... Issue 1
The Biggest Library Yet 14
Published: January 1999, 44pp, A5, glossy cover SOLD OUT
Where are they now?
Tim Wesley talks to occasional Fall drummer
(featured on their first ever Peel session)... Steve Davis Session One Session Two Session Three Session Four Session Five Session Six Session Seven Session Eight Session Nine Session Ten Session Eleven Session Twelve Session Thirteen Session Fourteen Session Fifteen Session Sixteen Session Seventeen Session Eighteen Session Nineteen Session Twenty Session Twenty One Session Twenty Two
T: .What instruments did you play when you were in The Fall, Steve?
SD: I played the conga drums and the drum kit, once! On a Dutch tour, I played 11 gigs in 14 nights, but I don't think I really considered myself a member of The Fall. I was more of a friend of the band really. Going back to the early days, I was a friend of Kay Carroll & her ex-boyfriend, they both worked at Prestwich Hospital, in the psychic ward. There were a lot of psychic nurses in Prestwich. Then Kay met Mark, and things sort of went from there. Mark was into music, and I got to hear about his band.
Of course I was a little bit older - I was in my mid to late 20s - I'm 47 now. I don't know whether Kay was the manager or not around that time, it is all a little vague now.
I'd been into Led Zeppelin and all that, but suddenly there was this whole kind of scene. My music placement took this massive leap. My tastes had gone from high screeching guitar sounds, but I was always interested in drums, after hearing Little Feat I got the urge to go out and buy a set of congas.
I remember the conga player in Little Feat, Sam Clayton, and he was playing them in a different way to how I'd heard them played before. I also listened to Santana and Miles Davis.
It was so refreshing to see the punk thing came along, all the energy. The Fall were definitely a part of that, yet they weren't punk, they were somehow kind of more intelligent or something, they just had something more...
TW: Something different that a lot of people connect with. It's that differentness, you can't put your finger on it. Sometimes, you don't want to.
SD: Maybe you would want to, that is what putting these things under the microscope is all about. I could see Mark was very deep, and very talented. I was more embarrassed, because even though I'd played in a band, I never really considered myself as a musician, I was just getting up and doing it. And they (The Fall) came to see my band playing at The Band On The Wall, they did one of their earliest gigs, maybe even their first there. They seemed to really value my opinion, I was a little bit older and I thought they were really, really excellent.
TW: What year was this?
SD: That would've been 1977. And then I don't really remember ever playing with them in a official context, I don't really think it that was until 1980. I'd followed their antics, and went to a lot of gigs. I was in another band at the time called Mushroom Tango, a Gong and Can cover band, and another band called Victor Draygo, a bunch of wannabe posers from Rossendale! We were all in relationships, married with kids even, trying to rekindle something through the punk stuff that had come along and wiped-out all that horrid soft rock option. 'All these long hairs were moaning "punk rock!"
TW: Saying how crap it was.
SD: Yeah! (Laughs) Musically I was still frustrated because in me was a dancer, The Fall were very good but even they didn't produce the right sort of moves for me really. I was more into the Santana, Miles Davis, jazz thing that was going on. The jazz funk fusion thing.
TW: Would you say that Michael Clark connected The Fall thing with dance?
SD: Oh yeah. But that came along a lot later. Like I say, I wasn't a Fall member but Mark asked me if I'd play drums on a Dutch tour because Paul Hanley was doing his exams at the time and they needed someone to stand in. I hadn't actually played a kit, but that didn't seen to bother them. I also had a 7-seater estate car that came in handy for transporting them around! I almost crashed the car within half an hour of setting out too.
I remember the Dutch were still trying to catch up with English culture, they were dressed up as punks and spitting - this was 1980. Our roadies were kicking them off the stage and having a go at them for spitting. They were just so out of fashion really. I ended up borrowing a kit and I basically demolished it because I had no technique at all, I Just hammered the shit out of it, the whole thing was just to keep a rhythm going. Some numbers I played the congas and others I played the kit. I didn't have any of the stops & starts, and I was having to listen to the music, watching Marc Riley and Steve Hanley to keep the timing going.
