The timeline is April 1993. The Fall are now contracted to Permanent Records, a fairly obscure label that is best known for releasing albums by alumni of the folk scene in the UK., and the days of the big budgets to promote and market new material are seemingly gone forever.
Astonishingly, the first album for the new label, The Infotainment Scan, enters the charts at #9, by far and away the most commercially successful of all the albums to date. Much of this was down to the almost universally positive press being given to the band, both in terms of acknowledging their legacy and the fact that the new tunes were accessible and catchy, but without ever becoming mundane, predictable or boring.
It wasn’t as if the album had been driven along by a huge hit single in advance of its release, with Why Are People Grudgeful? peaking at #43. I’ve written previously about this single, and make no apologies (again!) for simply cutting and pasting from the piece written back in October 2019:-
April 1993 saw the release of the 31st single by The Fall. The only previous chart success enjoyed by the band had come via cover versions. There’s A Ghost In My House (as made famous by R. Dean Taylor) had gone Top 30 in 1987 and the following year Victoria (originally by The Kinks) had reached #35.
This time round, Mark E Smith took some drastic action by merging two cover songs into one, and creating a sound that bore little resemblance to the originals. The best and simplest explanation is offered up on a fan site devoted to the band:-
“Why Are People Grudgeful? is a cover version, or to be more accurate, a cover version of two different but related songs. The story behind the original versions is as follows:
“Born in the rural Jamaican village of St. Mary’s in 1936, Lee Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late ’50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd‘s Downbeat Sound System. Called “Little” Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4’11”), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the centre of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter.
Not surprisingly, Perry’s first release on Upsetter was a single entitled People Funny Boy, which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae “riddim” and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of “roots” reggae.
Joe Gibbs released a reply (using the moniker Sir Gibbs) in a song using the same rhythm called People Grudgeful. MES amalgamated the two songs to help create The Fall’s cover version.”
The UK-based paper Melody Maker went as far as saying it was the most engaging thing Smith had done for a couple of years. It would later be voted in at #11 in the John Peel Festive Fifty of 1993.
mp3 : The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?
mp3 : Lee Perry – People Funny Boy
mp3 : Sir Gibbs – People Grudgeful
It was released on 7″, 12″ and CD. The 12” version of the single was deleted very soon after release, and is one of the harder-to-find and if you’re looking for a copy that’s in good condition, it is one of the more expensive bits of vinyl across the entire back catalogue.
mp3 : The Fall – Glam-Racket
mp3 : The Fall – The Re-Mixer
mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music
Yup……the latter is a cover of the disco classic as made famous by Sister Sledge. Bonkers and brilliant in equal measures.
Why Are People Grudgeful? was made available on the CD release of The Infotainment Scan, but not the vinyl version. Glam-Racket and Lost In Music were made available on the vinyl and CD versions of the album. In all three instances, the versions on offer today, taken from the single, have different edits/mixes than can be found on the album.
The Re-Mixer is a new version of The Mixer that had been on the album Shift-Work back in 1991.
Oh, and for those of you looking to keep up with who is in and who is out of the band at this point in history, it’s MES, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Simon Wolstencroft and Dave Bush, the same quintet that had been together since August 1991. But you know that I’m only mentioning this just to set up another crazy change in next week’s edition…..
3 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 32)”
Kind of another new direction for the Fall. Not sure why this time it was so well-received, except that maybe it was more danceable? Still a good listen.
The CD single is the only Fall music I’ve ever found in a charity shop!
Is there anything more subversive than The Fall covering Sister Sledge? No.
Why Are People Grudgeful? is brilliant, but I must say it’s the single version that does it for me.