Just saw the title first just now and thought "ouch". Best not to name check anyone (unless highly complimentary?) - but a good song is still a good song... and I'm just glad nothing controversial has happened to PC McGarry or Mrs Honeyman.

    Enjoyed this JC, thanks.