March 1994. Mark E Smith finally gets to appear on Top of The Pops.
Just one month later, and the new single by The Fall was released, on 10″.12″ and CD. The increased exposure for MES as a result of his collaboration with The Inspiral Carpets didn’t help much, with it stalling at #65:-
mp3: The Fall – 15 Ways
mp3: The Fall – Hey! Student
mp3: The Fall – The $500 Bottle Of Wine
For all the fact that Dave Bush’s keyboards had been an increasingly important part of the sound of The Fall in recent years, this EP was, in many ways, a return to basics as all three tracks were written by MES/Craig Scanlon/Steve Hanley.
15 Ways certainly leans, lyrically, on Paul Simon‘s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, a hit single from back in 1975. What nobody knew at the time was MES’s second marriage was falling apart, and so it’s no real surprise that he came up with this sideways swipe at Saffron Prior. It’s a real pop song, certainly as far as The Fall goes, of the type that many other bands would have enjoyed a Top 40 hit with.
Hey! Student is a magnificent tune, one of my very favourite Fall songs of them all. It is basically a rewrite of Hey! Fascist, an old punk thrash number that The Fall had played a few times in 1977 before disowning it without ever giving it a proper studio recording. Worth mentioning that the listeners voted this in at #2 in the Peel Festive 50 at the end of 1994, beaten only by the Inspiral Carpets/MES collaboration.
The $500 Bottle Of Wine is fairly disposable in that it, if you take away MES’s vocal, the tune could belong to any of a number of post-punk bands from the 80s or 90s. It’s a song that doesn’t seem to make sense, but the explanation came many years later with Steve Hanley revealing in his book The Big Midweek (2013) that three goths, having been wound up by the band post-gig in Los Angeles had actually enjoyed the experience so much that they went out and purchased an expensive bottle of wine and left it back at the band’s hotel with a thank-you note. Let’s just say, it’s unlikely to have happened in many other cities that The Fall played in over the years, particularly here in Scotland!
The following month, Middle Class Revolt, the band’s new LP would be issued. Half of its fourteen songs had previously been released on Behind The Counter and 15 Ways. Three of the other seven were cover versions, while another was actually a discussion between Craig Scanlon and John Peel about a football match. It was a far cry from the triumph of The Infotainment Scan of just twelve months previous, and again the press were wondering out loud if MES and his team had run their course.
There weren’t that many live performances in the first half of 1994, certainly in comparison to previous years. The band didn’t venture out of England and the shows were undertaken by the quintet of MES/Scanlon/Hanley/Wolstencroft and Bush, with Karl Burns seemingly having again been sacked at the end of 1993. The biggest show of the year was as on the main stage at the Phoenix Festival in July 1994, third on the bill on the first night behind The Wonder Stuff and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.
Just one month later and The Fall played three shows in Scotland. The band was now seven-strong. The two new musicians? Karl Burns and Brix Smith……
What could possibly go wrong?