THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 48)

We’ve reached 2011.

The Fall seem to have a very settled line-up, with MES being alongside Peter Greenway (guitars), David Spurr (bass), Kieron Melling (drums) and Eleni Poulou (keyboards). Having taken leve of Domino, the band ink a new deal with Cherry Red Records, a London-based independent label dating back to 1978, which, in addition to releasing new music by a wide range of acts which can often best be described as maverick/left-of-centre, (Luke Haines has been part of the label for a long while), has become a specialist for all sorts of re-releases, particularly CD box sets containing previously unreleased or hard-to-find material. It was actually something of a misnomer that The Fall hadn’t previously been part of the roster, and it proved to be a happy and fruitful partnership, with the label being responsible for all the band’s releases between 2011 and 2017.

First up was this single, on 7 November 2011:-

mp3: The Fall – Laptog Dog
mp3: The Fall – Cosmos 7
mp3: The Fall – Monocard (Lunatic Mix)

It was something of a low-key release, limited in numbers, and therefore something of a rarity on the second-hand market. The label was much more interested in the release, just seven days later, of the album Ersatz GB, a ten-track LP which came out on vinyl and CD. It was the band’s 28th studio album but, and this probably won’t come as a surprise, was the first ever time three successive studio albums had been recorded with the same-line up. As I say, no surprise, but at the same time quite an astounding fact.

The album reached the lower end of the UK charts which was deemed a satisfactory outcome by all concerned, given it was released to what can best be described as mixed reviews, while a number of the live shows to support the impending release of the album were dogged by MES sloping off-stage mid-set; leaving Eleni to take the vocals. Here’s one fan’s take on things on what proved to be something of a notorious gig in Edinburgh on 3 November:-

Who would be Mark E. Smith’s wife? Last night Fall fans were treated to simultaneously one of the worst and best gigs of the year, as the majority of the proceedings were left to Mrs. E Smith to fill in the gaps after Mark exited the stage.

Things started promisingly: the band in great form and the new songs (we heard perhaps two of them) sounding excellent. Then Smith disappeared off stage (nothing unusual about that); spookily however, his voice remained. Was he perhaps paving the way for his own demise, when the band will have to tour to backing tapes of his lyrics? Soon the voice disappeared too, leaving us to endure the longest ever version of ‘I’ve Been Duped’, sung without apparent irony by Mrs. Smith.

As far as a group of people in their 40s and 50s could be said to be restless, there was a certain fractious mood abroad in the crowd: a few squidgy plastic pint glasses were thrown towards the stage (emptied of the £4 contents); Mrs. Smith ill-advisedly greeted this with outstretched arms in a ‘come-ahead’ gesture. She explained before walking off that “Mark has terrible voondz (wounds) on iz feet and haz to walk up five flights ov stairs to get to zee stage” when this with greeted some derision from certain elements in the crowd, she replied “What? Are you a doctor?” before leaving to boos. Suddenly we were reminded just how young Mrs. Smith really is: her possibly misguided loyalty deserves the highest praise.

To their credit the band took to the stage again to launch into an instrumental ‘Reformation’; Mrs. Smith was about to offer the mic to the crowd when suddenly, a fellow wearing a combat jacket, silk scarf and a handlebar moustache, leapt to the stage; at first it seemed to be all part of a huge practical joke, as the uninvited lead singer with admirable chutzpah, extemporized lyrics about going to see The Fall and Mark not being there. This was brought to a premature end as he was approached by a large shaven headed bouncer. Before we could chorus “he’s behind you” our unknown Bob Calvert impersonator was led away, looking crestfallen. On the back of the bouncer’s neon-yellow t-shirt was the ominous message: ‘Stage Security, here to assist you’. More boos followed, but immediately gave way to cheers as none other than Mark E. Smith was led on stage supported on either side like King Lear by two stage hands. He sang the rest of ‘Reformation’ (sort of) before delivering a superb version of ‘Mr. Pharmacist’, complete with keyboard solo. Then it was all over.

Did I ask for a refund on my ticket? Did I throw a pint glass? No. My only thought was ‘I hope his feet get better.’ Misguided loyalty is clearly infectious.

It’s really no wonder that by now I had given up on things….I never did buy anything that came out on Cherry Red, and digging out the tunes for today’s posting will be the first time I’ve heard them. They’re not the worst – the single is a sort of plodding, middling thing but very clearly the sound of The Fall, while the b-sides offer a mix of fat electronica rockabilly (yes, really!!) and an eight-minute Krautrock effort, if that happens to be your thing.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 47)

Last week made mention of The Fall signing to Domino Records in late 2009.

It was a short-lived partnership, with just one album Your Future Our Clutter, released in April 2010, before MES decided Laurence Bell & co. weren’t for him.  The same month also saw the release of a new single via Domino, one which was pressed in limited numbers on 7″ vinyl for Record Store Day but which was also issued on CD.

mp3: The Fall – Bury! #2+4

Bury Pts 1+3 had been a track on Your Future Our Clutter, an album which received fairly positive reviews and which entered the UK charts at #38. As you can see from the sleeve pictured above, the single issued for Record Store Day has a different title altogether, and indeed has a different mix and edit, being at least a couple of minutes shorter, to that found on the album.

mp3: The Fall – Bury Pts 1+3

Oh, and don’t concern yourself with the poor quality of the opening 100 seconds of the track….it was wholly intentional on the part of The Fall.

I should also mention, more for the benefit of some of our overseas subscribers, that the song is referencing Bury, the town some ten miles north of Manchester, and not the more common use of the word in terms of shoving things deep underground.

This was the b-side to the single:-

mp3: The Fall – Cowboy Gregori

Anyone lucky enough to pick up the single would likely have been expecting some sort of remix or version of another song on Your Future Our Clutter, but as you hear, they are two completely different entities.

mp3: The Fall – Cowboy George

Indeed, the album track is attributed to MES, Peter Greenway, and Elena Poulou, while the b-side of the single is the sole work of MES.

Worth mentioning that Jonder, in one of what have been six ICAs devoted to The Fall, had this to say in #137, back in September 2017:-

Bury! #2 and 4 is one of the best Fall songs since Sparta FC, an insistent march with a memorable refrain. The lyric “A new way of recording/ A chain ’round the neck” is aimed at Domino Records, who wanted the band to put more time into the album.

