12 June Ashton Witchwood
defintely up there in my top 5 worst fall gigs ever ...
mark was a bit tipsy but not falling all over the place ... howvere, there were various altercations between himself and neville which ended up with mark aflling over with nev on top of him ... after this, there was a definite change of mood and they seemed to enjoy it more, even though they didnt try any harder ,...
set: new ("it was broke") a past gone mad touch sensitive new ("cyber insect") the joke foldin money new ("roundabout") hands off billy and therein white lightning 10 houses
encore: ol gang
My first words to Peter as MES stumbled on stage was "Oh dear". He battled on gamely for a while and it was certainly all very good natured but after he fell over and hit the floor like somebody chucking a bag of potatoes off a lorry it was all over. Nev shouted his way through Ten Houses of Eve and pleaded with the audience to call Mark back. He struggled back for one more go and that was it. Positive things - the line up has been stable for quite some time now and they are capable of holding things together when MES is out of it, there seems to be a good relationship between MES and the rest of the band, new songs sounded promising
Appalling. We waited over an hour for this circus performance. Then, 20 minutes before closing time, they finally take the stage. MES is so drunk he can hardly stop himself from falling into the crowd.
The first three or four tracks are barely recognisable, and the band do very little to remedy this. MES forgets his own words and instead amuses himself by strangling Adam and Nev with his mic lead.
Then suddenly, inexplicably, they find their feet and F-Oldin' Money and "Roundabout"(?) are actually really good. There's even a genuinely funny moment when MES bows down to Nev during the "ever-so-complicated-guitar-solo" in F-Oldin' Money.
But this return to form is short-lived, and the rest of the show deteriorates into shambolic parody. MES tries to hold the mic for Nev, presumably because he can no longer manage the task of singing himself. He succeeds only in catching the odd half-line, in-between bashing Nev in the face with the mic.
Nev takes over for Ten Houses, urging us to shout for Mark to return to the stage to finish the set. But, by this time we're not really that bothered. After about forty minutes (including the ten minute or so hiatus) The Band That Used To Be The Fall disappear to some shouts of derision from the audience.
What upsets me most is that I really love this band. They can be so powerful and authoritative and intelligent and funny I'm not going to sell all my records and I didn't demand my money back, but I'm saddened to see such genius reduced a shambolic, drunken clown routine.
Shanley and co say they left because they didn't want to be part of the ruin of what they beleive was a great band. You know, I think they were right.
13 June Hull Adelphi
Got to the Adelphi about 9 o'clock and saw the boys hanging round the back of a Tranny van on the car park, looking for all the world as if they were posing for a group photo (perhaps they were ... ) - cheery waves exchanged, band looking happy. Promising start I thought.
Saw about 15 minutes of the support band (Chalk), not really enough time to make a verdict either way but they sounded like fairly standard guitar rock.
A few minutes socialising & buying beer then, with no ceremony or intro tapes, the band are on & bashing away at The Joke. No Julia, just guitar, bass, drums. Nice clean, punchy sound (as it always is at the Adelphi) & a minute or so later MES is on, looking dapper in suit jacket, upright & sober-sounding. Standard gear-fiddling ensues but, worryingly, no 'Good evening we are The Fall' - first gig I've seen where he's left it out.
A reorganised Strychnine follows, then Antidotes, Perfect Day & And Therein, all sounding fine if unexceptional. Then the band start playing something I don't recognise & MES buggers off to the dressing room. Band carry on for a minute or so, then shrug shoulders at each other & bugger off too. After a brief pause (a minute or so) they're back on & it's F-olding Money followed by immediate retreat to the dressing room. L-o-n-g pause this time, the house DJ puts a record on, then they're back on for Kill Your Sons. Another hasty retreat & that's yer lot. Audience hangs around for a while then gradually shuffles off.
A couple of points that may be relevant: Firstly, as far asI could tell MES was in good shape - no slurring or stumbling, & some smiling banter with the band. Secondly, the audience showed no hostility whatsoever throughout, obviously Fall diehards willing them to put on a show. The closest thing to heckling was a lone shout of "call yourselves bloody professionals?" after the second walkout, which 1 confess 1 found rather amusing. After it dawned on us that they weren't coming back there was a sort of resigned acceptance, as though we'd all been half expecting it anyway.
For my part I took advantage of a nearby late licence to drink an unfeasible quantity of Stella Artois, then went home & played Live To Air In Melbourne at window-rattling volume. No further comment necessary.
14 June Middlesborough Corner House
Good, but not great. Fall 4 piece gave one of the most straightforward rock performances I've seen. For me, Julia's keyboards were missed. The sound lacked some depth and intrigue without them. Mark looked pretty tired, but was otherwise well into it, with much of his delivery apparently directed straight at certain members of the audience. Narrow venue with a series of pillars running down the middle, one right in centre front. Comedy high point was Mark was taking piss out of this ridiculous feature, banging out beat with his mic against pillar during And Therein, as if telling it to move out of the way. Crystal Maze, Past Gone Mad, new one (slowish, atmospheric, good), Touch Sensitive, Skiffley Thing, Antidotes, And Therein, Hands Up Billy, Foldin' Money, Old Gang, The Joke (excellent version, but still it's been in set too long), White Lightning, Ten Houses (encore). Not quite loud enough, and rather short (50 mins approx). Best night out I've had in Middlesbrough though.
...in addition to Essence of Tong, another new track was aired. Main lyric seems to be along the lines:
WB went down a hill
He was broke
And it was oak (???)
And the wise men
Could not understand him
... plodding bass and a lovely descending guitar line that sounds like it should be played Yvonne Paulett-wise on keyboards. Very short track - sounds a little unfinished. This was the new slowish one to which I referred in Middlesbrough report (Tong was played after Touch Sensitive). It is also what I mistook for Tong at Glasgow.
The gig was excellent. Good, enthusiastic audience and the band were on full power. There was a lot of stuff I was unfamiliar with though most of the new material seemed to contain lines about sitting on a hill. I have never seen MES so happy to be on stage. He looked like he was arguing with the invisible man most of the time. A large pillar supports the ceiling just in front of the stage and MES used this handy prop to belt his mic off in time to And Therein...
No Julie so it was a tape/DAT/pingy guitar free hard rock extravaganza. My wife, who hasn't seen The Fall since Shiftwork, and is neutral about such things thought the gig was tremendous - "the sound was knocking the walls down" to quote her.
Chalk = Bryan Adams.
There is very little wrong with The Fall sound at the moment going off this gig. When Nev, Adam & Tom became Fall musicians I likened the early efforts (esp. Nev's) with Witch Trial Fall. Marshall Suite had a lot of the feel of Dragnet about it (though with twenty years of musical development to incorporate) and similalrly, I get the feeling that the wheel of history is turning the group through a mutation of the rockabilly Grotesque feel.
