Al Sharp to All Mixed Up

And after only five minutes, you’d be down to 10 men
As he’d sent off your right back for taking the base from under his left winger
All I Want Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit – Half Man Half Biscuit

BEFORE we go any further down this journey, which has edged past the 150 mark with Half Man Half Biscuit’s homage to childhood, Subbuteo, Scalextric and former eastern European football giants, you really need to be introduced to my brother-in-law.

He is likely to pop up more than once on this journey, courtesy of the impact he has had on a lot of the scenery along the way.

His input in terms of recommendations, passing on whatever musical obsessions he has picked lately and a couple of decades or more of Christmas presents has helped to shape the make-up of the iPod collection we are meandering through.

He’s also managed to cash in on my complete loss of faith and interest in the money-soaked, overhyped Premier League and dragged me along – albeit not for a while – to the Meadow End at the distinctly untouched by money Hereford Utd (which brought with it my debut on Sky Sports, eating a pie and drinking a pint in two fleeting appearances).

In return, my contribution has been to accompany him to a string of gigs, blag us a few free review tickets, raid his music collection, eat his food, wind up his Labrador and, after many years of trying, drag him from the round ball to the oval one and a regular spot in The Shed at Kingsholm.

For this entry, his main impact is that the two entries from four lads who shook The Wirral are not mere echoes from my teenage years, but very much current entities in my collection.

Trumpton RiotsHalf Man Half Biscuit released their first album, Back In The DHSS, in 1985 and, a year later, the classic Trumpton Riots EP, which included their first two songs in this countdown, Albert Hammond Bootleg and – at 150 – All I Want For Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (both of which pop up in original and live versions).

They appeared just as my musical life was descending into the mid-1980s jingly-jangly indie ghetto and the C90 which contained that first album saw plenty of action.

But when the band reunited after splitting, briefly, at the end of the decade, it was without me, consigned to the drawer marked novelty, popping up increasingly sparingly amid my musical choices over the intervening years.

Then, a couple of years or so ago, the brother in law belatedly stumbled across them and immersed himself in the back catalogue of Nigel Blackwell’s tales of everyday life and its annoyances, obscure TV references, football and all-night garages – dragging me back in with him to the point they now populate my iPod as often as all bar a select few.

We have also become regulars at their occasional gigs, although far from the near obsessives who never miss a show and catalogue their nights out in great details, many of them clad in the Dukla Prague away kit (although, on my one trip to Prague, it was easier to find a set of Russian dolls in Hereford kit than one of the real thing). Think it might be time to give their gigs a rest for a while.

The latest section of this journey has taken us from track 103 – Al Sharp by The Beta Band – to number 159, All Mixed Up by Red House Painters.

Mark Kozelek’s former band entered my collection on the return home from my first major batch of travelling and a brief spell sharing a house with a friend which had no TV and no internet connection.

Days were spent in Cardiff central library, using their wi-fi to write, sort out photos from six months on the road and look for a job or more travelling opportunities, the evenings in the pub or working my way through my friend’s music collection and, having discovered Sun Kil Moon, that sent me into Kozelek’s back catalogue.

This section also saw us through a litany of names – Al, Albert, Alec and various versions of Alex – that took us to the wonderful Alison’s Starting to Happen by The Lemonheads, a song still guaranteed to put a smile on my face and spark some really poor air drumming.

And that carries us to the mass of All… songs, which will see keep things rolling for a while.

Kicking off with All About Eve by The Wedding Present at both track 127 and 128 and an acoustic All Apologies, we are 30-odd songs in and not halfway through them all.


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