TW: That was a unique period, so it's quite good you were around at that time, not that I'm discounting anything that's gone on since. But everybody seems to refer to it as a golden time.
SD: Earlier than that I actually appeared on the first Peel session with The Fall. I probably would've liked to have become a member of the band. It was just the timing. I was a bit older, a married insurance man. I'd passed through a few things, I was into fitness in a big way, I used to go off and do Thai boxing exercises and jog, while all these kids were falling around drunk. I've kept in touch with The Fall at a distance. The last time that I saw them was at that Liverpool gig for Derek Hatton, with New Order and The Smiths. That was about 84 or 85.
TW: Have you heard them recently?
SD: Yeah I've heard tracks on the Peel show and such like, I've not actually been to see the band for a while, but I've thought about it just lately. I've actually tried to make contact with Mark recently but nothing was forthcoming. I've shoved little messages through his door.
In terms of percussion I feel that dance music has moved on, and it's now all Cuban and African type rhythms. I think at the time that I really would have liked to have crossed it with African music, which I was really getting into a lot, but technically I don't think I was good enough to inject that into the music. I was just going along with time. When I look back at that tine I was probably disappointed with myself musically but it's all a progression. You've got to go through those stages. I don't think I've started to learn professionally until the last ten years actually, but I feel people are picking up other rhythms of the world, and that is music is going.
TW: It's like Mark says; that most people who play instruments just play them one way, there's only so much you can do with it. People even say the guitar ended when Jimi Hendrix did it, and really that's nearly 30 years ago. Even keyboards, there's sampling and stuff, it's like you say, it has to move on.
SD: But when you listen to music, contemporary music, I hear The Fall all the time. They've had such an influence on the scene whether other people realise it or not. The only people who would probably ever realise it are actual Fall fans. That would apply even to people like the Verve and all that, the music, the bass-lines the whole lot. That's why I really take my hat off to Mark, I suppose. It wasn't the fact that everything went, it's just that the music was everything, it didn't really matter how you got there, Just get there. There were no sort of musical traditions in that sense, it was really just get up and have a go and if you can pack into it the attitude and dealing with yourself in that situation, and you can get through the drugs and drink and still produce music at the end of the day, that's what it's about. I think lifestyles are different nowadays.
I'm sure that fame drove people on back then, but it seems to me a lot of these things are put first and the other stuff matters less.
My life at that time was that I was trying to live a straight life, but I was drugged up to the eyeballs and trying to be something that I probably wasn't. You're walking around in a suit during the day, and at night you're doing gigs and being in bands.
TW: I don't think you were alone in that, it's like cabaret (in the old sense) used to be, where you'd do your shift at work and then go off and do your turn in the evening. Not like so-called cabaret nowadays. I see The Fall like that, I think that's why some people like the Fall, and even people who do not like The Fall accept them due to that lack of pretension. They can see something there that's real. This isn't some pop group with dry ice and flashing lights. It speaks to you. The lyrics communicate.
SD: To me, it's never been about the lyrics, it's the rhythm. Mark's voice is an instrument. I have a lot of respect for Mark, I saw when he was 18 he had the nous to know a Building Society manager was not the life for him, yet he could have been that, he was smart enough and had a Grammar School background, but he knew himself well enough to be able enough to walk away from that. Whereas I always struggled with two worlds, not confronting the world head on. I only ever subverted my happiness at that time. Mark had the balls to go out and get what he wanted. There's Just nobody else like him.
TW: And he's stayed with it too. There's one thin that annoys me as well, it's really strange that the NME gave his solo album 2 out of 10, and they really gave it a rollocking, like kicking him while he was down. I think they'd been wanting to do it for a while, he's been going for so long, and he had done so much other stuff that other bands could never do. Apart from Bowie perhaps. There are the obvious ones who keep going, but they don't keep using new sounds.