15 June Glasgow King Tuts
Ta to Graeme for the warm-up:
Interview from the List June 2000
A blueprint for Fall interviewers everywhere I think.
Use of curmudgeon - Check
Mark E Smith acting up - Check
Mention of the Internet - Check
Slightly controversial question (Motown) - Check
Gig writeup with possible hint of "events"/violence - check.
Glasgow King Tut's Thu 15 Jun;
Edinburgh The Liquid Room, Fri 16 Jun
Professional curmudgeon or prole art threat genius? Paranoid, grouchy and hilarious, The List finds The Fall's Mark E. Smith living up (and down) to his reputation, despite the best efforts of his Sister Caroline.
The List: The philosophy behind The Fall always seems to have been 'Keep moving, keep doing it.'
Mark E. Smith: Is this The List? The ratings magazine? Yeah, that's the basis.
TL: You've said you find musicians unfathomable. What's the mystery?
MES: Where did you read that? On the Internet? Unfathomable? So are you on the Internet a lot? Do you get excited about it?
TL: Not really. Do you?
MES: Mind your own business. Hold on. CAROLINE, HAVE YOU GOT A CIGARETTE? I'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH THIS FUCKING BASTARD ASKING ME QUESTIONS! Ahahahaha! Did you hear that? Anahahana! GIVE ME A CIGARETTE, CAROLINE, BEFORE THIS FUCKING BASTARD GETS HIS HEAD KICKED IN So what else have you found out on the Internet? Okay, WHEN WAS I BORN? (Adopts squeaky voice) Was I born in 1959? Sorry, I've got to be nice, my sister says.
TL: Is there a new LP in the offing?
MES: You're so fuckin, clever, get on the Internet and find Out. Ahahahaha!
TL: How did your collaboration with Elastica come about?
MES: What, Africa? Sorry, cock. My phone's a bit dickey.
TL: You once said 'I've still got a sound in my head that I want to get.' Are you any closer to it?
MES: Yeah, I'm trying this week. Hahahahah! No (adopts serious voice), I'm doing the new LP I'm working hard on it. It sounds really fucking good actually. I'm trying to do what I did with The Marshall Suite, a three-sided LP. Only this one's going to be a four-sided LP
TL: A doubIe LP?
MES: Yeah Out it's going to be good so don't worry about it.
TL: Is it true The Fall once nearly signed to Motown?
MES: You're just talking about gossip.
IL: People are interested in gossip.
MES: It doesn't interest me. Ask me a fucking question or piss off! Are all your questions just what you've read on the Internet? They're not going anywhere.
TL: What do you want me to ask you about?
MES: You're just fucking pissed off because you live in Edinburgh. You're a fucking fat sack aren't you? Ask me more questions, you lazy bastard! Hurry up!
TL: You've been described as a 'deranged Percy Sugden'.
MES. Where did you read that?
TL: On the Internet
MES: Can't you think anything Out of your own mind?
TL: If you want to say anything about the LP, about the gig, I'm listening.
MES: Alright. So we will be smashing. That's all I've got to say really.
TL: Okay, cheers for your time, Mark.
MES: You take care now. Ta-ra.
(Rodger Evans/Mark E. Smith)
Gig writeup from same issue:
The notoriously irascible Mark E Smith brings whoever is still left in The Fall line-up these days to Tut's for a charged show in an enclosed space.
Tut's is one of the best venues I know. Several times I've watched crap bands there wishing they were The Fall. It was every bit as wonderful as hoped. Extremely tight, high energy performance that made Middlesbrough look like a dry run. In fact, it felt a lot like replaying Middlesbrough with everything brought sharply into focus. Gig was packed. Sound very loud, very powerful and perfectly mixed (in particular, the bass was awesome). There were no gaps in the sound (though I'd still have liked some keyboards), or between songs. Set was more or less a reshuffling of the night before, which made the contrast between the gigs even more stark. Mark was on top form, looking sharp n' slinky in well tailored trousers and tight fitting shiny shirt with its bottom button undone (a nice inversion of the classic medallion man look). Plenty of fidgeting, lyric sheet shuffling, mic-nicking and general musician baiting. He was playing frontman to the hilt and was riveting to watch (though his voice does, indeed, sound rather fucked). Comedy highlights: (1) MES nicking Nev's mic one verse into crystal maze, and inadvertently detaching it from power cable; subsequent delivery of second verse into unplugged mic with no flicker of recognition (2) MES performing gentle head-stroking scrutiny of bloke passed out across the crash barrier, experimentally raising the head on its floppy neck, making inquisitive faces at the comatose one before him and letting it flop back down under gravity... especially funny since the guy seemed (pre-gig) to be really excited about seeing band, and completely missed this touchingly intimate moment.
Crystal Maze, Past Gone Mad, Touch Sensitive, Cyber (with 10 Houses style dropout reinstated; seemed to be a "come back" plea directed at "Janice and Julia"), Joke, Antidotes, Hands Up Billy, Foldin Money, 10 Houses (better than it ever was with Levitate crew), And Therein, White Lightning, Old Gang (half sung by a hoarse Nev)... Encores: Essence of Tong, Big Priest
Three Fall virgins I went along with were all knocked out by how great the gig was. One, however, was largely preoccupied with Nev ("that blonde guitarist's a right fuck... "). Another of them happened to know the guy who had booked the fall to play the venue.. apparently, he saw MES off in a taxi about 5 minutes after gig... MES thanked him, kissed him and rode off into the night grinning. Another happy ending...
Enjoyed the gig at the time, and I dunno what to tell you. I think I'll sleep on it. But I do think The Fall as live band are done. They are not at all interesting any more and MES knows it - hence all the fannying around onstage. I got the impression tonight he was trying to live up to the recent press - pushing the guitarist around and pissing of the venue staff by throwing the second mike on the floor every five minutes. There was the occasional good bit but it all seems flat just now.
...A ten minute wait and the band hit the stage, storming into an instrumental. After a minute or two MES joins them and it transpires to be Roundabout. Towards the end, MES gestures towards Nev and tells him to "stand over there", behind the left hand speaker stack. MES then marches over to Nev, backs into him and pushes him right into the corner with Nev shoving him back - for a split second it looks nasty but they both laugh and carry on. For the rest of the night, MES does his best to wind Nev up - every time the roadie fixes a mic stand for Nev MES picks it up and moves it well out of reach. One comedy moment - he moves the stand behind him and faces the mic into the air, as he walks forward he kicks the stand and the whole lot topples to the floor as MES looks behind him and then at the crowd, smiling as if to day "ooops - did I do that?". As he started singing Roundabout the mic didn't work properly so he grabbed Nev's from its stand, unfortunately leaving the cord behind. He then paced the stage for a couple of lines ranting into a disconnected mic.
