THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 21)

This weekly series has been running for almost six months.  When it started, I had no idea that Halloween 2021 would fall on a Sunday, far less that when the time came, it would provide the spooky coincidence of featuring the most successful chart hit for The Fall.  Here’s an extract from the book Hip Priest, written by Simon Ford, and published in 2003:-

Part of The Fall’s new commercial strategy included the release of carefully chosen cover versions, exemplified in April 1987 by ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’, an old Motown standard recommended by Beggars’ press officer Karen Ehlers. The combination of a classic song plus the added quirk of Smith coming close to singing stunned the critics. Don Watson made it NME’s single of the week, while James Brown in Sounds felt overwhelmed by the ‘forceful disco inferno’.

The critics’ positive reviews and a hilarious video of Smith and Brix pursued by poltergeists, helped it become the Fall’s most successful single, reaching number 30.  Normally a new entry at that level ensured an appearance on Top of The Pops, but the call never came and Brix was left bitterly disappointed: “The Fall were never asked, I mean that was one of the biggest crises in the history of the band…me and Marcia were going, “What will we wear, what will we wear?” It was like, failure, we didn’t get on”.

mp3: The Fall – There’s A Ghost In My House

The reference to ‘me and Marcia’ gives the game away that there had, in the five months since the release of Hey! Luciani, been another change in band personnel, with Simon Rogers taking his leave to be replaced on keyboards by Marcia Schofield.  The other players on this 7″, 12″ and cassette release were MES, Brix, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanlon and Simon Wolstencroft.  The producer was the returning Grant Showbiz, last seen with The Fall at the time of Hex Enduction Hour, but who had busy since then as the live sound engineer for The Smiths.

Before turning to the b-sides, it’s worth mentioning that 1987 was a year when The Fall just about became mainstream.  The year had begun with a lengthy tour of Germany along with dates in the Netherlands and Belgium.  A UK tour was arranged to coincide with the release of the new single, and the set lists from the period indicating a level of consistency each night not normally associated with the band – they even threw in some old favourites!

In July 1997, The Fall played their biggest gig to date, as support to U2 at Elland Road, the home stadium of Leeds United FC. It should be pointed out that they were a late replacement for World Party, but there is no way that U2’s management would have asked for The Fall if they weren’t confident of a tight, consistent and upbeat set being delivered. A few weeks later, and they were playing at Finsbury Park, London, as the special guests of Siouxsie & The Banshees.

This was followed up with a return trip to Germany as part of two shows in Hamburg and Bonn where they shared a stage with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Swans, Butthole Surfers, Die Haut, and Holy Toy, before being third top of the bill on the first day of the 1987 Reading Festival, with The Mission as the headliners.  It’s accurate to say that the band’s profile had never been higher, and yet it was their quietest ever in terms of new material, with no studio album and just one more single after Ghost (which I’ll look at next week).

As I mentioned earlier, the hits single came out on 7″, 12″ and cassette. Indeed, the 7″ came out in two different formats, with a limited edition hologram sleeve, while the 12″ gatefold had a totally different sleeve altogether.

mp3: The Fall – Haf Found Bormann

This was the b-side on the 7″, as well as being on the 12″ and cassette.  A rather bizarre offering, it had been written for, and performed during, the Hey! Luciani stage play.  It’s an MES composition, but the shouty vocals are delivered by Brix and Marcia.  In the play, the duo had played the roles of Israeli commandos tracking down Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary (don’t ask!!!).

mp3: The Fall – Sleep Debt Snatches

As found on the 12″ and cassette.  It’s more than six minutes long, and the first forty seconds lull listeners into a false sense of security as MES jauntily sings his lyrics over an upbeat but minimalist tune.  The rest is instrumental and, I’m being kind here, experimental.  Approach with caution.

mp3: The Fall – Mark’ll Sink Us

This absolute gem of a track was only made available via the 12″ single.   It’s an MES lyric over a tune co-written by Steve Hanley and Craig Hanlon. It’s a reflective and initially slow number, with an initial bassline very reminiscent of Joy Division, and before long there’s some prominent and occasionally jazzy piano being thrown in.  It’s a beguiling track from start to end, which speeds up with a chanted chorus of ‘Mark’ll Sink Us’ that fades out before the music, faster than ever, comes back in before coming to a halt a little short of five minutes.

Was MES sending out a coded message to the band members that they better be careful?  After all, as I said earlier, they were, in 1987, on the fringes of the mainstream, a position that Brix more than anyone wanted but which was anathema to MES.  It’s also been rumoured that, given how sparse the guitar work is on the song that Brix didn’t play on it…..

Any thoughts Fall fans??

Oh, I forgot to mention in the above narrative that the cassette version of the single did itself have four tracks, but Mark’ll Sink Us was replaced by Hey! Luciani.

JC

3 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 21)

  1. Never really saw the point of The Fall trying to be a pop group or “accessible”. There’s plenty of those bands about and they tend to do it better. By contrast, nobody matches the majestic, splenetic racket conjured up by The Fall at their finest. In retrospect, it looks a bit like Brix wanted The Fall to be a bit like the B52s and Mark humoured her for a year or two.
    The supernatural is an obvious Smith influence though, with screeds of his lyrics alluding to works by Machen, Lovecraft and MR James. If he was still with us, I suspect he’d be tuning in to the James ghost story adaptation on BBC4 tonight.

  2. Captured resistance was in the form of two false Aztec gods
    In fact Sudanese agents…
    Captured
    Confiscated
    Nimrod is vindicated in the highest
    Have found Bormann!

  3. Haf Found Boorman is one of my favorite Fall tracks. It oozes 1979 Post-Punk guitar and bass.
    There’s A Ghost In My House was well timed. There’s an air of reset in the song. it was 1987, bands from the start of the decade were dropping like so many exhausted flies as the 80’s entered it back end. Those that seemed to survive, found a way to move on with their sound. It may have been a cover, but there’s an air of creativity in Ghost that would see it be a jumping off point for a “new” Fall .

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