There's a picure of the cover of The Post Nearly Man and a tracklist here.
Thanks to Fiona:
Subject: <fallnet> NME article (5 September 1998)
The E regeneration
Bust-ups in NY. Whole band departures. The end of The Fall? It takes more than that to keep an irascible old git like Mark E. Smith down. Top Mark: John Robinson (words) Rob Hann (photos)
The sign on the dressing room door, written in shaky Biro in a vaguely recognisable Eastern European language, carries the message 'Do Not Enter'. Underneath it, someone has drawn a skull and crossbones.
Wandsworth, London, 9pm, and all is hideous chaos at the studios of Channel 5's The People Vs Jerry Sadowitz. Traditionally an opportunity for the British public to present their peccadillos, tastes, recommendations and perversions before the Glaswegian comedian and have them routinely insulted tonight, there is a wild card. Tonight the show's 'Guest Bouncer', the mar whose job it is to rid the host of any audience member who outstays his or her welcome, is, from the celebrated Salford group The Fall, Mark E. Smith.
All has so far gone well. Olive has arrived to announce her preference for the music of Richard Strauss and for Jonathan Demme's psychologica thriller The Silence Of The Lambs. "I did the music for that," says The Bouncer smacking his lips together, Anthony Hopkins-like. "Tch tch tch tch tch!" Olive leaves. Unperturbed, Glen is up next. Glen has brought a demo tape of a new form of music which he describes as being 'a cross between garage and house' 'It is' he announces, as he presses the 'play' button or Jerry's unreliable tape recorder, 'semi garage.' The music plays. Yup says The Bouncer 'I quite like that'.
Glen departs, semi--triumphant, and Terry enters. The Bouncer's hackles rise immediately as Terry walks on with his 'comedy' sweatshirt, his playing cards and his honk of magic tricks. "I could save you from this," says The Bouncer to his host as he paws the quest, eager to fling him from the stage "Easy." And so it continues The guests increasingly ridiculous, The Bouncer more intemperate, his interjections more immoderate, until finally after an hour of standing up and humoring British society in its most ludicrous from, he cracks.
He storms from the stage and towards his dressing room, past the piles of lyrics he has painstakingly assembled in the hallway and retreats behind the skull and crossbones, an indignant sentence hanging in the air. 'I'm not staying out there with those freaks and perverts any more' he bellows. Outside, Crispin, the producer taps an impatient flip-flop. 'Sorry everybody,' he says 'Mark's just had to go and drink a small bottle of whisky.' Business as usual, then.
It is 1998, and we are in a hotel in Notting Hill Gate, London. Otherwise, details are fairly sketchy. The idea had been initially a straightforward one. Last night, to watch Mark in action with his longtime acquaintance Jerry Sadowitz. Today, a journey to Paris with him aboard the Eurostar train, where at midnight, at the opening night of the new and exclusive Café de Paris nightclub, Mark will unveil - after hectic recent months of confusion and speculation - The New Fall. This, predictably, has now ended in disaster. The promoter has cancelled the tickets and hotel reservations for the entire British contingent apart from Mark, thus leaving us marooned in London, drinking coffee, waiting for his arrival. Outside the door, there's the sound of a fractured conversation and then he enters, still dripping from the shower. 'Trying to get a couple of beers' he says. 'But I don't think she understands English very well.' Mark is unruffled.
Since the 'New York Incident' in May - a violent altercation, Mark missing in action - he has dissolved his affiliation with longtime Fall companion Stephen Hanley, and struck out on his essentially on his own for the first time in 17 years. But this does not seem to bother him. Mark has been busy. He's kept his head down, and has been working chiefly on 'The Post Nearly Man', a spoke-word record of multiple textures, striking bursts of lucid meditation and familiar obsessions. That and getting the new line-up of The Fall together: along with partner Julia Nagle on guitar there's now Tom, 'a country and western drummer', and Karen on bass who is 'well-respected'.
