Advertising Slogans and References in Half Man Half Biscuit songs

Yes, I REALLY like to watch the adverts!

Part of the joys of listening to Half Man Half Biscuit for me is spotting the B-list celebrities and other popular culture references within their lyrics. Though I’m able to get most of the references, some younger listeners may be at a loss with some. Especially the adverts of long forgotten products.

East of the M60, within the realms of this post, aims to inform anyone born after 1979 of its advertising references.

1. “The Krona rumour spread but they didn’t tell the bread…” (99% of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd): Krona was a popular butter/margarine brand of the mid 1980s, as well as a Swedish currency unit. Its adverts cut through the stereotype of Krona being a Danish brand. Therefore it persuaded people to think that it was a British brand. Krona (the margarine) was launched in 1978 using a blend of dairy cream and vegetable oils.

2. “A million housewives everyday pick up a can of beans and say…” (Venus in Flares): The opening line of HMHB’s ‘Venus in Flares’ is borrowed from the Heinz slogan which continues with ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’. Messrs Blackwell and Crossley’s take on this is “what an amazing example of synchronisation…”.

3. “I walked across the road with a peach in my hand…” (Architecture, Morality, Ted and Alice): This relates to a Public Information Film from 1976. Entitled ‘Eyes and Ears: It’s Your Lookout’ it raised awareness of road safety by showing a man carelessly crossing the road. Shortly after the car hits him, the film cuts to a shot of a hammer hitting a peach.

4. “You Can Really Taste The Hops!” (CAMRA Man): As the real ale movement gathered momentum by the late 1970s (thanks to CAMRA and a bunch of Mancunian journalists which founded it one night at The White Lion in Hyde), some leading breweries revived their real ale brands. Or they created imitation traditional brands, in keg form. The final line in CAMRA Man refers to the slogan used in the Ben Truman Bitter advert dating from 1979.

5. “Gob full of tapioca, I sit and I watch you excel…” (I Left My Heart in Papworth General): Another beer reference. ‘Watch you excel’ refers Whitbread Tankard, a popular 1970s keg beer whose advertising slogan would typically use ‘your chance to excel’. The cartoon character used to advertise the beer went by the name of Stanley.

But Wait, There’s More…!

Feel free to add to our quintet of advertising slogans in Half Man Half Biscuit songs. Post early…!

S.V., 07 September 2012.

Go Cheapway… To New Mills

“No frills, handy for the hills…”

New Mills
A view from the Torrs Riverside Park. Photograph by Rachel D (Creative Commons Accreditation License).

Lyrical genius Nigel Blackwell immortalised the Derbyshire town in the Half Man Half Biscuit song ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Is the Light of an Oncoming Train)’ with the above statement. For many people living in Greater Manchester, it is only a short distance away – and a bus ride from Stockport and Marple. By rail, you’ve got two stations from Manchester Piccadilly trains to choose from. Continue reading “Go Cheapway… To New Mills”

Gig Review: Half Man Half Biscuit, 17 February 2011

The Plug, Matilda Street, Sheffield

“We were going to have ourselves a beautiful evening. Everything was in order…” as me and a couple of fellow HMHB fans headed to Plug for our second gig on the other side of the Pennines. Continue reading “Gig Review: Half Man Half Biscuit, 17 February 2011”

50% Man 0.5 Biscuit: Numerical References in HMHB Songs

The application of number in Half Man Half Biscuit songs

Almost everything on this Septic Isle of ours is subject to the tyranny of number. Whether that’s alcoholic units, railway punctuality and reliability figures, or our PIN number, they are used to reassure us or nanny us to drink less beer. Or they tell us which time our bus is not going to show. Continue reading “50% Man 0.5 Biscuit: Numerical References in HMHB Songs”

“She’s in Broadstairs….!”

Donna Williams’ 2009 UK Tour Dates

Half Man Half Biscuit fans, I do apologise for my attempt at link baiting hoping you would expect an article on the above song from their 2002 album Cammell Laird Social Club.

More seriously, the tour dates for Donna Williams’ UK lecture tour have been revealed on her website.  This time, there are no dates for the North West though the most northerly date is at Middlesbrough.  Her penultimate tour date will be in the Kent seaside town of Broadstairs (hence the title).


  • 03/10/2009: Fareham / Oxford;
  • 05/10/2009: Pontypridd;
  • 06/10/2009: Nailsea / Bristol;
  • 07/10/2009: Birmingham;
  • 08/10/2009: Wrexham;
  • 09/10/2009: Newry;
  • 10/10/2009: Doncaster;
  • 12/10/2009: Middlesbrough;
  • 13/10/2009: Peterborough;
  • 15/10/2009: Dublin;
  • 16/10/2009: Broadstairs;
  • 17/10/2009: London.

All dates may be subject to change.  Check the Events section of Donna’s website for details.

To any regular readers of this blog who may be interested in seeing one of her seminars, you will be in for a treat.  I am not just saying that because I know her as a good friend.  As well as being informed you will also be entertained by her approach on discussing autism spectrum disorders.

Half Man Half Biscuit fans on or off the autism spectrum, you may wish to attend the Broadstairs lecture, visit the place itself properly, stay overnight and leave home the following morning.  Sadly I cannot speak for the qualities of Broadstairs as I have never been!

S.V., 20 August 2009.

Postscript (01 October 2009): Donna’s final UK venue will be at Farnborough, not London.  I will be going to the Wrexham, Doncaster and Middlesbrough lectures, so if in the unlikely event you see me, make yourself known. Middlesbrough also has a place in HMHB History in that Hedley Verity was born there (hence ‘Hedley Verityesque’ on their 1991 album ‘Macintyre, Treadmore and Davitt’.

