The Fall – Rowche Rumble (1979)

Format: Single
When released: 30th July 1979
My age at the time: 9
Have I heard it before: Yes
What music did I like: whatever was on the radio

Ok. so here is a track I have heard before, both the original which I’ve heard on the radio and the Sonic Youth cover version which I’ve stumbled across on Youtube. Of course, most ‘normal’ bands would have released a single from the their album, but The Fall decided to release something new, some four months after their debut. I can imagine it is Smith moving on from the original line up into the newest incarnation.

And its great. I love Rowche Rumble, and love the way it repeats and circles around itself. The drums are more simplistic here, more primal, and the organ refrain so stutters in such a charming way. Plus the title is terrific. To me, this song is heads above anything on their debut, and had I been the right age I would have loved it at the time. I can see why Sonic Youth chose to cover it, as the energy of the music suits them perfectly.

Flip side In My Area is more of a step back to the debut, rather than a look forward, but is fine. Just not a patch on the lead song. So a great interval track between two albums, and had I been around at the time, I think I would have been into it.

The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials (1979)

Format: Album
When released: 16th March 1979
My age at the time: 8
Have I heard it before: No
What music did I like: whatever was on the radio

First, a confession. One that I’m sure will cause eyes to roll among fans of The Fall. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who saw the title, and thought it was a live album. I know so little about their history, only that their output was massive and that they released a huge number of live albums. And so like a chump, I always assumed that this was one of them.

But now I’ve been educated and here we are, with their first long player. This was released by Step Forward Records, a label founded by the brother of the drummer of the police, Miles Copeland. Their label mates were the likes of The Cortinas and Sham 69, bands that came out of the punk movement just as it was beginning to fizzle away. Recorded in a single day in late 1978, by the time the album had been released all original members had moved on, leaving Mark E Smith somewhat on his own from the starting line up. Thankfully Mark Riley is on board by now, with others soon to be recruited.

I must admit I didn’t really settle into this album until track three, Rebellious Jukebox, the first that actually sounds like a ‘song’ in the traditional sense. Here Smith even appears to sing, all be it in his own unique way. The whole album certainly showcases a band not short on ideas, and for an album recorded in one session Bob Sargeant does an incredible job at bringing things to life. Percussive sounds zing across the stereo spectrum, and in my opinion the key weapon of the early days of The Fall is Karl Burns, who brings so much life to the record. He must have been knackered by the end of the day, but fills the album with energy.

No Xmas for John Quays has the air of Uncle Peters band from Reeves and Mortimer. Maybe it’s the use of the word ‘donkey’ that makes me feel that way. I love the use of a cheap sounding organ on songs like Industrial Estate, and the groove of Two Steps Back is fabulous, sounding like Gang of Four a couple of years early. Closer Music Scene seems to bring together all the elements that make up this record, Smith bitter about the industry he finds himself a part of right from the get go.

It’s tough to be objective though about a 1979 album in 2023, when you know that this band is going to go on to release countless subsequent records. Had I been a teenager at the time, I’m not sure I would have bought into this enough to first buy the album, or anticipate any follow ups. But I can sort of see why people got so excited. And didn’t have to wait too long for album two.

The Fall – It’s The New Thing (1978)

Format: Single
When released: November 1978
My age at the time: 7
Have I heard it before: No
What music did I like: whatever was on the radio

In 1978 I was far more interested in buying Star Wars action toys and reading Whizzer and Chips to care much for music. I listened to whatever my dad had on in the car, which was invariably Gilbert O’Sullivan or ‘The Best of Bread’. I had an older brother who was just getting into music, but certainly not the new leather thing.

As a child, one thing that terrified me was the concept of punk. My childish brain saw them as an army, similar to the Vikings, who were swarming legion like across the country. I remember hearing of riots in Aylesbury once, a town 10 miles from my childhood home, and became sick with fear that it was only a matter of time before they were storming up my street.

So I would be delighted to hear that The Fall are not punk, but resolutely post punk. And this, their second single, is incredible. It is the sound of world-weary band who have seen it all, not the first rumblings of a group that would dominate the indie landscape for decades. I love everything about this song, from the out of time keyboard that kicks things off, to the incredible drum track.

