‘Still a world leader’ was John’s reverential comment on The Fall’s appearance in the 2000 Festive Fifty with three tracks, all from the album The Unutterable (a wonderful investment, if you want something to splash out your pocket money on). So, as part of my first birthday celebrations, those three monster big beats are here today, along with a handful of classics from the early part of the band’s career, in the days when tracks turned up on singles and not on albums and then went for ridiculous prices (I paid £5 for the first song featured here on Step Forward at a record fair).
You see, you gotta remember we are all a pure working class band, so I mean, we’re not used to a lot of money. A lot of bands fuck up because they’re given like 40 grand, so they put themselves on, like 300 dollars a week, and after a few months the record label can do what they want with them! (Laughs) Or you get independent bands who wanna be like big bands and make a lot of money…and they never make any money! I mean…we’re losing on this tour, but me and Kay kept the Fall running from the beginning of ‘78, you know…on just nothing, no money at all. We were turning down money from record companies, but I mean, like…me and Kay at first were living on like…$18 a week. We started being able to eat just shortly after Witch Trials was released…even though we haven’t gotten any royalties off that! (Laughs) I mean a lot of it is…we play a lot, you know? I hate the sort of snobbish attitude of the British underground scene where you get all these new bands saying, “oh yeah, we don’t really want to play a lot”. They think they’re being like the Fall, but the Fall didn’t play a lot because we couldn’t get any gigs! Simple as that. we’re like the Cars, we’ll play for anybody, you know what I mean? We never paid to play, though, that was our motto from the beginning. I’m surprised how many bands think it’s gonna be worth it to play with a big band, you know? And lose 200 pounds. [Mark E. Smith, 1980]
The band’s first entry to the chart (FF 1979 #40, 1980 #49) and a proud demonstration of their discordant early style. They take punk’s nihilism and twist it back into its 60s garage roots, while condemning drug companies for feeding on people’s addictions (Rowche is a reference to a pharmaceutical company with a similar name).
‘Notebooks out, plagiarists.’ Elastic Man (FF 1981 #33 and All-Time 2000 #24) nails the copyists and wannabes that have plagued MES throughout his career (to the extent that, when the LP Country On The Click was leaked to the Internet, he scrapped it and recorded it again, simply naming it The New Fall LP).
Jump forward two decades, and the band are still regularly churning out Peel sessions and albums at a rate of knots. The Unutterable is the only Fall album not released on LP, and the first since The Frenz Experiment not to feature a cover version. Mind you, with writing of this quality, who needs another artist to make up the numbers?
Dr. Buck’s Letter (FF 2000 #3), purportedly a tribute to the writer who loved to revel in the seamier side of life to research his novels, Charles Bukowski, tells us about the five things MES never leaves home without…but the tongue is firmly in his cheek, as he even laughs while outlining the role technology plays in his life.
Two Librans (FF 2000 #23) skewers the obsession with astrology that the pretentious upper class have and exposes its shallowness, all to a fine piece of driving rock.
Finally, W.B. (FF 2000 #43), like Jerusalem reinvented, is almost lazy and sunny in its cantering way, with swashes of keyboard underlining the casual ambience of not just the track but the whole album. It feels improvised, but there’s a lot of hard living behind it all.