I’m In the Metro!

OK, not quite.

A nice surprise came to me this morning in one of the free papers on the 220 service towards Stalybridge railway station. I was reading the Metro when turning towards ‘The Ridiculant’ page I found that one of my side projects was listed.

Continue reading “I’m In the Metro!”

Half Map Half Biscuit

“…I like to flush the demons from out of your mind…”

With only days to go until Half Man Half Biscuit’s Manchester gig (Academy, 30 January 2009), East of the M60 is proud to announce a new project.

Entitled ‘Half Map Half Biscuit’, this ongoing project is a map of the places namechecked in Half Man Half Biscuit songs.  Each place is pinpointed with a quote from the song it featured in.

The map is a user generated map created using Google Maps.  All you have to do is go into, zoom your Google map towards the UK, click on the ‘My Maps’ link and enter ‘half map half biscuit’ into Google and click ‘Search Maps’.



‘The Not So Perfect 10’: Ten Greatest Half Man Half Biscuit quotes

Regular readers of my blog will already know about my liking for the greatest band to have hailed from the Wirral since Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Back with a vengeance, this month’s ‘Not So Perfect Ten’ Continue reading “‘The Not So Perfect 10’: Ten Greatest Half Man Half Biscuit quotes”

…Meet up on a Friday with my CORGI Registered Friends…

Half Man Half Biscuit, 16 February 2007: Manchester Academy

With a near capacity crowd in the Manchester Academy, Birkenhead’s answer to Shakespeare had a solid performance, with this gig surpassing the Holmfirth one last September.

Opening the gig was fellow labelmates Calvin Party, in front of about 400 people, with their Echo and the Bunnymen meets James style of Indie music.

By 2115 hours, came the main feature, Half Man Half Biscuit who ran on to a snatch of ’13 Eurogoths Floating In The Dead Sea’. Fifteen minutes before then, the Manchester Academy saw an extra 800 HMHB fans surge towards the venue. As with Holmfirth, they opened the gig with ‘S*** Arm Bad Tattoo’.

Friday’s gig saw a rather tight performance by Half Man Half Biscuit, with a mix of excellent new material from ‘Achtung Bono’ and a few oldies. Within the latter category were ‘4AD3DCD’, ‘Albert Hammond Bootleg’ and ‘Turned Up, Clocked Off, Laid Off’. Unlike the Holmfirth gig, ’24 Hour Garage People’ lacked the musical samples (probably due to copyright issues).

Before the encore, HMHB dedicated their last song, ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ to Tony Wilson, given his recent battle with cancer. This was met by rapturous applause by the 1200 – 1500 fans at the Academy. Continuing the trend of using a cover version for the encore set, their choice was ‘Containers’ by The Fall from their 1980 album ‘Grotesque: After the Gramme’.

Ending with a snatch of ‘The Best Things In Life’ and ‘We’ve Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune’ before then, Half Man Half Biscuit left me wanting a second encore and a week’s worth of cold turkey, cured only by listening to ‘Achtung Bono’ and ‘Back in the DHSS’ several times.

A fantastic night, and long may they continue. When’s the next gig in the North West…?

Gig Review: Half Man Half Biscuit

Holmfirth Picturedrome, 21st September 2006

As British as Fish and Chips and Fawlty Towers with a sense of the absurd, Half Man Half Biscuit’s Holmfirth gig saw a tight performance from the Birkenhead Indie band.

Established in 1984, splitting in 1987, only to reform in 1990, Messrs Nigel and Neil Blackwell continue to write great songs with references ranging from ITV Wrestling contenders to hills and nondescript East Anglian towns. Last night, they didn’t disappoint.

Kicking off proceedings with ‘S*** Arm, Bad Tattoo’, their set lasted a full 90 minutes with 10 minutes added time for an encore. Applause and cheers were reserved for the old favourites like ‘F***** ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmuss’ and ‘Everything’s AOR’. Of the more recent material, ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ was greeted with a lively reception.

The highlights of the gig included an extended version of ’24 Hour Garage People’, updated to include references to portable digital music players – complete with excerpts of songs which would appear on Sean Rowley’s ‘Guilty Pleasures’ album. The other one was ‘Disabled Blue Badge Abuser’, which used the bass line of one of their older pieces ‘Yipps’.

They opened the encore with a cover of ‘Caroline’ by Status Quo, before playing ‘Them’s The Vagaries’ and two classics from ‘Back Again in the DHSS’ (‘The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman’ and ‘The Best Things in Life’). Suprisingly, there was no ‘Trumpton Riots’, which was seen a mild letdown by some.

Apart from that, this was a tight performance by Half Man Half Biscuit, and their 100 minute set was well worth the £15.00.

Key songs:

  • Restless Legs
  • Dead Men Don’t Need Season Tickets
  • Joy Division Oven Gloves
  • Vatican Broadside
  • Everything’s AOR
  • CORGI Registered Friends
  • 24 Hour Garage People (extended version)

All in all, a great night.

  • Presentation: 89% (Good stage effects and special mention for the caravan shaped guitar);
  • Sound quality: 80% (Good acoustics, no distortion, not too loud);
  • Value for Money: 93% (A long set plus a generous 40 minutes for the support band);
  • Content:91% (A good mix of recent and classic material, though ‘Trumpton Riots’ was missed).

Overall rating: 90% (Half Man Half Biscuit can never be equalled with their powers of observation on the minutae of life most of us take for granted and knowledge of all things obscure. Long may they continue.)

  • Half Man Half Biscuit will be playing the Manchester Academy on the 17th February 2007.  Tickets are £16.75, including booking fee and the gig will include a support act. Log on to for further details.