THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 31)

Code:Selfish had been another success, both critically and commercially, peaking at #21 in the album charts in April 1992 

Some songs recorded during the London sessions for the album has been kept back for a possible stand-alone single, which was released on 22 June.

mp3: The Fall – Ed’s Babe

It was back in August 2020 that Ed’s Babe featured previously on the blog.  It was quite a lengthy piece, and it does fit in well with what I’ve been doing thus far in the series and so it’s repost time:-

“Despite being another catchy number that had something of a sing-along or at least hummable refrain, Ed’s Babe didn’t come close to cracking the Top 75:-

The line-up at the time, in addition to Mark E Smith, consisted of Craig Scanlon (guitar), Steve Hanley (bass), Dave Bush (keyboards) and Simon Wolstencroft (drums) and the track is credited to Scanlon/Smith. It’s one that wouldn’t have sounded out of place during the Brix-era, being almost pop-orientated with the keyboards at the heart of the things. It’s certainly one of the most danceable of the band’s numbers.

It was released only on 12″ and CD with the former offering up a misprint on the label which perhaps indicates a late change of mind to ensure there was just the requisite number of songs (four) to have it qualify as a single and not the five that appear on the label, albeit just four songs are listed on the reverse of the sleeve. This was the track on the same side as the single:-

mp3: The Fall – Pumpkin Head Xscapes

Another danceable number, quite baggy in sound that certainly wouldn’t have sounded out of place as a tune on an Inspiral Carpets single or album. But it also comes with much use of the vocal being sung through a megaphone and then ends with a spoken outro by someone who isn’t MES which places it firmly in the camp of The Fall and nobody else. This one was written by Scanlon/Smith/Hanley.

Flipping the record over and there’s these two tracks:-

mp3: The Fall – The Knight The Devil and Death
mp3: The Fall – Free Ranger

If I was to play the former to you without any hints or clues, I reckon you’d need probably a thousand tries before coming up with it being a song by The Fall, mainly as there’s no vocal contribution from MES and indeed given that he wasn’t credited with any instruments, other than tapes, for any of the sessions of the songs that made up the sessions for the album Code: Selfish and the various b-sides to the singles, then he may not have contributed to this track, albeit he does get a writing credit (Wolstencroft/Smith/Scanlon).

It’s also a very different sort of tune than normal, with the initial reliance on an acoustic guitar giving it something of a folky sort of feel at times. Although not credited on the sleeve of the 12″, the spoken/sung vocal is the work of Cassell Webb, an American-born singer whose career dates back to the late 60s and has encompassed a wide range of genres. Her husband is a name that should be familiar to Jonny and Echorich (among others) as Craig Leon was a major part of the NYC scene, on the production side, in the late 70s/early 80s, working with the likes of The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Richard Hell and Suicide. He was one of the producers of Code: Selfish and his other half was drafted in to provide some backing vocals as well as take the lead on this, rather intriguing track. It’s also down on the label as being track three of the a-side.

The latter is, as the title indicates, a remix of the previous single. It’s not as immediate or powerful as the original, but it remains one the few Fall songs ever given the remix treatment and is well worth a listen for that alone.”

As I said in the opening gambit, Ed’s Babe didn’t trouble the charts, but then again Phonogram hadn’t ever really been bothered by the failure of 45s, seemingly happy to have a band such as The Fall on the label, and enjoying the fact that all three albums thus far, in what was a five-album deal, had sold well.

Which is why it was a bolt out of the blue when the label decided that The Fall should be dropped with immediate effect.

It all stemmed back to November 1992 when The Fall were in the studio recording another album. Executives made a request to hear some demos on the basis that with an economic recession having a big impact on the profitability of the music industry, it was critical to assess the commercial value of any upcoming releases before making a full commitment. MES was, to put it mildly, unhappy at the interference, pointing out that the signed deal allowed The Fall to simply present a finished product to the label at the end of the process, in the same way as it had been with every other label they had been part of since the last 70s.

There was a stand-off.  MES took legal advice and was prepared to go to court.  Phonogram made a number of increasing offers to settle, but MES kept turning them down. In the end, he accepted a six-figure sum to tear up the contract, leaving MES free to choose where he went next.

As it turned out, no other major label was interested, perhaps on account of the Phonogram execs suggesting he was a difficult person to do business with (i.e. control).  In the end, the band signed to Permanent Records, a small London-label, established in 1990 and which relied somewhat on folk singer John Martyn for sales and exposure.  It was going to be a strange fit.

JC

One thought on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 31)

  1. Ed’s Babe had this very familiar feel to it when I first heard it.
    I feel like the label and band missed a possible massive hit with Free Ranger. That was the track to back with a full out campaign. I can see The Fall lording over a Top Of The Pops “Rave” audience as the track “holds steady at #7 in the countdown this week.”
    The Fall hooking up with Craig Leon was an ‘about damn time’ moment when they did. I was excited seeing his name as a producer on Code:Selfish when I bought it.

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