Despite the upheaval, and the disorder of last night at the TV studio, Smith is unsurprised. 'It's always the same, filming,' he says lighting a Benson and Hedges. 'If you're a bit of a personality, you're expected to do all the work. It's lots of people standing around doing bugger all. You wonder why British film's on it's back.' He exhales. 'The attitude of the people involved is, 'People would give their right arms to be in a band on the telly'. Like, come on: it's only Channel 5. No-one watches it except saddoes. The two new band members can't even get it in upper Lancashire - it's not like you're on with Madonna or something.' Did you enjoy the show? 'Not particularly,' Mark snorts. 'Jerry's alright, but the audience egging him on to be horrible to old fellas. It's like the Nazi courts. If you watch the old films, they get the old Jew on, keep insulting him ' Mark slurps his coffee, vaguely disgusted, '..And the crowd would lap it up like dogs.
Disgusted, erratic, but somehow right, this is why we follow Mark E. Smith, and have been increasingly disappointed by him. The Fall, a diverse and experimental extension of their lyricist's vision seemingly in an unstoppable decline, the worry remained that irreparable damage had been done to the creativity. Where once Fall records were crowded with words, it had begun to seem that they had become less prominent, more mumbled, less gleaming with insight. Though the new Fall may be intact, to have succeeded with 'The Post Nearly Man' nonetheless represents and achievement for Smith on purely his own terms.
'The last group were going, 'We're The Fall. He's not The Fall,' Mark explains. 'Debatable point: fact is, you've got to get out there and play, and that's what they couldn't crack.' 'To state the obvious, this wasn't 'I wanna go solo', which I don't particularly want to do. It's not made out of anger, or clutching at straws or anything. It just starts from a base point; stuff that can't transfer into books or music or films.' Is it about getting respect? He nods. 'Yeah, I'm not dead yet. We're in a lazy culture: people saying 'I could do this - well, why aren't you doing it then? I am broke - there's no two ways about it. But, I've got two choices: I could do a book, because I know all the scam on everybody. I've worked with everyone: Branson, Miles Copeland but that's what you talk about with your mates, isn't it>? It's voyeuristic culture. Or I could do this.'
What Mark's most impressed with is the economy of words. His favourite short- story writers - Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft - he talks about with exclamations like, 'two pages!' and, 'three pages!', impressed how so few words can carry such great weight. He saw The Birds on TV the other night. 'Story by Daphne Du Maurier,' he enthuses. 'Four pages!' This is the sort of thing he hopes to achieve with 'The Post Nearly Man', a work undiluted by compromise from his initial vision: a crisp short story, compared to the relatively indignant nature of a band record. 'What I like about it was not having to put up with musicians destroying your concentration,' he explains. 'It's why a lot of films are boring, Titanic? What a load of crap. It's like watching a PlayStation. The fucking boat turns over. I mean, you know how it ends, don't you? The plot's like something straight out of Neighbours '
The door opens and The Fall's guitarist sticks her head round. 'Fancy a drink, pet?' asks Mark. And then they leave. Possibly for France, possibly just for the pub round the corner. Business as usual then.
A couple of FallNet reviews first....
"This is surely Mark's most cohesive album since Hex, except it's got the humour of the 27 Pints laid on with a bloody shovel. It's so nice to hear bucketloads of the man's words again.
Very amusing couple of patches in Post Nearly Man featuring the Kate'n'Julia keys & drums version of Ol' Gang. I liked Kate's drumming - pity she didn't stay. The overwhelming sense I got from the LP was that it's a very positive step away from the Levitate style of lyric composition school; I always preferred the story/character songs anyway."
"The first thing I want to say is how difficult this is to review. The Post Nearly Man comprises of 14 tracks clocking in at just over 42 minutes. There are bits of Fall music sparsely littered throughout the work (Ol Gang in The Horror In Clay, Free Range in The Caterer, The Reckoning in I'm Bobby pt 1 and Sleep Debt Snatches in Typewriter - there may be more...) for background effect.
1. The Horror In Clay
"The most blissful thing in the world is mans inability to correlate all of his mind contents but the sciences one day (some say it is already upon us) will eventually open up such terrifying vistas of reality and will either go mad from the revelation or flee into blissful sleep, peace in the safety in another new dark age. I'm Mark Edward Smith, these are the words of HP Lovecraft's, we give you 'the horror in clay'.
2. Shad Segment :
17 seconds of whistling to mimic a gale/wind in the same style of Pearsons Revenge.
3. The Caterer
"and debt will keep you warm, and man will keep you warm, i am the caterer" (free range riff)
4. I'm Bobby pt 1
More on this later...
