Half Man Half Biscuit formed in late 1985 when Nigel Blackwell and Neil Crossley recorded a batch of the curious little songs they’d been writing for years as a favour to a friend who was setting up a studio. “We were just there to get the levels right for when the proper groups came in,” recalls Nigel.
The result was the exhilarating debut LP Back In The DHSS (1985), the cult hit of that year from whence came the legendary Trumpton Riots (“And keep Mrs Honeyman right out of sight ‘cos there’s gonna be a riot in Trumpton tonight!”).
Championed by DJ John Peel, it was the best-selling British indie album of 1986 and set the tone for all subsequent Half Man Half Biscuit discs.
Seized upon by the music press and thrust into the public eye, the Biscuits found themselves courted by majors, playing hard to get and being taken for a “stripey keks, Splodgenessabounds-type band when we were always nearer Joy Division and The Fall.”
With their tuneless guitars, wailing keyboards and dead-pan vocals, Half Man Half Biscuit painted vignettes of the eccentricities of daily life. Their songs were interlaced with childhood memories, tellingly nostalgic brand names and an obsession with C-list celebrities.
The band displayed an indifferent attitude towards success and stardom. Twice offered national TV exposure on The Tube, they preferred to watch their underachieving football team, Tranmere Rovers.
Just over a year after they began, with a very minor hit single (Dickie Davies’ Eyes), a seven-country tour of Europe lined up and a trip to the States to follow, Nigel Blackwell phoned the offices of his record label, Probe Plus in Liverpool in 1986, and told them he wasn’t going to bother anymore actually.
After a break of three years, the Biscuits decided to give it another go.
Returning in 1990 as a four-piece comprising Neil, Nigel, his brother Simon and drummer Carl, the Biscuits returned (again on Probe Plus) with the single Let’s Not and album, McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt, – which took its title from Golden Gordon, a football-themed episode from Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns comedy TV series.
Two further albums – This Leaden Pall (1993) and Some Call It Godcore (1995) – were then issued, both continuing the twin obsession with television and small-town England.
The Birkenhead boys took their name from a comment made by fellow Liverpool group, Instant Agony who made the comment “half man, half biscuit” when describing Prince Charles.