THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 20)

From the closing sentence of last week’s entry in this series:-

“John Leckie was on production duties for The Fall on this occasion as he would be for the album Bend Sinister released just three weeks after Mr Pharmacist.  But by the time of the next single, he would have been usurped……”

…..as the next single by The Fall would end up being produced by Ian Broudie, lately mentioned on the blog via posts about Lightning Seeds.

But, as David Byrne might have said, how did we get here?

October 1986.  Bend Sinister, the band’s third album with John Leckie involved, is greeted with a degree of bemusement as it sounds like nothing else the producer had ever worked on over the years.  It was only years later that Leckie would reveal that Mark E Smith wanted the album to be mastered from a chrome cassette and had also insisted on having the final say when things were being mixed, often taking out contributions from members of the band which Leckie and indeed Brix Smith felt were crucial.  The reviews were mostly negative, with the producer coming in for a great deal of criticism, all of which led to the inevitable ending of the creative partnership.  Three years later, and Leckie was being lauded as a genius for his work on the debut album by Stone Roses.

The twisted way that MES’s mind works is that, having sabotaged the efforts of a slightly mainstream producer for the album, he would agree to have Ian Broudie come in to work on the next single, which was actually recorded before Bend Sinister was released and the critical savaging had taken place.  It was almost as if he’d planned the whole thing with the intention of coming back with a great pop song, almost to spite John Leckie.

Hey! Luciani could have been included on Bend Sinister. It had been written in early 1986, and featured regularly in the live shows throughout that year, including UK, US and European tours.  Indeed, a version recorded with John Leckie would surface sometime later.

MES, however, was pursuing things beyond songwriting and was working throughout the year on completing a play about the death, in 1978, of Pope John Paul I, who had been born Albino Luciani, after a reign of just 33 days.  It was almost immediately after Pope John Paul II was chosen that the conspiracy theories started flying.  Hey! Luciani was therefore, and understandably, held back for inclusion in the play.

Hey! Luciani: The Life and Codex of John Paul I opened on 5 December 1986 and ran for two weeks at the Riverside Studios, London.  A mixture of established actors and creatives who were friends of MES, such as the dancer Michael Clark and the performance artist Leigh Bowery took to the stage, and there were parts for everyone in The Fall at the time, including  keyboardist Marcia Schofield who had come in to help on a short tour of Austria a couple of months earlier when Simon Rogers was unavailable.

The play itself was well-attended over the two weeks, despite some scathing reviews about it being impenetrable and badly acted. A few songs by The Fall featured during its 90-minute duration, including the song that had been held back from the previous album and instead re-recorded at Abbey Road Studios with Ian Brodie adding his touches of magic:-

mp3: The Fall – Hey! Luciani

It was released on 8 December 1986, timed to coincide with the opening of the play. It’s an absolute belter of a single, one that really should have received extensive daytime radio play, but the negativity surrounding the play, allied to the controversial nature of the subject matter, almost certainly played its part in it being ignored.  It didn’t help, mind you, that the single was released in the run-up to Christmas when the airwaves are filled with the perennials.  But I’m thinking it was all part of MES’s master plan to deliver another flop.

Hey! Luciani was released on 7″ and 12″ vinyl. It reached #59, which was easily the best chart position of all the singles to date.

mp3: The Fall – Entitled
mp3: The Fall – Shoulder Pads #1B

Both of these were produced by John Leckie and date from the Bend Sinister sessions. Entitled, a slow, ambling gentle song appears on both the 7″ and 12″. Shoulder Pads #1B was the bonus track on the 12″

Shoulder Pads had originally appeared on Bend Sinister, spilt into two, with #1 fading out at just under the three-minute point early on the album and #2 fading in as the album closer, and coming to a gradual halt after less than two minutes. The version on the Hey! Luciani single is an alternative take and runs to over five minutes in length with a few additional lyrics. The contrast in production values between the A-side and the two songs on the B-side are quite marked.

The next single wouldn’t appear until April 1987, and I’ll look at that in the next instalment of this series. But in February 1987, thanks to a 7″ single giveaway with Sounds, one of the UK’s main music weeklies, everyone got the chance to hear the John Leckie take on the single from the play:-

mp3: The Fall – Hey! Luciani (original version)

Quite different in many ways…far less polished and nowhere near as obvious as a potential hit single. But still well worth a listen.

JC

4 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 20)

  1. Hurrah for me. I own Bend Sinister. The only Fall studio album I have. This is the period that I began to ‘get’ The Fall and this was due, in no small part, to last week’s offering and today’s ‘hit’ – both offering a more accessible, pop sound.

    The more I read this series the more I wonder, MES:

    Musical creative?
    Musical fuck-up?

    There seems to be substantive arguments for both.

  2. @FFF: Just finished reading long-suffering Steve Hanley’s ‘The Big Midweek’ on JC’s recommendation. It confirms exactly what you suspect–MES was creative AND he was fucked up. It would have been hell working with him, if exciting and unpredictable. But there’s still no one to compare him to. Take today’s song as an example. In place of yer quotidian pop/rock lyrical pap, MES writes about a hypothetical plot by the Catholic church to assassinate a Pope. The couplet “All the cowls are black, on an inquisition rack” is one of the most potent and sinister images ever conjured up in just 9 words. And all with Brix going la-la-la in the background. Wack conspiracy theories to dance and sing along with. Creative and fucked up and wholly unique.

  3. Hey! Luciani is a stand out single, a true Fall Pop moment. It’s easy and beyond catchy.
    But as much as I love the A-side, Entitled, on the B-side is the track I always go back to. Gentle, almost Pastoral, it has a sad sort of bite to it. Shoulder Pads 1b is a toe tapper.

  4. It was the John Leckie original version on the Sounds Showcase 1 freebie 7″ that was my first listen to Hey! Luciani. I prefer the slightly more atmospheric intro and spikiness throughout but there’s no denying that Ian Broudie’s production was a necessary nudge towards commercial appeal. I’ve collated the other two songs from The Fall B Sides 458489 compilation and there’s no denying that this was a standout 12″ single.

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