Various Times is completely different to the flip side, but every bit as good. As with other early songs it is the drums that elevate the track, subtle when they need to be, as full of guts and power in their most bombastic moments. There is so much going on, from the chiming guitar and the music box keyboards in the background. Its incredible as well to think of Smith, as a 20 year old, having such a grasp of language and structure.

I wasn’t aware at the time – I was too busy cowering from punks – but interest in The Fall had already started. They had recorded for John Peel, and were ready to release their first album. On the strength of these singles, had I been a teen rather than a kid at the time, I think I would have been eager and ready for it. Would it let me down…

The Fall – Bingo-Master’s Break Out! (1978)

Format: Single
When released: 11 August 1978
My age at the time: 7
Have I heard it before: Partially
What music did I like: whatever was on the radio

So here it is, the debut. The one that started it all, the spark that lit the fire. Could anyone have predicted at the time that this release would pave the way for countless singles, albums, EP’s, opinions, debates, arguments and changed lives. Could any of the myriad of future band members have listened to this single and thought ‘I’m going to be in that band one day’. How many futures were shaped by this one release? And could you predict they would still be celebrated today.

Well yes, because this is tremendous. I was already familiar with Repetition, having heard it before, but the other two songs instantly grabbed me. I don’t think it would have done much for me back in 1978, in my velour jumper and cords, but the energy of these three songs is palpable. Lead track Pyscho Mafia starts perfectly, with a tumble of drums of guitars, and whilst Bingo-Master’s Break out! is not as immediate I love how it tip-toes at the start before launching into its discordant beat.

Its interesting to read that this is the only recorded release by the original line-up, the tapes sitting dormant for a year until support was available to bring it out. By then, two members had already left, the poker hand line up beginning as members leave, or are dropped, and are recruited. Repetition is the only one written by all five of the original band and it is fantastic, doing everything the title promises.

I love repetitive music. I’m not a musician, but I have a feeling it is every bit as difficult to play and get right as the most complicated guitar solo. And they nail it here, the repeated rift interesting enough to captivate throughout.

So here we go, off and running.

The Wonderful and Frightening Year of The Fall


I like to think I’m a music fan, but with one massive gap. I grew up in England consuming every record I could lay my hands on, but for some reason The Fall always passed me by.

Sure, I’d hear them on the radio, or occasionally see them on TV. Mark E Smith would pop up from time to time in the music papers, usually at Christmas, filled up with alcohol and asked to comment on the events of the year. I found him interesting as a character and liked a couple of their songs, but never enough to commit myself to trying their music.

Why was this? To me, there seemed something impenetrable about The Fall. This massive body of work which seems to exist as a genre all to itself, with a set of rabid fans who worshipped at the feet of their idol. I read that no-one simply ‘liked’ The Fall – that wasn’t possible. To love The Fall meant to forsake all other bands, that once you fell under their spell, any other recording seemed meaningless. You either didn’t get them, or they demanded your total commitment. I wasn’t sure if this was something I could sign up to. Did I really want to be that person. And what would it mean, as a fan of UK indie music, if I didn’t get it.

Here we are, in 2023, and their debut single will turn 45 years old. As for me, I will be 53, about the same time as the singles anniversary. So here is the plan. Over the course of 2023, I will endeavour to listen to the entire recorded output of The Fall. Every album, every single, every EP. As a near virgin, who’s had a quick snog with a couple of songs when they turned up on Mark Radcliffe. And I’ll write about them here. I’ll say what I like, what I don’t like, and how they make me feel.

Why? Mainly because I like to write, and I work best when I have set myself a target. Like 99% of all bloggers, I have no expectation that anyone will read this, or come along for the ride, which is totally fine by me. It strikes me that it would be fitting if no-one did come across this blog. From the little I know of Mark E Smith, he did what he wanted whether people turned up to listen or not, so hopefully it will be in that spirit.

What are the rules? I have to listen to them in sequence, starting from the top. No listening to The Frenz Experiment before I’ve done Hex Enducation Hour. This means we should end up at Middle Class Revolt by the Summer. I’m not going to worry about live albums, unless one really captures my fancy. I will be using mostly Youtube or Spotify to listen to them but who knows, I may buy a couple.