I’ve long thought it would have been interesting to see where The Fall would have gone, musically, if they had stayed with Domino, but I’m guessing Jonder’s observation, combined with the facts that there were strong personalities at the head of the label, and it had such a large roster of bands and artists, most likely reminded MES of the Rough Trade era, and so it’s no real shock that he was again on the lookout for another new home.

And, as we will see next week as we head towards the final few singles, that new home would prove to be where The Fall would abide until the end.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 46)

The three Americans take their leave after Primavera on 1 June 2007. Job done.

It’s only a matter of weeks, however, before The Fall are due back on stage, including three successive nights in London.  David Spurr stays on with MES and Elena Poulou, and the line-up is augmented by Kieron Melling (drums) and Pete Greenway (guitar).   What nobody knew, and what nobody would have dared predict, was that this line-up would more or less remain unaltered until MES’s death in 2018.

The first studio release by the new line-up was the album Imperial Wax Solvent, issued by Slogan Records in April 2008.  No singles are taken from the album.  It proved to be the last original record in the partnership between The Fall and Sanctuary, the parent company of Slogan Records, albeit there would be further compilations and box sets in future years.

The stability of the new line-up probably helped those at Domino Records feel confident about making an approach to MES, and a contract was signed that would see a new album issued in Spring 2010. In the meantime, a limited edition tour single, on 7″ and CD, was released, by Action Records, in November 2009.

mp3: The Fall – Slippy Floor (Mark Mix)
mp3: The Fall – Hot Cake
mp3: The Fall – Strangetown (Live At Camden Crawl)

The first two tracks are originals, with Slippy Floor credited to Smith/Greenway, while Hot Cake is the work of Smith/Spurr. Both are excellent, with Hot Cake showing a mix of the old rockabilly style of the band and the harder rockier sound being offered by the new musicians, while Elena’s backing vocal contributions are a reminder of the Brix era.

The third track is a cover, this time of a song by The Groundhogs, an English rock and blues band, founded in 1963, and which remained active until 2015, when founder Tony McPhee (who was the composer of Strangetown), was 80 years of age. The original version of the song dates back to 1970, being the opening track on the album Thank Christ For The Bomb. The live version included on the single was recorded at the Electric Ballroom in London, in April 2009.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t track down the live version included on this particular release, so you’ll have to make do with the studio version, which was included on Imperial Wax Solvent.

mp3: The Fall – Strangetown

Slippy Floor and Hot Cake would later find their way onto Your Future Our Clutter, the album which met the contractual obligations with Domino, although there would also be a single issued on Domino before the band took their leave of the label. Tune in next week for details.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 45)

Renegade : The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith was published in 2008.  It is very revealing that MES chose to begin the book with the events of 7 May 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona.

In a nutshell, three-fifths of The Fall walked out on the band just four dates into a tour of the USA.  Ben Pritchard, Steve Trafford and Spencer Birtwistle decided they could take no more.  The opening pages of Renegade reprint an interview given by Pritchard on his return to England, but it is interspersed and interrupted by MES telling his side of the story.

It all meant, while committed to a tour of the USA, The Fall were down to a duo of MES and his wife, Elena Poulou.   He turned to Narnack, the record company to which the band was signed in America, and arrangements were made to sort out a new line-up, consisting of Orpheo McCord (drums), Rob Barbato (bass) and Tim Presley (guitar).   Two days after Phoenix, this latest version of The Fall took to the stage in San Diego and went on to complete the remaining thirteen shows on the tour with no mishaps.  Not only that, but the line-up, augmented by a second bassist in the shape of Dave Spurr, would gig constantly in the UK and Europe throughout 2006 and likewise in the first half of 2007, as well as going into the studio where a new album would be recorded.

Reformation Post TLC was released on Slogan Records on 12 February 2007.  MES said at the time that TLC was his shorthand way of referring to the musicians who had left him seemingly high and dry in Arizona. It was shorthand for ‘traitors, liars and cunts’.

The album got somewhat mixed reviews, but all told, it was something of a miracle that it got made at all.  The firings, sackings and walk-outs over the years had increasingly become the calling card of The Fall, and there’s every chance that if the Arizona walk-out had been in the UK, then MES might have struggled to pull a band together so quickly.  As it was, the incident only made him determined to immediately prove his critics wrong (again!!), but it also did knock some sense into him given that, after the trio of Americans took their leave in mid-2007 on the back of a well-received set at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona, The Fall would end up enjoying the most stable period, members-wise, in all of its history.

The Reformation-era line-up ended up being responsible for just one single, released on 12″ and CD in early April 2007:-

mp3: The Fall – Reformation! (Uncut)
mp3: The Fall – Over Over (Rough Mix)
mp3: The Fall – My Door Is Never (Rough Mix)

And for a change, instead of an mp3 of the edited version of Reformation which made up the fourth track on the single, here’s the video:-

All three songs can be found on the parent album, and as you can see from the titles, the versions of Over Over and My Door Is Never which were put out on the single, were not the finished mixes. All in all, it’s really no more than a bit of promo back-up to support the album a couple of months after it had originally hit the shops, as well as during the UK tour that was underway at the time.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 44)

Thankfully, the release of the Rude (All The Time) EP was quickly followed up by a new single.

26 September 2005.  It’s a double-A sided single, with a cover version on one side and an original on the other:-

mp3: The Fall – I Can Hear The Grass Grow
mp3: The Fall – Clasp Hands

It was issued on yet another different and new label – Slogan Records – an imprint of Sanctuary Records, which at the time was a hugely successful operation in the UK and under whom, via various other imprints, The Fall had enjoyed the fruits of some excellent box sets/compilations, not least The Complete Peel Sessions in 2004.

It proved to be a lead-off single for the 24th studio album, Fall Heads Roll, which would be released exactly a week later.

I Can Hear The Grass Grow dated from 1967, by the psychedelia pop band, The Move, fronted by Roy Wood. It had been a #5 hit back in the day.

Clasp Hands was attributed to Mark E Smith and Steve Trafford, the latest in what was proving to be a long line of bassists in The Fall. He joined what had been an otherwise steady line-up alongside Elena Poulou and Ben Pritchard, while the drums on the album were played by a returning Spencer Birtwhistle, back in the fold for a second stint to take over from Dave Milner.

There were just 1,000 copies of the 7″ pressed up, and you can look to pay upwards of £30 these days is you fancy picking up a second-hand copy.