5. The CD In Your Hand
": get on Dick and Judy, your opinion of Lennon and McCartney, get on same prog central with Fred West's sweaty family"
6. Enigrammatic Dream
MES talking into a tape recorder played at various speeds.
7. Visit Of an American Poet v1
Various voices... the last voice speaks a piece on music ending in the line "why are there so many shit people in music" two notes played alternately for several minutes... mes voice tape then plays over it... foreground MES voice reads 'play' of poet... barking out the lines.
8. Segment... is 15 seconds of silence.
9. Visitation of an American Poet
A (female) voice reads a short piece... ending in "the world don't need another Mark E Smith, it needs a non-Lancashire real poet-ess"
10. Visit of an American Poet v2
MES reads part of the play... featuring the line, "the two scan a 59 pence can of beer in the kitchen, it's behind ya, he thinks"
11. I'm Bobby pt 2
Various voices... main one being Welsh. Tells the tale of US tour 'incident' I'm sure. The Bobby Robert character being MES? Robert Hazel character being Hanley? There is an Edward character too, or could this be MES? The woman character being Nagle?
Voice speaks while typewriting... cue Sleep Debt Snatches... another voice explains large caterpiller creatures on Mars... cue Sleep Debt Snatches again, MES rants in 'Dog Is Life' style. MES' trouble with numbers crops up again when explaining the hotel room smart key.
13. Dissolute Singer
MES half sings some lines... MES reads some lines...
"Dissolute singer, you live on 17 Fairy Lane", "Never before have I disliked the rain, it soaks the lung, drips discarded", "Grandaddy says too much wait on you, you and your father", "Well Bloody Nora says my dead Dad"
14. A Lot In A Name
I can not predict the longevity of appeal of this work; I have heard it six or seven times now (11 times at 23.40 Sep 2) due to the 8 hour bus journey on which I am ensnared writing this. I think that several of the tracks are complicated and layered enough to keep the most Smith-lusty among us happy for a short while. You never know though, people are still passionate about their theories on the meaning of Eraserhead twenty years on... In 2018 can you imagine wee Jimmy the English Lit student getting an A for his essay on the meaning of I'm Bobby pt 2? Me neither. I like it, but there is something about it that leaves me feeling a bit dissapointed - it's probably because there are no songs and no Hanley.
GC, I think I'd be a gibbering wreck if I had to listen to the PNM 11 times on a coach journey, still haven't notched up 2 listens. Not saying I don't like it, it's just like spending a long night troubled by drink/sickness-induced nightmares. An interesting experience but not once you'd want to repeat on a regular basis. Unlike the lucid dream qualities in most Fall records, say.
Subject: <fallnet> NME review S
MARK E SMITH The Post Nearly Man (Artful)
THESE ARE DIFFICULT TIMES FOR A MAN LIKE Mark E Smith - finding himself without a band, without a record label and without a great deal of fans left apart from John Peel.
So what can you do? You've got to 'produce', as he always says. Throw yourself into work, as ever. Sort yerself out, pal. Don't need a fuckin' band - you can do it yourself.
And so it came to pass that our hero saw fit to release this spoken-word LP, and perhaps not accidentally, it sounds like it's been recorded in a variety of venues, such as a washing machine, an airport runway, my mam's kitchen, and under the bed while hiding from the cupboard monster.
There's evidently an ambient influence to Smith's spoken word, manifested in a variety of random bleeps in the background, plus sundry helicopters flying, doors slamming, bells chiming, wind blowing, paint drying and the like.
Three tracks in, we at least find something vaguely coherent. 'The Caterer', featuring the Fall trio of Smith, Julia Nagle and Simon Wolstencroft, has a minimalist charm, a top grunty keyboard rhythm and a loose-tongued groove to Smith's delivery. But "chicken and chips off the bone" is about the nearest we get to lyrical wisdom.
The usual screwing with words could potentially make sense, but detached from the customary rattling Fall racket it doesn't really engage on any level. Consider, "Colon gets on Dick and Judy your opinion on Lennon and McCartney/Get on same prog central sat next to Fred West's sweaty family", or "Soccer terracing seem to symbolise a new clean-shaven but chip-greasy new decadence".
