No Fall news at the moment.
From Graham Coleman:
Tim, drummer with Prolapse writes: 'On the Ludd Gang [occasional Fall cover band] front we are playing at a Fall convention at the 333 club I'm not sure where it is [it's in London] but the date has been pencilled in for Feb 26th, I Ludicrous are being asked too. Other details are sketchy at the moment but when I know I'll send them on to you.'
Here's the great Time Out interview from the issue 3-10 Dec 1997 p22-23, with one of the greatest MES pics ever to appear in print.
Many thanks to Graeme Park for feeding this week's Melody Maker through the mangle, below
And Ken Sproat sends this snippet from Foil's fanzine.
Philip Johnson provides the Oh! Brother press release as a history lesson.
And a review of the Oxford gig in Nightshift, JAN98
A single, Masquerade, has appeared in the pre-release schedules for 26 Jan 1998; it seemingly comprises a 10" and 2-part CD . Songs present include a remixed Masquerade, Ten Houses (and possibly Ol' Gang) together with three new songs, one of which is Scareball.
A Peel Sessions compilation comprising 20 tracks will be released in February, tracks selected by S. Hanley, sleeve notes by J. Peel.
Gez points out:
Hmmmm. On the front page of Q's reviews section, it says...
"Welcome! You are now entering Q's weekly guide to all that matters in music. Updated each Monday this section will contain full reviews of the week's new album and single releases. With Q as your guide there's no more anxious dithering in the record shop with a Paul Weller CD in one hand and a collection of Fall rareties in the other. A lucky escape indeed."
A lucky escape?
Graham Coleman also ably deconstructs this snippet from the NME:
> >Q. How many Fall fans does it take to change a light bulb ?
> >A. Infinite. One to take out the bulb and the rest to follow the burnt out old bit around.
And you thought the Great Pop Things guys - old David Quantifier and John the ex-Foxx - were Fall fans, despite occasional pisstakes incurring the wrath of the Fall fan club - a price tag of £50 put on their 'inept student bastard' heads. Well, it may seem like they are joining the received opinion camp and saying MES is burnt out, but this 'joke' works on a subtle level of non-joke that may be compared with a Zen koan. It is slippery to the mental grip, yet one intuitively grasps the kernel. That is to say, the importance of the Fall group is being reaffirmed, indeed they are placed on a level of cultural significance equal to the Spice Girls (see the full cartoon), and while concerns are raised about their leader, his light still shines brightly enough for his fans to see where he's going. Did not Our Lord spend 40 days and nights in the darkness? Yes, He did. Also, bear it in mind that MES has lived in bulbless houses before, and even subjected himself to anorak- restricted vision.
And yet... one important question remains: where is the new bulb and will it ever be inserted?
Graham C, stuck in the gut
980111 Dutch Opscene interview
980104 Melody Maker interview
971221 Not much
971211 Portsmouth, London, Cambridge, Norwich, Bristol reviews
971203 Oxford, Stoke, Leeds, Liverpool reviews; Esquire interview
971125 Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stoke reviews
971116 Manchester reviews, Loaded interview
971112 Band back together, teletext interview
971110 NME report, various Dublin/Belfast disaster reports
971109 First Dublin/Belfast reviews, MES on Elastica album
(article) Time Out 3-10 Dec 1997 p22-23
Can high-brows learn to love 'low' culture? We sent ballerina Darcey Bussell (p24) to Starlight Express', gourmet Laurence lsaacson (p26) to the Fashion Cafe, thespian Waiter Van Dyk to karaoke (p28), and got The Fall's famously grouchy Mark E Smith meet his peers at Rock Circus (below).
In the 20 years that oddball Manchester rockers The Fall have been pumping out records, the band's leader and only constant member, Mark E Smith, has acquired something of a difficult reputation. In interview after interview, he's described as Mr Misery', a man who, when a conversation turns nasty, is capable of anything from verbal attacks to trying to put a cigarette out on a journalist's face. Most recently, in early November, he fired the rest of the group 15 minutes before they were due to go on stage in Belfast. Clearly, this is not a man to be trifled with. Yet my task today is to do just that. I've been sent out to try and make Mark E Smith actually smile. Thanks, Mr Editor. 1 am to achieve this by taking him to Rock Circus, one of the tackiest tourist traps in town, and introducing him to the singing waxworks of his pop star peers. 1 think, before we start, that a drink is needed. 'Yeah,' says Smith, drawing deep on a B&H, then on his pint of Kronenbourg, 'I read that I'm miserable and I don't know where they're coming from. A lot of these journalists have already got their pieces half-written when they come to meet me. They make me sound like a mid-'50s character from a fuckin' play. I don't talk like that at all.' In fact, he sounds exactly like he does on his records, a nasal north Manchester sound married to a desire to enunciate that results in many words ending with a consonant finishing in '-uh'.
