And that’s to have a 12-inch effort by The Fall pop up out of nowhere so that some of you will be smiling while others will shake their heads with some dismay.
I’ve written previously about Free Range and the fact it is up there among my favourite 45s by the band. Free Range actually reached #40 in the singles chart which was the best ever-showing for a track that wasn’t a cover version. Its follow-up appeared in the shops in June 1992 and despite being another catchy number that had something of a singalong or at least hummable refrain, it didn’t come close to cracking the Top 75:-
mp3: The Fall – Ed’s Babe
The line-up at the time, in addition to Mark E Smith, consisted of Craig Scanlon (guitar), Steve Hanley (bass), Dave Bush (keyboards) and Simon Wolstencroft (drums) and the track is credited to Scanlon/Smith. It’s one that wouldn’t have sounded out of place during the Brix-era, being almost pop-orientated with the keyboards at the heart of the things. It’s certainly one of the most danceable of the band’s numbers.
It was released only on 12″ and CD with the former offering up a misprint on the label which perhaps indicates a late change of mind to ensure there was just the requisite number of songs (four) to have it qualify as a single and not the five that appear on the label, albeit just four songs are listed on the reverse of the sleeve. This was the track on the same side as the single:-
mp3: The Fall – Pumpkin Head Xscapes
Another danceable number, quite baggy in sound that certainly wouldn’t have sounded out of place as a tune on an Inspiral Carpets single or album. But it also comes with much use of the vocal being sung through a megaphone and then ends with a spoken outro by someone who isn’t MES which places it firmly in the camp of The Fall and nobody else. This one was written by Scanlon/Smith/Hanley.
Flipping the record over and there’s these two tracks:-
mp3: The Fall – The Knight The Devil and Death
mp3: The Fall – Free Ranger
If I was to play the former to you without any hints or clues, I reckon you’d need probably a thousand tries before coming up with it being a song by The Fall, mainly as there’s no vocal contribution from MES and indeed given that he wasn’t credited with any instruments, other than tapes, for any of the sessions of the songs that made up the sessions for the album Code: Selfish and the various b-sides to the singles, then he may not have contributed to this track, albeit he does get a writing credit (Wolsencraft/Smith/Scanlon).
It’s also a very different sort of tune than normal, with the initial reliance on an acoustic guitar giving it something of a folky sort of feel at times. Although not credited on the sleeve of the 12″, the spoken/sung vocal is the work of Cassell Webb, an American-born singer whose career dates back to the late 60s and has encompassed a wide range of genres. Her husband is a name that should be familiar to Jonny and Echorich (among others) as Craig Leon was a major part of the NYC scene, on the production side, in the late 70s/early 80s, working with the likes of The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Richard Hell and Suicide. He was the producer of Code: Selfish and his other half was drafted in to provide some backing vocals as well as take the lead on this, rather intriguing track. It’s also down on the label as being track three of the a-side.
The latter is, as the title indicates, a remix of the previous single. It’s not as immediate or powerful as the original but it remains on the few Fall songs ever given the remix treatment and is well worth a listen for that alone.
I’ve mentioned that a fifth track appears on the label of the 12″, slated as the second track on Side-B to follow on from Free Ranger. It eventually saw the light of day via an edition of Volume which was 1990s publication consisting of a CD (usually containing around 20-24 tracks) and a near-200 page booklet with information on the singers and bands on the CD. Volume One appeared in September 1991 and stopped at Volume Seventeen in January 1997. I’m sure it retailed for around £10 – I only ever bought three of them, including Volume Four which has this on it:-
mp3: The Fall – Arid Al’s Dream
This one also has a contribution from Kenny Brady on violin and all-told it makes for the sort of weird and wonderful world that many associate with The Fall, fans and detractors alike.