THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 8)

“We went into a studio in London just to do Lie Dream and Fantastic Life. This was the first thing we did with two drummers, though it’s mostly Karl on the single. I was demoted to percussion (both drummers were on Fantastic Life though). Lie Dream features Richard Mazda on saxophone, trying to emulate Dave Tucker’s clarinet part as per the Peel session.”

Paul Hanley, quoted in the booklet which accompanied The Fall boxset, released in 2007.

You’ll recall from Part 5 in this series that the then 16-year old Paul Hanley, brother of bassist Steve, had been brought into The Fall on drums to replace the Mike Leigh. One year on, and the latest change in the line-up didn’t involve any sackings or musicians walking off in a huff, but instead saw Mark E Smith decide the band would best be served by having two drummers.

The new bloke wasn’t actually new at all, as Karl Burns, who had been part of the band in 1977/78, became the first musician to return to the fold, and as you can see from Paul’s above recollection, was given a prominent role. I’ve occasionally wondered if MES had actually wanted to get rid of Paul altogether, but decided he couldn’t run the risk of antagonising Steve Hanley, whose contributions, on stage and in the studio, were becoming increasingly important.

Or maybe he was just being practical…..Karl Burns had answered an emergency call to help out the band when Paul Hanley, on the account of his age, was denied a working visa for a tour of the USA, and keeping him on afterwards was returning the favour.  In any event, the two-drummer line-up was cemented, for a short while anyway!

MES had cut ties with Rough Trade after the release of Slates in April 1981.  I can’t be entirely sure, but it may well have been the case that the band convened in the London studio to cut this new single in the summer of ’81 without having any record company deal in place.  I’m surmising this, as the next move was to a newly established indie label – Kamera Records – and that Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul/Fantastic Life was the first 45 to be issued on the label, in November 1981.

No matter what, it’s an absolute stomper of a song.  MES was at pains, a couple of years later in an interview with NME, to explain that far for ridiculing the Northern Soul scene and those involved in it, he was paying a tribute:-

“That song actually did create quite a bit of resentment in the North because people thought it was being snobby and horrible about the old soul boys, which it was never about anyway. Because I was brought up with people that were into Northern Soul five years before anybody down here (in London) had even heard about it. But they’ve all grown out of it, which is what the song is about, but it wasn’t putting them down at all. If anything, it was glorifying them, but not in the format of, where are those soul boys that used to be here?”

Richard Mazda, as well as contributing the saxophone parts, was also in the producer’s chair.  The other thing worth noting is that Marc Riley wasn’t required to contribute on guitar, being relegated somewhat to keyboards only.

mp3: The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul

The b-side, Fantastic Life, has long been one of my favourite Fall tracks of them all.   It has both a rollocking tune and a funny, crazy and sing-a-long lyric, albeit it takes a fair bit of working out…..thankfully there are websites out there nowadays to confirm and/or correct things.   I’d never have worked out these lines, from just after the point in the song where it changes from the fantastic life stories to the fantastic lie boasts…..

The Siberian mushroom Santa
Was in fact Rasputin’s brother
And he didst walk round Whitechapel
To further the religion of forgiven sin murder
Fantastic lie!

It would, if you want my opinion, have been an excellent single of its own making, but MES wasn’t the type to hoard things for later on. Once it was recorded…bang….get it out there as quickly as possible and to hell with the commercial aspects of things.

mp3: The Fall – Fantastic Life

The previous single on Rough Trade had got to #2 in the Indie Charts, with MES firmly believing that the label didn’t work hard enough for the band.  Casino Soul got to #5. Would it have managed to crossover to mainstream success if he’d stayed put? We’ll never know…..

Next up for The Fall was album #4, released in March 1982 by Kamera Records.  Said album is going to feature in this series next week………

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 7)

And now to something which isn’t technically an album, and so qualifies for inclusion in this series.

Slates was released on 27 April 1981.   It has six tracks on 10″ vinyl, but wasn’t eligible for either of  the single or album charts, being too long for the former and too short for the latter. (It is 24 minutes in running length).  It was, however, included in the UK Independent Singles chart, where it reached #3, but it was also ranked at #13 in the best albums of 1981 by the NME.

It was originally put on sale for just £2, (nowadays you can expect to pay more than £30, even for a battered copy of the vinyl), and was, without any question, another way in which MES tested the patience of everyone at Rough Trade. It’s a recording which is has long been among the very favourites of long-standing fans of The Fall while also being one that more recent fans cite as being among the best of the back-catalogue.

It does seem that the plan, when convening at Berwick Street Studio in London was to come up with a standard 7″ single, although which tracks would have made that up remain unclear.  I’m guessing that the label would have pushed for Fit and Working Again, with it being the most immediately accessible of the songs, and I’m sure they would have been horrified if presented with An Older Lover Etc. as it is the sort of song that would be of appeal to a very small minority of listeners, with most reaching for the off button quite quickly, or, if they stuck it out to the end, would wonder, ‘what the fuck?’

In all likelihood, it would have been Prole Art Threat that everyone initially had in mind, given it isn’t too far removed from the frantic energy put on display on the most recent singles. But given that MES was always looking to move onwards, maybe not….

The other three songs on Slates are great listens.  It’s worth noting that, thanks to Rough Trade’s US arm, Slates was available in some shops on the other side of the Atlantic (where it retailed for $5), and it can be no coincidence that its tunes, and in particular, Leave The Capitol, would become the sort of templates for the way that indie music of the non-polished variety was set to go over the next decade or so.  Pavement anyone???

The musicians on Slates are the same as on Totally Wired, indicating that the band was enjoying something of a settled period, although it would later transpire that  MES was falling out on a frequent basis with Marc Riley.

mp3: The Fall – Middle Mass
mp3: The Fall – An Older Lover Etc.
mp3: The Fall – Prole Art Threat
mp3: The Fall – Fit and Working Again
mp3: The Fall – Slates, Slags, Etc.
mp3: The Fall – Leave The Capitol

Production credits are shared among Geoff Travis, Grant Showbiz and Adrian Sherwood, which maybe explains why the sound is, for the most part, cleaner and more polished than previous releases. It was perhaps for this reason alone that MES decided he’d had enough of Rough Trade and so, within a matter of weeks after Slates hit the shops, the ties had been severed (for now!).

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 6)

mp3 : The Fall – Totally Wired

This is the first time in this series that I’ve put the song ahead of the words I want to offer up.  It was the band’s sixth single, released on Rough Trade in September 1980.  I included it as part of the very first ICA dedicated to The Fall, back in August 2015, and said this:-

One of the very finest post-punk/new wave songs of all time. It might sound a bit rough’n’ready nowadays, but for something that is now 35 years of age it still feels awfully fresh. I’m sure every alt/indie/punk band on either side of the Atlantic have been influenced in some shape or form by this

Totally Wired is now more than 40 years old. It was recorded at Cargo Studios in Rochdale in July 1980. This time around, Geoff Travis and Mayo Thompson stayed away and production duties, according to one of the websites devoted to the band, are co-credited to Kay Carroll (band manager) and John Brierley (owner of Cargo Studios). The single itself, which comes with minimal design in terms of a sleeve and information, doesn’t give away anything about credits other than saying the music was the work of Riley, Scanlon, Handley and Smith, with the lyrics being credited to Smith.

Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter of the song, the BBC were unwilling to put Totally Wired on any of its lists for daytime or even nighttime radio, meaning that John Peel continued to plough a lonely field. I still maintain, all these years later, that if this had gained any sort of exposure, it would have smashed the charts as it was the chorus made it that sort of song that would cross over very easily. It would have been hilarious to have been able to hear young kids chanting ‘I’m Totally Wired’ at the top of their voices in playgrounds up and down the country….

As it was, the single, like its predecessor, had to make do with reaching #2 in the Indie Charts.

Fun fact…..it was kept off the #1 spot by the reissue of Paranoid by Black Sabbath on the NEMS label which spent five weeks at the top in August/September 1980.