You can count the substantial ideas here on the fingers of a Kit-Kat. And while Fall completists might appreciate even that, it's disturbingly reminiscent of one of those loonies that send tapes of themselves reading poetry and singing Shakin' Stevens songs to major record labels. So there we have it then. Mark E Smith - will work for food.
Johnny Cigarettesy Cigarettes
Subject: <fallnet> Mojo article - How to buy The Fall D
>From this month's Mojo, thanks to anon...
HOW TO BUY...The Fall
Ever since they first shambled out of Manchester In 1977, The Fall have delivered a seemingly endless broadside of chaotic, lo-fi art-rock, oscillating between the utterly brilliant and the worryingly unhinged. But while Mark E. Smith, curmudgeonly cove that he is, has been busy giving the word 'prolific' a new twist (20-odd studio albums in as many years, his band's back catalogue has been growing ever more Byzantine in complexity.
Smith's decision in the mid-'90s to disseminate all manner of outtakes, reworkings and live gear hasn't helped. The resulting squall of unsourced, and often quite shoddy, compilations has wrong-footed diehards and casual purchasers alike; and it's hard to believe that some of the tracks are The Fall at all. Add the fact that, down the years, early recordings for imprints like Step Forward and Rough Trade have passed through several hands, and the words 'oh' and 'bugger' spring to mind.
Last year, things looked up briefly when Smith's own company, Cog Sinister, embarked on a comprehensive reissue programme, beginning with all the material now reverted to the artist, but rumours abound that Cog has folded and is now being run by the Inland Revenue. Perfect inspiration for a Fall lyric, you might think ("Civil servant leeching on unsuspecting singer-ah!"), but it doesn't bode well for the future.
So where does one start?
Fortunately, the group's best-known era - their mid-'80s tenure at Beggars Banquet - is also the most straightforward to get a handle on. Two compilations, A Sides (GBP 9.99) and B Sides (a 31-track double; GBP 14.99), round up classic singles fare such as Hey? Luciano, Hit The North and Dead Beat Descendant, as well as the chart-raiding '60s covers Mr Pharmacist, Victoria and Ghost In My House.
The relative stability of this period is reflected in the intelligently expanded reissues of The Wonderful And Frightening World Of..., This Nation's Saving Grace, Bend Sinister, The Frenz Experiment, I Am Kurious Oranj and the half-concert, half-studio Seminal Live (all GBP 9.99). With their inimitable m61ange of rockabilly, Krautrock and mangled language, all but the very last can be unreservedly recommended though Grace is universally agreed to be the most consistently enthralling of the bunch.
Also on Beggars is Hip Priests & The Kamerads (GBP 9.99), a collection of stray studio material from 1981/82 for the defunct Kamera label, beefed up with Hex Enduction Hour tracks and live recordings including the excellent Mere Pseud Mag Ed - a perfect introduction to Smith's fractured and amusing psyche.
For those believing earlier is better, The Fall's legendary debut, Live At The Witch Trials, issued by Miles Copeland's 'punk' label Step Forward in 1979, is currently available via Cog Sinister (GBP 13.99); strangely, though, its follow-up from the same year, Dragnet, is absent ram the racks, robbing fans of some must-haves.
Between 1980 and 1984, The Fall enjoyed an unprecedented period of creativity, resulting in a pile of great product now owned by Castle. Studio stuff ranges from the row grind of Grotesque to the coming-of-age Perverted By Language (both GBP 9.99). The latter release, incidentally, is the only Fall album ever to be properly remixed for CD, Smith always having been unhappy with the original mix. As to the remaining early '80s gear, Room To Live comes with a 1,000-only bonus CD EP of live material - recorded in 1982 - as does the thoroughly enjoyable compilation, Palace Of Swords Reversed (both Cog Sinister, GBP 14.99). Meanwhile, Slates/A Part Of America Within (Castle, GBP 9.99) couples a robust mini-LP with live tracks.
In-concert material from the pre-Beggars period is notoriously ropey, so beware. Only turn to Totale's Turns (Castle, GBP 10.99) in an absolute emergency, and approach The Legendary Chaos Tapes (formerly Live At The Acklam Hall; Cog Sinister, GBP 13.49) with extreme caution. Two from Down Under, the 2-CD Melbourne Live To Air: Australia '82 and In A Hole: Live In New Zealand (both Cog Sinister, GBP 14.99) are far superior, though the latter was mastered off a vinyl copy and skips.., aaargh!