Next up is a barely recognisable version of A Past Gone Mad. Passable indeed.
Touch Sensitive follows which is OK but I'm afraid Nev is no singer, his backing vocals sound a bit strained.
The second new song comes next: Cyber Insect. I quite enjoyed it, particularly the middle break which reminds me of 10 Houses.
Next comes The Joke, a song that none of the recent incarnations of The Fall have quite got the hang of. There must be something about the riff.
Antidotes is a stormer. Big, heavy guitar intro and much rock riffage.
I hope Hands Off Billy makes it through the recording process intact, it could be a single and is the best of the new songs I hear tonight. Nev's vocals do suit this song.
F-oldin' Money shows the band's strengths - they are a good rhythmic bunch but there's something missing. MES enjoys this one, letting the crowd sing along.
10 Houses of Eve - sorry to harp on about it, but Nev's voice isn't up to it. Very strangled I'm afraid.
And Therein - yet another I didn't recognise until the guitar part. MES beats the rhythm on the mic. Nev is stretched on this one but copes admirably - they really need a second guitarist to fill out the songs.
White Lightning - another crowd pleaser, again a smiling MES lets the crowd sing along with the chorus.
Ol' Gang - Nev is told to "sing Ol' Gang", MES hands him his mic which Nev immediately throws to the ground. A roadie supplies Nev with a mic stand and he belts into the song. MES goes offstage briefly, returns and can't find his mic - it's still on the floor where Nev dropped it. MES walks to stage front and shields his eyes as he looks over the crowd. He then laughs and starts singing anyway until someone finds him a mic. Then he leads the band offstage.
They return for a two song encore one that I don't know and missed the start of and a rousing version of Big New Prinz. MES revels in this one, the crowd sing, you know this song is about him. He also points at Tom during one of the "he is not fucking appreciated" bits. And that's yer lot.
It was enjoyable but ultimately flat. I know that's a bit contradictory but though the band seemed enthusiastic, at the moment they'te just an average band. They're a standard rock backing band, almost every song chugs along at the same pace. There used to be depth to The Fall's music, there isn't any more. If this hadn't been fronted by MES then I wouldn't have stayed for the whole set.
i have been a Fall fan since 88 and have seen them through thick and thin. But the gig in king tuts was different. Without steve h and simon w, smith looked incredibly exposed and lost. I had seen them in Edinburgh last year, it didnt seem as bad. But at king tuts it was quite pathetic. He comes on stage looking like a raging alcoholic, the spark inside seems extinguished. A hollow look accompanies him. The so called 'band', try their best, but believe me amounts to little more than a shitty indie combo. Smith continues to attempt some semblance of 'the past', the odd shuffle and a few derisory glances at the crowd, it is by no means effective. This was the very first Fall gig that i have remained stationary for more than 5 minutes, this could have been partly due to the wanky crowd, but i feel it was more than that. In summary, The Fall are no longer The Fall, they are a Fall tribute band. They better get Hanley back on board soon or i fear for their very existence.
16 June Edinburgh Liquid Room
...But they did appear eventually, a 4-piece, no keyboards. A straightforward set of short fast punk/rockabilly numbers, mostly crowd-pleasers. No argument with what they played, at least musically, but it was what they left out. No breadth or depth to this set. Really, if this was all there was to the Fall I wouldn't be a fan. Like the no-nonsense tracks on Cerebral Caustic, missing all the experimental elements of the last 2/3 albums. Never really thought of the Fall as a rock'n'roll band, but that's all they were last night. Only played 40 minutes too. Very disappointing.
Smith didn't mess about at all, but seemed detached, going through the motions. Very different from the spiky, wired presence he was when I first saw him onstage 18 years ago. I've seen the Fall many times over the years, in all sorts of venues, but this is the first time I've felt I'm not bothered if I never see them again. This wasn't one of Smith's shambling drunk/freakshow performances, but somehow this tossed-off workmanlike gig seemed worse - I'd rather see Smith as an angry drunk than displaying this complete lack of committment/energy/invention.
Anyway, my impression of this gig was that it was quite good for what there was (40 minutes my arse - more like half an hour) - I think John's correct to say that there's no depth or breadth to them any more - a bit like a rockabilly pub band. Smith was quite pissed, Neville's vocals are terrible. Ermm, can't think of anything else to say about it really. Dunno how much more legs this band has in them. We need a new album. And where's Julia gone? The non-synth version of 10 Houses of Eve is truly shocking.
17 June Dundee Fat Sams
18 June Aberdeen Glow 303
NME writers continue to excel in their live reports:
The Fall - London WC2 LA2
And so the saga continues. Just when you think Mark E Smith has done the decent thing and disappeared to grow old gracefully, up he pops again to punch someone or mumble mindlessly before another crowd. But, really, does anyone care any more?
The crowd tonight consists of students and 35-year-old blokes who like to pretend they're still students. Many of them don't seem pleased to be here, looking like they're dutifully fulfilling a bizarre obligation and smiling patiently at Mark's little peculiarities.
And they have plenty of opportunity for that. Mark, round-shouldered and old enough to be NME's dad (honest), spends as much time offstage as on. It's well into the second song before he deigns to appear and he still sings plenty out of sight. In over an hour, he doesn't say one word to the audience. Occasionally, he turns his back on them to read his lyrics off a scrap of A4. And, of course, everyone still smirks affectionately.
That's because The Fall are now such an irrelevancy that it barely matters what they do. And, of course, what they do is roughly: strum, strum, grumble, grumble. Nobody would want it any other way because then we might actually have to bother forming an opinion on The Fall. As it is, we can just laugh at them. Maybe this can finally be the end of it.
Re: recent LA2. concert. Band played 3 versions ( I think) of a 'new one'-s Sat on Hill/Crystal Maze? In amongst 'Money and Lightening the new material shonband at its best. Hard to understand how some attendees though them lacklustre. New LP will be their Best Ever. Been watching Fall for 20+ years. Live, the strength of the unreleased material is an indicator of the ways things are going. I hope it augers well.
Pete Kulawec: from a new release......
'I Am As Pure As An Oranj'
Due for release on the 29th of June is the Fall CD 'I Am Pure As An Oranj'. As you can guess by the title this collection is taken from the Kurious Oranj tour and includes the Dutch Ballet performing at Edinburgh festival.
Dog Like/Jerusalem/Kurious Oranj/Yes Oh Yes/Hip Priest/Wrong Place Right Time/Acid/Friends/Bad News/Dead Beat Descendent/The Plague/ Cabbing It Up Town/Bremen Nacht
This from one of my record shop updates:
"There's a single out by Mild Man Jan and Mark E Smith which wasn't as I expected. One side was fairly mellow techno. There's no sound of Mr Smith on there so I'm presuming he's twiddling knobs?? The other side sounded a little like Tricky when he was good! I think Mild Man Jan is the chap from Janksy Noise?? It's on tasteful pink vinyl and ltd to 500 copies!!"