Here’s the b-side:-

mp3: The Fall – Putta Block

The same credits as the a-side apply here. But it’s all a bit misleading. Putta Block is a very strange release. In fact, strange doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

The first one minute and twenty seconds are taken up by a live recording of what, at the time was an unreleased song, but would reveal itself as The NWRA when the next album came out. It gives way to a lively and very new wave sounding studio recording, which is itself the song, Putta Block.

But that’s far from the end of things. The studio track lasts just under two-and-a-half minutes before it suddenly stops and another live song is segued in, this time we hear MES ranting a bit as the band play the intro to Rowche Rumble. This, however, ends very abruptly after 20 seconds, and almost in homage to a badly recorded bootleg, it goes into another snippet, this time to pick up the very ending of Cary Grant’s Wedding which had been released on the Totale’s Turns album mentioned in last week’s post. It all ends with MES singing/chanting ‘What Is This Shit?’

Bonkers. Genuinely bonkers, and I’d love to know what the Rough Trade folk said to one another when they first played it.

Another fun fact. Putta Block was never played live after it was released (surprise, surprise).

Oh, here’a final fun fact for today. Cary Grant’s Wedding has never been recorded for a studio album, EP or single.

The only other info on the back of the sleeve of the 45 was was that neither Totally Wired nor Putta Block were going to appear on the soon-to-be released album ‘After The Gramme’. As it turned out, this would be the case, although the album would be re-titled ‘Grotesque (After The Gramme)’ by the time it hit the shops in November 1980.

Hope I’m not losing too many of you already…..this series still has a lot of mileage ahead.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 5)

The fifth single to be released by The Fall reached the shops in July 1980. It was on Rough Trade Records, which in some ways seemed strange given that Mark E Smith wasn’t a fan of anything to do with London while the business ethos followed by those involved with the record label and the record shop would surely have been something he sneered at quite openly.

It wasn’t their first release for the label with that distinction going to the live album Totale’s Turns (It’s Now or Never) which came out in May 1980.  Here’s how that album has been described:-

Featuring recordings from two grotty northern club dates in late 1979, adulterated with a couple of outtakes, The Fall’s first record for London-based hippy-capitalists Rough Trade was a deliberately shambolic collection.  A loyalty test disguised as an album, Totale’s Turns was a reminder to their new label that The Fall continued to operate entirely on their own terms.

Jim Wirth, Uncut magazine

Despite being a ramshackle effort in which the band struggled with their sound at venues which were far off the beaten track, playing to a mixture of hostile and bored audience members, the album, retailing at a very cheap price, topped the indie charts on its release, no doubt pleasing Geoff Travis and his cohorts at Rough Trade.  There was, surely, much to anticipate from the first new studio material.

There was, surprise surprise, a line-up change from the line-up which had recorded Fiery Jack and it was a significant one with the 16-year-old Paul Hanley, brother of bassist Steve, coming in on drums to replace the now departed Mike Leigh.  The significance of this change will become increasingly apparent as this series rolls on.

The Fall might have been on a London-based label, but it was Cargo Studios in Rochdale where they assembled on 8 May 1980.  I’ve a number of friends from Rochdale and I have a lot of affection for the town, but it’s a place which, when I first visited it in the mid-90s, had pubs populated by individuals who terrified me, and I thought I’d seen everything growing up in Glasgow.  I can’t begin to imagine how uncomfortable Geoff Travis and his productionn sidekick Mayo Thomson (a Texan who had been part of a 60s avant-garde/psychedelia outfit called Red Krayola) would have been with their surroundings.

No matter what, the results delivered a triumph:-

mp3: The Fall – How I Wrote Elastic Man

It’s another of the country ‘n’ northern classics that were referred to last week by chaval, a phrase which really tickled Jonny over there in Los Angeles.  A cracking tune which is accompanied by one of Smith’s cleverest, funniest and most surreal lyric:-

I’m eternally grateful
To my past influences
But they will not free me
I am not diseased
All the people ask me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

Life should be full of strangeness
Like a rich painting
But it gets worse day by day
I’m a potential DJ
A creeping wreck
A mental wretch
Everybody asks me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

His soul hurts though it’s well filled up
The praise received is mentally sent back
Or taken apart
The Observer magazine just about sums him up
E.g. self-satisfied, smug

I’m living a fake
People say, “You are entitled to and great.”
But I haven’t wrote for 90 days
I’ll get a good deal and I’ll go away
Away from the empty brains that ask
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

His last work was “Space Mystery” in the Daily Mail
An article in Leather Thighs
The only thing real is waking and rubbing your eyes

So I’m resigned to bed
I keep bottles and comics stuffed by its head
Fuck it, let the beard grow
I’m too tired
I’ll do it tomorrow
The fridge is sparse
But in the town
They’ll stop me in the shoppes
Verily they’ll track me down
Touch my shoulder and ignore my dumb mission
And sick red faced smile
And they will ask me
And they will ask me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

And yes, he does sing Plastic Man all the way through……….

The b-side is much more of the same, and as such makes for one of the most enjoyable and enduring of the earliest 45s

mp3: The Fall – City Hobgoblins

The single reached #2 in the Indie Singles chart. Very few people, outside of John Peel, were playing The Fall on the radio, and Rough Trade’s distribution efforts were geared up mainly to the smaller shops across the UK, meaning that anyone relying on the larger retailers and the chain stores would have some trouble finding copies.

Worth also mentioning that, despite being a huge favourite with the fans (or more likely because it was a huge favourite with the fans), How I Wrote Elastic Man was only ever played live at some 20 shows after its release as a single, and never after October 1981. The b-side, on the other hand, was resurrected for tours in 1986 and 1987.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 4)

This series, certainly for now, is only looking at the singles that were released by The Fall.  As mentioned last Sunday, Rowche Rumble had been recorded in June 1979, and it wouldn’t be long before they were all back in a studio to record enough material for a new album; but prior to that, there were gigs to be played, mostly in north-west England, including one at the Factory Club in Manchester on Friday 20 July, where the support was another up and coming band, this time from the Liverpool area.  It must have been a good one if you’d been there that night and also saw Echo & The Bunnymen…..

Dragnet was recorded over the course of three days in Cargo Studios, Rochdale at the beginning of August 1979. Despite making a substantial contribution to the b-side of the previous single in the same location just some eight weeks previously, Yvonne Pawlett was no longer part of the group who were now getting on with things as a five-piece.  And almost no sooner were the Dragnet sessions over that Mark E Smith (vocals, keyboards), Marc Riley (guitar, keyboards, vocals) Craig Scanlon (guitar), Steve Hanley (bass, vocals) and Mike Leigh (drums, percussion) were reconvening in Foel Studios, in Welshpool, in October 1979 for a session that would result in the three songs that made up the band’s next single, which came out in January 1980.

mp3: The Fall – Fiery Jack

One of many songs over the years in which MES adopted a character to spit forth a lyric, one which he would say was based largely on someone he had worked beside during his time as a clerk at the Manchester Shipping Docks, but in a contemporary interview said:-

“One of the points of “Fiery Jack” is ageism. People go round and think they’re smart when they’re 21 but these old guys you see have been doing it for years and a lot of them have more guts than these kids will ever have. It’s like the skinheads throwing cans, they know fuck all. I know twenty times more than them and I could knock them over in a pub if I wanted to. Everybody’s as good as each other, there is no tough fighter, there is no ‘young’ thing, everybody’s as good as each other. Everybody KNOWS that, but everybody keeps living it out and it makes me sick…in a mystical way, Fiery Jack is the sort of guy I can see myself as in twenty years..”

It’s also a song in which MES attacks left-wing politics, and although he could claim in this instance it was because he was in character, it wouldn’t be too long before he would do so himself in interviews, very much putting him at odds with almost all of his contemporaries, unafraid to hold unpopular or contrary views.