Smith's attempts in the '90s at creating a decent live album haven't been much better. In The City (Artful, GBP 13.99), Radio One In Concert (Windsong, GBP 9.99), the 2-CD Twenty-Seven Point Chaos (Cog Sinister, GBP 14.50) and 15 Ways To Leave Your Man (Receiver, GBP 9.99) are at some paints as dreary as a wet Wednesday in Prestwich.
Much-maligned, The Fall's early '90s work still contains the odd flash or two of genius among the lazy, metronomic filler. Extricate, Shift-Work and Code: Selfish (all Fontana, GBP 9.99) are well worth a spin, as are Middle Class Revolt and Cerebral Caustic (both Permanent, GBP 16.99). The excellent The Infotoinment Scan isn't available.
The merits of the band's latest outings, The Light User Syndrome (Jet, GBP 12.99) and Levitate (Artful, GBP 16.99), have been obscured by a batch of shoddy compilations, mostly cannabalised from the cynical live and vault-clearing exercises that were Sinister Waltz, Fiend With A Violin and Oswald Defence Lawyer (all Receiver, GBP 9.99; a box set, The Other Side Of, collects them together, GBP 27.99). Italiano and White Lines, on Oxymoran (Receiver, GBP 9.99), don't appear to be The Fall at all.
Northern Altitude (MCI, GBP 6.99), The Archive Series, Cheetham Hill (Receiver, GBP 6.99) and the 2-CD Less You Look... (Snapper, GBP 12.99) all try to salvage something credible from this veritable curate's egg. Smile It's The Best Of... (Castle, GBP 9.99) benefits from adding early Witch Trials era material. Apparently, a new Peel Sessions set is in the pipeline, superseding the original 1987 EP that's no longer on catalogue. Just how many CDs can that 'F' section hold?
For Beginners: A Sides and B Sides (Beggars Banquet, GBP 9.99 and GBP 14.99). It doesn't get better than this. Try Palace Of Swords Reversed (Cog Sinister, GBP 14.99) if you want an earlier snapshot.
For Connoisseurs: This Nation's Saving Grace (Beggars Banquet, GBP 9.99) Excellent album deserving a place on everyone's shelf.
Avoid: Fiend With A Violin (Receiver, GBP 9.99) The title sounds great, but a viper's nest of unsourced horrors lies within. Nasty CD-ah?
From "Something Beginning with O" by Kevin Pearce (Heavenly, 1995?) p 19-20. Thanks to anon. Also a couple of pics I don't remember seeing before.
"You know it wasn't worth being alive in '75
You know I didn't get too many kicks in '76
But '77 has changed all that, for me, for you
And you can say what you wanna say
And do what you wanna do
Can't wait for '78, you know
I can't wait to see what gives
You know I can't wait for '78
To see who dies, to see who lives"
The Wasps, Can't Wait For '78
"A lot of people reckon its good that the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols and the Gen X and all that lot - I love those bands - I'm not putting them down -everybody thinks that it's great that they are on TV, but it's not is it, 'cos what yo~'re getting is diluted - diluted shit. Everyone's so pleased - oh finally we've got punk on TV, oh we've won. No way have you won brother. No way have you won sister." Alternative TV, Alternatives
BY 1978 by and large Punk Rock had grown unimportant, predictable, flat. Most of the momentum and meaning was gone. The new wave groups were doing things even the old groups thought twice about doing. The Clash were caught shooting pigeons not politicians. Nothing had really changed. Punk's promise was unfulfilled.
The Fall: "Your repetition will never be accepted."
As a rule Punk Rock was a stagnant pool, but there were exceptions. Scattered groups or individuals refused to be sucked under. They went their own way, did their own thing. New groups like The Fall, and The Pop Group said think for yourself, do it yourself, recreate your own self, be your own person. They were more open-minded than the usual groups. They learnt from what was around. They were not musicians.
The Fall became an institution like any other, but in the late '70s The Fall went against all ideas of what a rock'n'roll group should act like, look like and sound like. The Fall were r'n'r, nobody else was.
