Half Man Half Biscuit
|Half Fozzie Half Biscuit|
Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit, October 2008
|Origin||Birkenhead, Merseyside, England|
|Genres||Indie rock, post punk, indie folk|
|Years active||1984–1986, 1990–present|
|Associated acts||Attempted Moustache|
|Past members||Simon Blackwell
Half Man Half Biscuit (often HMHB), are an English rock band from Birkenhead, Merseyside, active since the mid-1980s, known for satirical, sardonic, and sometimes surreal songs. The group comprises Nigel Blackwell (lead vocals, guitar), Neil Crossley (bass, vocals), Ken Hancock (lead guitar), and Carl Henry (drums). Throughout their career they have been signed to Probe Plus records.
Half Man Half Biscuit were formed by two friends from Birkenhead, Neil Crossley (previously with a local punk band Venom) and singer, guitarist and songwriter Nigel Blackwell, (previously with Split Gut and North of Watford) who was (in his own words) at the time "still robbing cars and playing football like normal people do". In 1979 Blackwell was editing a football fanzine (Left For Wakeley Gage); he met Crossley when he went to see the latter's band play. In 1984, when Half Man Half Biscuit were formed, Crossley moved to bass and the two were joined by Nigel's brother Simon Blackwell (lead guitar) and his friend Paul Wright (drums), both previously with a group called Attempted Moustache. The quartet started to rehearse in the Liverpool-based Vulcan Studios, where they soon turned a five-piece, with David Lloyd now on keyboards.
Their debut album, 1985's Back in the DHSS, topped the UK Indie Chart and reached number 60 in the UK Album Chart. Its title was a play on The Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R." and also a reference to the DHSS, the government department that dealt with the unemployed, Nigel Blackwell having been on unemployment benefits since 1979. The band's first single, "The Trumpton Riots", topped the British independent chart in 1986, and they went on to perform at Glastonbury Festival. They were post-punk, similar to Josef K or The Fall. The second single, "Dickie Davies Eyes", also topped the indie chart. In late 1986, the band split up, with a collection of radio sessions and unreleased tracks following.
The band reformed in 1990, with a performance at the Reading Festival following, and a new single, "Let's Not" issued before the year was out, followed in 1991 by a collaboration with Margi Clarke on a version of Edith Piaf's "No Regrets". The third album was McIntyre, Treadmore And Davitt, released in October 1991. By the time This Leaden Pall was released in 1993, Wright and Lloyd had left the band, with Carl Alty joining on drums. Simon Blackwell left the following year, with Ian S Jackson joining. Jackson (who later joined Rooney (UK band)) and Alty (who joined Joyrider) departed in 1996, to be replaced by Ken Hancock (guitar) and Carl Henry (drums), this line-up remaining to this day. Since reforming, the band have produced an album every two or three years.
Half Man Half Biscuit were championed by DJ John Peel, for whom they recorded twelve sessions and it was on his programme in 1990 that the band announced their return.
The band played live more infrequently. Half Man Half Biscuit turned down the chance to appear on The Tube, as Tranmere Rovers were playing that night, even though Channel Four offered to fly them by helicopter to the game.
The band's styles parody popular genres, while their lyrics allude to UK popular culture and geography (Blackwell often refers to North Wales, often in the context of hillwalking in Snowdonia; he also appears fond of Shropshire, East Anglia, The West Country, and Oxfordshire) and British or international football. Sylvia Plath, Thomas Hardy, and the Bible are referenced in his lyrics.
As the 1990s progressed, Blackwell's love of blues and folk became more apparent. In 2002, Andy Kershaw dubbed them "the most authentic English folk group since the Clash". Bassist Crossley's tastes include late 1970s and early 1980s new wave or post-punk bands, and during live sets HMHB have performed covers of acts as diverse as Joy Division, Magazine, Tim Buckley, The Beach Boys, Tommy James and the Shondells and Ike and Tina Turner.
Blackwell has also referred to fictional bands who appear on the sleeves of HMHB records and in songs - an essay on "Evil Gazebo" (and that band's relationship to "Pankhurst") appears on the liner of Trouble Over Bridgwater and both bands are mentioned in one of that album's songs. Assorted fake acts have also been mentioned in HMHB songs such as the fictional Focus tribute band "I Can't Believe It's Not Focus".