Musically, it chugs along at a fair rate, like an early Johnny Cash tune being played at 100mph, making it one of the more immediately danceable of the early songs. It’s also unusual in that it lasts the best part of five minutes in an era of the short, sharp and immediate 45. I need to be honest and admit that it passed me by totally at the time, and it wouldn’t be until 1983 that I would become familiar with it, thanks to a flatmate having a copy of the single. I fell for it, however, in a big way, and it remains one of my favourite Fall tracks of them all.

There were two b-sides:-

mp3: The Fall – 2nd Dark Age
mp3: The Fall – Psykick Dancehall #2

The former is just a couple of minutes long and, on first listen, doesn’t have all that much going for it. Its real significance is that buried in the lyric towards the end is a reference to Roman Totale XVII, another character creation from the mind of MES, and to whom he would return on quite a few occasions in future years.

The latter is a new and more lo-fi version of the track that had opened Dragnet, complete with some amended, almost free-flowing lyrics. It’s not seen by most folk as an improvement on the original.

Fiery Jack was, again, issued by Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.  The next single would be the band’s first effort for one of the best known indie labels of them all.  I’ll hopefully see you next Sunday for that one.

Oh, and for those of you waiting impatiently for a contribution by the mighty Drew some Sunday, please be assured that it will be coming…..he’s been awfully busy with work in recent weeks and has just gone off for a well-earned holiday, in the UK, with the family.  But he’s been happy enough to give me a thumbs-up on all the features I’ve penned thus far, including today’s.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 3)

The time immediately after the second single was filled with touring as well as the recording and release of the debut album, Live At The Witch Trials, in March 1979, after which The Fall convened at Cargo Studios in Rochdale, less than ten miles north-east of Manchester, to begin work on a new 45.

The same five musicians as who had recorded It’s The New Thing/Various Times stayed together for the debut album.

But by 11 June 1979, it was again all change, with Karl Burns and Martin Bramah taking their leave (temporarily, as it turned out), with the newcomers being Mike Leigh (drums), Craig Scanlon (guitars) and Steve Hanley (bass), meaning that the band was now six-strong with Marc Riley moving from bass to guitar, while Mark E Smith and Yvonne Pawlett remained as vocal and keyboards, respectively.

It’s worth recalling just how young all the members of this line-up of The Fall were at the time of this recording – Smith (22), Scanlon (19), Hanley (20), Riley (17), Pawlett (20) and Leigh (24) – which goes some way perhaps to explaining the energy they were all able to bring to things, as well as the inexperience and immaturity to cope with any adversity…..of which there was plenty!

It was also the case that Riley, Scanlon and Hanley had played together in a band prior to Riley joining The Fall, and this, albeit limited experience, certainly helped drive the band along superbly for a spell, not least with the new 45:-

mp3: The Fall – Rowche Rumble

One of the most instantly recognisable of the band’s early tunes. It opens with some pounding drums, over which MES begins his rant about drug addiction via prescription pills, and it’s only after some 25 seconds that the rest of the band join in, playing as if their very existence depended on them delivering a top-notch performance (and let’s face it, given MES’s trigger-happy finger, there’s every chance that a sub-standard effort would see one or more of them get the bullet). It quickly turns into the most majestic cacophony, perfectly designed for body-slamming down at the front of the live audiences, albeit it never stood a chance of getting any radio play outside the usual suspect of John Peel Esq.

The b-side offers a real contrast, a meandering middle-paced tune that starts off quite conventionally, until Pawlett adds a deliberately out-of-key and out-of-tune piano line which then really goes on to dominate things as Smith sings about things he’s seen, including the madness in his area.  He also manages to fit in a self-deprecating reference

“Can’t remember who I’ve sacked, just stupid faces looking bad
The madness in my area

mp3: The Fall – In My Area

It’s really, all things told, one for the devotees rather than anyone seeking an easy route into the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall.

It was, again, issued by Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 2)

There were just three months between the release of the debut single by The Fall and its follow-up, but there were already a couple of changes in personnel, with Yvonne Pawlett (keyboards) and Marc Riley (bass) coming in respectively for Una Baines and Tony Friel, to line-up alongside Mark E Smith (vocals), Martin Bramah (guitars) and Karl Burns (drums).

The facts.

Recorded on 9 September 1978 at Surrey Sound Studios which were located in Leatherhead, a town some 20 miles south of London.  The studios had been created in 1974 by Nigel Grey, a qualified medical doctor with a passion for music, initially as a basic and very affordable four-track set-up, before upgrading to 16-track in 1977.

It was inevitable given the fact that most singers and bands who used Surrey Sound were inexperienced, for Nigel Grey, to get involved in engineering and/or producing anyone who came through the doors of his studio.  He is listed as the engineer on this particular 45 with production being credited to The Fall, with some acknowledged help from the engineer.

Three months later, in the same week that The Fall’s second single was released, Nigel Grey’s life changed forever as another new band went to Surrey Sound to record their debut album, one which would go into sell in the millions and make pop/rock stars of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.  Indeed, The Police would record their first three albums at Surrey Sound, while others, such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, would also work with him as a producer in later years.

mp3: The Fall – It’s The New Thing
mp3: The Fall – Various Times

It’s probably just a coincidence that Nigel Grey worked on one of The Fall’s earliest examples of a catchy single, one that’s initially driven by a simple keyboard beat, before the new 17-year-old bass player (and former roadie) shows no fear alongside his more experienced bandmates, to create a single that, if it had come along a few years later when the band was slightly better known and had a larger fanbase, could well have been a hit. As it was, by May 1979, they had played it live for the very last time, an early indication that MES was always keen to continually move forward and not ever get nostalgic for his old material.

The b-side is quite different, being a 5-minute plus effort in which the musicians provide more than a hint of their new wave influences while MES delivers an extraordinary and beguiling lyric, spread out over three parts of the past, present and the future, albeit the future was only two years hence in 1980. All five musicians get a writing credit for the b-side, while the single is the work of Smith and Brammah.

It was, like the debut, issued by Step Forward Records. Again, It didn’t chart.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 1)

 

If there’s one thing that the look back at all the R.E.M. singles has taught me, then it’s to make sure that you have a true fan on board when taking a look at the career of a much-loved band, particularly when :-

(a) they have been, or were, part of the fabric of essential music for decades;and

(b) my own efforts will be hampered by not actually having a copy of all the records due to be featured in any series.

Let’s face it, without The Robster on board, many of the Sundays over the past year or so would have been a washout.

I’ve thought long and hard about who next to shine the spotlight on. Prior to R.E.M., the singles series had been devoted to The Auteurs/Luke Haines, Simple Minds, Marc Almond, Paul Haig, Grinderman, New Order, XTC, Undertones, Buzzcocks, Cinerama, The Clash, The Style Council, The Jam, Altered Images and James.

It’s not too shabby a list, but there is one band I’ve long wanted to cover but always felt it would be too much of a challenge. Thankfully, Drew, doyen of From Across The Kitchen Table, (which has been in abeyance since the end of last year), has answered my plea for help as I’m not perfectly placed to take on the fresh challenge single-handedly.

Yup. The aim is to focus on the recorded output of The Fall, going back to the debut single in August 1978 and meandering our way through the following 40 years.

The thing is, I really have no idea what road the series will follow.

Drew, quite rightly, doesn’t want to be restricted solely to looking at singles as they don’t really give a true indication of things. At the same time, if the series was to try and look at every release, be they singles, EPs, studio albums, live albums, compilations and Peel Sessions, it would be akin to painting the Forth Rail Bridge (i.e., never ending).

So, get yourselves comfortably and safely seated, but fasten your safety belts as we get set to take you through this wonderful and frightening new series. Here’s how it all started:-

mp3: The Fall – Psycho Mafia
mp3: The Fall – Bingo-Master
mp3: The Fall – Repetition

The facts.

Recorded late 1977 in Manchester but not released until 11 August 1978 on Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.