The Fall looked like people on a bus going to work at six in the morning. Completely natural, no artifice, no angle. It was a brilliant image, totally outrageous. The Fall sounded like back-to-basics rockers: a big crashing beat, scratchy guitars, cheap keyboards wheezing away. It was only natural that they turned to rockabilly, the purest r'n'r form, the most basic.
The star of the show was Mark E Smith, the righteous ranting r'n'r rapper-ah. He was a one-off show-off, a steak and kidney Bo Diddley, Manchester's master of the inventive invective. He was the salt of th.e earth, scourge of the safe, born standing up and talking back, back to the audience, audience baiting, jibe talking.
"This new wave thing it makes me laugh. I'm astounded when people say that the new wave didn't change anything. What do you expect it to change? If you want to change things you've got to set up your own separate systems. Bands can't understand it, they're coming along now and saying:'lt's still the same, it's still the same, then some guy comes along with fifty grand, and they're saying :'Great, it's still the same. '" Mark E Smith, Zigzag June 1980.
The Fall: "I still believe in the r'n'r dream - r'n'r as primal scream."
For some the early Fall were too difficult, no fun. The shock of the new distorts the view. In the late '70s only Sister Sledge released more immediate danceable pop records than The Fall of It's The New Thing and Rowche Rumble. The '79 set Dragnet remains one of the great pop LPs. It is all instinct and feeling. Pure stripped-down Fall. No frills er fripperies, trickery or technique, effects or affectation. It is strange, stroppy, poppy, easy listening for the uneasy.
In the '80s The Fall had it too easy. The adoring fans accepted anything. There was no more challenge and no more threat. To their credit, The Fall constantly changed. Part players perpetually passed through. The Fall still had their moments. Records like Totally Wired, Fantastic Life, Slates and Hit The North remain as vital as an '80s underground sounds.
The Fall were at their best when doing the unexpected: suddenly becoming glamorous, putting on a play, starting a fan club, recording '60s covers, participating in ballet. The interviews were best of all: the thoughts of Chairman Mark E, man of the people, still his own man.
Offshoots of the original Fall carried the thing further. They all had the Fall hallmark sour, dour delivery, gnarled guitars, keyed up keyboards. They all were as anonymous, argumentative and articulate.
Bass player Tony Friel's Passage put out a couple of great EPs in the late '70s on Object Music. Friel's Taking My Time is one of the great lost pop classics: "There's no use in catchphrases when you have no saving graces".
Martin Bramah and Una Baines went on to be Blue Orchids, one of the great '80s underground groups. Work was their finest moment, with dramatic clanging guitar and Bramah gnashing and wailing: "We'll be the salmon swimming against the tide, swimming against the tide of life ... You're feeling hungry, deep down you know what for." Blue Orchids could be choleric, melancholic, cynical and wistful. They lost out only because they were not pretty.
The Pop Group were pretty and they had the best name ever for a pop group. They were the pop group, not a pop group. They were pop, nobody else was.
It is significant that in the '60s Beefheart was brought to Britain by arch mod Pete Meaden, not by one of the underground art aristocracy. So it is significant that in the '70s The Pop Group were strongly motivated and self-educated, not university bred dilettantes indulging in wilful way-out-thereness.
The Pop Group had an immediate impact in 1978. They looked so striking. Strange sharp serious soul boys. Black souls in white suits. The Pop Group's Peel session in the summer of '78 was startling. Someone was striving to free pop, play freeform pop, something different and uninhibited. Punk was supposed to be like this, breaking rules, questioning conceptions.
The Pop Group said that they were the beatniks of tomorrow in control of their own destiny. They gave their all, nobody's fools. The Pop Group were all about pure forms and spontaneity. Separate primary elements were all assimilated: hard bop, dub reggae, P-Funk John Cage, James Brown, Last Poets, Beefheart, Gil Evans, Gil Scott Heron, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits. All that at a time when most groups were playing straight speeded-up r'n'b.
Subject: <fallnet> I can't hardly stand it...