Incidentally, the reason I keep mentioning all the different and returning personnel, as well as the umpteen labels on which The Fall ended up being part of, is to illustrate just how chaotic it all was, with musicians not really knowing what was happening with each passing recording session while MES kept complete control in the manner he liked.  I’ll return to that very subject again next week……

 

JC

 

THE FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 43)

Remember a few weeks ago when Rude (All The Time), released as a single in 2001, was featured in this series?

Today, it’s the turn of the Rude (All The Time) EP, which was released, with a limited pressing of 2,000 copies, on CD in June 2005. It consisted of four tracks –

Distilled Mug Art (Mix 15);  I Wake Up In The City (Mix 5);  My Ex Classmates Kids (Mix 4); and Where’s The Fuckin Taxi? Cunt (Mix 17).

I can’t really tell you much about this other than what I’ve found at various fan websites devoted to The Fall.

I failed to mention a few weeks ago, the release of 2G+2, an album from 2002 which consisted partly of studio tracks and partly of live numbers, recorded at various times during a tour of the USA in 2001. It was actually the first release on Action Records, pre-dating the Susan vs Youthclub single by a few months.

Distilled Mug Art was the opening track on 2G+2, and by all accounts the version on this particular EP doesn’t greatly differ, as I haven’t been able to track down Mix 15, so you’ll have to make do with this:-

mp3: The Fall – Distilled Mug Art

The EP also included I Wake Up In The City, which had first appeared as the b-side to Rude (All The Time) when it had been released as a single in 2001 and was posted a few weeks ago.

My Ex Classmates Kids also appeared in this series recently, thanks to it a live version being a b-side to Theme From Sparta FC #2.  I really don’t feel there’s any merit in going digging for these particular versions and posting them today.

Which leaves us with this|:-

mp3: The Fall – Where’s The Fuckin Taxi? Cunt

A fan website offers up this info:-

One of the group’s more notorious tracks, this is a recording of a drunken conversation between MES, Ed Blaney and a couple of others over a taxi which somehow fails to arrive. There’s no music as such except for an acoustic guitar lazily strummed from time to time. Not surprisingly, it has never been played live.

I think it’s fair comment to suggest that this particular single is of very little merit, and I did think about bypassing it altogether.  But with just 2,000 copies in circulation, it is a sought-after artefact among the completists (which I most certainly am not!).  Oh, and in recognition of its insignificance, I’ve altered the title of the series this week.

Finally, the label on which this was released was Hip Priest, an imprint primarily brought into being to issue live recordings from back in the late 70s and early 80s.

I bet there’s not a worse posting than this on any music blogs the world over on Easter Sunday 2022.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 42)

You’ll hopefully recall the end of last week’s posting referring to the American release of The Real New Fall LP, on 15 June 2004 in which I mentioned it contained alternate versions of the tracks issued on the UK version of the album some seven months previously.

One such alternate was released as a single in the UK on 28 June.

mp3: The Fall – Theme From Sparta F.C. #2

I mentioned a few weeks ago on the fact that Touch Sensitive is probably the best known song by The Fall here in the UK, thanks to its use in a car advert. It is probably matched by Theme From Sparta F.C. #2 as it would be used as the theme music to the football results section on Saturday afternoons on the main BBC1 channel.

The track, as its title indicates, is a re-take of the version originally included on the UK version of The Real New Fall. The version issued as the 45 had no trace of Jim Watts on it, despite him being one of the co-writers of the song, with the bass parts played by Simon Archer, who also co-produced it along with MES.

It’s no real surprise that the song was, eventually and belatedly, issued as a single. The original version had been voted in at #2 the previous year in the Peel Festive Fifty, and most reviews of the album referred to it as being a standout track. The new version actually made the UK singles chart, entering at #66, and in doing so would be the fifteenth and final time that a Fall 45 managed to break into the Top 75 of the official singles chart. It would also be voted in at #1 in the Peel Festive Fifty at the end of 2005 and, as mentioned above, would be used as a theme tune on BBC1 for four years until 2009.

It was issued on 7″ vinyl and CD. The vinyl now fetches upwards of £50 on the few occasions it comes up on the second-hand markets.

The b-sides have stories.

mp3: The Fall – My Ex-Classmates Kids (live, Cologne 2001)

The original version had been released on the much-maligned album, Are You Missing Winner?, and has been described as a sister song to I Wake Up In The City, (the b-side to Rude (All The Time, given that it shares the same basic riff.

mp3: The Fall – Portugal

The initial pressing of the CD also contained a hidden track, Portugal (aka Debacle (For The Record) which was only playable on a computer. It was, however, available on the US version of The Real New Fall. It’s seemingly all to do with an incident at a gig in Lisbon in September 2003 after which locally employed road managers and crew had a huge falling out with MES, resigning mid-show and making off with some of the takings, seemingly as payment not previously forthcoming for services rendered. The lyrics are not the work of MES, but are sung by Dave Milner, with a couple of lines added by Ben Pritchard.

As an overall package of three songs, it makes for a strange release, with the a-side offering as big a contrast to its b-sides as at any point in the band’s long history.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 41)

2003.  The Fall are still on Action Records on which an EP is released in December of that year.  It’s been another crazy year, as exemplified by the story around the release of an album in October 2003.

The same line-up as had been together for Susan vs. Nightclub – MES, Ben Pritchard, Jim Watts, Dave Milner and Elena Poulou had been hard at work in Rochdale, Lancashire – at a studio built and owned by local lass and mega pop-star, Lisa Stansfield, on what was provisionally entitled Country On The Click. It had been due for release in April 2003, but MES decided he was unhappy with the final mix and pulled the plug.  He would later say:-

“I thought this LP was perfect round about March. But then you trust people to go away and mix it, and it comes back sounding like Dr. Who meets Posh Spice. You have to go back in and strip it down to what it basically was.”

To further annoy him, the early mix was leaked onto the internet seemingly by Jim Watts, who was, by the end of the year, no longer in the band. The new mix was, as indicated above, made available in the shops under the title of The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click). It was the band’s 23rd studio album.

Reviews were almost universally positive:-

“as valuable an album as anything The Fall ever released in the 1990s”
“Smith’s lyrics are at a near career-best of insolence and nonsense
“Smith is on magnificently mad form”.
“Smith grinds and spits on everything that moves. Sometimes it’s completely incomprehensible, sometimes insanely entertaining.
“Great by Smith’s standards. Practically genius by everybody else’s.”
“as good as anything in this group’s monstrous catalogue”
“their best record in a decade”.