The players were Mark E Smith (vocals), Martin Bramah (guitar), Tony Friel (bass), Karl Burns (drums) and Una Baines (keyboards). All five members are credited with the writing of Repetition. Smith and Friel are responsible for Psycho Mafia, while Smith and Baines wrote Bingo Master. One interesting thing to note is that both Friel and Baines had left the band before the debut single was released….but they wouldn’t be the last musicians eligible to have ‘ex-The Fall’ after their name.

Nostalgically, it’s fair to say it really was something of a sensational debut, but it didn’t quite feel that way back in 1978. In the era of post-punk and just about anything being able to go, the harshness of the playing and the unusual vocal delivery did make it a challenging listen. If the band had broken up there and then, it would likely have been highly regarded as a cult single. Better songs would quickly follow, but all three of these remain essential and, while the next five different decades would see a continual re-invention and evolution, it is nevertheless a reasonable statement to make that these are damn near the perfect calling card as any type of introduction to The Fall.

Welcome aboard. One or both of us will be back next Sunday.

Oh, and if anyone wants to contribute at any point, they would be most welcome. But, please remember, the plan is to do things in a chronological fashion, and so it might be that your words, thoughts and promptings will be kept in a holding pattern until permission to land is granted.

JC and Drew

PS – another reminder for those who still might need their weekly R.E.M. fix that The Robster has an ongoing weekly series over at his place.  Click here for a Star Trek type transportation…..

 

THE ART OF THE COMPANY PRESS RELEASE

For more years than I care to remember, I was involved in churning out press and media releases, mostly back in the day when these things carried some importance as the era of the 24-hour news cycle and the need for instant information was still some while off.  The main target was the printed press, with a favourable outcome being a good spread not too far from the first few pages of news, preferably with your pre-supplied photo also included.

There’s all sorts of advice out there on how to best go about writing a good press release, but in essence, it boils down to these key components:-

1. Have an attention-grabbing headline and the most relevant details in the opening paragraph
2. Stick to the facts, avoiding adjectives at all costs
3. Do not hype anything up
4. Have easy-to-follow key sentences that won’t be sub-edited
5. Provide strong and easily attributable quotes, from someone in any accompanying photo.

I did OK in that I was able to get by for more than 25 years, but looking at this example from a 1985 release for a new single by The Fall, I don’t think I’d have lasted 25 minutes in the field of music PR:-

Subject: Oh! Brother press release, June 1984

12″ THE FALL – ‘Oh! Brother’ / ‘O! Brother’ ‘God Box’

THE SINISTER TONES OF PRE-FIX LOOPS

The nucleus of ‘Oh! Brother’ was composed a decade ago, a version performed by The Fall to a Diddley beat in the late ’70s, rewritten twelve times at least. Only now has Mark E. Smith seen fit to record and release it in its now-relevant form.

As the cover details were being finalised on the morning of May 4th, Barbara Castle MP drove past the Fall home in Manchester declaring through a megaphone: ‘Vote for FOGG! Vote Fogg! I’m Barbara….’ This is oddly relevant to the text of ‘Oh! Brother’.

Translation of the pidgin-German on track reads: ‘I hate the crowd / The impotent crowd / The pliable crowd / Who tomorrow will rip my heart out.’

‘God Box’ a.k.a. GAWD-Box or Gold-Box concerns the effect of Christian TV on sleep patterns, and sympathetically monitors the story of a recipient i.e. M.E.S.

SPLINTER. Sleeeep. Singing. Draaag.

Also, dear pop-rats, ‘God Box’ heralds the debut of Brix Smith as guitarist and arranger full time. Plus two drummers, steel ashtrays, mod bass and on 12″ version Armed Forces TV waves.

The Fall treat 45’s as form experiments, being of the opinion that singles have an inimitable power of conveying topicality sound distortion and brain-stretch.

THEREFORE, ‘Oh! Brother’ / ‘God Box’ is firmly in the tradition of ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ (‘Rubbish’ – Jeff Beck) ‘Fiery Jack’ (‘Doowop?’ – A. Thrills) ‘Lie Dream of a Casino Soul’ ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’ (MERE competition words wise ‘socialogical’ ‘VOICE?’ etc. – Chris Bonn) and ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ (‘they took a wrong turn somewhere’).

‘Blank verse, n. – the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind’ Ambrose Bierce

Oh Brother /God Box by THE FALL  –  THE REAL MONTY!

I have no idea how the folk on the newsdesks at NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror coped with this sort of stuff landing on their desks each week.  It does, however, kind of help to make sense why so many of the singles reviews were impenetrable to the average reader.

mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother
mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother (12″ mix)
mp3: The Fall – God-Box

This was The Fall’s thirteenth single/EP going back to 1978. It was their first for Beggars Banquet which meant it was disqualified for inclusion in the Indie Chart where many of the previous efforts had reached the Top 10.  It did, however, creep into the very lower echelons of the proper chart, reaching #93 and thus becoming the first Fall single to get into the Top 100 selling 45s of a particular week.  There were some who said/argued this was evidence of them selling out, and many of those making the arguments put the blame on Brix…..

JC

 

THE CRAP SOUND OF VINYL

There’s a lot wrong with the world just now, so this grumble somehow feels very insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but still……

It’s now seven months since I retired from full-time employment, and with COVID playing havoc with my plans to see the world, I’ve instead stayed at home and devoted time and money to music, all of which has led me to painfully admit my anorak tendencies do actually extend to me being described, accurately, with an awful word.

Collector.

I’ll admit to it if, for no other reason that a chunk of my redundancy payment has been utilised to go out and find vinyl copies of some of my most cherished CDs.  It’s not that I’ve gone really daft as there are some prices I simply won’t pay – the two Paul Quinn & The Independent Group albums being prime examples – but I have been tempted by a few sellers on Discogs to pay decent sums of money for original pressings of albums such as Seamonsters by The Wedding Present, which I only highlight as at £40, it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a second-hand album unseen, trusting the description of the seller – and it proved to be well worth it as it was in Near Mint condition and the sound was way superior to the CD that I’ve had for nearly 30 years.

Talking of TWP – and this where I will finally get to the point highlighted in the title of today’s posting – I’ve long wanted a copy of Bizarro on vinyl, but there’s never really been a copy on-line that fully caught my attention in terms of asking price and condition.  Instead, I ended up picking up a brand-new re-press that was issued for National Album Day on 20 October 2020 at a cost of £20.  It was like the old days as I returned back home from the record shop, the heart beating that little bit quicker and the anticipation levels increasing with every step.  One of my all-time favourite albums…..on vinyl….at last.

It came, like so many others nowadays, shrinkwrapped, which meant that it was only when I took the vinyl out of the inner sleeve did I discover it was a fairly light piece of plastic.  I knew beforehand it wasn’t a heavy 180-gram press but it was still a surprise to find myself holding something so flimsy.

I placed it down carefully on the turntable and lifted the needle into the groove. The opening notes of Brassneck came out of the speakers.  And they came out very quietly.

This couldn’t be right could it?   Vinyl is supposed to be much superior to CD but this was an occasion when I had to turn the volume button up to ensure it could be heard.  There was also a further sense of disappointment as the sounds coming out of the speaker were nothing special – there was certainly no discernable differences in the bass or the treble.  All in all, it felt really cheap, especially when compared to what I has experience from the second-hand copy of Seamonsters.

And it’s not just Bizarro that I’ve had a poor experience with vinyl in recent weeks. Debut by Bjork was another disappointing piece of vinyl that sounded as it had just been transferred straight from the CD rather than from the original masters.  Likewise, the copy of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Oh, and just after typing all this up, I’ve come on to add that the album I’ve just listened to, Beautiful Ones 1992-2018, a newly released 2 x vinyl LP featuring twenty-one singles by Suede as another example of a record that is a shoddy cut/press requiring the volume button to be turned way up high.

