Andrew Harrison, "Peace Talks Collapse:Fall, Lush and Farm in 1991 Debate Deadlock"
SELECT, January 1992, 5pp.
AFTERNOON DRINKING - IT''S ALWAYS A BAD IDEA, ISN'T it? The clientele of The Blue Posts, off London's Carnaby Street, has come to the mid-afternoon turning point which separates the dinner-hour part-timer and the Ploughman's Lunch merchant from the career drinker. The licensing laws might as well never have changed -- if you're still here at half two, you're here for the duration.
There's rugby on the telly, commendable Guinness on tap... and pop stars in the corner. For today The Blue Posts plays host to the Select Pop Panel of 1991, a handpicked opinionated trio set to tackle the issues of a year that's coming to its end.
Mark E Smith, laconic gauleiter of the perverse and enduring phenomenon known as The Fall, is downing pints of lager with Glenmorangie chasers while he names the guilty men of sad-sack pop journalism. Lush's Miki Berenyi, decidedly perky after a tour which ended in Portsmouth the previous evening, makes her way through many a pint of cider. And it's that Guinness for Peter Hooton, just returned from an American tour with BAD II that's best described as eventful -- Farm guitarist Keith Mullen was hospitalised after a have-a-go hero scenario in which he tried to stop fans being mugged, and host Mick Jones of BAD II wound up in hospital after a car crash. After that, a round or two with Miki and Smith is small beer.
"So what kind of panel is this then?" Hooton demands, waving grandly at Mark and Miki. "People who've never had hit singles?"
"I can feel a Scouse joke coming on here," Mark mutters. "There are no Scouse jokes," Hooton declares. "Let's get this straight, I'm not a Scouser. I live in New York now..."
And it's all downhill from there...
CARTER VERSUS PHILIP SCHOFIELD
Freshest in the panel's minds, and a natural starter for ten. Panic at the Smash Hits Awards a controversial Carter USM are faded out during the controversial 'After The Watershed' and Fruitbat controversially decks children's TV Idol Phillip Schofield. It's all live on TV.
Peter (smugly): "We were there. We won best indie band. But we're not into these cheap publicity stunts. It seemed a bit sixth form to me."
Miki: "It got in the Daily Star, though. It was staged, though, surely. Or did they just say that afterwards to make it seem all pally?"
Peter: "Whatever, it's not convincing is it? Phillip Schofield's acting, he's in showbiz. It's not his real personality. Actually, Mark, Carter said you were their favourite dressed person."
Mark: "That's cos they've never seen anybody in a shirt like yours, Pete. Unless they were in a skip. Ha ha (swig). So what was this on then? Top Of The Pops?"
Peter: "It was the Smash Hits Awards. Y'know, Mark, the stuff the kids are into. We just happened to get voted, er, best group in the world."
Miki (pointedly): "Indie! Indie!"
Peter (dismissively): "Best group..."
Miki: "Best indie group."
Peter: "Naaah, I've changed indie, I have ! (pause, swig, pause) Alright, best indie band then."
Mark: "So have we started this yet then?"
BRYAN ADAMS -- HOUSEWIVES ' CHOICE OR THE FUTURE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL
An unspeakably dull AOR ballad by a phlegm-gargling Canadian bore confounds one and all by staying in the number one slot for 16 weeks -- a British record. '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You' from the movie Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves becomes the year's biggest-selling single. Why?
Peter: "Because the actual film was one of the funniest I've seen in ages.
Mark: "No, it's nothing to do with the film. Nobody buys the song because of the film. There's ten minutes of The Fall in Silence Of The Lambs and nobody even noticed..."
Mark: "...See, you don't notice, do yer ? It was the bit where Jodie Foster kills him. Last ten minutes. We got a coupla quid for it..."
Peter: "But you sayin' the film's got nothing to do with that Bryan Adams record is rubbish. It was all about the video, the bit with the arrow going into the tree...it was the film."
Mark: "Naaaoow, it was just a song that people like, a slow one. People need that stuff. It's a smoocher, isn't it? Nowt to do with Robin Hood. I mean, Bryan Adams - popular guy, you know what I mean? No, it's nice, it's a comforter. Comforts people."
Peter: "It was the middle-aged people getting their own back on bleep music... (pause, swig, consider)...because it was a catchy song!"
