Active since 1984, Half Man Half Biscuit are an indie band from Birkenhead, Liverpool. Existing now almost as a whisper under the paved streets of Merseyside they still regularly perform to their adoring fans around the country.
Formed by the now bass player Neil Crossley and lead singer and songwriter Nigel Blackwell, the future band mates were members of several groups such as Split Gut (apparently lasting for nine minutes), North of Watford, and Venom before coming together to form Half Man Half Biscuit.
Probe Plus record company
Soon joined by lead guitarist Simon Blackwell and drummer Paul Wright the band rehearsed at Vulcan studio’s Liverpool. Now joined by keyboard player David Lloyd It was here that the band began recording what would become their first album Back in the D.H.S.S. for the princely sum of £40.
With the record under their arm and the dole queue calling the band took the record around town offering it to several record companies such as Skysaw and Factory but nothing came of these endeavors.
The band looked towards Probe Plus, a Liverpool record company, and the owner Geoff Davies who took their LP home and a few days later came back to the band with an offer to release the record.
After this a few more songs more recorded and added to the existing material and so Back in the D.H.S.S. was born. The album arrived at the legendary John Peel’s desk who loved the albums tearing apart of minor celebrities and representation of life in the Department of Health and Social Services. The album became the biggest selling independent release of 1986.
All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit
The Trumpton Riots was the bands next single and forged ahead with the bands focus and perversion on the ins and outs of daily life with the song taking its title from 1960’s childrens TV show Trumpton. Another song in a similar vein, All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit is a song concerning the many pitfalls of playing Subbuteo with a friend.
The rag-tag bunch of lads enjoying playing the live circuit were in stark contrast to many other indie bands dreaming of commercial success. Demonstrated by the famous tale of the band refusing an invitation to appear on the 1980’s music show The Tube (the band said they preferred to go and watch their local football team Tranmere Rovers going as far as to refuse a helicopter journey that would have had them to the game in time).
The bands lack of interest in commercial success was reflected in the production techniques (or lack of) taken in recording the bands material. As a result this becomes as much a stylistic theme for the band as for example the use of the phase effect was to the producer John Leckie and The Stone Roses.
A shocking development was about to surface as the bands second single Dickie Davies Eyes stood at the very summit of the independent singles charts. The band announced their split just as their stock was rising, evidence again of the bands reluctance to live the commercial pop band lifestyle.
A new LP was released after the split called Back Again In the D.H.H.S. including the bands recordings with John Peel and some unreleased material with a CD version later renamed ACD.
The band then had a four year hiatus recommencing as Half Man Half Biscuit in 1990 with a new album McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt joined by the singles Let’s Not and a cover of Edith Piaf’s No Regrets with Mersey actress Margi Clarke.
These releases were augmented by a return to live performance and the band played the 1990 Reading festival and in 1991 made a rare TV performance at the Manchester International.
John Peel BBC radio
Probe Plus records continued to be the platform upon which the bands records were released and have, for just over twenty years, continued to release new albums (8 since 1991) and have also gigged consistently. They also performed for John Peel on his BBC radio programs until Peel’s death in 2004.
John Peel was a consistent fan and friend of the band and in April 2010 a campaign was put into action to get the bands song Joy Division Oven Gloves to #6 in the national charts in order to support the fight against the closure of BBC Radio 6 Music.
The station was considered by many to be the legacy of the late John Peel and his association with Half Man Half Biscuit led fans to take up the song and its message in order to promote the plight of 6 Music.
The song could only reach #56 in the UK singles chart (the bands highest ever chart success) but this was good enough as the station was saved and continues to serve the underground and less commercially viable music scene populated by bands like Half Man Half Biscuit.