Not every vinyl for CD replacement has turned out that way.  Paul’s Boutique by The Beasties Boys is a Rolls Royce of a cut with all sorts of things being experienced in a new way, and likewise the 3 x LP re-release of OK Computer in which Radiohead seemingly took direct control of the process and ensured the vinyl would benefit from being mastered and pressed to the highest standard.  It’s against the sound of those records that I judge any re-issued vinyl.

It’s not just the re-issues that are causing grief with a number of brand new albums also being poorly pressed, cut, or mastered.  One of my favourite albums of the year is The Prettiest Curse by Hinds but I’ve had to rely on the download copy to put on the i-pod as the vinyl version suffers from what feels like a very muffled sound, with few peaks or troughs when looked at through the Audacity programme which I use to convert vinyl to mp3 format for different purposes, including the blog.

There is, however, one different thing that’s even more annoying, and that’s taking a brand new record out of its shrink-wrap, knowing that this will be its first-ever play, and discovering it hisses, crackles or pops – or possibly even all three.  Such as this:-

mp3: Matt Berninger – Take Me Out Of Town

This is the second track on Side B of the new and very fine album by the frontman of The National.  It’s a beautifully produced record, with the deft touch of Booker T Jones bringing out a real richness in Matt’s voice.  It’s a slow-to-mid-paced album, one in which you get the feeling every single note matters, no matter how far back it has been put in the mix.  There were absolutely no issues when listening to Side A.  I didn’t initially pick anything up when listening to Side B but then again, its first track is one of the louder songs. I was horrified by the introductory crackles for song two, and more so from the fact they were louder at the end of the track.  And yup, they got increasingly worse through tracks 3-5.

I’ve had this happen quite a few times these past few months.  I do now give every brand new record a clean before but it doesn’t really help all that much.  One of the major bugbears is that I have tried to support independent record stores all across the UK in recent months and so a number of the purchases have been made online and delivered by post, meaning I can’t easily return them and so have to accept poorer quality than I wanted.

I did, however, buy the Matt Berninger album from a shop in Glasgow and I’ll be looking to return it for a replacement copy.  Wish me luck!

Incidentally, it’s not just albums I’m finding issues with.  My copy of the new and magnificent Arab Strap 7″ single isn’t all that great in terms of crackling all the way through,  but particularly at the end, and it was bought from what is regarded as Glasgow’s premier record store.  But I’m not taking it back as this particular store had a number of copies in which the sleeve was signed by Aidan and Malcolm – at least I’ve the consolation of it being one of those rare new pieces of vinyl which comes with a download.

I’ll stop there – there’s another post rattling around my head about how different sellers on Discogs choose to grade their vinyl.  I’ve had some very poor experiences on things that were supposed to be Very Good+ that turned out to be almost unplayable.  Having said that, the vast majority of transactions have been very satisfactory, with the occasional real gem landing in my lap from sellers who have been very conservative with their gradings.

Such as the two sides of this 7″:-

mp3: The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
mp3: The Fall – Fantastic Life

or this 12″:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Let’s Make Some Plans
mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite Of These Times
mp3: Close Lobsters – Get What They Deserve

Two pieces of vinyl which date from 1981 and 1987 respectively, with neither remotely showing their age in any shape or form, including the wonderfulness of the songs.

JC

JUST A LITTLE SOMETHING I LIKE TO DO NOW AND AGAIN

And that’s to have a 12-inch effort by The Fall pop up out of nowhere so that some of you will be smiling while others will shake their heads with some dismay.

I’ve written previously about Free Range and the fact it is up there among my favourite 45s by the band. Free Range actually reached #40 in the singles chart which was the best ever-showing for a track that wasn’t a cover version. Its follow-up appeared in the shops in June 1992 and despite being another catchy number that had something of a singalong or at least hummable refrain, it didn’t come close to cracking the Top 75:-

mp3: The Fall – Ed’s Babe

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 (Wolsencraft/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 the producer 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 on the few Fall songs ever given the remix treatment and is well worth a listen for that alone.

I’ve mentioned that a fifth track appears on the label of the 12″, slated as the second track on Side-B to follow on from Free Ranger. It eventually saw the light of day via an edition of Volume which was 1990s publication consisting of a CD (usually containing around 20-24 tracks) and a near-200 page booklet with information on the singers and bands on the CD. Volume One appeared in September 1991 and stopped at Volume Seventeen in January 1997. I’m sure it retailed for around £10 – I only ever bought three of them, including Volume Four which has this on it:-

mp3: The Fall – Arid Al’s Dream

This one also has a contribution from Kenny Brady on violin and all-told it makes for the sort of weird and wonderful world that many associate with The Fall, fans and detractors alike.

JC

SONGS FROM A SPAT

This posting has been in the pipeline for a while and I ended up pushing it back a couple of weeks as it makes for a neat postscript to Steve’s guest post on The Graveyard Shift.

I think it is fair to say that Marc Riley‘s departure from The Fall, and his subsequent success as a performer and broadcaster, got under the skin of Mark E Smith.

These are the words of Riley, in an interview given to an on-line publication back in 2013:-

And I think part and parcel of it is that if anyone left The Fall he wanted them to sink without trace, as if to say, ‘Without me they’re nothing.’ His contempt for musicians is well known….

So what rankled Mark more and more was that I just wouldn’t go away, even to the extent that one day he was driving to the train station and there was a massive billboard with Mark Radcliffe and I on it… it probably made him want to drive his car straight into the canal, because there’s this bloke from his past who just won’t go away. But I’m not a thorn in his side, he’s got a lot going on in his life, and he’s a very clever bloke, but he does say things for effect. But me and him had ding dongs in the press, and it was just so childish it was untrue, and we wrote songs about each other. I wrote ‘Jumper Clown’ and he wrote ‘Hey Marc Riley’ and ‘C.R.E.E.P.’, and so on. It was daft, really.

Jumper Clown was the second 45 to be released by Marc Riley after he left The Fall. It came out in 1983 and the tune, or a version of it, had originally been part of the setlists of live gigs by his old band in 1979. It was an untitled instrumental and the band never got round to recording a studio version. His version was recorded with a group of mates who would later become known as The Creepers, with the title very much aimed at Smith’s consistently disheveled appearance (this was all prior to Brix appearing on the scene and smartening him up)

mp3: Marc Riley – Jumper Clown

Hey! Marc Riley was another song that The Fall would incorporate into their live sets in 1984/85 but again, it wouldn’t be one that would ever seemingly have been recorded in the studio. It would take until 2007 before anything other than bootleg copies were available, thanks to a live version, recorded at Oskars’ Cornhusker, Azusa, California on 23 May 1985, was included in a Box Set.

Four years later, an omnibus edition of This Nation’s Saving Grace which also included rough mixes, outtakes and other newly discovered recordings from the era, offered up two versions of a song whose title had been shortened

mp3: The Fall – Ma Riley (rough mix)
mp3: The Fall – Ma Riley

It has since been revealed that the studio version, which was produced by John Leckie, had been considered as a possible b-side to Cruiser’s Creek.

The Wedding Present offered up a kind of surf/TWP hybrid of The Creepers song as a b-side to It’s A Gas, released in 1994

mp3: The Wedding Present – Jumper Clown

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #249 : THE FALL (5)

An Imaginary Compilation Album – The Fall (of the 80s, with Brix [mostly])
Hybrid Soc Prof : Your Dreaming-of-Face-2-Face-Classes-in-the-Fall Correspondent

JC adds……as a way of intro………..

HSP, in his accompanying e-mail, acknowledged this was far from the first ICA for The Fall and that tracks in this would may well have appeared previously. The thing is, that doesn’t matter in the slightest. An ICA is just one person’s suggestion of a ‘perfect’ album and there is no question that others will have their own thoughts. So, if anybody out there has given thought to making a submission, but refrained from doing so on the basis that ‘it’s been done already’, then fear not…….

Back now, to our dear friend who is stuck at home in Michigan…….

If it’s next to impossible to write about Television, it is beyond impossible to say anything new about The Fall. I’ll make it quick.

