I think it’s only fair that Hex Enduction Hour, released in March 1982, features as part of this series as it enables me to get a bit personal and nostalgic. It doesn’t actually show me in that great a light to be honest…..
The thing is, The Fall were coming to Glasgow on 1 April 1982, for a gig at Night Moves (the club recently referenced in flimflanfan’s wonderful ICA on Goth music). A really good friend at the time, and someone who I went to a lot of gigs with, was determined to go, partly on the basis of him liking what he had heard on the John Peel show, but also from the fact that the support band was an up and coming band from Scotland called Cocteau Twins.
My mate went out and bought the new Fall album and taped a copy for me onto a C90 cassette.
I listened to it. I really liked the opening couple of tracks, but then thought it became a bit of a droning dirge. It also sounded as if my mate had cocked up the recording as the tape faded out mid-song before halting altogether, but when I turned it over to Side B, the song which had faded out started up again. Both tunes appeared to be called Winter. Side B was a tough listen as the singer asked questions but seemed to give no answers about Nazis, while the final two songs were long-drawn-out affairs that were unlistenable.
My expectations for the gig weren’t high. But as my mate had seen a few bands that weren’t his cup of tea, it was only fair that I went along with him.
As it turned out, the support band were fine, albeit they didn’t play for long, with the incredibly shy and possibly terrified singer seeming as if she just wanted the experience to end. The Fall were very strange. There didn’t seem to be all that many songs in their set from the new album, and the lead singer seemed at his happiest when he was provoking a reaction from the audience. We had been down near the front to begin with, but we edged back in due course, worried about getting caught up in something we wanted no part of. The musicians seemed to be a decent lot, but it was hard to tell as the sound was quite muddied. The gig ended and we kind of shrugged our shoulders.
The next day, I taped over the C90. Probably a mix for my then first serious girlfriend, who had just left school for a job/career as a trainee with one of our major banks. Her tastes were quite conservative…..I didn’t know it then, but the writing was on the wall, and we would go our separate ways by the summer….and it’s quite likely that the tape would have been filled with ‘mood’ music for those few occasions when her parents weren’t home.
Now, looking back at things. I was 18 years old. I had been going to gigs for around two years, mostly at the Glasgow Apollo where the established acts with chart hits rocked up, although I’d been to a few smaller shows in other venues including the various student unions in the city. I knew little of The Fall beyond some early singles, most of which I had enjoyed…..but the album just didn’t resonate for the most part. I quickly dismissed The Fall, and it would take a couple more years before I took them seriously again, thanks to their songs being played every now and again at the alternative disco in the students union of Strathclyde University, my regular haunt in 1984/85.
Forty years on, and having all sorts of different reference points on which to now draw, none of which were the least bit familiar to me back then, I can appreciate that Hex Enduction Hour is a wonderful piece of work, probably my favourite of all the studio albums. I now have a copy on vinyl, not the original version, but a 2019 re-press by Cherry Red Records in which three slabs of 12″ vinyl contain the album along with live recordings and Peel Sessions from September 1981, with a bonus 7″ single also thrown in. Oh, and it all comes on a fabulously eye-catching green and white splattered vinyl…
Some background if you’re not aware. Mark E Smith thought this would be the band’s final album before the band totally imploded. Two tracks were initially recorded in Iceland, in September 1981, as part of a trip to play three gigs in that country, The remainder came from sessions in a disused cinema in Hitchin, some 38 miles north of London, in December 1981. The band had the same line-up as had played on Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul, and following on from the success of the sessions for that 45, Richard Mazda was in the producer’s chair in Hitchin.
It came out on Korova Records to fairly enthusiastic reviews, and thanks to the band’s increasing popularity, became their first single or album to make the official as opposed to indie charts, peaking at #71. Rather incredibly, none of its tracks made it onto Peel’s Festive rundown, as voted by listeners, at the end of the year, although a later single (and subject of the next edition of this series) did scrape in at #58.
But returning to the subject matter in hand.
Hex Enduction Hour has many wonderful moments, including loads I despised back in 1982. Like this:-
Seriously, how was I meant to get this in 1982 when I was enjoying and dancing to New Order, The Jam, Scritti Politti, Associates, The Clash, The Cure, Simple Minds, Blancmange, Yazoo, Echo & The Bunnymen and Aztec Camera – all of whom feature prominently and regularly in the ’82 Peel rundown, whereas these songs are nowhere to be seen:-
Looking back at the Night Moves set list on 1 April 1982, all the tracks on offer today, except for Jawbone, were aired, which is at odds with my recollection that the gig was mostly stuff that I didn’t know. Which just shows that I really didn’t do my pre-gig preparations properly.
The joke is on me. I should be still been dining out on the fact that I had seen an astonishing double-bill, for probably less than £3, of a band from Scotland set to soon take the indie music world by storm, and a tremendous line-up of The Fall at the height of their early powers.
If I could find a time travel machine, and offered a fresh opportunity, I’d certainly approach things very differently. I’d still have that C90 tape, for one……..