From www.roughtrade.com, it's called fistful of credits, was released on the 9th of june and is described as an "extremely limited meeting of manchester underground minds.the a side sees skam/vvm artist mild man jan applying skam ish production to mark e smiths vocals.limited to 500 copies"
- at number #26 in Select's "Best Of The Web - Unofficial Fansites"
26. THE FALL REMIX PROJECT www.doubleclickdesign.com/fallremix/ Cheerily insane site, which provides 11 different samples of Mark E Smith going "uh!", "hah!", "ah!" etc, for you to use as you will.
The printed WWW best-of supplement of Select magazine reads:
"Some fans show their devotion to their favorite artist by posting up page after page of discographies and data. Some thumb their nose at the law by providing an array of glittering back catalog jewels in MP3 format. And others come up with cheerily insane sites like this, which provides some 11 different samples of Mark E Smith making the sort of noises that only Mark E Smith can make ("uh!" "hah!" "ah!" etc etc) for you to rearrange in whatever order suits you. An ideal opportunity for Fall fans to work with their hero without running the risk of alcohol-related liver failure and/or a punch in the gob."
While looking in the vault for New Boots and Panties I stumbled across the Didjits's Full Nelson Reilly.
There's no reason to wake up
I put on my wig and my make up
I strut my tight ass across the street
A man in a dress I feel so sweet
Saw Lou Reed givin' head down in Soho
I wasn't really there but hey Johnny he told me so
I wanna be Mark E. Smith
I got my act down
I got the riffs
I'll form a band
I'll get the best
He'd look so cute in my new dress
Saw Lou Reed givin' head down in Soho
I wasn't really there but hey Johnny he told me so
I wanna be the lead singer for the Fall
I wanna have gold records wall to wall
No you cannot!
Saw Lou Reed givin' head down in Soho
I wasn't really there but hey Johnny he told me so
I'm taking off my clothes on stage
I'll be like Mark E. Smith someday
All the old men look at me
I'm thinking of you Mark
I'm thinking of You
Saw Lou Reed givin' head down in Soho
I wasn't really there but hey Johnny he told me so
-- Didjits 1991
I remember reading a short Rolling Stone article on Stereolab in 1996 which kickted off quoting our lad's Reptition. Tim Gane had a big thing about The Fall when he was at school, in a careers exercise his class had to write a letter to the company they'd like to work for, stating why they'd make a good employee. Gane wanted to be in the Fall so he wrote his letter to MES. Don't know if he sent it.
A San Francisco band is covering "This Nation's Saving Grace" in its entirety at two shows.
> The band is called the Triple Gang.
> We have a great collection of folks on board for this one:
> Bill Gould: Bass (ex-Faith No More)
> John Weiss: Drums (ex-Horsey)
> Matt Jervis: Voice (ex-Clarke Nova)
> Alex Newport: Guitar (ex-Fudge Tunnel)
> We're playing two shows in San Francisco, CA
> July 14th @ Kimo's on Polk Street
> Aug 3rd @ The CW on Folsom Street
> We'll be performing the entire This Nations Saving Grace album
> We play it in tribute rather than try and dupicate it. It sounds great!
From a Smiths interview with Nick Kent, The Face, May 1985 (nicked from http://www.compsoc.man.ac.uk/~moz/)
Geoff Travis is clearly besotted with The Smiths. And for every frustration there is a bonus potentially as vast as that very first time when, having witnessed an early Rock Garden performance unmoved, Travis was cornered in the kitchen of Rough Trade's old West London offices by Johnny Marr and bassist Rourke and forced to listen to a demo of Hand In Glove, financed by Joe Moss.
"I remember Johnny glowing with pride saying 'This is it! Just listen to this.' I was helplessly won over." Since that time Rough Trade have lost their three most formidable pre-Smiths acts - Aztec Camera ("Roddy Frame's ambitions were simply too grand for us"), Scritti Politti (ditto Green's recording bills) and The Fall. Here was a conflict of interest, whether Travis, the eternal music-loving idealist, saw it or not. Certainly he perceives Fall leader Mark E. Smith as a figure "who will always consider himself the spokesman of the Northern roots culture, a culture centered in Manchester". He recalls the tenacious Mark Smith voicing extensive grievance over RT's desires to seek "pop perfection," an obvious jab at that other Mancunian group who had after all started out supporting The Fall. "I remember," adds Travis, "one incident when Mark was present in the office and quite by chance Morrissey appeared to talk business. Mark just fixed him with this very sardonic look and said quite clearly - 'Ah, hello Steven!' Morrissey was visibly shaken by it." Quizzed about the severing of Steven from his monicker, Morrissey simply states: "I just found that when people addressed me by my surname I felt differently about myself and that difference moved me to decide that I wanted to be called Morrissey permanently. I just felt this absolutely massive relief at not being called Steven anymore."
Thanks to Mark Harris for posting this interview from Volume #4:
"The Fall," Mark E Smith once said phlegmatically through a blue cloud of cigarette smoke into a nearby tape recorder, "have always been a cool group." That was a good decade ago. The words got printed, the sentiments became memorable, The Fall got cooler still. Nowadays they are so cool they can get albums ike "Shiftwork" and "Code: Selfish" released by a huge off-shore business concern like Phonogram, and still point justifiably to the Fall motto, which reads, now as ever: "No sell- out, man". The dignity and vision of the band, and of Mark Smith, never cease to amaze; their intuitive understanding of what constitutes a totally wired, totally weird and totally worthwhile four minutes of visceral rock'n'roll defies belief; their refusal even to contemplate what could be construed as any kind of nefarious external - "Are you gonna get the beers in, cock, or are you just gonna fuckin' talk all day?" Mark E Smith sits hunched tensely over a dead pint in a pub in what he refers to, with scathing economy of metaphor, as "the student area" of Manchester. He's just been having his photograph taken, which he really hates. You can tell this by the way he shields his face with his jacket sleeve when a camera is pointed his way, even dragging passers-by into the shot to cover the scowling Smith features. Normally it's the photographer's prerogative to call an end to the photo shoot, and inform the subject when they've got enough stuff. Mark Smith doesn't think much of this system. "Right love, that's three rolls." he says brusquely. "You've got enough there." Pinning the man down on The Fall's past is an equally tricky endeavour. Doesn't like looking back. Doesn't see the point. Keep moving, keep doing it. That's what The Fall have always been about, he'll tell you perfunctorily. As soon as one fag burns down, light another one. As soon as your glass is empty, get it filled. As soon as an album comes out, make another one. It's the only way. "Otherwise," he says dramatically, "you're dead." It's this logic that has repeatedly seen Smith hail whatever new Fall album is out that week as being "five times better" than its predecessor, while condemning some latest luckless Peel-sponsored crew as being blatant Fall rip- off merchants. He can be really unforgiving. Toss him some casual inquiry like what kind of band The Fall were in 1979 and he'll look at you as if you were faintly deranged and say: "Same as now". And yet here he is, tugging stoically on his lager and getting down to it, and talking of hopelessly bleak days at the outset of The Fall when cult stardom, or whatever it is they've achieved these days, was just some other hollow joke of the future and all they received was hatred.