And yet, no single was lifted from it to assist with its promotion….well, not initially, and even then there’s a story to be told.

Proteinprotection was a track on the album, but rather than release it as a 45, the decision was taken to head back into the studio, with Simon Archer brought in on bass as Watt’s replacement, and rework it entirely as a Festive number.

mp3: The Fall – (We Wish You) A Protein Christmas

It was released as a 2×7″ single in a limited pressing of 1,000 copies as well as a more widely available CD.  Here’s the b-sides:-

mp3: The Fall – (We Are) Mod Mock Goth
mp3: The Fall – (Birtwistle’s) Girl In Shop
mp3: The Fall – Recovery Kit 2#

I’ll just mention in passing that (Birtwistle’s) Girl In Shop seems to have been played entirely by former drummer Spencer Birtwhistle, while Recover Kit 2# is a remix of a track originally found on the most recent LP.  (We Are) Mod Mock Goth is a new song altogether, co-composed by MES and Elena Poulou.

Hang on a moment though…..this might all appear a bit gibberish to readers from North America.  And that’s down to the fact that The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country On The Click) wasn’t released over there until June 2004 but the version was different from that previously available in the UK. It had a different sleeve, some song titles were abbreviated and most confusingly of all, alternate versions of the songs, including Recovery Kit were substituted, while a couple of b-sides, including Mod Mock Goth, were added to the CD.

I hope you’re managing to follow all this, as it’s relevant to the next part in this singles’ series.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 40)

We’ve reached 2002.  The Fall have yet another new label, this time it’s Action Records, based out of an indie record store in Preston, Lancashire.

The first studio recording for the label appears as a 7″ and CD single in December 2002 under the heading of The Fall vs 2003. Quite incredibly, given how rarely any of the 45s made into the UK singles charts, this one enters at #64, albeit it drops back down again the following week.

mp3: The Fall – Susan vs. Youthclub
mp3: The Fall – Janet vs Johnny
mp3: The Fall – Susan vs. Youthclub (remix)

The music is made by a five-piece line-up, consisting of MES (vocals), Ben Pritchard (guitar, vocals), Jim Watts (bass, guitar, programming), Dave Milner (drums, vocals, keyboards) and
Elena Poulou (keyboards, vocals).

Worth mentioning that MES and Elena would, in due course, get married and that her eventual 14-year stint in the band (2002-2016) would see her become the third-longest other serving member of The Fall, behind the double legends of Steve Hanley (1979-1998) and Craig Scanlon (1979-1995)

Susan vs. Youthclub is yet another huge shift in direction, soundwise. Yes, there are guitars on it, but it’s very much in the genre of electronica. Janet vs Johnny, a much slower number than usual from The Fall, is quite hypnotic in nature. The remix of the single, which was only made available on the CD version, can be presented as evidence against anyone who tried to claim all songs by The Fall sound the same.

I’ve mentioned before that I had more or less stopped having any interest in The Fall at this point in time, so it would be a few years before I picked up anything at all about this particular single. I have to admit that was my loss, particularly when it comes to the remix version, which is a tremendous listen.

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 39)

I wasn’t entirely sure about including this in the series, but given it is on 7″ vinyl, albeit in very limited numbers, I’ll use it to take the story forward.

2000.  The Fall line-up that had recorded The Marshall Suite, from which Touch Sensitive and F-oldin Money had been lifted as singles, stayed together for the writing and recording of The Unutterable, a CD-only album that received a decent amount of positive press.  It was issued by Eagle Records, yet another new label for the band to spend some time with, albeit the album proved to be the only original release. Looking at the history of Eagle Records on Discogs reveals a distinct lack of singles, and none were taken from The Unutterable.

2001. The line-up was no more, either through decisions to quit or having been sacked.  It’s a real state of flux, and out of the chaos emerges a 7″ single, but only available if you happen to subscribe to Flitwick Records, a little-known English label.

mp3: The Fall – Rude (All The Time)
mp3: The Fall – I Wake Up In The City

The on-line info(as well as printed on the sleeve) reveals that the musicians involved were MES (vocals), Ed Blaney (guitar, vocals), Jim Watts (guitar, bass) and Spencer Birtwistle (drums), although only MES and Blaney were involved on the a-side, in terms of writing and performing. Other on-line info reveals that Rude (All The Time) was originally recorded by Blaney’s band Trigger Happy in 1996.

It’s a very peculiar a-side, just Blaney on acoustic guitar and MES offering up some sort of vocal.  The b-side is much more of what you might expect, albeit there’s a fairly lo-fi, fuzzy production over which MES does his thing.  Enough fans liked I Wake Up In The City to vote it in at #30 in the Peel Festive Fifty of 2001.

The other thing which is strange is that Ed Blaney was never officially a member of The Fall, and he’s more often referred to as a ‘contributor’ on this 7″ and Are You Missing Winner?, the album released later in 2001, but from which no singles were lifted. Given that ‘Winner’ is regularly cited as possibly the worst Fall studio album of all time, this might well be a blessing.

Oh, and further information gleamed from various sources indicates that Blaney was, for a long time, a close friend of MES, taking on managerial responsibilities for the band for a period of time, while 2008 saw the release of Smith and Blaney, an album’s worth of material which, I think is is fair to say, was critically savaged on release.

Only 500 copies of the 7″ single were pressed up and given away.  The asking price on Discogs is £275.  To really confuse things, a later single on EP would be released in 2005, with the title Rude (All The Time) – I’ll deal with that in a few weeks time, but in the meantime will just say the EP was a CD only release and the track Rude (All The Time) wasn’t on it….

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 38)

August 1999, and the decision was taken to release a second single from The Marshall Suite.  By this time, I’d lost interest in The Fall, and it was only reignited about a decade later when I started blogging and discovering that there were a few fans out there who had stuck by them.  I’ll keep the series going, but it really will be minimal stuff in terms of offering up thoughts and observations, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll track down all the b-sides.

mp3: The Fall – F-‘oldin Money

In a press interview just a few months earlier, MES had said:-

“F-‘oldin’ Money” [also on the new record], that’s half a cover; it’s based on a piece of rockabilly from around 1955. I can’t even find the publisher or whether the bloke’s alive or anything. I don’t like to just lift things; I’ve always been against that.”