I wanted The Minutemen to be my favorite band of the 80s, but D. Boon died. I wanted the Dream Syndicate to be my favorite band of the 80s, but the precipitous decline after Out of the Grey in ’86 did that in… to my mind, the same thing happened to The Replacements, after Tim. All this might have led Sonic Youth to take that spot at the top but, while their records got better and better across the decade, I deeply appreciated them but didn’t love ‘em. Other bands appeared early or showed up late and the Feelies didn’t release enough music to qualify. It’s not that this all “left” to top spot to The Fall since a better run of recordings – from Perverted by Language (1983) to the Frenz Experiment (1988) – is beyond rare, it’s simply to lay out who else I thought might have challenged to the decade.

My introduction to the band came via The Wonderful and Frightening World of… in 1984, once again lionized by Robert Palmer in the NY Times. It was the first record I can remember buying, putting on the turntable, and asking myself what the hell THIS was. And not because I liked it. I didn’t like it. At all. I almost hated it. But it was weirdly intriguing. So, I put it on again a few days later. I mean, really, “Bug Day”?! The previous summer, after about a month cycling all over northern England and Scotland, I’d come down Lewis and Harris and done my requisite shite day in cold rain on Skye before stayed in Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig… The next day, a warm, late July day with not wind, I’d ridden to Oban, solo. “Bug Day” brought back memories of cycling through stagnant air infested with midges and flies (and then a nightmare evening of well-off tourists with screaming kids at the Grade 1 Hostel.)

The third listen “2 By 4” and “Slang King” verged on enjoyable and by the 10th spin I was playing it almost daily. The only other album that’s rewarded me that way is the Danny and Dusty LP, The Lost Weekend, which I at least thought I should like given who wrote and played on it.

I bought the rest of the 80s records as they came out, and went back and picked up older releases finding very little I didn’t enjoy a lot. I collected about 23 songs to consider and then decided to bounce back and forth across the decade until arriving at the center – and I do think the This Nation’s Saving Grace and Bend Sinister are just wonderful.

HSP

PS: It is in fact, Demo Suzuki – from the 3CD re-release of This Nation’s Saving Grace… it’s rare that I like demos more than final products but in this case I do.

PPS: I’ll note that The Fall were the worst live show I have ever seen. Diane and I saw them in Boston in the early 90s and not only was Mark almost fall-down drunk and indifferent but, as far as we could tell not one in the band wanted to be there that night. Among my biggest disappointments.

1. Bombast, from This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)
2. Hip Priest, from Hex Enducation Hour (1982)
3. New Big Prinz, from I am Kurious, Oranj (1988)
4. Totally Wired, from Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980)
5. Carry Bag Man, from The Frenz Experiment (1988)
6. Kicker Conspiracy, from Perverted by Language (1983)
7. Terry Waite Sez, from Bend Sinister (1986)
8. Slang King, from The Wonderful and Frightening World of… (1984)
9. Demo Suzuki, from This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)
10. Dktr. Faustus, from Bend Sinister (1986)

JC adds….as a way of an outro. 

I had a short post all written up on New Big Prinz in which I dared to suggest its tune owed something to Rock’N’Roll (Part 2) by the now disgraced Gary Glitter……any thoughts???

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (13/22)

Album : 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – The Fall
Review : Pitchfork, 8 July 2004
Author : Alex Linhardt

The Fall have seen so many compilations and reissues of their work during the course of their 26-year career that they named their latest full-length The Real Fall LP for clarification. Given the reputation of these numerous shoddy anthologies, however, and the fact that, with the exception of the excellent 2002 Rough Trade release, Totally Wired, there has never been any truly “definitive” Fall retrospective, the best a potential convert could hope for was to pick whichever disc bore the prettiest packaging.

While other Fall comps pride themselves on monochromatic slabs of cover design more appropriate for Rothko retrospectives than tumultuous punk albums, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong instantly has one thing going for it: Its artwork is absolutely hilarious, keenly referencing Elvis Presley‘s billion-selling 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. With its image of countless self-replicating Elvises hailing down in dashing suits, that original cover was a perfect embodiment of pop music’s narcissism and weirdness– incidentally also the two subjects of nearly every song Mark E. Smith ever laid to tape.

As the first legitimate career-spanning compilation, 50,000 Fall Fans begins at the band’s inception in 1977. Smith was a mere 20 years old, weaned on garage rock, kraut-rock, and a one-year stint as a dock worker. Like all young adults, he named his band after a Camus novel, quickly releasing a series of singles before 1979’s full-length debut, Live at the Witch Trials. Represented by “Repetition”, the pre-Witch Trials band consists of simple angular guitars, teen-pop rhythms, and drunken charm without any of the complexity or chaos that would later become integral to their work.

Around 1980’s Grotesque, The Fall began to seriously investigate other genres, channeling spiraling rodeos (“How I Wrote Elastic Man”), steely noise-pop (“Totally Wired”), and rhythmic shrapnel (“New Face in Hell”). 50,000 Fall Fans spends its leisurely time in this nascent stage, but the brunt of the album is understandably spent exploring The Fall’s near-perfect run of albums in the mid-80s, from 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour to 1986’s Bend Sinister. A staggering 13 tracks from this era find their place on this two-disc set, forging a truly brilliant sequence. Ranging from the blustering, seismic noise of “The Classical” to the schizophrenic death-rattle of “The Man Whose Head Expanded”, the album provides a convincing case that The Fall were the most uncompromisingly progressive and reliable band of the 1980s, whether they assumed the guise of punk heavyweights or sweet electro-divas (with the assistance of Smith’s wife, Brix).

With this sort of lead-in, even the most questionable song of the band’s notorious early-90s phase seems challenging and substantive. Considering that this anthology’s second disc includes the band’s stab at Europop/ska-rap (“Why Are People Grudgeful?”), this is truly a feat. As a general rule, this disc pulls one song from every album released from 1990 to the present, distilling each allegedly mediocre release to one stunning single. If anything, however, these selections compel listeners to return to the band’s 90s output with their tranquilized synths (“Masquerade”) and brash genre-blenders (the Cocteau Twins-vs.-AC/DC dynamics of “The Chiselers”).

Of course, with a career that’s spanned four decades, 50,000 Fall Fans inevitably winds up omitting some of the most crucial songs in their canon, including “Oh! Brother!”, “Slang King”, “Bombast”, and “Oleano”. Still, the songs represented are consistently fascinating and invigorating, many standing as among the finest of the last quarter-century, chaotically navigating punk through ever more adventurous territory, from Countrypolitan to house music.

As a result of this willed diversity and comprehensiveness, 50,000 Fall Fans has finally stepped up to assume its rightful position as the most successful and essential Fall compilation in existence– a convenient summary for fearful neophytes reluctant to dip their toe into the black hole of the band’s discography, as well as die-hard fans seeking a distillation of choice cuts from the group’s more wayward 90s efforts. Smith is never less than inspiring on any of these 39 tracks, flaunting his confrontational sneer and leering sarcasm over some of the most erratic, riled riffs in punk. In his oft-ignored later period, Smith sounds even more unhinged, furious and battered, cloaking criticisms of governmental policies in lunatic poetics that the most pretentious high-school fanzine dadaists would cower before. Smith quite literally sounds as if his mouth has been pierced full of gaping holes leaking bile and cancer.

Incidentally, this is also the fundamental difference between Smith and Elvis. Elvis was pure sexual dynamite, basking in his own libidinal juices; in sharp contrast, Smith is the ugliest, grimiest beast of Lucifer to ever drag his expanding head from a pub’s water closet. Elvis may have drooled sex, but it was artificial, manipulative, cheap. The Fall, like all truly great sex, climaxes in rage, regret and release– the three criteria for all utterly essential rock music. 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong chronicles more than two decades of those climaxes, perhaps to one day be held in similar regard to the album its artwork parodies.

mp3 : The Fall – New Face In Hell
mp3 : The Fall – The Classical
mp3 : The Fall – The Man Whose Head Expanded
mp3 : The Fall – The Chiselers

JC adds : I wasn’t sure whether to look out for any reviews of compilation albums, but I couldn’t resist this genuinely warm, appreciative and occasionally LOL piece from Alex Lindhart.  There are still folk out there who sneer and claim that real journalists can only be found through print media, in the same way that those of us who write about music via blogs aren’t nearly as qualified as those who have contracts with publishing moguls.  This review on its own should puncture those self-righteous bubbles.