Miki: (crattily): "It was not! It took you 14 weeks to know how it went!"
Peter: "Well, if it's not catchy, fucking hell, 15 weeks at number one and somebody's gonna remember how it goes..."
BRITAIN TAKES AMERICA. First were The Beatles and the Stones, then Culture Club and The Human League. And in 1991, after Madchester failed to make the Atlantic crossing, British bands made massive inroads into America once again. EMF became teenage scream-objects, Jesus Jones' 'Right Here Right Now' unwittingly became an anthem for America' post-GuIf War euphoria and even poor old Morrissey's flagging British career was eclipsed as the Yanks caught on. Any takers for The British Invasion Mk III?
Peter: "Thank God they discovered Morrissey. Means he doesn't have to come back here again. He's too busy selling out stadiums. They have to have an invasion every two years, though, don't they? Nationalistic nonsense! (pause, swig). Y'know, every interview we did in America was about this 'British invasion' thing, but we just denied it. We said, It's just music, we come from a little place called Liverpool. It doesn't matter. This business of invasion, it conjures up all these imperialist notions..."
Mark: "They're not daft, Americans. Not as daft as the people here. You want to listen to what Peter's said -- this British invasion, it's a press invention. Like The Jam. There's still warehouses full of Jam records in America."
Mark: " No, there is, y'know. They just don't know what to do with 'em.
Peter: "Hmph. But you're right, it is easy for a lazy journalist to say, Yeah there's a British invasion. Cos they can write about it and they can mention Manchester. It's self-perpetuating."
Miki: "We got this. We were asked about Manchester all the time."
Mark: "The Manchester scene was in Time magazine, so once it's in there...I was married to an American, I used to live there and if you get one line in Time, they all believe it."
Peter: "I tell you what, though, the journalists we met in America were more clued up than most of the people we meet anywhere else. Manchester is only 30 miles away from Liverpool, which is nothing to them. As far as they're concerned, we are from Manchester."
THE DEATH OF BAGGY. It was the nation's fave -- floppy trousered, glass-eyed youths pretending to be on drugs and playing floppy, glassy-eyed music. But the vibe called baggy rolled over and died in '91. Only the Mondays escaped -- and The Farm?
Peter: "If anyone ever ever ever comes up with a serious definition of this 'baggy', then I'll treat it seriously. It's not music, it's a cut of clothing. Mark is not into baggy because he's got drainpipes on. I'm not into baggy because I've got straights on. What is it? Once again, journalists fishing around for stereotypes. They couldn't call it scally cos The Farm had told them scallies don't exist. They couldn't call it punk or mod. So someone says baggy."
Mark: "People who try to be hard in Manchester wear baggy gear. They walk like this (he does a Neanderthal straight-armed, straight-legged swagger without leaving his stool). You've got a race of pseudo hard men where I live. I walk down the street and there's fuckers going like this (he grimaces like a fiend). It's people like this feller (in full flow, he gestures towards Hooton) that have perpetrated it. It's pseudo-working class bollocks."
Peter: "He's quite right, of course...
Mark: "No, he's denying it now, though. Now he's got his dosh."
Peter: "Yeah! But the problem is that baggy never existed, and you can't destroy a thing that isn't there. Baggy was not a movement. What was it?"
Mark: "I don't know what the fuck it was. I've been wearing baggy trousers since I was about fucking 16..."
Peter: "That's because you were into Madness."
Miki: "Baggy to me is 12-year-old Stone Roses fans, and that's it, really."
Peter: "Mark, I object to this notion that The Farm were ever into this hard image. Anyone who knows about The Farm knows there is an intellectual side to us, the same as there's a fashion side to The Fall..."
Mark (incredulous): "There's an intellectual side to The Farm?!? Ha ha ha.
Peter (regardless ) : "...because whether you like it or not, your anti-fashion stance is in fact fashionable. Your Undertones look..."
Mark: "Look, you're talking in 1982 talk, Peter. You're talking in the wrong direction. You're not seriously telling me that people follow The Fall because of the way I dress. That's just what you've read in the papers."
Peter: "I've never read that. Yours is an anti-fashion image with clothes is it?"
Mark: "Yeah, but it's nowt to do with clothes is it?