The song was written by Tommy Blake, whose compositions over the years had been covered by George Jones and Johnny Cash, among others.  He also did land himself a recording contract with Sun Records but without ever achieving a hit single under his own steam.  I’m not convinced MES was telling the truth in saying he knew nothing about Blake, and indeed given how he lived his life, I think MES was attracted to him, in that he suffered from alcoholism throughout the majority of his life and at the age of 54, was murdered by his third wife over marital disputes on Christmas Eve in 1985.

The single was issued on 2 x CDs, offering up four different versions/remixes of songs that could be found on The Marshall Suite:-

mp3: The Fall – This Perfect Day (new version)
mp3: The Fall – Birthday Song (new mix)
mp3: The Fall – The REAL Life of The Crying Marshall (new version)
mp3: The Fall – Tom Ragazzi (new mix)

Tom Ragazzi is a new mix of the track Anecdotes + Anecdotes In B.

This Perfect Day is another cover. The original vocal take on The Marshall Suite isn’t too bad, but this new version is an abomination.  Here’s the original, a tremendous hit single back in 1977 by Australian punk band, The Saints:-

mp3: The Saints – This Perfect Day

F-‘oldin Money didn’t do much in the singles chart, stalling at #93

JC

 

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 37)

I know I said a few weeks back that I’d get this series down to basics, and then last week I offered up a lengthy tale of horror.

But I think that was all necessary as it cleared the decks for more or less the 21st Century version of The Fall, one in which all traces of the band’s roots and beginnings were done away with and it became a vehicle for MES and hired hands, albeit in due course he would come to find a settled line-up again.

Work on the next album got underway in late 1998 and carried over into early 1999.  The musicians involved beyond MES and Julia Nagle on keyboards were Neville Wilding (guitar, backing vocals), and Tom Head (drums), while Karen Leatham and Adam Helal were both tried out on bass.  Indeed, the final few gigs of 1998 had seen the band experiment with two bass players on stage at the same time, but seemingly it only delivered a great deal of chaos. In the end, it was Helal who was kept on as the full-time member once the band took to the road to promote the release of the album The Marshall Suite, which hit the shops on 19 April 1999, once again via Artful Records.

Some four weeks earlier, a single had been released, on 12″ vinyl and CD:-

mp3: The Fall – Touch Sensitive
mp3: The Fall – Antidote
mp3: The Fall – Touch Sensitive (dance mix)

It reached #90 in the charts and largely unknown outside the confines of fans of the band until 2003 when this advert for a car started being aired on the TV screens here in the UK:-

Hey Hey Hey……The Fall were suddenly famous!!

The CD version of this single will set you back about £2 on the second-hand market.  The 12″ single goes for more than £50……

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 36)

 

Warning.  This tale is chaotic in the extreme.

October 1996. Brix Smith leaves mid-tour after a violent confrontation with MES in the soundcheck at a gig in Motherwell, some ten miles south-east of Glasgow.  She came back a few days later, after a heartfelt plea to from the booking agent, to play the tour finale at the Forum in London, knowing it would be her last ever involvement with The Fall.

A new guitarist, Tommy Crooks comes on board in May 1997 and two months later work got underway on a new album.  The sessions were messy and difficult, and during them, Simon Wolstencroft decided to quit after ten years as drummer, frustrated by the way MES was behaving.  For the live dates over the summer, Karl Burns came back in yet again (possibly for the ninth time!!)

It was also a year in which loads of compilation albums, consisting of live recordings and alternative versions of previously released songs, were issued by various labels, all the result of the chronic inability, over many years, of MES to sort out his affairs.

September 1997, the album Levitate is released via Artful Records, a relatively new and cheap’n’cheerful indie label.  The songs came from three different sessions at three different locations over an extended period of time.  One way to illustrate how chaotic it all was is the inclusion of a track called Tragic Days, which is credited to MES and Martin Bramah. The explanation provided a few years later by Bramah was that it was really a work in progress, recorded in 1990 as a home-produced jam session between himself and Craig Scanlon; he also added that the song was really more of Craig’s than it was Martin’s…..

No singles were released prior to Levitate hitting the shops.  But in February 1998, something strange happened in that Masquerade, an MES/Julia Nagle co-composition was released as a single, a full five months after first being made available.  The fact that MES and Julia were now an item, may or may not be coincidental.

Masquerade was released on 2 x CDs and on 10″ vinyl, with the latter having exclusive mixes.

mp3: The Fall – Masquerade
mp3: The Fall – Ivanhoe’s Two Pence
mp3: The Fall – Spencer Must Die (live)
mp3: The Fall – 10 Houses of Eve (remix)
mp3: The Fall – Calendar
mp3: The Fall – Ol’ Gang (live)
mp3: The Fall – Masquerade (Mr. Natural mix)
mp3: The Fall – Masquerade (PWL Mix)

Masquerade reached #69 in the singles chart.

Six weeks later, The Fall flew off to America for a tour of America. It was a five-strong band consisting of MES, Steve Hanley, Karl Burns, Julia Nagle and Tommy Crooks. It was their first visit to the States in four years and as there was no record company support, it had been pulled together by Hanley, calling in a few favours along the way.

The first four dates pass off without incident, although MES is sporting a black eye having been hit in their hotel room by Nagle.

The fifth date in Philadelphia is in a venue that is barely half-full. MES takes to the stage exceedingly drunk and gives his mic to a member of the audience. He spends the night making a total nuisance of himself, unplugging equipment and walking on-and-off the stage. Shambolic doesn’t come close to describing it. Hanley eventually snapped and, accompanied by Burns and Crooks, left the stage for MES and Nagle to finish off the show on their own.

The next night is Washington DC. Things are a lot better, although Nagle walks off mid-set for a few songs.

The seventh night is New York, on 7 April, at a venue called Brownie’s. MES was again very drunk, and he began the show by purposely knocking over the drums. He would later again hand the mic to the audience, during Hip Priest, and bumping to Crooks as he tried to play the guitar notes. He then stole Burns’s spare sticks which leads to the drummer leaping out from his kit to try and throttle the singer, only prevented from doing so by Hanley getting in-between them and shouting him down.

Unbelievably, the show got going again, but before long it was Crooks’ turn to be on the receiving end of MES’s temper, leading to the guitarist swinging his instrument at the singer’s head. In a similar ending to the Phily debacle, the trio of Hanley, Crooks and Burns walked off, leaving MES and Nagle to finish the show.