It's difficult to imagine Mark Smith as a teenager. He seems to be the sort of bloke who was born with a fag in his hand and a large Glenmorangie not too far away. But they say he was 18 once, way back in 1977. He worked on the docks in Manchester. He liked music, especially the Velvets and Can. He'd had a few auditions for local heavy metal bands, all of which he had failed in spectacular fashion. He was tone-deaf and they all hated him anyway. But he had a sound in his head - a stark, muddy, primitive, uncommercial sound - that he got some people together to explore in 1977. They were The Fall, and the resulting EP was called "Bingo Master's Breakout". It came out a full year after they made it, thanks (unbelievably now) to the help of good old Danny Baker, who adrenaline fanzine auspices persuaded bigshot CIA man's son and Police drummer's brother Miles Copeland to whack it out belatedly on his Step Forward punk label. Smith had typed all the lyrics out in his lunch hour at the docks, on the works typewriter. There was, however, a problem with the EP. "Nobody liked it," says Smith, not sounding too worried. "Everywhere we went, nobody wanted to know. They wanted to make it New Wave. We went to Virgin, we went to Martin Hannett, we went round to Rabid. The Buzzcocks' label (New Hormones) actually paid for the recording, which was great of them. It was very rough and all that. Out of tune and that. It was good. Stark, sort of." The Fall were way out of sync with - and Smith in particular appalled by - the dogmatic fashions of New Wave. He spits out the words as he recalls what he and The Fall came up against. "I mean, you're talking about a time when Elvis Costello was considered really weird. You're talking about a time when fuckin' I'm turning fuckin' Japanese was considered a decent tune. In them days if you didn't have a skinny tie you were fuckin'... otherwise you had to have a symphony orchestra behind you. We were dead against it. And we used to get hit from all sides. Intellectuals don't like us because we weren't, like, college. Longhairs didn't like us cos we didn't sound like heavy rock. Punks didn't like us cos we didn't have safety pins." The doctrine of The Fall - quite apart from their garb, which was invariably a farrago of wide-collared shirts, Desmond Lynam sweaters and even flares - was, as Smith saw it, "to have raw music with really weird vocals over it". By weird, he meant weird, he meant totally unheard of. He wasn't impressed by the London punks at all.
"I always thought punk was heavy metal dressed up," he says. "The Pistols in the space of one single went from being great to being fuckin' AC/DC. I didn't think it was about doing T Rex covers. I didn't think it was about being bad." Not that he had what you'd call a band of true believers behind him. Martin Bramah, the guitarist, had his shit reasonably together, as Smith would say - he liked Television and so on. Bramah had actually started as The Fall's singer, with Smith playing a peculiar picking form of guitar behind him. Firmly believing that "on any instrument, you get worse before you get any good", Smith packed the guitar in before the first EP was made. He's maintained a similarly cavalier attitude to instruments ever since; the keyboards lasted a while and he even tinkered with the violin in the 1980s on "Hotel Bloedel" and "Living Too Late", before binning the old Stradivarius around '86. "You've got to unlearn," he'll say. "Most avant-garde composers'll tell you that, you know. You've got to unlearn." So with Smith singing, self-consciously trying to originate a new form of vocals that would reflect "where I came from", the first line-up of The Fall flailed away. It was not a happy union. "I didn't like any of them," says Smith. "I never thought the line-up would last. They were all into different... like, Tony Friel wanted to be like Weather Report. He used to want to do bass solos and all that. Martin was into Television. Karl (Burns, drums) was into Rush. I was into Can, more into sound than music - noise, you know. I saw Karl the other day actually. He's given up music now. I went for a drink with him. I said, you're fuckin' better off out of it and he agreed. Got a fuckin' big motorbike and that. I'm really happy for him. He didn't have much luck the last few years after he left the band." The Fall sounded wired, scratchy and intense in 1978. They regaled at the state of music on "Repetition" (on the "Bingo Master" EP) and "Music Scene" (the endless epic that closed the 1979 debut LP "Live At The Witch Trials"). That voice calling out the time on "Music Scene" ("six minutes!" "six forty!") was the band's driver - the son of the actor who played Len Fairclough in Coronation Street. By this time Smith had already booted out two members - Friel and organist Una Baines. Teenage school-leavers Marc Riley and Yvonne Pawlett came in on bass and keyboards. Smith's reputation as a totalitarian hirer and firer was already formed, although he'll protest that it was he who was considered the liability by the others ("I was just the guy who couldn't sing") and that it was a constant battle to resist their attempts to make the band more New Wave, more palatable - something like the Blue Orchids, who were put together by Bramah with ex-Fall organist Una Baines in 1980. "So I said, right - walk," he cackles. "We were doing cabaret circuits at the time, just to earn money," he grins at the memory. "Workingmen's clubs and all that. Fuckin' godawful! Fuckin' terrible! Good though. It toughened you up. They'd be throwing glasses - proper glasses, like - and spitting at you. I see a lot of groups today, and they don't know they're born. But touch wood nobody ever walks out of a Fall concert. You've got to keep the fuckers in there. That's how we got half out following. You fuckin' win them over and get their respect. They still come now. Miners from Wakefield and Newcastle." Faced with this display of blanket hostility, The Fall found London, whither they ventured in 1978, to be a piece of piss. But, although the Londoners didn't as a rule throw things, they didn't exactly go out of their way to embrace these sullen Mancunians. Conceding that the yawnsomely hipster capital dwellers weren't, as a rule, really up for an hour of premier division garage bile from "a bunch of fuckin' scruffs" like The Fall, Smith heads anecdotally into the dark ages: this was phase one of The Fall's struggle.
