Danny Kelly, "Victoria Falls"
New Musical Express, February 13, 1988, p. 6
WE LIVE in frightening times. In the same week that London's constabulary engage in savage street fighting with "militant" nurses (Reds under the bed pans?), THE FALL's 'Victoria'-their 347th successive NME Single Of The Week - goes crashing into the national chart. And which event hogs all the national media attention? Yeah, right first time ...
That may just be understandable in the case of newspapers and TV, but surely it's different for Radio One (where 'Victoria' was the only Top 40 resident missing from last week's crap-clogged play-lists). And the reason for this lamentable oversight? The record is unsuitable for airplay, a Beeb sort told fascinated Fall guy Mark E. Smith, "because it's a cover version ..."
Still reeling from this latest insult to his intelligence--"Last time, they said 'Hit The North' was too 'clubby' for airplay!"--Smith's current party line insists that 'Victoria' has, in any event, been mis-cast. "It isn't a cover version. The Stranglers' thing is, but ours is", the familiar Lancs-lout voice swells with capital letters, "an Original Interpretation".
"The Kinks' original was brilliant, all '70s British boogie, but we tried to cut it to bits. We wanted to do something extreme to it, sort of almost like early Can. We wanted it really shrill and fuzzy, which is why you can't really hear what Marcia's organ is doing ... she played 'Land Of Hope And Glory".
"The Kinks' version was quite nostalgic; ours is more descriptive of Britain now. I don't want to labour the 'Return To Victorian Values' point too much, 'cos they never really went away. I've just got a feeling that the whole Victoriana thing is due to be big again..."
Strangely, given this nation's cover-version mania the path to The Fall's treasure trove has remained conspicuously unbeaten by heavy walleted pop giants desperately seeking permission to rummage. Accordingly, Stockman, Aitken, Waterman revitalisations of "How I Wrote Elastic Man' remains but a fan's foolish fancy.
Mark Smith doesn't feel slighted: "In fact, of course, loads of bands have covered The Fall - they just haven't had the guts to admit as much!"
In the uphill struggle to get round the radio silence, 'Victoria' has been boosted by two promotional items. The first of these--the limited edition boxed single thingy--is, in Mark's view, a failure since the tackerama replica Victoria Cross contained in the packet is nothing remotely like the colour he originally prescribed--lime green! The second--the compulsory video that no one ever sees--is altogether more successful.
In it, the painstakingly constructed Victorian atmosphere of the Little Dorrit film set is picked gleefully apart by a quick-cut chaos that includes that cheeky Michael Clarke, the Asian postie out of East Enders, and a glimpse of Mark Smith's patented worse-than-Bananarama miming act. The director, Emma Burge, is effervescently chuffed with the end product though revealingly reticent to recall the nightmare of working with The Fall. "It was ... interesting." She stalls. "Mark is ... quite a character."
Sure, but is he an actor?
"He's... quite interesting. He's got a marvellous face, hasn't he? No, he's not easy to direct, he--how can I put this? He interprets the part in his own way."
Yeah, we're getting the picture and it isn't of Peter Bowles, that's for sure.
And, finally, I wonder if all this messin' about with old queen Vic has given he of the "marvellous face" a taste for our historic royalty.
Who's his top monarch?
"Him that got the arrow through his eye at Hastings...whassisname ... yeah. Harold! He was trying his best to keep the French out ... commendable."
Right, that's our cue. Write to your local MP now; hit him or her with three non-negotiable demands: Scrap the Channel Tunnel! Pay The Nurses!, and, please, Force The BBC to Playlist The Bloody Fall!