SD: I really think right now, that I could really offer the Fall something - I know Mark can be fairly gritty and unco-operative, but I think basically people project all their own shit on to his. When in fact, his shoulders are broad and he's thwarted quite a lot of shit over the years and not really taken time out for himself. But if you're out there Mark, you've got a friend out here.
TW: What are you doing now Steve, music-wise?
SD: Well, I'm running a Samba school in Chorley. Which is basically a voluntary group set up by me. Samba is a really dominant percussion form in Europe, and it's all about carnival and it's about getting out onto the streets, about anybody having a goods time at any time they choose. Just by picking up a spoon and fork if they want, and banging a rhythm out on it, but there is a whole kind of spirituality around Samba or any kind of percussion music, if you pick it up and get into it you find a kind of spirituality, because you trace the rhythms and they tend to back through Cuba, Brazil and the Latin American countries, and they go right back to Africa. The impact that African music has had on Western music and vice-versa, there's an whole impact of exchanges going on. Y'know, you get the boardroom level this horrible pipe music that is being squeezed out, all the drum rhythms are stripped down, you can't even hear them. It's like some kind of Hammond organ. Then you've got the other extreme, which is hardcore percussion, that's what I'm into, that's the stuff that I aspire to play. Using drums from Brazil or wherever.
That's where I'm at!
TW: When I first met you, we were doing a dance and theatre course at Salford University. Do you think the dance will help you to create this Samba and South American music as well?
SD: Yeah, well it's all about the dance, it's music for dance. I actually played in a band that was playing this stuff at a recent Verve concert in Wigan. We were entertaining the crowd before and after the concert, they danced to us, but they didn't dance to the Verve, they sang along to them, but they danced to our African rhythms. I couldn't get enough of it - whatever they got from the Verve they still had a lot of energy for us.
TW: Without sounding too 'muzo' it is like unlocking something. Those Verve fans couldn't understand it but it unlocked something, and they weren't scared of it.
SD: Yeah, they were open to it. A lot of people are closed to it. I suppose we still need idols, but for me it's about getting people into it, anybody can do it. It is about carnival now. And get back into some of this tradition.
TW: Any final Fall memories?
SD: Yes, playing at Finsbury Park Rainbow, prior to the Dutch tour. Mark took a lot of risks using a drummer like me, I'm not sure what Marc Riley and the rest of the band felt about it though, they were more musically paranoid. I don't listen to retro music but The Fall are an exception, Gong as well, they were years ahead of their time too.
Thanks to both Steve Davis and Tim Wesley for taking the time and trouble to provide us with this interview.
Taken from a 1981 article in German magazine SPEX
Translation back into English by Graham Chapman and Karen Fischer
Spex: A friend of mine called your music folk-punk.
Mark: That's a funny formula. I don't like folk music, I like Johnny Cash, I tell stories in music. Just like Johnny Cash does - in contrary to Joy Division who present gripping Iyrics. Reggae, for example is in some ways folk-music, folk realism.
S. Sometimes I find your music very serious, tiring, almost depressive, but sometimes it can also be humourous and funny as in statements like "The difference between you and us is that we have brains.'
Mark: Yes, many Germans seem to understand the funny aspect in our music better than some English in spite of the different language.
S: You started in Manchester about three years ago like for example Joy Division. What's the main thing about your music? Why haven't you become a cult band?
Mark: I am not dead - Joy Division were a good band just like Elvis Presley was good. They worked hard, but in the end they didn't know when they were at their best. The Fall have got lots of moments when they are at their best The things that count are the constant changes. That's exactly what we are doing. What makes a good band is having a good sound. We have got a good sound. We don't have a style. Our style is not having a style. Last might for example, we played mainly rock songs. Sometimes we play more funny songs. In Berlin we played rather ''heavy'', in other places we played rather "slow". We don't do the same every night.