He was the only one working, aside from Una Baines, who was a nurse in a mental hospital, and it was principally his money that kept the band afloat. They were poor, God they were poor. The odd member of the band slept rough; the other crashed on spare mattresses. They went days without eating. Say what you like about The Fall in 1979, they look terribly thin in photos. Smith rejigged the "Witch Trials" line-up, hardly suspecting as he did so that the new guitarist and bassist, Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley, would still be there in 1992, backing him to the hilt. They'd been The Fall's sound men for a while and joined, along with drummer Mike Leigh (no relation to the playwright), in time to make "Dragnet", the band's impossibly dark and forbidding second album. The studio hated the sound so much they didn't want the album released, in case it reflected badly on them. A bizarre, unspoken bond was formed between Smith, Scanlon and Hanley that survives to this day. He recalls explaining to them that he couldn't pay them until things looked up, and wondering how they'd react. They said that was fine. Even today, Smith explains with an incredulous look, they'll refuse any offer of a wage increase, insisting he plough it all straight into the band. No wonder he says seriously that "Craig and Steve are more indispensable than me in a lot of ways". Time passes, slowly. Money is slow to come in. The Fall leave Step Forward and sign to Rough Trade, where some great, timeless defiantly northern English folk classic records are made. The singles "How I Wrote Elastic Man" and "Totally Wired" (Smith and The Fall were by now committed amphetamine sulphate vultures); the album "Grotesque (After The Gramme)", which introduced Smith's heroic, insurrectional alter-ego Roman Totale - as well as Marc Riley's whacked out use of the kazoo - and ended in the ten-minute masterpiece "The North Will Ride Again". A whole new genre had been created: Country & Northern, as first heard on the late '70s Fall singles "Fiery Jack" and "Rowche Rumble" and now rollicking away on the back of Riley's primitive organ and kazoo and the drums of new recruit Paul Hanley (15-year-old brother of Steve). A Fall LP pattern had taken shape: stark, dark photography of the band, strange spidery diagrams, scrawled half-sentences and the shadowiest of info from the pen of Smith. By the time you got the record out of its sleeve (vinyl we're talking about here, and LPs costing less than four quid) you were already unnerved, spooked and impossibly curious. The former teenage psychic Smith (he claims) was now freaked out personality- wise to the point where his insights on human behaviour were invariably outright 24-carat genius, as on "How I Wrote Elastic Man" - a dazzlingly ambitious dissection of an imaginary society's attitudes to a burnt-out one- book author, right down to mishearing the title of his "book" as "Plastic Man". One of the furthest-out pop singles ever, it weaved riddles Smith can still smile at now. "Yeah, it's got mystery. That's half the fun of it. Come on, man, you've got to have some fuckin' fun in your life. You don't want everything on a plate. That's the trouble with rock music, it's all made for the palate. The only thing that keeps me going is I want to put things in rock music that aren't there. I don't thing a guitar's even been explored yet. Or a bass, or a drumkit. Or vocals. Everybody seems to play it safe. I fuckin' went into it blind, man, I'm telling you." And his powers of observation became something fierce, something almost legendary. "I've found this with life in general with me. Being a Smith, you tend to get confused with everybody else. It's the greatest strength you can have. People don't take you seriously and people never fuckin' rate you, and I like that. You're always observing. I like to be anonymous. I don't like the limelight, never have."
Nineteen eighty-one was the year of the brilliant "Hex Enduction Hour" LP and the "Slates" 10-inch. "Hex", Smith was convinced, would be the last Fall album. He'd jhad enough of the business, of explaining The Fall's position to morons, and of sharing sod all money around six musicians (Karl Burns was back in the band as second drummer). He decided to put everything he felt and thought into this last album - as long as it took - which is why "Hex Enduction Hour" lasts a then-unheard-of 60 minutes and has almost as many words as the Bible. It was a monumental way of saying fuck you and goodbye. It started with an insanely groovy shower of abuse called "The Classical" and ended with the cacophonous valedictory bombardment of "And This Day", a two-drumkit headfuck not unlike The Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" played by The Glitter Band, which Smith edited randonly down to 10 minutes from around 25. Epic hell. But life was unbearable, and the best band in the country were starving away on the tiny Kamera label, which soon went bust. It looked as though the game was up. Help came from the most ridiculous of sources. "We were just fuckin' around," recalls Smith. "Then fuckin' Tamla Motown steam in! You know... about time we had another white act, ha ha! Dead funny. But they were pretty serious. I went to see them and everything. They had a pretty good lad in London who was well behind us. So they offered us a contract and this bloke in London goes, Have you got and LPs? So I said, I'll get a copy of "Hex Enduction Hour" to you." He creases up. "The Classical", first track of "Hex Enduction Hour" boasts the couplet: "Where are the obligatory niggers? / Hey there fuck face! Hey there fuck face!". The label that brought the world Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops and The Supremes listened no further, and the deal was off. Smith still has the letter somewhere. Apparently its tone of frostiness is something to marvel at. Not that they were getting much joy out of Rough Trade. The "Slates" mini-album was the last in a series of running battles with the label, and Smith still seethes in retrospect at Rough Trade's intransigence. "Rough Trade were soft, boring hippies. They'd go, Er, the tea boy doesn't like the fact that you've slagged off Wah! Heat on this number. And fuckin'... the girl who cooks the fuckin' rice in the canteen doesn't like the fact that you've used the word "slags". They had a whole meeting over the fact that we mentioned guns in one song. Y'know... it is not the policy of Rough Trade to be supporting fuckin'... And I'd go, What the fuck has it got to do with you? Just fuckin' sell the record you fuckin' hippy."