'You should read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich",' he continues, warming to his subject, 'that's proper journalism. I mean, he followed fucking Goebbels around, stayed up all night doing stuff, listening to tapes of broadcasts. Nowadays, they can't spell, they can't fuckin' paragraph for a start and that puts 'em right out in my book. You want to know what I read? The Daily Mail. You want to know why? Because everything is spelt correctly. 1 know it's a load of fuckin' bosh, but at least you understand it.'
People who strive to do a job well score highly in Smith's book. Before he started The Fall, he worked on the (now vanished) Salford Docks, and he's carried that work ethic with him ever since. I believe in hard work. People think that I'm a nutter, because I've done 27 LPs. Well, what's wrong with that? People have got this romantic writer thing in their heads. They think you're daft if you work hard. They say, "Why don't you do what every other fuckin group does, sit on your arse for two years, get the marketing going and sell the next album?" It's because I wanna fuckin' do it.' At last, he breaks into a smile, revealing a craggy set of teeth. We've drunk around five pints of Kronenbourg. The conversation is starting to ramble. Rock Circus awaits. The man on the front desk eyes us nervously as he gives us the radio headphones through which we will hear the commentary and greatest hits packages that accompany the waxwork displays. Smith looks like he might bolt. I take up a strategic position behind him and usher him up the stairs, where 'Brett Anderson' awaits. At least, we think it's Brett, and that's enough for Smith, who leaps over the railings and starts to punch the effigy of the Suede frontman. He's enjoying this, positively beaming as the slaps hit home. The subsequent realisation that it's Jarvis of Pulp, not Brett, that he's been hitting causes a moment's regret to flash across his features. Then his eyes light up. The dummy of Rod Stewart is away being cleaned or aged. The management has erected a sign, 'Away for refurbishment', but left Rod's podium behind. Fatal mistake. Smith jumps up into Rod's place - after 20 years doesn't he have as much right to be there? - and starts to pose. He may be trying to smile for the camera, but he looks like he's in the final heat of a gurning competition. Just after he's started to click his back teeth like castanets, and rotate around to the rhythm, a beautiful little girl, on the Rock Circus tour with her mother, approaches him cautiously. 'Excuse me, but who are you?' she asks timidly, leaning over the railing that is rightfully Rod's. Smith picks up the Rock Circus sign and wields it under her nose, the biggest grin of the day traversing his wrinkly features. 'I'm Away Being Refurbished. Haven't you heard of me, or got any of me records?' She hasn't, and runs quickly away to rejoin her mother, worried lest all the dummies on show prove this confrontational.
From Rod, we proceed via Simon and Garfunkel to a wall where many rock stars have obligingly left imprints of their hands in cement. Smith is enthralled by the palm-reading possibilities they present. 'Hang on a minute, I know something about this game, he says, picking out a handprint from the crowd. 'Look at that palm, that's an absolute beauty, really clear. Whoever owns that hand is a really beautiful person with a great life.' He studies the caption. The mitt in question belongs to Gloria Estefan. Shaking his head and, yes, smiling again, he's repeating 'Beautiful hand' to himself as his eyes alight on another print and his face hardens. 'Fuckin" ell. Whose hand is that? Look at that line there. Whoever this is, they're completely fucked up over money.' We are looking at the hand of Sting. Time to move on.
The souvenir shop provides us with another unexpected hit, as Smith ferrets among all the pop star tat for a present for his girlfriend. I tell him I want his autograph, so he buys a lovely postcard of teen faves Hanson and writes on the back: 'To Nigel, Mark E Smith, The Fall.' He signs with mischievous relish, and for the umpteenth time that day, Mark E Smith smiles widely.
