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 reviews were mostly favourable with the UK-based paper Melody Maker going as far as saying it was the most engaging thing Smith had done for a couple of years. As ever, there was no day time airing on the BBC or commercial radio but there were enough sales to see it reach #43. It was also voted in at #11 in the John Peel Festive Fifty of 1993.
The 12” version of the single was deleted very soon after release and is one of the harder-to-find and more expensive bits of vinyl across the entire back catalogue. It contained three tracks on the b-side:-
Yup……the latter is a cover of the disco classic as made famous by Sister Sledge. Bonkers and brilliant in equal measures.