Around this time, far far away from the trials of Smith, living a life of sunshine and affluence a million hemispheres from The Fall, a tiny Californian bass player called Brix was making plans to check out a Fall gig in Chicago with her friend. She wasn't that huge a fan, but her friend was. "We met in a restaurant in Chicago," recalls Smith evenly on the subject of his ex-wife. Talking about the former Mrs Smith is not something that embarrasses him, although you inevitably tread carefully. "It wasn't my idea to have her in the band. She was a bass player. So we got married and I said, Well, look, we're sort of short of two guitarists, you know, cos Craig was still very shy in them days, unusually so, kept wanting to be turned down. So she said no to playing lead, but she came on tour with us. The group were more into it than I was. I wasn't into having my wife in the group, but she really took them by the scruff of the neck." Brix started playing with The Fall in 1983, doing a few numbers with the band at the end of gigs, including the new, surprisingly tuneful "C.R.E.E.P.", in time a single. In due course her shiny red Rickenbacker became a regular Fall feature. She was The Fall's arranger, key melodic song-writer and (undeniably) visual attraction. That year's album the monstrous, driving "Perverted By Language" had tracks like "Eat Y'Self Fitter", "Tempo House" and "Smile". It was heavy and primitive. "Do you like it?" pipes up Smith suddenly. "I'm glad to hear you say that actually, cos I think it's really good. But the general conscensus was that it's really shit. It's weird and it's sparse. Craig comes out of himself a bit, and Steve. What's this for, a book? It's a bit fuckin' extensive, isn't it?" The Fall make it on to The Tube, introduced in a thoroughly satisfying dream scenario by John Peel, who'd always said he wanted to cue in The Fall live on national TV. With their new, ace, spirally logo, designed by the enviably-named Claus Castenskiold, the band make "The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall" in 1984, and hook up with emigre Scots iconoclastic buttock-baring ballet renegade Michael Clark. There's a memorable Whistle Test appearance from the time with The Fall belting through "Lay Of The Land", Smith grasping the microphone in meaty fist, while Clark and his friends arse around with a pantomime cow. Pretty soon Clark and Smith were collaborating on a ballet, the critic-dividing "Kurious Oranj", with The Fall providing the libretto. "He was a fan," shrugs Smith. "And I liked his work. And it was good, "Kurious Oranj", the whole concept of it. Knocked it together in about six months, marvellous. I really enjoyed it. I'd just mail him lyrics - we were touring at the time - and he'd write back telling me what he was going to wear. It was good. Gradually a ballet was conceived through the Royal Mail. It opened in Amsterdam, with The Fall effectively appearing as Clark's backing group. It then proceeded to Edinburgh, and finally did a fortnight in London. Smith feels it should have continued: "It was just starting to develop when it stopped. Have you heard anything of Clark lately then?" "The Wonderful And Frightening World", that victorious classic of late '84, also has arguably The Fall's loveliest song, "Disney's Dream Debased". Nobody really mentions things like beauty and tunefulness when discussing The Fall, but they should. Smith nods emphatically, and goes off on a typically rhetorical bender. "Thing about The Fall, you're asking me all about the past and shit, and I never stop and think about it, cos I don't think it's worth it. But a thing like "Disney's Dream Debased" is marvellous, you're dead right. I mean, it is marvellous. You just become a bit... blunt towards it. That's the tragedy of it. I can see what's happening here actually. You're obviously one of those mid-'80s Fall fans. It's alright, don't worry about it. Yeah, "Disney". Marvellous." Mark and Brix were by now writing together, turning out singles like "No Bulbs", "Couldn't Get Ahead" and the top-drawer swagger-powered "Cruiser's Creek". It was a bit of a new scene for Smith - choruses and structures and middle eights. Into this rather unbalanced, experimental Fall milieu in 1985 in came (of all things) a classically trained musician, Simon Rogers. He could play anything. He knew what a key was. He knew how to tune a guitar. He'd met Smith through the Michael Clark connection - Clark wanted to do a version of "The Classical" with classical musicians, but the orchestra theu got in couldn't work out their parts because the song only had one chord running all the way through it. Simon Rogers, who was a friend of Clark's, worked it out for them and subsequently, when Steve Hanley had to leave for six months to look after his sick baby, played bass for The Fall. When Hanley returned, the multi-talented Rogers simply moved over to keyboards, and that was the line-up that made the acclaimed "This Nation's Saving Grace", released in late September 1985. "Nation's" contained Smith's long-overdue tribute to Can's famous Japanese vocalist, "I Am Damo Suzuki". Suzuki and Smith remain good pals to this day. Rogers would eventually secede from The Fall after 1986's "Bend Sinister", but remains close to Smith and reappears as co-producer of "The Frenz Experiment" and this year's "Code: Selfish". His tour de force remains the utterly wonderful "Hit The North" single - one of those intermittent Fall releases where Smith's vocal takes a back seat to the band's incredible musical canvas - which blasted The Fall forward as an unexpectedly menacing dance proposition in 1987.
At this stage The Fall's line-up was no more finite than it had been in 1978, but whereas in olden days Smith had sniped at transient Fall members by waspishly including a "Where Are They Now?" file on the back cover of the "Early Years" compilation, the complex line-up changes of the mid-'80s were detailed painstakingly on a helpful personnel chart on the inner sleeve of "458489 A-Sides", Beggars Banquet's impressively VFM compilation of the band's singles from 1984-89. The contributors' Fall-lives are measured in straight lines; the most telling is inevitably that of Brix - from 1983 to June 1989. At that point, her line simply stops. "Thing about Brix, not to call her or anything," says Smith, "but she always used to take credit for more than she actually did. She was very good at arranging things. She was a good guitarist. Good singer. You're really into the mid-'80s Fall, aren't you? One of the things that used to fuckin' piss me off about the wife was everything was always her idea, and it wasn't at all. Very American. I mean, I still think she's a great kid. Very talented you know." The Fall entered what Smith calls "another low point". He doesn't rate the "Bend Sinister" album. It wasn't the end of the world - they had a semi-sized hit with "Mr Pharmacist", a cover of an old '60s garage number by The Other Half - but Smith can't find much to say about "Bend Sinister", other than it was "too sluggish, self-satisfied... too much Brix and too much perfection of music". He's also rueful to this day about the song "Terry Waite Sez", a sceptical song about Waite's position on mid-'80s world affairs, which had only been out a short while before the man himself was kidnapped. "I was really sorry I did that. We brought it out and he was fuckin' kidnapped. Weird. I couldn't believe it. We've got a lot of stuff, haven't we? I'm thinking of going home in a minute actually. You couldn't speed this up a bit, could you?" "Bend Sinister" had a second title, "Domesday Pay-Off". Smith was unwilling to choose between the two. "The titles were always important. I try to get the titles to reflect what's on the LP. I don't do it as a joke. People are always trying to rip off our titles, but I don't think they understand that a title should reflect what's on the LP, like a cover should. It seems beyond most people. And the cover of "Bend Sinister" was saying... what? "Here's this smart-arse band playing live. Hah! That was the whole idea of it. The '90s are next, aren't they?"
The Fall line-up has changed yet again. Rogers is out, and Paul Hanley has gone. In come Simon Wolstencroft on drums and Marcia Schofield on keyboards. She had played in a North London band called Khmer Rouge, who'd supported The Fall in the past. "Yeah. Marcia. Good. Keyboards. Looked good." The undervalued "The Frenz Experiment" came out with that line-up, and The Fall had a surprise hit single with a reworking of The Kinks' "Victoria". It was all looking pretty good. Then: internal combustion, and the whole shape of the band was blown apart. Smith's marriage with Brix collapsed and she left the band. Martin Bramah, with whom Smith's relations had remained "pretty good", returned on guitar. The across-the-board rave reviews for the excellent "Extricate" album didn't ease Smith's nagging worry, however, that something drastic needed doing to The Fall, and fast. Amid a shower of publicity, he sacked Bramah and Schofield during an Australian tour. "I wanted to make the band more sparse," he says. "We were a six-piece, almost a seven-piece with Kenny (Brady) the fiddle player - and we had a flute player as well. We were ending up like fuckin' Ian Dury And The Blockheads. Martin took it well. Marcia didn't take it too well. But we were losin that organic feel. Craig and Steve, you know, they're very organic. They play different every night. Get a good drummer in, you can do anything with that, man." Nobody has a bad word to say about "Extricate" ("that's when you've got to start fuckin' worrying") but special attention was given to the poignant "Bill Is Dead", a marvellously enexpected piece of emotional Smithness. Phonogram loved it; they wanted to put it out as a single. Smith vetoed it. But even the emotion of "Bill" would be gazumped a year later by the outright heart-on-sleeve pathos of "Edinburgh Man", from "Shiftwork", one of Smith's bravest statements. The marriage had failed, and here was Smith picking gingerly through the fallout. Yet again he fell back on Scanlon and Hanley. They provide the backbone of "Shiftwork", a stripped-down, primitive sorrow-drowner par excellence. "They're fuckin' hard as nails, actually, them two," Smith enthuses. "They're really far out. Freaks me out, you know. Very super-intelligent fellows, but they're really reticent. Reticent isn't even fuckin' in it, I'll tell you. They're perfect." Do they ask him what the lyrics are about? "They don't ask me about the lyrics, they don't ask me about anything, I just love them to death. Jesuit lads, you know. I've had people in the group and they go on about money, and give me this and give me that and I wrote half of this. What's this song about and fuckin'... Steve and Craig are brilliant".