Peter: "Look (he is stunned for a moment)...if you turned up, Mark, with an acid top on, baggy jeans and a big pair of mad training shoes, people would say, He's taking the piss."
Mark: "That's not why they buy me records. They might buy your records because of that but they don't buy mine."
Peter: "I think you're fooling yourself there, Mark."
Mark: "No, because every Fall fan I ever met is a clerk or they work in a shop. None of them dress like me cos none of them could imitate me."
Peter (barbedly): "It's too expensive to dress like you."
THE GULF WAR -- POP LOSES ITS BOTTLE
War In the Gulf traumatises pop into timidity. There are no major protest tunes, no 'Shipbuilding' and not as much as a peep from Billy Bragg, instead pop meekly falls into line, with the KLF editing machinegun fire from 'What Time is Love' and Massive Attack and Bomb The Bass temporarily changing their names into the less contentious Massive and Tim Simenon, respectively.
Mark: "You're joking?"
(gales of laughter from Miki and Peter)
Peter: "God, he's never heard of Baggy, he's never heard about Massive Attack...what...what the fuck's going on, Mark? Are you living on planet Earth or what?"
Mark (perturbedly): "What do you mean, Bomb The Bass have changed their name? I'm a big fan of them. I'm really annoyed about that."
Miki: "They changed it back though."
Mark: "Oh right, good (pause, swig). Anyway I'm not surprised. Usually when there's a war on you have a big blank-out. You have to."
Peter: "I think it's a reflection of the ostrich mentality that exists nowadays, that no one said anything. There were artists against the Gulf War but they never got any media coverage or anything. Except me getting exposed in The Sun as an anti-patriotic fucking Communist."
Miki: "The only thing that got any coverage was Jeffrey Archer's Kurd Aid thing, which was pretty unpleasant. He's got a right fucking nerve that guy -- it's like Thatcher going over to see Solidarity in Poland after she's done over the unions here."
Peter: "People are scared it'll damage their careers. That's the reality. You can't make friends with various journalists cos they'll always turn on you. Shaun Ryder's found that out."
Miki: "No, I don't think it was the case that people were so frightened they weren't going to say anything, just that the whole thing was so over-reported that you had no opportunity to form a proper opinion for yourself. There was this weird prevailing attitude among everyone, bands included, that you were just waiting for something to happen, for them to get it over with."
Mark: "What annoyed me about the Gulf War was that the fuckin' Yanks didn't finish it off. Like they never finish off anything -- fuckin' useless army they've got. Shoulda finished the bastards off."
(Hooton is chuckling to himself and Miki is aghast)
Peter: "That's a pretty simplistic view of world politics."
Mark: "No no no. We're going to live with this forever now. For the next 20 years. Your children (he waves his glass at Miki and Peter) will probably be fighting Iraqis in 25 bloody years. You want to look up on your history, man.
Peter: "Mark, it's about economics..."
Mark (relentless): "Once the war stopped, what did he do? He started killing all the Kurds and all this, and killing everybody else in his own bloody country. The man's a bloody maniac. What's the matter with you? Anyway, so why didn't Billy Bragg come out against the Gulf War? Cos he was probably on tour in Iraq, heh heh..."
THE RETURN OF MISERABLISM
You just can't get the E anymore, so no wonder the prevailing vogue has turned from shiny happy people to lanky-headed doomsters. Suddenly everyone seems to be in a band called Chapterdriveride, misery is back and smiling is VERBOTEN!
Miki (puzzled). "I don't know what you're talking about. Whose miserable music?"
Peter: "The Fall..."
Miki: "You mean shoegazing, don't you? Ha! I don't think it's that miserable. When The Fall were around first people thought they were the most miserable thing about, but you realise they're not like that at all. But I'm not surprised that there'd been a massive reaction to empty-your-brain E music. I'm several years behind, you see -- I still thought dance music was ruling everything."
Mark: "No. I find people going round feeling sorry for themselves are encouraged by the media. Everybody's hard up, there's a recession on. All people in bands are middle class, aren't they? I mean, now's the time to get cheerful if you're in entertainment. You get someone like Lush, right, you're trying to cheer people up, aren't you? Give people a good time, like."
Mark: "What made me laugh was Sting's concept album. It had a book in it about how hard it was for him to write the LP, and how concerned he was about the rain forest on 20 pages of this expensive quality paper made out of loads of trees."