(article) JAN97 MM Shoot From The Lip
Fall Guy: TAYLOR PARKES Fall Or Nothing:Steve Hall
He's the bigmouth who goes around sacking his own band! But, it's OK, his grandad killed four SS men during the war! We speak to Mark E Smith of THE FALL about mortal combat
In a west London wine bar Mark E Smith is leaning back in a chrome chair scowling at a shot of tequila; he offers me a cigarette, a kind gesture he'll later repeat exactly as many times as he steals one of mine without asking.
"You go to Germany now, turn on the telly and it's all videos of Hitler and stuff. Normally in Germany, the adverts are all like,'Kinder chocolat! Kinder go to school and buy chocolate!' And suddenly it's fucking 'Greatest Hits Of The Thirties'. . .
A bored waitress snatches empty beer bottles and slams down full ones. "Thanks luv," smiles Mark.
"You go to fucking Yugoslavia and they'd fucking kill for our way of life, you know, the cohesion. I toured Yugoslavia, and these kids are on the bus with us going down to Belgrade, and they're going, 'Oh, we're only coming because it's The Fall, we hate Belgrade.' I said: 'Is it a nasty place?' They said: 'No, the people there, we don't like them.' I said: 'Oh, it's like that in England, you know, with the football and that. 'Oh no, we want to kill them. We think they should be exterminated.' Serious!" In occasional silences, men guffaw with their front teeth stuck out and impersonate Teletubbies, and Mark starts on another bottle of San Miguel.
"I'm from an army family, y'know, Taylor. My grandad was a Sergeant Major he was at Dunkirk, killed four SS men with his bare hands, and he got kicked out of the army for it. Before they knew the SS were animals, 1940, they were still classed as German army. Now I live in an Orthodox Jewish area, and my dentist, he's always got this Holocaust stuff out, and I go in there with fair hair and that, and he's there in his skullcap, got 'Schindler's List' posters up in his surgery. And he's poking round my fuckin' teeth. So I'm like, hang on, my grandad killed four SS men, you know, and suddenly - 'Oh! Well, if he ever wants to come in here for free dental treatment, he's very welcome.' I said: 'Well, he's dead.' And he says: 'Well he's more than welcome then'."
It's almost too easy to take the line that Mark E Smith has simply spent the last two decades standing up-against impossible odds -for anything that was ever glorious or stimulating about rock'n'roll, or for the right to "unpopular opinions in populist times". It's too glib, too simple and Smith's too smart to let it pass. There's more to The Fail than fire and spit.
But it's been 20-odd years since The Fall kicked off in Salford, jump-started by punk but morally bound to kick against its dickhead limitations. And never once have they wavered from whatever path they needed to take at the time. As The Fall developed into the most inventive and exciting rock group of their time, Smith evolved into rock'n'roll's first truly original lyricist, fired by an active intelligence and an amphetamine aesthetic that transcended poetry, prose, street slang and, sometimes, even meaning to forge a new language for pop music, and an authentic modern British voice: "Northern white crap that talks back".
Today, The Fall are still that fiery and singular a maddened, red-eyed bird, massive and trajectorised. The latest album, "Levitate", from which the current single "Masquerade" is taken, is as immediately breathtaking and ultimately rewarding as very nearly all the others; their approach to sound and feel is still instinctive and daring at a time when these things scarcely seem to matter. The only group that really had it, and kept it. The only ones bar Kraftwerk and Gary Glitter-that ever really saw it through.
OBVIOUSLY writing about a band in your position, I'd be expected to write some kind of retrospective piece, but. . . "Yeah, you fuckin' dare, mate!" Right.
"No one'd want to read that! Music papers now-it's like adverts. The music on adverts is al! from the Seventies, cos the people who put music on adverts just want to relive their childhoods. But the people reading music papers are about 16! And they wonder why people are getting into soccer instead!"
You're not worried that to some The Fall have already become fossilised, Post- punk heroes, classic rock . .
"I don't think so. We've cut a lot of that stuff off. We get calls going, What's your comment on the Sex Pistols reforming?', and all the other Manchester lot are like, 'Oh yeah, Sex Pistols, man' or that 'Rock Family Trees' show with all those boring scousers going on and on, I don't deal with that. People notice things like that. Ordinary people are never as daft as you think."
Almost uniquely among their peers, The Fall have never been the subject of a "South Bank Show"-style middlebrow and missed-point documentary.