Here's something for all of you debating about the -er -ah -uhs. Thanks to anon. -----------
From "One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock" by Dave Laing (OUP, 1985)
Recordings can be thought of as spaces in which the various sounds are placed in relation to each other. Conventionally, a recording will foreground one particular element, the others arranged behind or around it as supports. Typically in popular music recordings what is foregrounded is the voice. This point can perhaps be supported negatively in that, . the listener, notices (often with a sense of frustration) when the voice disappears into what significantly is called the 'backing'. The frustration comes from a problem of comprehension (not being able to decipher the words) but also from the withdrawal of the opportunity of identification with "the voice which typically, if not in every case, provides the level of the song which engages our desire most directly."l
The amplified voice can be seen to provide a comparable object for identification to that of the screen image of the film hero or heroine. In addition, the musicality of the process is crucial to this sense of perfection and coherence: singing can make a voice extraordinary in a way that everyday speech cannot (though heightened, dramatic speech can -- an important point for punk).
Punk voices, to start with, seem to want to refuse the perfection of the 'amplified voice'. In many instances the homogeneity of the singing voice is replaced by a mixture of speech, recitative, chanting or wordless cries and mutterings. Popular music has a small tradition of the monologue, spoken words set against a musical background. It divides, into. the comic, and the portentous, although in most cases (Les Crane's Desiderata or Wink Martindale's 'Deck Of Cards') the latter can easily collapse into the former. Philip Tagg has pointed out that recitatives (used here as a generic term for vocalizations that are between ordinary speech and singing) are among those forms 'where the verbal narrative seems often to be more important than the musical discourse'.2 This would certainly seem to be the case with many punk records which employ recitative with serious intent, though with very different voices from the lugubrious Crane and Martindale. Virtually all the Sex Pistols tracks (with Rotten on lead vocal) and those of Mark Perry's Alternative TV are examples. The implicit logic would seem to involve the conviction that by excluding the musicality of singing, the possible contamination of the lyric message by the aesthetic pleasures offered by melody, harmony, pitch and so on, is avoided. Also avoided is any association with the prettiness of the mainstream song, in its forms as well as its contents: as has already been shown, punk has few love songs.
Yet, any hope for the pure message, vocals as reflector of meaning, is doomed. Deprived of the conventional beauties of singing as a place for identification, for distraction, the listener may shift to some other aspect of the voice. What is at stake,here is that element which Roland Barthes variously calls the 'third meaning' or the 'geno-song'. The latter is contrasted with the 'pheno-song' which 'describes everything in the performance which is in the service of communication, representation, expression . . .'. The geno-song, by contrast is the volume of the singing and speaking voice, the space where significations germinate from within language and in its very materiality .... It is that apex (or depth) of production where the melody really works at the language--not at what it says, but the voluptuousness of its sound-signifiers, of its letters.3
This is not a distinction between form and content or signifier and signified,4 with special emphasis being given to form. Barthes is concerned only with the role of singing-forms are they subordinated to the message or content, there to underline it (as is the case in most of the Stranglers' work), or are there places where elements of form 'exceed' the message, providing a different focus for the listener? Johnny Rotten's vocal style offers some examples. In 'God Save The Queen', the word 'moron' comes out as 'mo-rrrr-on-er', with an exaggerated rolled 'r' in the middle and the addition of the extra 'er' syllable at the end. As pheno-song, two readings are possible. This presentation of the word both gives added emphasis within the narrative to the description of the Queen as a 'moron', and also connotes a relish on the part of the singer in making the comparison. So the sound 'in the service of representation' informs the listener of the most important part of the lyric message and provides information about the 'character' of the singer (and in doing so links up with the extra-musical discourse on the Sex Pistols, Bill Grundy, etc).