MEGA-GIGS TEETER ON THE BRINK 0F COLLAPSE
The trend towards hubristically huge stadium gigs led us from Leeds' Elland Road, where the Mondays' baggython was a success, to another Manc-fest, Factory's Cities In The Park, where there were far fewer bums on grass!
Peter: "It was a flop, Cities In The Park, wasn't it, Mark? Ha ha."
Miki: "Said so in Private Eye ."
Peter: "They were expecting to make a profit until they heard The Fall were playing. Then it was an immediate loss..."
Mark (shirtily): "No it wasn't, nobody knew we were on. We were the special guests. Get yer facts right, son. Anyway, what about your triumph at Elland Road, eh? There was a bit of space there."
Peter: "Not as much as when Leeds are playing at home. There was 25,000 there with a capacity of 30,000, which is alright. Anyway there were too many festivals this year -- promoters just see a lot of dollar signs and go ahead without thinking. Have you ever been to one of these open-air things as a punter, Mark? They're shit. I don't blame people for not turning up."
Mark: "Well why should they pay 30 quid to see you in the open air when they can watch you for nothing on some kiddies' BBC TV thing on Saturday morning?"
Peter: "Ooooh...a really sly dig that, wasn't it, Mark?"
Mark (grinning): "You sell your arse, you pay the price, Peter."
Peter: "Wait there. Do you disagree with children's television?"
Mark: "Not at all."
Peter: "Well would you go on children's television'"
Peter: "Why not?"
Mark (pause): "Because it's shit (swig, consider). I don't think you should have a bunch of louts dancing about in front of nine-year old kids on a Saturday morning. I think it's bad for them. I watch children's TV a lot, and I object to groups being on it (he cackles). No no no, I'm not knocking you, Peter. Good luck to you. Heh heh..."
Which brings us back to Phillip Schofield. The tape grinds to a halt, the empties are cleared away and the Pop Panel ready themselves to melt away through a bleary haze.
As The Blue Posts fills up with the early evening trade, Mark and Miki plan to slope off for still further drinks with some of the Fall leader's dodgy London mates. Peter is off for the cut on The Farm's new single 'Love See No Colour'.
But not before the Fall supreme pops round the corner into Carnaby Street, and returns to the Posts with a long-sleeved Fred Perry in delightful light blue.
"Now that is an anti-fashion statement," says Peter.
Oh God, it's the drink talking...
'Shift-work' no 7 in Top 50 of the year
SELECT, December 1991
'Shiftwork'? ! think It's fuckin' brilliant. Of course I do. It's fuckin' marvellous, our best LP by a mile...
So no surprise there from the notorious Mark E Smith. 'Shiftwork' comes in a healthy number seven in the Select 50, and The Fall go marching on.
The LP was the first fruit proper from the new leaner, fitter Fall -- a guitars-only four-piece slimmed down by the departure of Mark's ex Brix into the arms of fiddler Nigel Kennedy, and by numerous sackings from the uncompromising Fall boss. Such traumas would have sent many a band on the rails and on to the Enterprise Allowance for life, but not the mighty Fall. Instead, they went and made their harshest, funniest, most concentrated album yet.
"I always wanted to do an LP like this, of 12 short songs, really metallic and good like, Smith muses. "And I always wanted to cut it down just to four people You can have your bloody keyboards and violins and all that in if you want, but you end up sounding like some kind of bloody Channel 4 rock school thing, with bloody trombones all over the place..."
Prince among the many moments of bolshy splendour on 'Shiftwork' is 'Idiot Joy Showland', Smith's scorching tirade against the Madchester circus with its images of "Shapeless keks flapping in the storm". Ramshackle, but marvellous. "It was intentionally done like that," he says, "even down to the mix with those bloody drums that everybody has, all those groups have them. And after the problematic Fall/ColdCut experiments of 'Extricate', there were bizarre Fall House tunes cut with bass ace Robert Gordon of The Forgemasters, the remixes of which were so frightening that Phonogram refused to release them.
So any qualms about 'Shiftwork' in retrospect ? Nahh! If I'm gonna criticise it a year later I'd say a quarter of it is a bit too much like 'Extricate'. But I'm removed from it now. Even so I can listen to it without cringing, which is a change...