TJR presents… Top 10: The Fall

TJR presents… Top 10: The Fall

– In celebration of a group quite like no other, and a law unto themselves - the mighty Fall!
  • Runtime: 54m.
  • Compiled from 1,183 collection entries @ 04-Oct-2019.
  • Fantasy Album Rating: 10.0 “Utterly perfect”
  • To access shuffle-play or avoid in-play interruption due to territorially blocked videos, it might be best playing directly via YouTube external-link.png

Blindness [peel session] by The Fall (2004)
(Mark E. Smith, Spencer Birtwistle)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Post-Punk
TJR saysRecorded on 4th August 2004 and first broadcast 8 days later on the 12th. With The Fall there was permanently a feeling of excitement that the next track might be their best yet - and that feeling was justified when “Blindness” was unleashed. The track rumbled out of the radio like a champion horse off the mark. Witness the fitness of The Fall at their thundering and mesmerizing best, yes, ripping off Roots Manuva, but propelling his 2001 tune into murkier and duskier realms, inhabited by a savage, seething beast of rhythm and a fevered madman sing-shouting bewildering exclamations on multiple storylines which somehow manage to link the blind (then) home secretary David Blunkett (“blind man, have mercy on me!”), state control (“Said poster with a picture: "Do you work?") and masonic rituals (“I was on one leg”)! Right there, we were in the weird, wonderful and frightening 26-year-old world of The Fall. Just 10 weeks after this recording, John Peel was dead; this session marked the end of an era. “Blindness” burned fiercer than anything which had went before; that there was no fade away on the Fall's Peel sessions is tantamount to the working ethics of Planet Earth's greatest-ever DJ and the World's finest-ever rock group. I will defend this statement until my dying day! “Well this has been just magnificent I think, and thanks Mark and the rest of you for making an old man very happy.” ~ John Peel, 12th August, 2004

Tempo House [live hacienda ’83] by The Fall (1983)
(Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Moodcore
TJR saysFrom “Perverted By Language” (December, 1983). I usually detest live music on record; a bit of a rip-off I see it as being. Live is live, studio is studio, and never the twain should meet. However, “Tempo House”, recorded at the Hacienda in mid-83, was only ever released this way, so fair play to them, this softens my stance. “And the Dutch are weeping in four languages at least” makes me laugh every time. And what about “Winston Churchill had a s-peech im-p-p-p-pediment and look what HE did - erased half of London.” He was always very encouraging was Mark. For me, no single piece captures the essence of the Fall quite like this one; two imaginative but non-showy drummers, a neutered guitarist re-assigned as casual backing vocalist, a demented bassist working his fingers to the bone, and a frontman on the prowl to torment engineers with his abuse of keyboards, amplifiers and microphones. The very concept is just so thoroughly extra-ordinary and well-executed, quite aside from being lyrically brilliant. Magnificent.

Stephen Song by The Fall (1984)
(Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Post-Punk
TJR saysFrom “The Wonderful and Frightening World Of…” (October, 1984). Glorious and melodious, my first Fall album got me deeply hooked. On the original LP “Stephen Song” - about 'competitiveness, people getting at you, imitating you and your habits' - was from the 'wonderful' side and featured the invited contribution of Virgin Prunes vocalist Gavin Friday who recalled: “all recording was ‘live’ takes with the band, recorded over two nights I think. It all took place in London as far as I can remember. John Leckie was producing and was surreally dressed all in Pope’s purple. The live takes were so fucking loud my ears bled for days.” John Leckie: “Mark would have a can of Special Brew, vodka, and a line of speed going at eleven in the morning, just to start the day.” Mark's remit to his friend was to sing “in that Irish Johnny Lydon fucked up Bowie way.” Sounds to me like the message was understood. Friday's contributions divided opinion but, personally, I think it's the greatest co-vocalist partnership Smith's ever had, so very distinctive and completely in-tune with Smith's anti-song modus operandi.

Black Monk Theme, part 1 by The Fall (1990)
(Gary Burger, Larry Clark, Dave Day, Roger Johnston, Eddie Shaw)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Proto-Punk
TJR saysFrom “Extricate” (March, 1990). Originally done as “I Hate You” by the Monks in 1966. Mark adds his own lyrical twists, taking pot shots at his-ex; his acidic sentiment and Kenny Brady's evil violin are a marriage made in hell. Not only a superb cover version, but a great signpost to what was, in 1990, very much a buried treasure. I went on a four year quest to track down Monks’ “Black Monk Time” as a result of this, eventually getting it on import from Germany. It wasn't so easy back then you know.