Besides, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong is the starting point to where I would direct anyone who remains unsure about the unbridled genius of Mark E Smith and the quality of the music he made during his lifetime.

The fact it got a positive mention in this review means I’ve included The Classical as one of the four tracks today…..it is one of the greatest bits of music that The Fall ever recorded, but I’ve always been uneasy about the lyric ‘Where are the obligatory n*****s? Hey there, fuck face!’  I don’t think MES was being racist, but he certainly was being confrontational and combative, ensuring that the tune wouldn’t get aired on radio.  I hope nobody is offended…..

WHY ARE PEOPLE GRUDGEFUL?

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.

mp3 : The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?

mp3 : Lee Perry – People Funny Boy
mp3 : Sir Gibbs – People Grudgeful

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:-

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.

JC

FROM THE ARCHIVES – 22 DECEMBER 2006

THIS NATION’S SAVING GRACE

Last week it was Morrissey who made a long-overdue debut on the blog. This week it is the band dominated by the mercurial, (isn’t that always the adjective that you have to apply?), talents of Mark E. Smith.

I’m referring of course to The Fall.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t someone who loved this band from the outset. I did hear them on John Peel time after time, but I didn’t quite ‘get it.’ And things weren’t helped by my first live experience of the band back in late 1982 (it might have been early 83) at Night Moves in Glasgow.

I’d gone along to see the Cocteau Twins but stayed on to watch the main act, which turned out to be The Fall. It was a pretty poor gig – the sound was all over the place and the band were not even talking to one another far less having any communication with the audience. Thankfully, it turned out to be a short event (maybe 30 mins at the most), and then there was an hour or so of ‘indie-disco’ to send everyone home in a good mood.

So I more or less ignored them for a while. But a couple of years later, a move to a new record label – and a crucial change in personnel – led to the release of a run of records that were easier to listen to, and to the horror of the hip-priests, The Fall got radio-friendly with a broader appeal. I started paying attention again.

With a recording history going back almost 30 years, featuring dozens of singles, EPs and albums, there’s plenty to choose from. But I’m sticking with a song that has turned into something quite personal in recent years.

I’ve been lucky in that almost all of my close friends are still alive*. But there is one who passed away a couple of years ago after a long illness, and I do think of him every now and again. Especially at this time of year.

This is for AGF. And while he would have abhorred The Fall – he was a classical music buff – he would have been very amused that there is a song out there that makes me think of him every time I hear it.

mp3 : The Fall – Edinburgh Man

It’s a 1991 release, originally on the LP Shift-Work. It’s also available on a multitude of compilations, but surprisingly not on 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – 39 Golden Greats which is pretty much indispensable.

 

*that was a situation which would change over the next few years….there’s been a lot of tragedy since 2006 and I wouldn’t have coped anything like as well without the amazing support from so many blogging friends.

JC

LET’S ALL MEET UP ON THE POST 2000

The original Vinyl Villain musical extravaganza was born on 30 September 2006 and in a little under seven years managed to feature somewhere in the region of 2,500 posts before it was cast out into t’internet wilderness by the evil people at blogger.com.

The (new) Vinyl Villain was born on the day the old blog died – 24 July 2013 and today marks it’s 2,000th posting.

A lot of those have come from the brains of many friends and guest writers, a situation which has given me great pleasure over the years. It’s the guest postings together with the contributions which come through the comments section that make me determined to keep things going, particularly on the increasing number of occasions when the inspiration seems to be a long way away or I’ve a general feeling of fatigue or fed-upness about it all.

Thank you so much friends, comrades, amigos and compadres.

I had a great chat with Drew a few weeks back….I’ve been so wrapped up in issues of my own that I’ve failed to keep up with the blogging activities of my friends over recent times and had totally missed that he had temporarily brought things to a halt over at his place, although it’s great to see he’s slowly getting back into the groove.  I’m not going to go into huge detail about what we talked about, suffice to say we both felt a lot better after a couple of hours. We also agreed a particular photo should be used to illustrate the 2,000th post on T(n)VV on the basis that it brought me to a stop when I saw it on the streets of Galway a few months ago….and also that he laughed when I showed him it as we jointly imagined the theatre show was really about Mark E Smith (RIP) going to Cape Town and trying to recruit local kids for his band now that he’d burned his bridges with every single indie musician in the UK.

We also agreed this should be the song for today:-

mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Not sure if I’ll get to 3,000 posts….but rest assured I will be back tomorrow.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #171 : THE FALL (5)

ALL HERE IS ACE: The Fall’s First Decade (1977-1986)

A guest posting by JONDER

I started this ICA before Mark E. Smith‘s death, but found it hard to reduce The Fall‘s first and greatest decade to ten songs. It was a period of boundless creativity, as the group moved from strength to strength with an astonishing series of singles and albums.

Sean O’Neal observed in the AVClub.com, “Most Fall fans don’t have something as pedestrian as favorite albums or songs, but rather favorite eras and lineups.” For me, nothing surpasses the bass-driven, double drummer sound of these years, topped with trebly guitars and Mark’s distinctive delivery. The lyrics bristle with dark wit and undisguised contempt for the scene, the press, record labels, musicians, the city of London, and even the audience.

SIDE A

1. Crap Rap/Like To Blow – Smith introduces the group as Northern outsiders. The Fall’s 1979 debut album, Live At The Witch Trials, features Yvonne Pawlett‘s cheap keyboard and the metallic sheen of Martin Bramah‘s guitar, both soon to disappear from the lineup.

2. Before The Moon Falls – by the end of ’79, only Smith and Marc Riley remained from the first LP. The tenure of bassist Steve Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon begins on Dragnet. The production recoils from the bright clarity of Witch Trials. Smith paraphrases William Blake: “I must create a new regime or live by another man’s.” An ex-Fall member is quoted on the album’s back cover: “I bet you’re laughing your head off at this, aren’t you Smith?”

3. C & C’s Mithering – An epic travelogue and a tirade against the music industry, from 1980’s Grotesque. An odyssey that spans two continents and three months, set to two chords and three beats.

4. The Container Drivers – The Fall could be funny. This is from the third of The Fall’s 24 Peel Sessions. It is a portrait of truckers on speed, with observations culled from Mark’s job on the docks. One moment that always makes me smile is around 1:45, when Paul Hanley fires off an overlong drum roll.

5. Winter – 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour is often named as The Fall’s finest album. This song is the first half of a ghost story: you flipped the LP over when it ended to hear the conclusion of the tale. Storytelling was a significant part of Smith’s writing in the 1980’s (cf. Wings, Spectre Vs. Rector, The NWRA and New Face In Hell). There were fewer narrative songs in the decades to follow.

SIDE B

6. Room To Live – The Room To Live album was something of a disappointment. How could it not be, just six months after the spellbinding Hex? Some of the songs seem morose, but the title track is a high-spirited Country & Northern romp.

7. I Feel Voxish – Marc Riley cowrote this song, but was fired before it was recorded. Smith plays with assonance in the phrases “pillbox crisp” and “feel voxish”. Perverted By Language (1983) was The Fall’s last album for Rough Trade, and the first to feature Brix Smith.

8. Slang King – “This is Mr. and Mrs. Smith to whom you are speaking.” Mark was a slang king, a perverter of language, and an inventor of words like “corporatulent”. Here he explores alliteration and onomatopoeia: whip wire, swoop swoop. 1984’s Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall was the group’s first LP for Beggar’s Banquet.

