THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 33)


Last week’s post mentioned that the new album, The Infotainment Scam, had entered the charts at #9, this becoming The Fall‘s most commercially successful record.  It also mentioned how the band were receiving good press and that there had been something of a stable line-up for the best part of two years.

The Infotainment Scam had been released in America, thanks to a tie-up with Matador Records.  This led to a 19-date tour of the USA, with an additional gig in Toronto, in August/September 1993, and coming along for the ride was none other than Karl Burns.

Yup, MES had decided a two-drummer line-up was again the way forward, and so Burns joined the band for a third time.  Prior to the tour, the band convened in Suite 16, Rochdale, to cut some new songs for a potential release later in the year…..and I’ll get to that in due course.

The American tour wasn’t a success.  MES was particularly grouchy throughout, mistreating crew members and going as far as firing the tour manager.  He picked fights with the other band members, smashing equipment on stage during the gigs.  The bad behaviour manifested itself on the return to the UK with MES walking off stage in London after just one song, leading to something of a backlash with accusations that he just didn’t care any more:-

“And the band can’t be arsed to save the day; without any spanners in the works like Brix, Marin Bramah or Marcia, they’ve settled into a terminally workmanlike R&B rumble, with the dynamics and spark removed” (NME review of The Fall, Kentish Town Forum, London on 19 October 1993).

Once again, as the band seemed to be enjoying some commercial success, MES was hitting the self-destruct button, lashing out at all and sundry in various press interviews.  Just eight months after a Top Ten album, he was asked to sum up 1993 – his reply?

‘pure cack’.

The Fall ended the year with a new single, released in two parts on 13 and 20 December, both consisting of three tracks on 12″ or CD:-

mp3: The Fall – Behind The Counter
mp3: The Fall – War
mp3: The Fall – Cab Driver

mp3: The Fall – M5
mp3: The Fall – Happy Holiday
mp3: The Fall – Behind The Counter (remix)

It’s not a single I can recall in any shape or form. It seemingly reached #75. Some of its tracks would appear on the album Middle Class Revolt that would make it way into the shops in May 1994, but that wasn’t something I bought back in the day. My first exposure to Behind The Counter and M5 came many years later, via the 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong compilation (2004), and I’ll offer the opinion that while they are decent enough songs, they are more run-of-the mill than many of the previous singles I’ve aired these past few Sundays.  In fact, I’d forgotten until listening again how there’s a bit in Behind The Counter that sounds like an out-take of a Stranglers record, thanks to the keyboard solo.

The other songs I’ve only just listened to for the first time in pulling together this piece.

War is a cover version, originally released in 1975 by Henry Cow, described on wiki as a British avant-garde group, but this sounds to my ears as if being closer to harder edge/glam rock than anything else. My initial reaction is to give it a thumbs-up, in complete contrast to Cab Driver which I find really dull, one-paced and a monotonous effort with no redeeming features.

Happy Holiday is good fun and another of those songs that feels as if MES has his tongue firmly in his cheek. It opens with a spoken word announcement, in Greek I would imagine given there’s a reference to Athens in the lyric, and there’s another spoken bit about halfway through. The words ‘Happy Holiday’ are sung with enough vigour to make them feel almost catchy and chorus-like.

JC

4 thoughts on “THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 33)

  1. For reasons lost to me, I bought both the Behind The Counter and Why Are People Grudgeful? on CD, possibly the only time I bought a single by The Fall at the time of release, apart from Hit The North. I plumped for the 2nd CD of the former, with M5 and Happy Holiday. I acquired the other EP tracks in 2006 as part of the expanded reissue of Middle Class Revolt and I have to agree with your comments above.

    In keeping with previous posts, I think both versions of Behind The Counter slightly differ from the album version, but the best version for me is the John Peel session, aired in January 1994.

  2. I read ‘The Big Midweek’ on JC’s recommendation. It’s a great memoir of long-suffering bassist Steve Hanley’s years in The Fall, the longest serving band member after MES himself. He lasted until 1999, but here we are in 1993 and MES is already completely off the rails. It’s about this point that I totally lost touch with the band, and now I figure it’s because the band had become a tool for MES to whack the listening public over the head with whatever he was on about that day. And I missed Brix.

  3. These tracks were not earth shaking by any means. I remember reading War was a Henry Cow track, and being a Fred Frith fan – he always seemed to be around NYC collaborating or playing with other bands and artists in the early 80s – I was interested in MES’s take on it…it is unrecognizable from the original.

  4. I bought both these 12-inch singles, largely on the strength of liking the previous two albums, but like everyone here I was rather underwhelmed. I still bought the album Middle Class Revolt, and two or three more after it, but it was diminishing returns each time and I gave up after Levitate. Haven’t been back since. I even had the chance to go and see The Fall live here in Wellington a few years back, not long before MES died, but passed on the opportunity. There was continuing praise for the band during those last ten years but I suspect little of it was really generated by the quality of the music.

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