THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Parts 28 & 29)


There’s going to be two for the price of one this week, as doing so neatly takes our story to the end of 1990.  But as such, it’s a lengthy one as there’s a lot to cover.

The next single was issued in August 1990.  The period between the previous single and the latest 45 had seen The Fall travel the world on what can only be looked upon as a gruelling tour in support of Extricate:-

1 March – 26 March : a 20-date tour of the UK
29 March – 21 April : a 19-date tour taking in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Austria
26 April : a one-off gig in Paris
18 May : a one-off gig in New York
21 May : a one-off gig in Los Angeles
20 June – 30 June : a 7-date tour of Australia
5 July : a one-off gig in Auckland
10 July – 14 July : a 4-date tour of Australia
23 July – 25 July : a 3-date tour of Japan
26 August : an appearance at the Reading Festival

Looking at the above schedule, it is likely that the time between the Paris and New York gigs was spent in the studio recording the tracks which would make up the next single.

The reason I’m deducing this is that Marcia Schofield, on returning from Los Angeles, had a huge fall-out with MES and made her mind up to leave the band. A lot of her anger was based on the fact that MES didn’t want her recording or working with other musicians, a position she felt was hypocritical given that he had previously worked with Coldcut and more recently had gone into a studio with Tackhead.

She was persuaded to come back for the Australian/New Zealand/Japan gigs, perhaps influenced in part by the fact that she and Martin Bramah had recently embarked on a relationship and not going on the tour would have meant a considerable period apart.

The gig on 14 July was in Sydney. Afterwards, the band’s manager told Schofield and Bramah they would not be accompanying The Fall to Japan, and were instead given plane tickets back to the UK. In other words, they had been sacked…..

The thing was, the artwork and promotional material for the next single was already signed off, and a limited edition 12″ version contained a poster in which the sacked duo were featured:-

By the time the new single was in the shops, the news of the sackings had been made public, with a brutally worded press release saying that they had been fired ‘because they wanted to pursue other projects, and it was pointless them remaining in the band any longer”.  No words of thanks or best wishes for the future.

And so, White Lightning/The Dredger EP* became the last thing that the latest line-up of The Fall would ever make.

mp3: The Fall – White Lightning (7″, 12″, 12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Blood Outta Stone (7″, 12″, 12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Zagreb (Movement II) (12″ only)
mp3: The Fall – The Funeral Mix (12″ only)
mp3: The Fall – Zagreb (Movements I+II+III) (12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Life Just Bounces (12″ Limited Edition and CD)

* White Lightning was the name given to the 7″ and 12″ singles, while The Dredger EP was the name given to the other two versions.

The a-side was yet another cover, of a song written in 1958 and which became a #1 hit for country singer George Jones in April 1959.   The song’s writer was J.P Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper and who was killed in the same plane crash as that involving Buddy Holly and Richie Valens in February 1959.  Jones’ take on the song was more rock’n’roll than country, and The Fall’s interpretation is reasonably faithful and not all that far removed from some of the earlier self-penned material from the early 80s.  It is also, in my opinion, is far from the most interesting of the tracks on the EP……

Blood Outta Stone, a co-composition with M.Beddington (aka Martin Bramah) is a very fine guitar-driven number, and another of the great lost songs stuck away on b-sides.  Bramah has since said he thought it would have made for a better single than Whie Lightning, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

Turning now to Zagreb.  This one is credited to MES and Marcia Schofield.  Movement I is an instrumental, lasting just over 30 seconds.  The riff, Schofield later confirmed, is based on Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder, as she and Simon Wolstencroft were fond of playing it live in soundchecks, with it eventually forming its way into a fully formed tune by The Fall, Movement II is the substantial part of the piece, some 4 mins 40 seconds in length, in which the opening riff leads to a lyric, written after the Yugoslavia gigs in April 1990, with MES wanting to try and capture the tension everyone felt during their visit.  History records that just over a year later, a very bloody civil war saw Yugoslavia tear itself apart into a number of nations. Movement III is another short instrumental piece, very much electronic in nature, only some 40 seconds in length.