9. L.A. – The lyrics to this tune are few, outnumbered by Mark’s wordless falsetto and percussive vocalizations. L.A. is a showcase for Brix as a guitarist, and a tribute to her birthplace. Near the end she quotes from the movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls: “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!” LCD Soundsystem recently used the same line. (This Nation’s Saving Grace, 1985)

10. US 80’s-90’s – A critique of modern American Puritanism from 1986’s Bend Sinister. Smoking bans and the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign of the Reagan era signified a sociopolitical shift since The Fall’s first US visit. This song and L.A. foreshadow the synthesizer friendly Fall Sound of the 90’s. There’s also a reference back to the first track of this ICA, as Smith calls himself “the big shot original rapper” but adds that “it’s time for me to get off this crapper.”

Mark E. Smith was a vocalist, songwriter and bandleader unlike any other. The Fall seemed to expect more from their listeners, and to give up their secrets less readily. I was a suburban American teen when I first heard The Fall. I couldn’t completely grasp what they were doing. Still I was enchanted, and soon obsessed. The music was uniquely compelling, and for me it remains so.

JONDER

JC adds…..huge thanks to Jonder for being so patient….this ICA landed in the Inbox months ago.  That’s the last of the backlog cleared, so if anyone else wants to a go, then feel free to drop me a line…I promise you shouldn’t have long to wait to see your work appear in print!

CHARGED PARTICLES (V2) : Part 1

Let me take you back 12 months to this posting on 2 June 2017.

I don’t have a music blog of my own but I gather I have something in common with JC and the regular contributors that do: Like you lot I was always the guy people asked to make mix tapes (and, later, playlists) for parties, trips, birthdays, etc.

One of the categories that people liked very much was called Charged Particles. These consisted of songs with one word titles ending with ION. That was the only thing they had in common. Turns out there are tons of them; I’ve got nearly 200 in my iTunes library and they always seem to combine interestingly. I mentioned doing something with the list when I met JC in Manchester and he said, ‘Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?’

My thinking was that he could plug in a charged particle post when he was away or busy or couldn’t be bothered that day to put up a new one. The posts would be short and sweet and let the music do the talking. JC liked the idea okay and correctly guessed the songs I had in mine for the first one.

And here it is. Remember the only guideline is a single word ending in ion. Can it end in ‘ionS’? No, so no ‘Complications’ by Killing Joke. Does it count if you cram a bunch of words together like ‘StationtoStation’? Nope. How about if the word is preceded or followed by a phrase in parentheses? No, not that either. (Unless I feel like it.) Hyphens? Sure, why not.

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

There were sixteen Friendly Particles features in 2017, appearing on a regular basis between June and October. They were great fun to do….not a lot of words were used but some great songs featured, linked in a way to others in ways that hadn’t seemed obvious, with the common factour being the all-important -ion ending in the title. And gthe series was illustrated with the handiwork of Sam, the Friendly Artist.

The good news is that Jonny’s back for another summer season. Here’s the first contribution:-

The Fall

No one’s over the loss of Mark E. Smith, and I don’t suspect we will be anytime soon. Flipping through my iTunes library I found these four, but with the Fall’s catalog there are doubtless many more. Feel free to remind me.

Mansion – from This Nation’s Saving Grace
Reformation! – from Reformation Post TLC
Dedication – from Wise Ol’ Man
Repetition – from Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!

JTFL

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #147 : THE FALL (4)

Another guest ICA from Jonder

THE FALL’S GONE MAD: DECADE TWO (1987-1996)

The mid-80’s were a peak of commercial success and artistic invention for The Fall.

Mark E. Smith‘s play “Hey Luciani” made its debut in 1986, followed two years later by the ballet “I Am Kurious Oranj”. The Fall hit the charts in 1987 with There’s A Ghost In My House and Hit The North, followed in 1988 by Victoria.

1. Jerusalem (live) – Smith contrasts William Blake‘s anthemic vision of England with a complainant from the 20th century nanny state (“it was the fault of the government”.) The album “I Am Kurious Oranj” is a mixed bag highlighted by Big New Prinz, a dramatic revision of 1982’s Hip Priest. In the stage production of “Kurious Oranj” (inspired by the life of William of Orange), The Fall provided musical accompaniment for Michael Clark‘s dance troupe.

2. Bremen Nacht (Alternative) – The 1998 LP “The Frenz Experiment” took a step sideways from the path of chart success. “We had had two Top 40 singles. So everybody expected a commercial album, and that was the last thing I wanted to do,” Mark later said. Bremen Nacht is a strict lesson in The Three R’s (repetition, repetition, repetition), demonstrating that The Fall had not lost sight of its core principles.

3. Dead Beat Descendant – Brix left in the summer of 1989. A few unreleased studio tracks were combined with a live set to fulfill the Beggars Banquet contract with the album “Seminal Live”. From the first live Fall album (“Totale’s Turns”) through “The Twenty Seven Points”, “2G+2”, and “Live Uurop VII-XII”, studio recordings have been scattered among live Fall performances. Dead Beat Descendant is a hidden gem.

4. Black Monk Theme Part 1 – 1990’s “Extricate” is an astonishing and essential Fall album. Martin Bramah, a founding Fall member, returned on guitar. Kenny Brady joined on fiddle, and The Fall expanded to a septet. It’s hard to avoid hearing “Extricate” as a divorce album, but the songs aren’t necessarily about Brix: Mark had married and divorced a second time before “Extricate” was released.

5. The Mixer – Martin Bramah left The Fall again before 1991’s “Shift-Work” album, leaving Craig Scanlon as the sole guitarist. Kenny Brady remained on fiddle, and with his help The Mixer became one of the loveliest melodies in The Fall’s repertoire. Dave Bush programmed electronic rhythms on this and the next few albums. “Shift-Work” was mostly tame, with the notable exception of Idiot Joy Showland, a virulent critique of Madchester bands.

6. Free Range (7″ Version) – this single from 1992’s slight “Code: Selfish” album is an example of what Smith and his fans claim to be his psychic or “pre-cog” abilities. The lyrics may refer to the history of Balkanization, or they might presage the coming Bosnian War. Smith seemed to predict the 1996 Manchester City Center bombing in the song Powder Keg, and Terry Waite Sez preceded Waite’s kidnapping.

7. A Past Gone Mad – this track from 1993’s “The Infotainment Scan” contains the unforgettable declaration, “If I ever end up like U2, slit my throat with a garden vegetable.” “Infotainment” was another strong Fall album. Brix contacted Mark to compliment him on it, and he responded by inviting her to rejoin The Fall.

8. City Dweller – “Middle Class Revolt” (1994) marked the return of the two drummer lineup (steadfast Simon Wolstencroft and the peripatetic Karl Burns). Behind The Counter was this middling album’s single. In City Dweller, Salford’s native son proclaims, “Get out of my city, you mediocre pseuds.”

9. Don’t Call Me Darling – Brix came back, cowriting and duetting with her ex. There’s not a lot of love among Fall fans for this 1995 LP (“Cerebral Caustic”), but it’s full of playful humor. Darling contains one of my favorite MES lines: “People hate beauty/ I cannot fathom it.” Mark fired Craig Scanlon after this record. Scanlon had played guitar with The Fall since 1979.

10. Cheetham Hill – another duet, this one with producer Mike Bennett, from the 1996 album “The Light User Syndrome”. Brix would leave The Fall again after the tour to promote this LP. She’s in top form as a guitarist here, and Julia Nagle‘s keyboards are equal parts melody and noise. It’s a wonderfully aggressive sounding album, a fine end to the second tenure of Brix and The Fall’s second decade.

BONUS TRACK – I Want You – despite what Mark E. Smith said about Madchester, he regarded The Inspiral Carpets well enough to lend an impassioned guest vocal to their 1994 single. Mark also made a live appearance with The Clint Boon Experience. A decade later, ex-Fall members Steve and Paul Hanley joined Inspiral Carpets’ Tom Hingley in his group The Lovers.

JONDER