S: That's true. I saw you in Münster as well and you played songs which were very different from those you played in Bonn last night. You don't have a sort of program like most bands do which they follow every might. During your shows one could get the impression that you play for yourself rather than for the audience. Often you turn your back on them. Some people might take that for arrogance, right?
Mark. If the people really believed that, they would leave.
S: No, they wouldn't because after all they have paid for It. In Germany you always stay until the end.
Mark: That's different in England. If there's something the people don't like, they leave. In Holland I thought that many people didn't really know what the whole thing was about. Obviously they usually just sit there and listen to almost everything. I like it in Belgium because the people were wandering around. And I like it here a lot as well. The audience in Germany is very receptive.
S: But everybody takes in your music in a different sort of way.
Mark: Yes, there were the punks in the first part They were jumping about and dancing. I like the other people too, because they quite liked our slower songs as well.
S: Why don't you like the Gang of Four?
Mark: Because their songs are about politics They preach the leftist ideas. They went to university and belong to the privileged class. The problem is that they pretend to know what the working class wants. But they haven't got a clue. Sham 69 however knew what they were talking about and they were good. The English working class (including myself) find the music of the Gang of Four offensive, insulting, hurtful. I listed to their first singles a lot in those days. Later on I saw them live, too and then you could tell they lacked the feeling when they got to the heart of the matter. I mean, how could they talk about problems and changes in the world when they play like that. Maybe I am being cynical but it's more important to be to be honest to myself. I don't like the music of the Gang of Four I prefer rock'n roll bands.
S: Which bands do you like?
Mark: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, der Plan, The Cramps, Dexy's Midnight Runners.
S: What do you like about Dexy's Midnight Runners?
Mark: I just like the way they do it. Just the way it goes. That's my motto "C'est la vie."
Clara, Wolfgang Hanka
The Peel Sessions CD (Strange Fruit SFRSCD048) has finally beeen released. Compiled by Steve Hanley, with photography and artwork by Tommy Crooks and liner notes by John Peel.
Mess of My
New Face In Hell
2 x 4
What You Need
Dead Beat Descendant
Black Monk Theme
Idiot Joy Showland
A Past Gone Mad
What follows is a complete listing of all tracks for all 22 Peel sessions 1978-98 (although it doesn't explain that A Past Gone Mad is from a Mark Goodier session). Some songs are listed using their working titles at the time.
Futures and Pasts
Like To Blow
Mess Of My
No Xmas For John Quays
Jawbone And The Air-Rifle
New Face In Hell
Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
Who Makes The Nazis?
Hexen Definitive Strife Knot
Eat Y'self Fitter
Pat Trip Dispenser
Two By Four
Words Of Expectation
Couldn't Get Ahead
Gut Of The Quantifier
Spoilt Victorian Child
The Man Whose Head Expanded
What You Need
Hot Aftershave Bop
Realm Of Dusk
Gross Chapel-British Grenadiers
Australians In Europe
Cab It Up
Black Monk Theme
(last song never broadcast)
War Against Intelligence
Idiot Joy Showland
A Lot Of Wind
Ladybird (Green Grass)
Behind The Counter
Jingle Bell Rock
Hark The Herald Angels Sing
Numb At The Lodge
The City Never Sleeps
Beatle Bones n Smokin Stones
Bound Soul One
This Perfect Day
Get a 10% discount off any order from Action Records (doesn't necessarily have to be Fall stuff. When you place your order, claim the 10% Fall website discount by writing a note in the "Special Instructions" box.
Go to: http://www.action-records.co.uk/
Session Twenty One
Session Twenty Two
BOOTLEGGERS: a guide to the best live tapes 78-83
Issue 1 of TBLY carried an article on Fall bootleg tapes, and here Ian Ewart delves deeper into the ever escalating tape trading scene, and reports on which tapes are worth tracking down for collectors...
Tapes of gigs never quite marry up with how they felt at the time. A fantastic performance often turns out cold on tape, and those that seemed like the end at the time, turn out to be thoroughly decent - even great - performances when played back in the cold light of day.