As it turns out, Movement III is the opening section of The Funeral Mix which dates back to the sessions that MES had done with Coldcut in 1989.  It’s an instrumental and a real curiosity piece.

Life Just Bounces is a fun track.  It’s an MES/Craig Scanlon co-composition.  If the opening few bars sound vaguely familiar, then that’ll be down to the fact that it borrows heavily from Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, the #1 hit for Elton John & Kiki Dee back in 1976.  MES admitted as much in a lengthy interview in Melody Maker just a few weeks after the EP was released.  Oh, and Life Just Bounces would be re-recorded by The Fall some four years later…….

White Lightning/The Dredger EP was nearly a hit in that it got to #56.    Looking back on things, the fact that there are great tunes on the b-sides courtesy of the two recently sacked band members can only again lead to the conclusion that MES wanted to again self-sabotage just in case mainstream success was threatening to come the way of The Fall.

After the Reading Festival gig, which itself was reported by the press as being a triumph, the quarter of Smith, Scanlon, Hanley and Wolsencroft went into the studio, the fruits of which led to a new single in December 1990.

High Tension Line is a fast, frantic offering, albeit a strange song for a single, certainly in the way it was recorded thanks to it being faded-in

mp3: The Fall – High Tension Line

It was released in December 1990, and as if to demonstrate that The Fall, collectively, had a sense of humour and were willing to laugh at themselves, the b-side common to both the 7″ and 12″ releases was their first ever festive offering:-

mp3: The Fall – Xmas With Simon

The reason for the title is that Funky Si offers up some fairly basic but essential keyboards……with MES perhaps thumbing his nose at the recently departed Ms. Schofield?  As Xmas songs go, it won’t give sleepless nights to Slade, Shakey, Wizzard or Mariah….but it does have some good whistling on it.

The extra track on the 12″ is far better than a look at its title would indicate

mp3: The Fall – Don’t Take The Pizza

The thing that can be most taken from Don’t Take The Pizza is the sound of a stripped-back band, returning to basics in many ways.  I’m also, surely, not the only one who thinks MES is not singing ‘Don’t Take The Pizza Off Me’……………

Released without much fanfare into a crowded singles market, and without the backing of limited edition or CD versions to boost sales, High Tension Line was a flop, failing to make the Top 75.

The Fall wouldn’t release any singles in 1991, but there would be a well-received album, Shift-Work, in which the fiddle player Kenny Brady would be added to the four regular members, released in April 1991.  In an era when CD was beginning to become increasingly more important than vinyl in terms of sales, it’s worth mentioning that both White Lightning and High Tension Line were included on Shift-Work, albeit as bonus tracks at the end of the album, again a departure from previous norms.

There were three tours during 1991.  The first, in May/June was largely centred around Germany with additional dates in Prague, Vienna and Rotterdam. Kenny Brady was part of the live band for that tour.

The later tours, in August and December, were both exclusive to England. Kenny Brady was not involved, but both featured a new member of The Fall with Dave Bush coming in on keyboards, having initially helped out in the studio during some of the sessions for Shift-Work.  His involvement, going forward, would see another significant change in the sound of The Fall heading into 1992, but that’s for the next instalment.

As the festive period is fast approaching, this series will now go into hibernation for a few weeks, as indeed, will the blog itself.  I’ll still be posting each day, but the usual features will be taking a break.

JC

4 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Parts 28 & 29)

  1. The Dredger EP was the first actual Fall single I bought, owing to it being a mere 99p in my local indie shop. That might also explain its higher-than-expected chart position, with singles often treated as loss-leaders by record companies to hype their band into the charts.

  2. Man, High Tension Line is awesome. The series has reached the period where I’d totally lost touch with The Fall, so this is all new to me. Great to hear that, despite the revolving door of disgruntled band members and MES being an awful bastard, they were still making quality music.

  3. High Tension Line is in my top ten Fall songs. The opening line ‘Jeanette Fletcher is strange/ But not in a horrible way…’ startles me every time I hear it.

  4. JC, you are so right, there are some amazing songs relegated to the B-Side in The Fall’s Canon. Blood Outta Stone is timeless Post Punk. It’s angry, slightly sinister and verging on the Psychedelic.

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