It gets worse. Back at the hotel post-gig, the police are called, and they arrest MES for third-degree assault after he hit Nagle. He was held for three days until his $1000 bail was posted, and it would take until Tuesday 14 April for him to appear in court where he was ordered to undergo an alcohol-treatment programme and anger-management counselling. There was also a limited order of protection afforded to Nagle, the terms of which enabled them to continue to work together. MES was finally able to fly back to the UK on Saturday 18 April, by which time he had learned that each of Hanley, Burns and Crooks had quit.

Steve Hanley would later say the American tour had been the final straw, especially given he had put so much work and effort into making it happen. MES’s antics with walking offstage had seen promoters refuse to pay a full appearance fee, only adding to his stresses and strains. After 18 years, he’d finally had enough.

The really incredible thing was that just ten days after getting back to the UK, The Fall were back on stage in London, as a three-piece with MES, Julia Nagle and a temporary drummer in the shape of Kate Leatham. By necessity, the next time the Fall went into a recording studio, the line-up would be much changed. Somehow, the next single eventually become the best known of all their songs here in the UK…..hey, hey, hey.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 35)


Last week’s post took us up to August 1994 and the expansion of The Fall to seven members, consisting of Mark E Smith, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Simon Wolstencroft, Dave Bush, Karl Burns and Brix Smith, all of whom had either been a constant or frequent member of the band over many years, a good portion of which, particularly in the previous decade, had threatened to make them a commercial only for MES to continually thwart things.

The next few years proved to be a crazy period.  Band members came and went at a ridiculous rate.  The live shows all too often bordered on the shambolic.  Financial troubles saw far too many poor quality releases issued in an attempt to generate income.  The lowest point may well have been when MES found himself locked up after a post-show fight in New York in 1998. But, just as you thought these various implosions had to mean the end, The Fall always somehow seemed to find a way back to win back the hearts and minds.

It’s actually quite difficult to make sense of it all.  There are conflicting accounts depending on whose book you read.  I’m inclined to put my faith in Steve Hanley whose The Big Midweek – Life Inside The Fall (2013) is an informative and entertaining read, one in which he is regularly as hard on himself as anyone else.  Brix’s tome, The Rise, The Fall and The Rise (2016) is a bit flighty in places and very prone to portraying MES in the worst possible light, which in many cases might well be nearest the truth.   MES didn’t get round to penning his own memoirs, and the best out there is the ghostwritten Renegade (2008), but one which feels as if it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

From this point on, I’m going to just give the facts behind each single, such as date of release, who played on it, chart success etc, rather than go into any of my own thoughts and views.  This is, in the main, due to being quite unfamiliar with most of the songs, only picking them up via later compilations or, in the very late years, looking to fish them out simply for this series.

The new line-up of The Fall released the album Cerebral Caustic in February 1995, again on Permanent Records.  No singles were lifted from it, but whether that was down to MES or the record label I’m unable to say.  The album certainly got a bit of a mauling in many parts of the music press, with perhaps too many feeling let-down that the return of Brix to the band hadn’t seen a return to the more pop-orientated tunes of the Fontana era.  The album turned out to be the end of The Fall’s relationship with Permanent.

It also saw Dave Bush sacked after five years with The Fall.  It had been a period in which the keyboards had been an increasing part of the band’s sound, but they were largely missing from Cerebral Caustic, which gave MES the ideal opportunity to elbow him out.

It didn’t, however, mean that keyboards were out altogether, as Julia Nagle was brought in as his replacement. Her first contribution to a Fall record came via a single released in February 1996.

mp3: The Fall – The Chiselers
mp3: The Fall – Chilinist
mp3: The Fall – Interlude-Chilinism

All three tracks are a variation on one tune.  It seemingly took an eternity to record in the studio.  It was issued on 7″, CD and cassette on Jet Records, a label that I have long associated with Electric Light Orchestra. I actually thought it might have been a different label altogether, but it seems not. As it turned out, the label would issue just this single and the subsequent album, The Light User Syndrome, released in October 1996.  The Chiselers reached #60 in the singles chart.

Oh, and is if to illustrate the sort of chaos I was referring to earlier, Craig Scanlon, who been with The Fall as lead guitarist since 1979, was sacked from the band in November 1995. He had played on The Chiselers in the studio, but MES decided to wipe out his contribution prior to the final mix. For someone who had writing credits on more than 120 songs by The Fall, it was a sad and inglorious ending. MES did subsequently say that he regretted his actions, suggesting that his own increasing dependence on alcohol had very much clouded his judgement.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 34)

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?

JC

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

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 32)

The timeline is April 1993.  The Fall are now contracted to Permanent Records, a fairly obscure label that is best known for releasing albums by alumni of the folk scene in the UK., and the days of the big budgets to promote and market new material are seemingly gone forever.

Astonishingly, the first album for the new label, The Infotainment Scan, enters the charts at #9, by far and away the most commercially successful of all the albums to date.  Much of this was down to the almost universally positive press being given to the band, both in terms of acknowledging their legacy and the fact that the new tunes were accessible and catchy, but without ever becoming mundane, predictable or boring.

It wasn’t as if the album had been driven along by a huge hit single in advance of its release, with Why Are People Grudgeful? peaking at #43.  I’ve written previously about this single, and make no apologies (again!) for simply cutting and pasting from the piece written back in October 2019:-

April 1993 saw the release of the 31st single by The Fall. The only previous chart success enjoyed by the band had come via cover versions. There’s A Ghost In My House (as made famous by R. Dean Taylor) had gone Top 30 in 1987 and the following year Victoria (originally by The Kinks) had reached #35.

This time round, Mark E Smith took some drastic action by merging two cover songs into one, and creating a sound that bore little resemblance to the originals. The best and simplest explanation is offered up on a fan site devoted to the band:-

“Why Are People Grudgeful? is a cover version, or to be more accurate, a cover version of two different but related songs. The story behind the original versions is as follows:

“Born in the rural Jamaican village of St. Mary’s in 1936, Lee Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late ’50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd‘s Downbeat Sound System. Called “Little” Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4’11”), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the centre of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter.

Not surprisingly, Perry’s first release on Upsetter was a single entitled People Funny Boy, which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae “riddim” and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of “roots” reggae.

Joe Gibbs released a reply (using the moniker Sir Gibbs) in a song using the same rhythm called People Grudgeful. MES amalgamated the two songs to help create The Fall’s cover version.”

The UK-based paper Melody Maker went as far as saying it was the most engaging thing Smith had done for a couple of years. It would later be voted in at #11 in the John Peel Festive Fifty of 1993.

mp3 : The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?