The Container Drivers by The Fall (1980)
(Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
TJR saysFrom “Grotesque (After The Gramme)” (November, 1980). There was one change to the starting line-up, with a 16-year-old Paul Hanley (bassist Steve’s younger brother) replacing Mike Leigh on drums. If this was a deliberate policy, then it worked well, and this rough-and-ready offering – loose-caboose Post-Punk-Rock-a-Billy with kazoo accompaniment and a frontman ranting ten-to-the-dozen – was a winner all the way. Our main man liked a bit of rockabilly, and owned at least one album of truck driving hits. With hindsight, a merger of the two was inevitable! When “The Container Drivers” blasts in at the end of side one, the excitement factor is sky-high; they're playing like a group possessed, and the energy assault doesn’t let up for a second. I dunno what his beef his, but MES doesn’t seem too enamoured with HGV Harry: “Bad indigestion, bad bowel retention, speed for their wages, sun tan, torn short sleeves”. Of course, having served time as a docker’s clerk, it could well be he's settling an old score with big-gut Eric, the stretchy co-op jeans-wearing guy from Rochdale, but that would be idle gossip. One thing’s for certain - he enjoys a good sneer and it’s very funny. Big Eric’s not best-pleased mind.

Kurious Oranj by The Fall (1988)
(Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Simon Wolstencroft)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Reggae
TJR saysFrom “I Am Kurious Oranj” (October, 1988). This is what you get when you cross I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967) and I Am Curious (Blue) (1968). Well, it is in Mark E Smith's head anyway. The green brigade would not have been unhappy with this, however. The singer alludes to King William's marauding orangemen of the late 17th century being positively deranged, that they rode over peasants like you, and that their influence is still felt strongly in Europe today; your Belfastian and Glaswegian can attest to this. Jah Hanley and the group whipped up a reggae sauce splendidly, giving it more than enough to put a spring in the step of Michael Clark's ballet dancers, whilst MES’ multi-tracked vocals are a joy unto themselves, one of his greatest performances. The volume boost at 5:40 is typical of his relentless push for the unorthodox.

Dr Bucks’ Letter by The Fall (2000)
(Mark E. Smith, Julia Nagle, Tom Head, Neville Wilding, Adam Helal)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Dubbeat
TJR saysFrom “The Unutterable” (November, 2000). With a beautiful grasp of the English language, MES proffers a rare public remorsefulness over a broken friendship: “Hoping one day a door will be ajar, At least so we can recompense, Our betrayal of our hard won friendship, In vulgar and arrogant abeyance, To what was untrue underneath our parlance.” Hilariously, he loses himself in a magazine article in which DJ Pete Tong lists his ever-present out-of-the-house essentials, including the hard-earned 'Amex card' which is rarely accepted in-store! “I was in the realm of the essence of Tong” smirks Mark. The musical bed is mesmeric, and Adam Helal takes much of the credit for programming such a dark and tribal rhythm, almost illuminating the way for the group leader's gutteral rumble. This growling masterpiece readies The Fall for the 21st century in rude health.

Eat Y’self Fitter by The Fall (1983)
(Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Trance Rock
TJR saysFrom “Perverted By Language” (December, 1983). 'Why not eat yourself fitter with Kellog's All-Bran?' ran the advert, germinating a seed which would blossom into this hellish, grotesque and disfigured song, putting up a stern resistance to hype machines of every shape and form. The creatitive spark of the group reached a new high on this LP which, again, was quite unlike anything else made by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Which, in itself, was becoming the norm for The Fall at this stage. John Peel famously quoted that he “nearly fainted” when he first heard “Eat Y’self Fitter” and that initial impact stayed with him, as he selected the piece as one of his 'Desert Island Discs' in 1990.

Clear Off! by The Fall (1984)
(Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Trance Rock
TJR saysFrom “Call For Escape Route” EP (October, 1984). Those buying the cassette version of the “Wonderful and Frightening” album got the better deal with 7 extra tracks, including this 'un. This is the track which hit me like a bolt, invoking the realisation that me and The Fall were going to have a life-long love affair. Paul Hanley on piano, for those who like their Kraut Rock stately. Friendly visitor Gavin Friday on co-vocals.

Bill Is Dead by The Fall (1990)
(Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Moodcore
TJR saysFrom “Extricate” (March, 1990). Most un-Fall like melancholia, burying a sadness, seeking solace in sex and drugs. This came on the back of a divorce and the loss of his father: ‘I distinctly remember this time last year I felt totally shit, you know. Shit really shit. Probably the worst ever.’ ~ MES, March 1990. A wave of emotion engulfed Fall fans as they swept the song to #1 in the Festive 50. A timeless masterpiece.

TJR presents… Top 10: The Fall (via Spotify)

  • Runtime: 53m.
  • To access shuffle-play or overcome other issues with the embed application, it might be best playing directly via Spotify external-link.png

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