"I watch those retro things some bloke who played with Hendrix for two days and never got paid, and he gets his 10 minutes, but they don't even show'Purple Haze'. Don't like it, I've had group members talking about me. I used to spy on them. I've made tapes and stuff, to cut that off."
What do they say?
"Oh, it's great. I go out the studio and they're like, 'Oh, there's old Mark off to the pub', but actually I go off for half an hour and listen. And it's like, 'Don't get me wrong, I love Mark, but if he's not going to sing properly... it's like when I worked with so and so, some people just aren't professionals. . : So I come back-'Got that bass drum part done yet?' 'Oh, we were waiting for you'. Hahahahahaha!"
WHAT makes you happy? "What makes me appy?"
A very, very long pause. Then a cackle. He looks almost lost for words.
"I don't-ah ha-I don't look at life like that. I don't like false peace and cheap happiness."
Does your day-to-day life stimulate you?
"Too much! Too fucking much!"
We were talking about England, Smith's central and immovable obsession (among many). In a momentary lull, we overhear a couple of Americans at the next table talking pseudo-authoritatively, and loudly about Manchester. Mark grins, and waves a beer bottle in their general direction. "Ha! Well, hello there!"
That's one good thing about coming from the Midlands, I mumble. You don't get that sort of thing.
"The best thing I ever saw was this programme with Ozzy Osbourne, where he's in his mansion in LA and he's going, 'Oh, you walk into a bar here and they've all got the same tits, the same lips'... he's so fuckin' Midlands, totally unchanged. His wife looks after him..."
That's a really Midland's thing, wives having to look after grown men.
"There's a book in all that stuff. It's something I try to bring out in what I write - people go on about Scotland and Wales, or fucking Yugoslavia, but nobody studies England. In America, you drive 200 miles and nothing changes, but in England you can go five miles and it's a different world. I can get a bus five miles out from where I live, to fucking Bury or something, and I can't even understand what thev're fucking saying!
English people will go to Africa and work out all the different tribes, but they won't look at themselves... "It makes me laugh, this ashamed of being English thing, cos it's the most tolerant fucking country in the world. We went to Wales with Super Furry Animals, and it was like the fucking 'Wicker Mari - end of the night, they're all pissed, singing Welsh songs, running around outside. The bouncer's going 'You're English, you'd better stay in the van; and they've all got Welsh flags and stuff. We go back to the van and there's like 3,000 Welshmen with fucking torches going 'Adoobedoobedoo'. Imagine if that was fucking Germans or something!"
ONE concession to the past. Smith has never topped his cryptic 1982 statement of intent: "There is no culture is my brag."
And somewhere in the bar rooms and cheap caffs and hotel lobbies and lousy front rooms of modern living, someone's still got their eyes open. And if you like, it's that simple.
This is from "Reviverzine" No 4 (Still Winter, but 1998). If you would like to receive a copy by post, send a stamped addressed envelope to: Foil, c/o 13th Hour Recordings, 429 Harrow Road, London, W10 4RE (England), with a note asking to be put on the snail mail mailing list.
It was cold, it was wet, it was miserable, and I'm not talking about The Fall tour, but our 'hotel' rooms in Leeds. At last, I think we've survived the foulest hotel in England, where even the breakfast looked like last week's residents chopped up & served with tea (I wouldn't complain, but they weren't even properly cooked).
It was a shame as our gig at the Leeds Irish Centre was one of the better ones, as was Portsmouth (great crowd), Dundee (we were all pissed), London Forum (apart from the usual Camden coolios who don't dance to support bands) and even the last night in Bristol; maybe it was the way we were so loud that we blew the PA 3 times, or maybe it was The Fall throwing streamers and passing whisky to us as we tried to play our last song.
Anyway, the tour was a good laugh, a great experience, and let's face it, playing 16 gigs with The Fall is never going to be anything less than interesting.
Thanks to everyone who came to see us, hello to everyone we spoke to, and special awards to Neville The Fall's tour manager who made sure that we never went without. See you in January.
Subject: Oh! Brother press release, June 1984
12" THE FALL - 'Oh! Brother' / 'O! Brother' 'God Box'
THE SINISTER TONES OF PRE-FIX LOOPS
The nucleus of 'Oh! Brother' was composed a decade ago, a version performed by The Fall to a Diddley beat in the late '70s, rewritten twelve times at least. Only now has Mark E. Smith seen fit to record and release it in its now-relevant form.