But, as with the famous visual 'illusions' such as the 'duck/rabbit', by refocusing, the listener can hear Rotten's 'moron' as geno-song, as pleasure in the 'voluptuousness of... sound-signifiers'. For there is a sense in which the emphasis on the word is gratuitous within the lyric of 'God Save The Queen'. In the next line, for instance, the word 'H-Bomb', which semantically carries greater impact in general discourse, receives no such special emphasis. Additionally, the specific forms of emphasis have connotations in the popular music field which are very distant from the punk protest of ' 's lyric. The rolled 'r' is a feature of 'Tartanry' singing, the heavily Scottish style associated with Harry Lauder and Andy Stewart (in the latter's 'Scottish Soldier' for instance). The 'er' effect is part of an equally archaic singing style which Richard Hoggart, writing in 1957, called the 'big dipper':
Each emotional phrase is pulled out and stretched; it is the verbal equivalent of rock-making, where the sweet and sticky mass is pulled to surprising lengths and pounded .... The most immediately recognisable characteristic is the "er" extension to emotionally important work, which I take to be the result partly of the need to draw every ounce of sentiment from the swing of the rhythm, and partly of the wish to underline the pattern of emotional statement. S Physiologically, the 'er' embellishment coincides with the places where the singer needs to draw breath. The 'expert' singer will inhale inaudibly, while the less professional may utter a gulp or gasp, coming out as an 'er'. But, as Hoggart's last phrase indicates, this effect is part of the pheno-song in the 'big dipper' style, it 'underlines the pattern of the emotional statement'. Johnny Rotten's use of the effect in a context far removed from the sentimentality of the 'big dipper' can be heard as either shifting it into the area of geno-song, so it no longer functions expressively, or as overturning the connotations which the effect has within the big dipper's pheno-song, as satirizing or ridiculing them.
This satirical effect is then the third possible interpretation of the 'er' at the level of pheno-song, while geno-song offers two possible ways of understanding the effect: the overstated intake of breath or a play with the potential of a consonant when the final syllable of 'moron' can be heard as an attempt to stretch out the 'n' sound. It is thus possible (if difficult) to find pleasure in this celebrated punk rock song without the necessity of agreeing with its message. This is something which is conventionally the case with mainstream popular song the listener can take pleasure from a vocal representation of suffering without sharing the emotion. But it is clearly an outcome that 'protest' type songs would try to exclude. If someone who rejects the message can still like the song, a gap has opened which was unintended.
Sietse came across an old interview in Lime Lizard (around the time of Shiftwork), which ends thus:
One last question, a stupid one. What's the best song ever written?
"Best song? Good question. I can't answer it, can't think straight..."
Oh, go on.
"I Walk The Line, Johnny Cash."
From a tape of Woolwich Coronet (8 Nov 86) in the intro tape, after Zulu, comes:
"People of Slouuuuuuuugh", followed by what sounds suspiciously like the banging of beer trays. Only one PoS unfortunately.
And to think I didn't believe the story
980831 Inertia tour details
980825 various snippets
980817 Observer interview, Manchester and LA2 gig reports
980811 Melody Maker interview, Live Various Years details, previews. Rick.
980802 Spoken word LP press release, Northern Attitude key & sleevenotes, Edwyn Collins, TBLY #12 details
980727 FallNet address change
980719 Spoken word LP and band details (from NME), Disney's Dream Details
980713 MES & Elvis, several lyric/literary refs, a few reviews of the rereleases
980706 Some Grotesque/PBL details, Twilight Zone stuff
980620 MES communication, MES font, Falling Through Time, Grotesque/PBL rerelease details, Northern Attitude ripoff, British Grenadiers
980614 Fall cover version details, US tour provisional dates, BEF
980607 not much...
980531 The Fall as a can of beans with a dead mouse inside, Lovecraft, Bracewell
980525 Lay of the Land, old fan club stuff
980517 Alchemy, chiliasm, Michael Bracewell spouting bollocks
980510 Another NME report
980504 Dingwalls and Reading reviews; Guardian, NME articles; pointers to Fall pics and PSF's Fall tribute
980426 German Levitate review, Dee Pop's tour diary
980419 NME online report, Lathe of Heaven
980414 Wire Levitate review
980410 More Philly reviews, Black Cat DC, NY Brownies reviews. Loads of stuff on the Thule group. Select interview from January
980405 CIH, Loop Lounge, Middle East Boston, Plilly Troc reviews. Various press reports.
980331 Details of Live in Melbourne 82 CD, Smith on Smith spoken word CD, Nine Unknown Men, initial Coney Island High reports
980329 bollocks Smile comp details
980322 Vox interview, other stuff
980315 TBLY/Info service details
980308 Peel session details; US tour dates
980227 a few bits & pieces, RTL, PoSR out
980222 NME interview
980215 Destroy punk covers exhibition, Masquerade single details
980207 Brats award transcript
980130 Bits on NME Award, POSR/RTL reissue details
980125 Shanley i/view
980118 Time Out interview w/pics, Melody Maker review, Oh Brother press release, Oxford review
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
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