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

It was released on 7″, 12″ and CD.  The 12” version of the single was deleted very soon after release, and is one of the harder-to-find and if you’re looking for a copy that’s in good condition, it is one of the more expensive bits of vinyl across the entire back catalogue.

mp3 : The Fall – Glam-Racket
mp3 : The Fall – The Re-Mixer
mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Yup……the latter is a cover of the disco classic as made famous by Sister Sledge. Bonkers and brilliant in equal measures.

Why Are People Grudgeful? was made available on the CD release of The Infotainment Scan, but not the vinyl version.  Glam-Racket and Lost In Music were made available on the vinyl and CD versions of the album. In all three instances, the versions on offer today, taken from the single, have different edits/mixes than can be found on the album.

The Re-Mixer is a new version of The Mixer that had been on the album Shift-Work back in 1991.

Oh, and for those of you looking to keep up with who is in and who is out of the band at this point in history, it’s MES, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Simon Wolstencroft and Dave Bush, the same quintet that had been together since August 1991.  But you know that I’m only mentioning this just to set up another crazy change in next week’s edition…..

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 31)

Code:Selfish had been another success, both critically and commercially, peaking at #21 in the album charts in April 1992 

Some songs recorded during the London sessions for the album has been kept back for a possible stand-alone single, which was released on 22 June.

mp3: The Fall – Ed’s Babe

It was back in August 2020 that Ed’s Babe featured previously on the blog.  It was quite a lengthy piece, and it does fit in well with what I’ve been doing thus far in the series and so it’s repost time:-

“Despite being another catchy number that had something of a sing-along or at least hummable refrain, Ed’s Babe didn’t come close to cracking the Top 75:-

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 (Wolstencroft/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 one of the producers 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 one the few Fall songs ever given the remix treatment and is well worth a listen for that alone.”

As I said in the opening gambit, Ed’s Babe didn’t trouble the charts, but then again Phonogram hadn’t ever really been bothered by the failure of 45s, seemingly happy to have a band such as The Fall on the label, and enjoying the fact that all three albums thus far, in what was a five-album deal, had sold well.

Which is why it was a bolt out of the blue when the label decided that The Fall should be dropped with immediate effect.

It all stemmed back to November 1992 when The Fall were in the studio recording another album. Executives made a request to hear some demos on the basis that with an economic recession having a big impact on the profitability of the music industry, it was critical to assess the commercial value of any upcoming releases before making a full commitment. MES was, to put it mildly, unhappy at the interference, pointing out that the signed deal allowed The Fall to simply present a finished product to the label at the end of the process, in the same way as it had been with every other label they had been part of since the last 70s.

There was a stand-off.  MES took legal advice and was prepared to go to court.  Phonogram made a number of increasing offers to settle, but MES kept turning them down. In the end, he accepted a six-figure sum to tear up the contract, leaving MES free to choose where he went next.

As it turned out, no other major label was interested, perhaps on account of the Phonogram execs suggesting he was a difficult person to do business with (i.e. control).  In the end, the band signed to Permanent Records, a small London-label, established in 1990 and which relied somewhat on folk singer John Martyn for sales and exposure.  It was going to be a strange fit.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 30)

It’s been four weeks since the previous edition of this series.  We had reached December 1990 in terms of the singles, but the post also covered the fact that The Fall did not release 45s or EPs in 1991, although the album Shift-Work came out in April.

The tail end of the year found the band recording new material in Glasgow – and no, I didn’t ever bump into MES or any of the band during their time here – before re-convening in early 1992 in London.

Dave Bush, having helped out on keyboards during the live shows in the wake of the departure of Marcia Schofield, was now made a permanent member of the band.  No replacement guitarist was brought in for Martin Bramah, meaning that The Fall were now back to being a five-piece, although Craig Leon and Simon Rogers, both of whom were involved in the production of the new album, also added keyboards.

The new dynamics inevitably brought a change in sound, with the first fruits of the labour being heard in a single released on 2 March 1992:-

mp3: The Fall – Free Range

I’ve written before about Free Range.  It’s co-written by MES and Simon Wolstencroft, and the funky way it drives forward is one of the reasons it is up there among my all-time favourites of songs by The Fall. Here’s what I said back in November 2014:-

It’s an absolute belter of a tune and while the lyric might appear somewhat nonsensical it is packed with all sorts of imagery and references from history and philosophy with a message of concern about the ever-increasing rightwards shift of politics across Europe as the free market system took an ever-increasing stranglehold on society  – events which Mark E Smith thought would inevitably lead to warfare on a scale of that such as 1914-18 and 1939-45.

Free Range reached #40 in the UK singles chart, the highest position for any non-cover version single.  Little did any of us know that this achievement would never be bettered.

It was released on 7″, 7″ limited edition, 12″ and CD. There were three other tracks to be found across the releases:-

mp3: The Fall – Everything Hurtz
mp3: The Fall – Return
mp3: The Fall – Dangerous

All three songs are tremendous listens. MES, naturally, is involved in the writing of all of them, with Steve Hanley bringing his skills to Everything Hurtz and Return, while Dangerous marks the writing debut of Dave Bush.  Collectively, it is difficult to name a more accessible Fall single than these four songs, and while some fans of the more ragged and disjointed band era might sigh and wish for something less polished, I reckon most casual listeners might be more prepared to give this the thumbs-up.

One final thing to mention, while all four songs would be part of the Code:Selfish album that would be released just three weeks later, the versions on the single all have slightly different edits/mixes.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Parts 28 & 29)


There’s going to be two for the price of one this week, as doing so neatly takes our story to the end of 1990.  But as such, it’s a lengthy one as there’s a lot to cover.

The next single was issued in August 1990.  The period between the previous single and the latest 45 had seen The Fall travel the world on what can only be looked upon as a gruelling tour in support of Extricate:-

1 March – 26 March : a 20-date tour of the UK
29 March – 21 April : a 19-date tour taking in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Austria
26 April : a one-off gig in Paris
18 May : a one-off gig in New York
21 May : a one-off gig in Los Angeles
20 June – 30 June : a 7-date tour of Australia
5 July : a one-off gig in Auckland
10 July – 14 July : a 4-date tour of Australia
23 July – 25 July : a 3-date tour of Japan
26 August : an appearance at the Reading Festival

Looking at the above schedule, it is likely that the time between the Paris and New York gigs was spent in the studio recording the tracks which would make up the next single.