The band's first release since 2005, CSI:Ambleside, appeared on 28 April 2008. In GUAR (Give Us An R, Tranmere Rovers fanzine) interview in 2009, answering the "Occupation" question, Blackwell said: "Monorail Operator at Chester Zoo".
The band recorded a radio session for Marc Riley's 6 Music show in August 2010, performing four new songs - "Tommy Walsh's Eco-House", "R.S.V.P.", "Left Lyrics in Practice Room", and "L'enfer c'est les autres". All four are included on the new album 90 Bisodol (Crimond), which was released in September 2011.
Joy Division Oven Gloves
In April 2010, the band's 2005 song "Joy Division Oven Gloves" from Achtung Bono was the subject of a Facebook campaign to get it to No. 6 on the chart for 12 April 2010, in response to the rumoured closure of indie station BBC 6 Music. The song reached No. 56 on 11 April 2010, however, this was the first UK Top 75 chart appearance for the band in their history. It also reached No. 3 in the Official Independent Singles chart the same week and was No. 1 in the HMV UK Digital Downloads Top 40 Tracks on Friday 16 April, knocking Ultravox's Vienna off the top - itself part of a separate Facebook campaign the previous week.
Andy Kershaw has described Half Man Half Biscuit as "England's greatest folk band" and "the most authentic British folk band since The Clash", and John Peel called them a "national treasure". James Dodd on Bido Lito! praised (as many others did) Blackwell's "uncanny way of chronicling two of his greatest passions in life: television and small-town England". Eliza Carthy praised the band for their "pathos disguised with wit and sarcasm", describing Blackwell as a "genius".
|1985||Back in the DHSS||60||1|
|1987||Back Again in the DHSS||59||2|
|1991||McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt||-||-|
|1993||This Leaden Pall||-||-|
|1995||Some Call It Godcore||-||-|
|1997||Voyage to the Bottom of the Road||-||-|
|1998||Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral||-||-|
|2000||Trouble Over Bridgwater||-||-|
|2002||Cammell Laird Social Club||-||-|
|2011||90 Bisodol (Crimond)||85||14|
|1986||The Trumpton Riots (12" E.P.)||82||1|
|1988||The Peel Sessions||-||18|
|1996||Eno Collaboration E.P.||-||-|
|2003||Saucy Haulage Ballads||-||-|
|1986||The Trumpton Riots||82||1|
|1986||Dickie Davies Eyes||86||1|
|1999||Look Dad No Tunes||-||-|
Charting album tracks
|2010||Joy Division Oven Gloves||56||3|
- "A Brief History of HMHB". Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Kendal, Mark (2004) "Britain's Greatest Living Rock And Roll Satirist", The Word, Unknown Issue, p. 42-46
- Strong, Martin C. (1999) "The Great Alternative & Indie Discography", Canongate, ISBN 0-86241-913-1
- Lazell, Barry (1997) "Indie Hits 1980-1989", Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-9517206-9-4
- McCready, John (1985) "Tough Cookies", New Musical Express, 14 December 1985, p. 11
- Sampson, Kevin (21 July 2001). "Taking the Biscuit - Guardian Weekend". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-06-20.
- Give Us An ‘R’ interview. – Tranmere Rovers fanzine issue 52.
- John Plunkett (7 April 2010). "Campaign to save 6 Music takes the Biscuit | Media". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- "6 Music Campaigners Aim to Get Half Man Half Biscuit in the Charts". Spinner. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- "Singles Top 40 from the Official UK Charts Company". Theofficialcharts.com. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- Wade's World. " Dean Friedman bites the Biscuits.
- Dodd, James. Man Half Buscuit. Bidi Lito!. Issue No. 8. February 2011. P. 14.
- "The Stars that Fame Forgot. Half Man Half Biscuit". Uncut. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 240. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Nigel Blackwell|
- Half Man Half Biscuit's official website
- Half Man Half Biscuit at the BBC
- Spike Magazine's review of 2005 album Achtung Bono
- 2001 Guardian interview with Nigel Blackwell
- The Half Man Half Biscuit Lyrics Project
- Half Man Half Biscuit tracks on YouTube