THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 24)

I mentioned last week how The Fall had kicked off 1988 with the release of Victoria, a cover of a song by The Kinks.  A few weeks later, a new album, The Frenz Experiment hit the shops.  Unusually for a Fall album, the earlier single could be found among its ten tracks, as too could a 30-odd second excerpt of Guest Informant, which had been one of the b-sides to Victoria. This meant just eight new songs on a record that seems to divide fans and critics, not to mention band members, with Simon Wolstencroft describing it as ‘a real mixed bag of songs with some half-baked ideas’, while Marcia Schofield feels ‘it doesn’t have as much of an edge as other Fall albums.’

Next up was something I really should have got myself along to, especially as it happened in the city I was living in at the time.

I Am Curious, Orange was a ballet devised and produced by Michael Clark which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival on 15 August 1988. It was based on the events exactly 300 years earlier, when the Catholic King James II was overthrown and replaced by his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange. It was a typically flamboyant, extravagant and wild production that everyone now expected from Michael Clark and his troupe. It was performed for six nights at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, a building which is quite close to Coasters, a more traditional gig venue where The Fall had performed back in 1985.  The ballet would then transfer to Sadler’s Wells in London on 20 September 1988 for a three-week run.  The Fall provided the live soundtrack on each occasion and in due course released the album, I Am Kurious Oranj, in effect the soundtrack to the ballet, with some songs recorded live during the Edinburgh run while others were recorded in the studio with Ian Broudie in the producer’s chair.

There were certain elements of the album which captured this period of The Fall at the top of their game, not least Big New Prinz, a radical re-working of Hip Priest complete with a glam rock soundtrack. There’s also a take on Jerusalem, the popular hymn written by William Blake in the early 1800s, with MES updating the lyrics to have a go at the modern-day government.

It was the government’s fault
It was the fault of the government
I was very let down with the budget
I was expecting a one million quid handout
I was very disappointed
It was the government’s fault
It was the fault of the government

The album contained ballads, more glam rock, weird electronica, some pop and of course many songs which could only be the work of The Fall.

Brix Smith would later look back on the ballet and album as the pinnacle of her creative world, thanks to the mix of high art, ballet, history, rock music, surrealism, performance art and fashion, all this despite that fact she was well aware that her marriage was disintegrating and that it was only a matter of time before she would no longer be part of the group.

Beggars Banquet wanted something else from the album and so the decision was taken to release a limited numbered edition single of 15,000 copies of a 7″ box set and, in a first for The Fall, a CD single; in fact it was a double 3″ CD housed in a numbered limited edition of 4,000 in a distinct orange box.

mp3: The Fall – Jerusalem
mp3: The Fall – Acid Priest 2088
mp3: The Fall – Big New Prinz
mp3: The Fall – Wrong Place, Right Time No.2

The album version of Jerusalem had been segued onto an original MES composition called Dog Is Life, and ran to over eight minutes in length. For the single, Dog Is Life was removed entirely, while the MES/Blake co-composition was edited to make it a bit more palatable for radio play.

Acid Priest 2088 is a dance remix (of sorts) of Big New Prinz, which, as I mentioned earlier, is itself a stunning remake of Hip Priest, and as far as I’m concerned is up there as one of the very finest moments in the band’s history. It should have been a huge hit….

Wrong Place, Right Time No.2 is a different mix of one of the tracks to be found on I Am Kurious Oranj, and I’m assuming was chosen for the single release given it’s another upbeat almost glam rock composition which might have somehow convinced anyone not otherwise familiar with the group that this was typical of their wider output.

Despite the limited edition nature of the release, Jerusalem/Big New Prinz entered the charts at the end of November 1988 at #70, before climbing eleven places the following week. The Fall ended 1988 in triumphant fashion with a sold-out UK tour of larger venues than normal, including their largest ever Scottish show at the Glasgow Barrowlands on 17 December while six of the year’s songs had been voted into John Peel’s Festive 50.  But it wouldn’t be long before things unravelled.

JC

4 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 24)

  1. I can understand why I didn’t get the 2x 3″ CD at the time – I didn’t have a CD player – but it’s a mystery why I didn’t get the 7″ package. I can only assume that copies were hard to come by. Thanks therefore for sharing the single version of Jerusalem, which I’ve not heard before today. Big New Prinz is an undisputed classic and the other two tracks are great too. Thanks, JC!

  2. Here’s where it will get interesting for me. Up to this time I was paying pretty close attention to The Fall. But when Orange came out I had the suit on, working my first proper adult job–on Wall St. no less. And I fell out of the music scene for a full three years until I moved to LA. So I really didn’t catch too much of the Fall after 1988. One minute Brix was there, then she wasn’t. Everything that comes next will be an adventure.

  3. I can’t recall where I got my copy of the double 7” pack from, although I was living in Manchester at the time so probably fairly easy to come by. However, that doesn’t explain why my copy is one of the last sequenced at number 14,812 out of 15,000!

  4. I saw the ballet in London. I went because of The Fall connection. A man danced around with a football attached to his shoe. I can’t remember anything else about it – not even the music. It was a long time ago.

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