The reason I’m deducing this is that Marcia Schofield, on returning from Los Angeles, had a huge fall-out with MES and made her mind up to leave the band. A lot of her anger was based on the fact that MES didn’t want her recording or working with other musicians, a position she felt was hypocritical given that he had previously worked with Coldcut and more recently had gone into a studio with Tackhead.

She was persuaded to come back for the Australian/New Zealand/Japan gigs, perhaps influenced in part by the fact that she and Martin Bramah had recently embarked on a relationship and not going on the tour would have meant a considerable period apart.

The gig on 14 July was in Sydney. Afterwards, the band’s manager told Schofield and Bramah they would not be accompanying The Fall to Japan, and were instead given plane tickets back to the UK. In other words, they had been sacked…..

The thing was, the artwork and promotional material for the next single was already signed off, and a limited edition 12″ version contained a poster in which the sacked duo were featured:-

By the time the new single was in the shops, the news of the sackings had been made public, with a brutally worded press release saying that they had been fired ‘because they wanted to pursue other projects, and it was pointless them remaining in the band any longer”.  No words of thanks or best wishes for the future.

And so, White Lightning/The Dredger EP* became the last thing that the latest line-up of The Fall would ever make.

mp3: The Fall – White Lightning (7″, 12″, 12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Blood Outta Stone (7″, 12″, 12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Zagreb (Movement II) (12″ only)
mp3: The Fall – The Funeral Mix (12″ only)
mp3: The Fall – Zagreb (Movements I+II+III) (12″ Limited Edition and CD)
mp3: The Fall – Life Just Bounces (12″ Limited Edition and CD)

* White Lightning was the name given to the 7″ and 12″ singles, while The Dredger EP was the name given to the other two versions.

The a-side was yet another cover, of a song written in 1958 and which became a #1 hit for country singer George Jones in April 1959.   The song’s writer was J.P Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper and who was killed in the same plane crash as that involving Buddy Holly and Richie Valens in February 1959.  Jones’ take on the song was more rock’n’roll than country, and The Fall’s interpretation is reasonably faithful and not all that far removed from some of the earlier self-penned material from the early 80s.  It is also, in my opinion, is far from the most interesting of the tracks on the EP……

Blood Outta Stone, a co-composition with M.Beddington (aka Martin Bramah) is a very fine guitar-driven number, and another of the great lost songs stuck away on b-sides.  Bramah has since said he thought it would have made for a better single than Whie Lightning, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

Turning now to Zagreb.  This one is credited to MES and Marcia Schofield.  Movement I is an instrumental, lasting just over 30 seconds.  The riff, Schofield later confirmed, is based on Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder, as she and Simon Wolstencroft were fond of playing it live in soundchecks, with it eventually forming its way into a fully formed tune by The Fall, Movement II is the substantial part of the piece, some 4 mins 40 seconds in length, in which the opening riff leads to a lyric, written after the Yugoslavia gigs in April 1990, with MES wanting to try and capture the tension everyone felt during their visit.  History records that just over a year later, a very bloody civil war saw Yugoslavia tear itself apart into a number of nations. Movement III is another short instrumental piece, very much electronic in nature, only some 40 seconds in length.

As it turns out, Movement III is the opening section of The Funeral Mix which dates back to the sessions that MES had done with Coldcut in 1989.  It’s an instrumental and a real curiosity piece.

Life Just Bounces is a fun track.  It’s an MES/Craig Scanlon co-composition.  If the opening few bars sound vaguely familiar, then that’ll be down to the fact that it borrows heavily from Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, the #1 hit for Elton John & Kiki Dee back in 1976.  MES admitted as much in a lengthy interview in Melody Maker just a few weeks after the EP was released.  Oh, and Life Just Bounces would be re-recorded by The Fall some four years later…….

White Lightning/The Dredger EP was nearly a hit in that it got to #56.    Looking back on things, the fact that there are great tunes on the b-sides courtesy of the two recently sacked band members can only again lead to the conclusion that MES wanted to again self-sabotage just in case mainstream success was threatening to come the way of The Fall.

After the Reading Festival gig, which itself was reported by the press as being a triumph, the quarter of Smith, Scanlon, Hanley and Wolsencroft went into the studio, the fruits of which led to a new single in December 1990.

High Tension Line is a fast, frantic offering, albeit a strange song for a single, certainly in the way it was recorded thanks to it being faded-in

mp3: The Fall – High Tension Line

It was released in December 1990, and as if to demonstrate that The Fall, collectively, had a sense of humour and were willing to laugh at themselves, the b-side common to both the 7″ and 12″ releases was their first ever festive offering:-

mp3: The Fall – Xmas With Simon

The reason for the title is that Funky Si offers up some fairly basic but essential keyboards……with MES perhaps thumbing his nose at the recently departed Ms. Schofield?  As Xmas songs go, it won’t give sleepless nights to Slade, Shakey, Wizzard or Mariah….but it does have some good whistling on it.

The extra track on the 12″ is far better than a look at its title would indicate

mp3: The Fall – Don’t Take The Pizza

The thing that can be most taken from Don’t Take The Pizza is the sound of a stripped-back band, returning to basics in many ways.  I’m also, surely, not the only one who thinks MES is not singing ‘Don’t Take The Pizza Off Me’……………

Released without much fanfare into a crowded singles market, and without the backing of limited edition or CD versions to boost sales, High Tension Line was a flop, failing to make the Top 75.

The Fall wouldn’t release any singles in 1991, but there would be a well-received album, Shift-Work, in which the fiddle player Kenny Brady would be added to the four regular members, released in April 1991.  In an era when CD was beginning to become increasingly more important than vinyl in terms of sales, it’s worth mentioning that both White Lightning and High Tension Line were included on Shift-Work, albeit as bonus tracks at the end of the album, again a departure from previous norms.

There were three tours during 1991.  The first, in May/June was largely centred around Germany with additional dates in Prague, Vienna and Rotterdam. Kenny Brady was part of the live band for that tour.

The later tours, in August and December, were both exclusive to England. Kenny Brady was not involved, but both featured a new member of The Fall with Dave Bush coming in on keyboards, having initially helped out in the studio during some of the sessions for Shift-Work.  His involvement, going forward, would see another significant change in the sound of The Fall heading into 1992, but that’s for the next instalment.

As the festive period is fast approaching, this series will now go into hibernation for a few weeks, as indeed, will the blog itself.  I’ll still be posting each day, but the usual features will be taking a break.

JC