So….we’ve reached the part in our saga where Brix Smith has exited (stage left) and to just about everyone’s surprise, Martin Bramah has rejoined the group. Surely this was the cue for The Fall to cut out the pop music and return to the rough’n’ready stuff of the early days?
mp3: The Fall – Telephone Thing
Released on 7″, 12″ and CD on 15 January 1990, on MES’s own label, Cog Sinister, but as a spin-off from the newly signed deal with Phonogram, which meant that the band were now label-mates with, among others, Elton John, Dire Straits and Status Quo. Not that it made all that much difference, as the parent label had given MES an assurance that he was simply to keep on doing what he had been doing his whole career.
Almost unnoticed amidst the chaos of 1989. MES had for the first time ever collaborated with musicians outside The Fall with a vocal on (I’m) In Deep on the Coldcut debut album, What’s That Noise.
Coldcut, consisting of Matt Black and Jonathan More, were a big part of the emerging and increasingly influential electronic dance scene in the UK. The album went Top 20 and most of its songs featured a different guest vocalist. One of the other tracks had been My Telephone, with vocals supplied by Lisa Stansfield, and in due course the suggestion came from Coldcut that MES might want to have a stab at it, which he did with great gusto. The tune was adapted and the lyrics re-written so that they became a rant about phone tapping; MES was convinced, at the time, that his phone was being tapped by someone out there as he said in an interview with Andrew Collins in the NME to help promote the new single:-
“I just think it’s topical – like all Fall singles. I think it’s good to have a go at things like that – British Rail and British Telecom. It’s a natural gripe. One time, I was using the phone a lot and I dialled a number and I could hear people munching sandwiches and talking about my last phone call. I actually rang up the operator and said ‘Look! I’m trying to dial a fucking number here and I can’t get through because people are talking about my phone calls! Have you got a bleedin’ license to do this?’
“Being staff, they get fed up, so what they do is tap into lines that they think are gonna be interesting. It doesn’t bother me, I’ve got nothing to fucking hide! But I said ‘Well, is it tapped or not? I can’t fucking get through because of your bloody lot!’ And she slammed the phone down on me!”
All the band members do play on the track, with Martin Bramah contributing the wah-wah guitar part, quite possibly surprised of what was asked of him on his first recorded song with the band after ten years.
My verdict? It’s good fun in that it’s again something different, but maybe just too much on the quirky side to be an essential listen.
The b-side to the 7″ was another strange one in that Marcia Schofield‘s keyboards come across as an imitation of trumpets/brass while Simon Wolstencroft lives up to his Funky Si nickname on the drums:-
mp3: The Fall – British People In Hot Weather
It has a scathing but surreal MES lyric, reflecting (seemingly!!) on how folk from over here aren’t that great at coping when it gets particularly warm. It’s a song I didn’t actually know until only a few years ago – I didn’t buy all that many of the new records by The Fall from the 90s onwards at the time of their release – and I haven’t ever really taken to this song. Looking back on what had previously been a great, or at the very least, interesting, run of b-sides during the Brix era, this surely would have felt a bit of a letdown back in the day.
The 12″ and CD contained a different mix and a dub version of Telephone Thing. I’m unable to offer either of them to you today, but I don’t feel it’s any great loss.