FOR a band born out of boredom and with no great ambitions to ‘make it’ Half Man Half Biscuit have proved to be a surprising long-term success story, writes John Quinn. It could be seen as a case of that’s the way the cookie crumbles but it may be more due to them being a genuine one-off. And true to form they are providing a Sheffield suburb with a unique experience this week.
Their story started in the 1980s when in the middle of what was supposedly an aspirational and glamorous decade, a group of lads from Birkenhead found themselves with no future and nothing to do except sit and watch TV. As people in that position sometimes do, they decided to form a band but instead of covering conventional subjects in the lyrics decided to go for what they knew – the minutiae of minor celebrity served up with a slice of surreal barbed wit.
Unexpectedly, not least to them, the recorded-for-40-quid debut album Back In The DHSS garnered a great amount of attention – so much so that they split up soon afterwards, possibly fearful that they could turn into the sort of ‘stars’ they parodied – at one point they famously turned down a live performance on primetime music show The Tube because it would mean missing a Tranmere Rovers match.
However at the start of 1990 they returned and a few line-up changes and a dozen albums – the latest being 2011’s 90 Bisodol (Crimond) - down the line the Biscuits still haven’t dipped in popularity, releasing something new every two or three years and playing the occasional concert in invariably sold-out venues. One of those shows occurs on Friday when they are appearing in the unexpected surroundings of Stannington, an outskirt of Sheffield not previously known as a hotbed of punky punning.
The show at The Lomas Hall is the brainchild of Chris Wilson, known for his promotions at the dearly-departed Boardwalk in the city centre and more recently at The Greystones. After he and his wife Liz became residents of this district they saw the potential for the 400-capacity hall, and although the show is a one-off for now, if it proves a success – which it is likely to do, given that fans are flocking from all over the country - who knows what could happen in the future?
The band themselves reckon that over the years they have played in Sheffield more than any other place and frontman Nigel Blackwell reckons this is mainly down to the Wilsons, who he describes as: “Exactly the type of people bands like to encounter when arriving at a venue,’’ pointing out that they make excellent tea – the sex and drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle isn’t for them it seems, but tea and Biscuits can’t be bad.