At Leek Town Hall Tonight

A while back I wrote a post about a Half Man Half Biscuit song which referenced the Staffordshire town of Leek. I said Leek was well known to me as the birthplace of my Dad but that other than the HMHB tune the only other time it had popped up in song was in Joe Strummer’s wonderful reggae tinged At The Border, Guy. Recently a reader Sam Sherratt has left a couple of comments on the post adding further detail and deepening Leek’s rock ‘n’ roll connections. This was too important to be left dwindling as comments below a post and I feel deserved a posting in their own right. Sam wrote…

Can help with the Leek reference in the Strummer song. Joe’s pre-Clash band the 101ers had a couple of members originally from Leek (incidentally Joe at the time was known as Woody). This included drummer Richard Dudanski (aka Nother), who later went on to drum with PiL. The 101ers played in Leek at a club called Samantha’s (not Leek Town Hall) and on another occasion came to a party. I was in touch with Richard a few years’ back and he said he asked Joe about this reference and said that he must have been confused.
Nice to tidy up a little corner of rock trivia!

and added afterwards…

Leek was also responsible for poisoning the Rolling Stones on Christmas Eve 1963, which is mentioned in Bill Wyman’s diaries – I know the man who bought the pies!


She’s Moved In So To Speak With Featureless TV Producer Steve

When she was five years old, a few years ago now, my daughter ET used to be pretty much word perfect on this Half Man Half Biscuit song- one of their very best incidentally- and particularly enjoyed singing the opening lines, the ‘No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills’ part and the ‘old time religion ending’. Glad she never asked what the third line was about.

Tonight she’s going to see Little Mix at the Apollo (where I saw my first band too- Madness back in the early 80s).

Maybe some day she’ll come back to Nigel Blackwell’s unique lyrical viewpoint.

She stayed with me until she moved to Notting Hill 
She said it was the place she needs to be
Where the cocaine is fair trade, and frequently displayed
Is the Buena Vista Social Club CD

I thought she’d be back in three weeks and we’d go wandering the Peaks
Sojourn in my Uncle Joe’s ashram
For when you’re in Matlock Bath you don’t need Sylvia Plath
Not while they’ve got Mrs. Gibson’s Jam
Alas I’m brooding alone by the runnel
While she’s in Capri with her swain
And the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
Well we both grew up in Eyam and strange as it may seem
Neither of us thought we’d ever leave
But the beak in Leek is weak
And she’s moved in so to speak
With featureless TV producer Steve
And now it’s all Eva Cassidy and aphids in Picardy
And so I can only ascertain
That the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills
Brooding alone by the runnel

While she’s in Capri with her swain
And the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
Is the light of an oncoming train
Is the light of an oncoming

Old time religion
Gimme that old time religion
Gimme that old time religion
It’s good enough for me.
For the benefit of readers from further afield (outside the north west of England say)- there are websites that can do all the references for you but I can save you the bother with some of them.
Matlock and New Mills are both towns in the Peak District. New Mills (in the picture at the top) is on the A6 a few miles south of Stockport but definitely into Derbyshire. The New Mills section is of course based on ‘ A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way you spell New York’ from Dillinger’s Cocaine In My Brain.
Swain is an old English word for beau or lover.
Eyam is a village in Derbyshire, famous for sealing itself off from the outside world due to a plague outbreak during the 17th century. Hence, I suppose, the ‘neither of us thought we’d ever leave’ line.
Leek is a Staffordshire milltown, well known in Bagging Area Towers as the birthplace and hometown of my Dad. The only other reference in popular song to Leek I know of is in Joe Strummer’s At The Border, Guy where he launches into ‘At Leek town hall, Leek town hall tonight…’. Leek doesn’t have a town hall anymore- it was demolished in 1988. The Rolling Stones played there in 1963.
Leek has a non-league football team, Leek Town, who I watched once, on a Saturday afternoon at some point on the mid-80s.
Eva Cassidy is a bewilderingly popular folk-esque singer, who became posthumously famous for her cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The sort of album bought in supermarkets for coffee tables and dinner parties- see also The Buena Vista Social Club.The parent album of this HMHB song is Cammell Laird Social Club (Cammell Laird being the ship building plant on the banks of the Mersey in Birkenhead). It’s one of their best albums- if you haven’t got it, you’re definitely missing it.