In this article I'll concentrate on the period 1978-83. That's not to say that The Fall haven't played a shitload of terrific gigs since then, but tapes for this era are of a uniquely magnificent quality.
Of the 1978 material circulating, a tape from Oldham Tower Club 21/8 is pretty much the best example of their Witch Trials era. Into 1979 - Dudley JB's 1/9, London YMCA 15/9 and Middlesbrough Rock Garden 4/11 all provide excellent variations on the Dragnet/ Totale's Turns phase, with pride of place going to LA Anti-Club 14/12 which is an utterly brilliant set, cited later by one M Riley as his fave Fall gig.
Though you'd hope that 1980 would have provided us with a rich set of high-quality recordings, there are many great shows sounding like they have been taped from within securely fastened duffel coats or from within the confines of packed toilet cubicles. My own personal highlight of 1980 is a gig played at Manchester Poly, 2/10 where MES indulges in majestic crowd baiting, even opening with the salvo 'Good evening, you know who we are. We're the most hated group in Britain." For novelty value, there is always the bongo drum gig from Eindhoven Effenar 13/6, but in truth there is little to touch the official 'Chaos Tape' release from Acklam Hall.
1981 provides a plethora of wonderful tapes, and pretty much all of the following are fantastic. An early trio - London Queen Mary's College 5/2, Glasgow Plaza 23/2 and Paisley 25/2, all different but equally listenable, feature prominently in the choices of fellow 'collectors' I discussed this subject with. Material from tours of America, Holland and Germany also proved very popular, particularly Hamburg 19/5, Bonn 25/5, Maxwell's Hoboken 4/6 (note this also circulates under the guise of Trenton City), New Orleans 23/6, Berkeley Keystone 17/7 and Rotterdam Exit Club 5/9 including an irresistible take of Hassle Schmuck. A tape of debatable origin, Session from Vera Gronigen 17/5, is the most common handle, contains the definitive version of Fantastic Life.
Sadly, unless anyone reading this knows otherwise, only one tape ever surfaced from Iceland, that being a gig from Austerbae Javara Reykjavik - August 81 is the most accurate date anyone can come up with for this one, but it's a worthy title to add to any collection. The year climaxes with Hex warm-ups circa October/ November on UK soil with some brilliant outings at Newcastle Hofbrauhaus 27/10, Plymouth Top Rank 1/11 and Leeds Bierkeller coming to the fore, the latter including a version of the finest proto I'm Into CB medley sadly never to grace the hit parade.
Into 1982, and there are some truly great versions of And This Day ,eg. Liverpool Warehouse 3/4. The tape from Manchester 666 club 15/5 tops the list of most collectors. It has prototype versions of material along with killer versions of Tempo House, Fantastic Life, and the most intense, frenzied version of New Puritan ever. Although the Live to Air CD (Melbourne Prince of Wales) and In a Hole albums, now also on CD are worthy documents of The Fall in Antipodal climes, it is also worth tracking down the Victoria Uni gig 19/8. There are also tapes doing the rounds from this year featuring Marc Riley relegated to keyboards, but in the main, though it's worth checking at least one of these out, mainly for curiosity value given odd but interesting renditions of songs, the majority of these are of a well below average sound quality.
So we end this issue's round-up of bootleg recordings in 1983, with a post-Riley stripped down Fall sound. Leeds Warehouse 16/1 kicks off the new year with a looming Words of Expectation, followed by some very good Dutch gig tapes i.e. Amsterdam Kombi 8/2 and Eindhoven Effenar 14/2. For the most part the set-list was similar throughout 1983, with Brix debuting live. An interesting insight to the band is provided via the soundcheck appearing at the start of a tape from Wakefield Hellfire Club 21/9, six nights later a perfectly good gig recording from Nottingham Rock City is ruined somewhat by what sounds like a drunken hen-party rabble offering unsuitable vocal embellishments to Eat Y'self Fitter, but a tape from Middlesbrough Madison 1/11 provides a fitting finale to the later stages of 1983.