Which just about takes the plot up to "Code: Selfish" (Smith reaches theatrically for his jacket), and a moral that even a knackered, history-sodden Smith gets vehemently, brilliantly quotable once again: "I have a big problem, you know. I've got too much. I don't like saying that, I don't want to sound too precious. But I don't understand people who spend years making an LP. I get really frustrated, I've just got fuckin' too much stuff. And I think that's why The Fall's taken a bit for granted. I'm not even there yet. I was in Germany and fuckin' MTV were going, Aren't you getting bored yet, you've been doing it for 15 fuckin' years? And I'm going, I don't know what you're talking about. "I don't relate to that. I just relate to what I've got to say. The only thing that keeps me going is doing more stuff. And I've still got a sound in my head that I want to get. Believe it or not. Fancy getting summat to eat?"
Live At The Witch Trials
With punk rock splintered into accelerated HM, sub-art wank and pious left-wing scum posturing, Fall roll up for first full-length feature. Spit and sawdust production with amphetamine to thank for much. "Frightened", "Rebellious Jukebox", "Industrial Estate" and "Music Scene" offer definitive slanted report on state of England late-'70s when pound was worth a pound. Mark Smith as normal bloke ("self-taught intellectual") in anorak and dirty nose. Sarky bark for good measure. Fall as frayed knots of nervous energy and tickle of electricity. Clumsiness and chaos order of the day. "Favourite drink: beer." Next to Fall, the rest of the post-punk pack were bedwetters to a man.
Totale's Turns (It's Now Or Never)
Live turn circa 1979 in which Smith confronts applauding audience thus: "The difference between us and you is that we have brains." Now oblivious to musical convention, they are bona fide pop institution and v. big in East Anglia. "I don't particularly like the person singing on this LP," admits Smith without backward glance. "That said, I marvel at his guts." Brittle, nerve-grinding renditions of stage favourites: "Fiery Jack", "Rowche Rumble" and "Cary Grant's Wedding". Crowd stampede to exit after announcement: "Last orders, 'alf past ten." Despite all this, Fall not causing sleepeless nights for Quo, Kenny Rogers and other types. Still, most entertaining live document since Velvets' "1969".
Grotesque (After The Gramme)
By now Mark Smith was "name which inspires dread and respect". Yet "Grotesque" slammed by influential bong-brained Jamming modzine as "a few decent tunes but production values leave a lot to be desired". Fall refuse to buckle under strain after late Arthur Askey rubbishes their stance on Jukebox Jury ("Ruddy disgraceful"). Bugger for detail, Smith's thought-scrawl thickens. Socio- political romps include "English Scheme" ("The lower class / want brass / bad chests / scrounge fags") and "C'n'C - S Mithering" ("All the English groups / act like peasants with free milk"). Dyslexic sleeve roundly damned for damage to English language but Fall's near-genius blazes on.
Fall get tough and congested, and suffer consequences with Sounds newspaper condemning "Slates" as "bloody rubbish to be frank". Six tracks and short play featuring notorious "Man With Chip". Scabrous textures dominate on "Middle Mass", "Fit And Working Again" and "Prole Art Threat". Too honest for some, esp bit about boxer Alan Minter. "Slates, Slags Etc" about men whose dicks get hard and minds get soft. Tensile riff dragged to screaming limit ("Don't start improvising, for Christ's sake"), ruling out daytime radio play where Adam's deranged Ants rule roost. Din rarely so concentrated as here. Drum sound later patented by D Bowie for Tin Machine fiasco. Royalties due: region of half-a- quid.
Hex Enduction Hour
Part recorded in Iceland where woolly sweaters sell double. Other part bashed out in empty cinema opposite trailer selling old hot dogs with Welsh mustard. "Music that might have been invented for the torture of imbeciles", decides the bloodshot man at Sunday Times. Fall with big boots and new muscle terrify bystanders as a result of non-macho guitar bits, esp "The Classical", "Jawbone And Air-Rifle" and "Mere Pseud Mag Ed". Motown offer contract but grudge burglar-proof lineL "Where are the obligatory niggers?" Complaints arrive from white liberal sub-division. Straight in bin. "Hex" much imitated by Australian noise terrorists and nouveau riche types with halitosis from Seattle area.
This Nation's Saving Grace
Fall expanded with USA blonde wife in spandex. Also man with synth and red waistcoat. Offered tour support with Go West. Decline due to prior commitments: bingo, birds and constipation. Straight pop songs include "Spoilt Victorian Child" and "My New House" ("According to the postman / it's like the bleeding bank of England"). Fall rebuked for "going commercial" but never needed a bucket to hold a tune. Smith's elliptical syntax tightened up, esp "Paintwork" (Later, mam said / Them continentals are little monkeys / Yesterday we had liver and sausage / over"). Strangeness accretes with nerve babble of "I Am Damo Suzuki", backhanded tribute to Can man with triangular beard. Fall at their most invulnerable.
The Frenz Experiment
Met man on top of bus who complained of gout. Loved Fall. Hated "Frenz". Reasons garbled through excess of cheap cider. Fall beseige hit parade with Kinks cover, included here. Purists affronted but Fall pay off Currys fridge and sofa with royalties. Less inclined to crowd-pleasing: "Carry Bag Man"
There's a "How I Ludicrous met MES" piece on their revamped website: http://welcome.to/iludicrous
000530 LA2 reviews
000522 few old LP reviews
000502 bits & pieces
000424 TBLY #19 details, Prop details
000408 more Leeds reviews. WSC interview, other interview snippets
000326 Doncaster, York, Leeds reviews, BravEar interview (plus others)
000314 various reviews, old Liz Kershaw i/view
000224 Past Gone Mad details
000213 few bits & pieces
000130 tour details, Tommy Blake stuff
000120 TBLY #18 details, Hanley in Mojo
000110 Dragnet doylum, New Year message, etc
Old stuff: Nov 1997 - Dec 1999
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