If there’s one thing that the look back at all the R.E.M. singles has taught me, then it’s to make sure that you have a true fan on board when taking a look at the career of a much-loved band, particularly when :-
(a) they have been, or were, part of the fabric of essential music for decades;and
(b) my own efforts will be hampered by not actually having a copy of all the records due to be featured in any series.
Let’s face it, without The Robster on board, many of the Sundays over the past year or so would have been a washout.
I’ve thought long and hard about who next to shine the spotlight on. Prior to R.E.M., the singles series had been devoted to The Auteurs/Luke Haines, Simple Minds, Marc Almond, Paul Haig, Grinderman, New Order, XTC, Undertones, Buzzcocks, Cinerama, The Clash, The Style Council, The Jam, Altered Images and James.
It’s not too shabby a list, but there is one band I’ve long wanted to cover but always felt it would be too much of a challenge. Thankfully, Drew, doyen of From Across The Kitchen Table, (which has been in abeyance since the end of last year), has answered my plea for help as I’m not perfectly placed to take on the fresh challenge single-handedly.
Yup. The aim is to focus on the recorded output of The Fall, going back to the debut single in August 1978 and meandering our way through the following 40 years.
The thing is, I really have no idea what road the series will follow.
Drew, quite rightly, doesn’t want to be restricted solely to looking at singles as they don’t really give a true indication of things. At the same time, if the series was to try and look at every release, be they singles, EPs, studio albums, live albums, compilations and Peel Sessions, it would be akin to painting the Forth Rail Bridge (i.e., never ending).
So, get yourselves comfortably and safely seated, but fasten your safety belts as we get set to take you through this wonderful and frightening new series. Here’s how it all started:-
Recorded late 1977 in Manchester but not released until 11 August 1978 on Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.
The players were Mark E Smith (vocals), Martin Bramah (guitar), Tony Friel (bass), Karl Burns (drums) and Una Baines (keyboards). All five members are credited with the writing of Repetition. Smith and Friel are responsible for Psycho Mafia, while Smith and Baines wrote Bingo Master. One interesting thing to note is that both Friel and Baines had left the band before the debut single was released….but they wouldn’t be the last musicians eligible to have ‘ex-The Fall’ after their name.
Nostalgically, it’s fair to say it really was something of a sensational debut, but it didn’t quite feel that way back in 1978. In the era of post-punk and just about anything being able to go, the harshness of the playing and the unusual vocal delivery did make it a challenging listen. If the band had broken up there and then, it would likely have been highly regarded as a cult single. Better songs would quickly follow, but all three of these remain essential and, while the next five different decades would see a continual re-invention and evolution, it is nevertheless a reasonable statement to make that these are damn near the perfect calling card as any type of introduction to The Fall.
Welcome aboard. One or both of us will be back next Sunday.
Oh, and if anyone wants to contribute at any point, they would be most welcome. But, please remember, the plan is to do things in a chronological fashion, and so it might be that your words, thoughts and promptings will be kept in a holding pattern until permission to land is granted.
JC and Drew
PS – another reminder for those who still might need their weekly R.E.M. fix that The Robster has an ongoing weekly series over at his place. Click here for a Star Trek type transportation…..