Further insights into later periods of live recordings of The Pall, will be sent to TBLY in due course. This rough guide is not meant to offer readers with alternatives to officially released Fall product, it's just a personal viewpoint about other material that sometimes comes to light and can be used to compliment legitimate recordings. Though most of the tapes mentioned are a better bet than a lot of recent cash-in live releases and compilations.
FOOTNOTE: Please do not write to the TBLY asking where any of the material featured in this (and future) articles can be obtained. Check out carefully worded small ads in music magazines, dealers at record fairs and markets, or look out for people taping gigs! Swapping of tapes at gigs is commonplace too.
For a hugely detailed list of The Fall's live performances, check out Stefan Cooke's Gigography
The Fall - St Bernadette's Social Centre, Whitefield - 21 Oct 1998
In a hall designed for 60-somethings teetering on Saturday night heels, where a crucifix hangs ludicrously directly above the bar, half the patient inmates watch the TV with a degree of disbelief as Man. United play Brondby and every time someone goes to the loo there's another goal. The entire audience are wearing dodgy jackets, blue denims as the final urban revolution. Everyone's a refugee, a one-time rebel. The place half fills with aging rough boys, hair cropped short to match their growing bald spots. A few have brought their molls in overtight leather and prominent curvy bits. Then there's the kids, the unhip musos with ponytails, the quiet ones whose grannies love them and their girlfriends who might teach Sunday school and maybe they think it is a standard youth club night. But you never know.
And what are you going to say to a support band who will spend the rest of their lives saying "We supported The Fall" without, of course, it meaning anything at all. And at half past ten and the football's finished (it was 6-2) and everybody's done grumbling about the two Schmeichel let in, and the support band have fallen mercifully silent, and two girls have made the inadequate stage, in the centre of a long wallpapered wall, tidy. And the tiny PAs have been propped on beer crates on top of formica tables. And he's still not here... And we fear an 11 o'clock curfew. And at twenty to he's ushered in and slouches through to the back. Two minutes later two girls come out, followed by a bloke and they become a bassist, keyboard player and drummer, followed by the famously infamous Mark E. Smith, for whom the word shuffling was invented.
He yelps. And the universe quivers ever so gently. The band yank away, satisfyingly solid rock and periodically and apparently at random, Mark E. Smith yelps. It's a note that's his. God gave it to him and when he hits it something happens to the fabric of the universe. Every damn time he hits it. So he does it again. And again and again. And it never fails him. And by the time the band stop - because you can't really call it a song or say that it ends - things have been given a thorough shaking up. Sometimes, for a bit of a change, he holds up one hand and with baby size amazement inspects his fingernails. And once he scratched the side of his head and once he passed an inadequate hand over the back of his hair.
He crouches on the floor, tips his head through too many degrees, trying to read the drummer's set list. Then he's off again like a puppet and whatever he thinks he's doing seems inescapable. The only words I heard all night were a repeated "Are you proud?" and "Listen to me". He was singing something but it passed me by, too busy surviving the primordial sound of his voice. A voice so scary, so raw, so completely inhuman, so searingly human. And he paces to and fro. In his incredible fragility, this gaunt frame, hunched shoulders, the ET-like face. And once or twice when the music stops he manages to lift his face to the crowd and grin - a massive black toothless grin.
It's evident there is one song just as there is one note and it is played on and on while the assembled nod or jig or dance in their own private worlds. And at one point Mark E. Smith pulls a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and stares at it while he's singing, rubbing it through his fingers and finally managing to turn it the other way up. But, in fact, it is still folded in half as the song finishes and so little help as a lyric sheet.
There's every reason not to get it. Every reason to say they're doing nothing and it sounds awful. Yet and without understanding what is happening it remains shattering, terrifying, desperately sad. Beyond human, the distillation of human.
I saw The Fall for the first time. And I'm sorry you weren't there.