Malcolm Heyhoe, "Why the Fall Must Rise"



THE FALL FELL FLAT when they gigged in Nottingham. An evening at Katie's, a local club, produced flimsy reaction. Mark Smith -- the band's singer -- made numerous vain efforts to engage the attention of the crowd and club staff.

"This is a song called 'Frightened'. It's for the two women on the door ", said Mark referring to the brooding hostility shown the band by the club organisers.

It was an incident (and an evening) to demonstrate The Fall's strongest asset: a keenness to communicate above everything else.

The Fall are: Mark Smith (vocals); Una Baines (keyboards); Martin Bramah (lead guitar); Eric (bass guitar); Karl Burns (drums). The band emerged from odd non-musical sessions, bumbles and fumbles in backrooms. Tony Friel, an original member, recently left the band to form his own outfit, The Passage. Onto bass came Eric, a refugee from the Rabid kennel. Eric is a former Curious Yellow, out of John Cooper-Clarke's support unit.

The sound of The Fall is a harsh blend of aggression, menace and malevolence. Shades of Patti Smith, Doors, Velvets: a finger pointing at the fears and foibles within us all.

At present there are no records by The Fall. Some time ago the band recorded four songs in a local studio, and New Hormones offered to release the songs as an EP. That intention has gradually withered, leaving The Fall frustrated, disgruntled.

Prestwich is a few miles from Manchester, a grim place full of little figures pinned to pavements and rows of crumbling terraced houses. Here The Fall assemble for an interview wary and suspicious but willing to talk. This is what they had to say about themselves:

"It's a standing-joke in Manchester that The Fall are very deep and always arguing about things ... and it's true. There's never a common agreement within the band. Instead there's a tension that makes us stronger.

"We've never been signed up. It's a big help -- we're independent and that's how we want it. We're not continually repaying agents and promoters for P.A.

"The songs we sing are just personal experiences. If you identify with them, that's fine.

"We're gonna be on this Virgin Electric Circus album. Just a one-off thing. We're waiting for a contract. The one they sent us wasn't very good -- it was a different contract to the one they sent Buzzcocks and Magazine. We use a public phone box for gettin' gigs. It's great, works right to our advantage. People can't get in touch with you unless they really need to.

"We've been ripped off loads of times. Benefits tend to underpay if they think they can -- that's why we got Kay (Carroll) in to manage us. She's also a friend. Seems you've got to have a figurehead ... that's the disgustin' thing.

"Trying to get gigs is hard. Clubs want promotion pics of the band and all that fuckin' crap. When we do student places we always insist that outsiders can get in. That stems from direct experience. And sometimes you get the odd guy within the system who cares -- there's a great bloke at Huddersfield (Polytechnic).

"We enjoyed playin' the Marquee with Buzzcocks and The Worst. It was three different sounds all from one place (Manchester). It blew their heads off. The thing down there (London) stinks.

"We played the opening night of the Vortex. Our sixth gig. A London gig! Fuckin' terrible. The audience totally ignored us, so fuckin' cool. No-one reacted in any way. Everyone just stood there posin'. We were the scruffiest people in the place and we had no money for drinks or owt. An' there's all these street kids in bondage suits sippin' vodka and orange. It freaked us out.

"We get a lot of great letters from folks. And there's hundreds of people waiting for our record. It's all paid off... the fact that we're not in the papers every week. And if we are, just a mention, never a photo. People appreciate that ..."

If they don't fall apart first. The Fall must rise...