As the cover details were being finalised on the morning of May 4th, Barbara Castle MP drove past the Fall home in Manchester declaring through a megaphone: 'Vote for FOGG! Vote Fogg! I'm Barbara....' This is oddly relevant to the text of 'Oh! Brother'.
Translation of the pidgin-German on track reads: 'I hate the crowd / The impotent crowd / The pliable crowd / Who tomorrow will rip my heart out.'
'God Box' a.k.a. GAWD-Box or Gold-Box concerns the effect of Christian TV on sleep patterns, and sympathetically monitors the story of a recipient i.e. M.E.S.
SPLINTER. Sleeeep. Singing. Draaag.
Also, dear pop-rats, 'God Box' heralds the debut of Brix Smith as guitarist and arranger full time. Plus two drummers, steel ashtrays, mod bass and on 12" version Armed Forces TV waves.
The Fall treat 45's as form experiments, being of the opinion that singles have an inimitable power of conveying topicality sound distortion and brain-stretch.
THEREFORE, 'Oh! Brother' / 'God Box' is firmly in the tradition of 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' ('Rubbish' - Jeff Beck) 'Fiery Jack' ('Doowop?' - A. Thrills) 'Lie Dream of a Casino Soul' 'The Man whose Head Expanded' (MERE competition words wise 'socialogical' 'VOICE?' etc. - Chris Bonn) and 'Kicker Conspiracy' ('they took a wrong turn somewhere').
'Blank verse, n. - the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind' Ambrose Bierce
Oh Brother God Box > THE FALL > THE REAL MONTY!
includes: Professional, But ANTI-QUEEN, SOUND REVEALING but more Aggression
THE FALL The Zodiac
Knowing that Fall gigs are populated almost exclusively by men in slightly shabby black clothes I donned the brightest day-glo top I could find. Edinburgh's Foil warm us up with a noisy and impressive racket, sounding like they were raised on a diet of Sonic Youth and Big Black, with supplements of Wire. Their best moments involve frenetic instrumental bursts of energy as evidenced on current single 'Reviver Gene' but lack the raw emotive power of the aforementioned influences.
So how do you review a band you've followed for nineteen years and seen over twenty times? I could start with a highly subjective history of the Fall. Emerged from the Manchester punk scene of 1977 but even then staked an early claim as perpetual outsiders. Early recordings were astonishingly innovative, though concept of lo-fi sometimes taken to literal, i.e. barely audible, extremes. peaked in early 80s with 'Hex Induction Hour' LP before making the fatal mistake of starting to write 'proper' songs and singing them in tune. Lost their way in late 80s like most of their punk contemporaries, only to bounce back in the early 90s with masterpieces like 'Shift-work' and 'Code: Selfish'. Now in comfortable position of revered elder statesmen, despite continuing regular changes in line-up and record label.
From the opening moments of 'Pearl City' it's clear we're in for something special. The Fall have always sounded best in small clubs where the crystal-clear mix isn't top priority and you can count the lines on Mark E Smith's increasingly craggy face. Absent is drummer Simon Wolstencroft but original member Karl Burns more than makes up, punishing his kit as only he can. New guitarist Tommy Crooks has a harder job and struggles visibly, though Julia Nagle on keyboards looks increasingly confident. After a superb 'Idiot Joy Showland' we get a couple of songs off the new album before they cheer up the faithful with 'Lie Dream of a Casino Soul'. Smith looks drunk and happy, which is a good sign, considering it's less than two weeks since he sacked the entire band, albeit briefly. Some songs were supposed to be played along to a DAT but no-one seems to know when to start or stop and beats crash into each other but it serves only to add to the air of cheerful chaos. Almost unbelievably they play 'Hip Priest', the legendary epic that Jonathan Demme used in the final basement scene of 'Silence of the Lambs'. For surprise value alone it was like watching Hurricane #1 do 'Drive Blind'. Newer songs, 'Oleano' and 'M5' hammer home the point that through all the ups and downs the Fall are still completely without peer. As if for old times sake Smith has a go at drummer Burns: 'A bit faster this time; I know it's winter but fuckin' hell!'
Despite the dodgy mix, false starts and fuck-ups this is possibly the best gig I've seen the Fall play. A timely reminder never to write off a band when there's still breath in them.
Return to top or a few of my Fall bits & pieces