So what do we predict? Will I end the year utterly obsessed? Ebaying all my other records and with a collection of only The Fall albums. Or will I be sick to death of them by March. Who can say. At the very least, I hope I capture an appreciation of a unique band, the sort that could only come from these shores. I’m anticipating a year of revised top tens, where The Fall songs will become favourites. I’m also expecting not to like everything I hear.

Whatever happens, it will be great to have the excuse to write something a couple of times a week. So let’s get started as we dive into their debut single, all the way from Summer 1978.

2020 – bdrmm – Bedroom

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

And so we come to a close, 50 blog entries, 50 songs or albums, all of which have had an impact on me during the half century of spins round the sun I have already undertaken. I’ve really enjoyed putting these together, looking back at the tracks that formed me and made me the music fan I am to this day.

Some years have been more challenging than others. I really struggled with the early 90’s as there was just so much music I adored. 1990 and 1991 were incredibly challenging. Bellybutton by Jellyfish, Foxbase Alpha by St. Etienne, The Wonderstuff, Senseless Things – bands I utterly adored but were not able to feature. I can’t believe Pet Shop Boys never got a look in. And then there were other years where the answer was clear, sometimes due to the paucity of new music that caught my eye.

This year is a little like that. I have bought more re-issues than new records. I loved American Head by The Flaming Lips, and Matt Berninger’s solo album, so there have been some bright spots. Most of the new music I adored came though from little label Sonic Cathedral, who released Andy Bell’s solo output and this, an absolute dazzler from bdrmm.

This release presses all my button, with its beautiful, dream like quality, superbly recorded, sounding like it took place in a proper room rather than a laptop. Every track is a work of genius, and I have listened to it multiple times since it’s release. Ok, so it does sound like it could have come from anytime since 1988, but so what. This is the sort of music I am passionate about, and I’m so grateful there are younger bands out there taking inspiration from Ride, Slowdive and others, putting their own stamp on the sound.

Here we are, 50 years old. I can’t see my passion for music diminishing. I’m always looking for something new, even if its from an established band or some up and coming outfit. Some people drift away from music, but I can’t see that happening in my life time. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Generations will come and go
But there’s one thing for sure
Music is our life’s foundation
And shall succeed all the nations to come

Cause the music plays, forever…

2019 – The National – I Am Easy To Find

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

As I entered my mid thirties, I never needed a band more than I needed The National. I craved an intelligent band that would challenge me, excite me, but also soothe in equal measure. My first introduction was Boxer in 2007, and each subsequent release have been welcomed into my life with open arms.

What I love about The National is how they progress with each album, but keep at the core their very essence. Their songs are laced with melancholy, but speak to me in such a relatable way. Relationships are at the core of their lyrics, but with a slant towards the changes that happen in your life as you edge towards middle age. We get songs of frustration, of regret, and the challenge of supporting the fragile infrastructure that make up most of our lives.

I have to confess that I Am Easy To Find is actually my least favourite of all their releases, but that’s only because I think all their others are nigh on perfect. The high mark is Trouble Will Find Me, an inspirational collection of truly magnificent songs, but to be honest, whichever album of theirs I am listening to becomes my favourite in that moment. High Violet, Boxer, Sleep Well Beast, Alligator – all are simply incredible.

I think my reservation with I Am Easy to Find is that it feels more like a set of collaborations than a pure, The National album. That said, I love the femininity of the songs, how the guest vocalists bring a lot to the table. There is also more experimentation than on other albums. The Guardian once called The National “America’s Radiohead”, but I don’t agree with that at all, as Thom Yorke and friends are a band who shift their style so dramatically from album to album. The National, whilst innovative, still retain the vibe of their quintessential sound.

My life would definitely be poorer if not for their music, and as I race into middle age they are just what I need. They never fail to amaze me, to move me, and their intimate sound gives me such joy. I hope they continue to grow old with me and give me more pleasure in my autumn years.

2018 – Editors – Violence

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

Sometimes, records can take ages to seep into your affections, but occasionally, you’re hooked right from the moment you first press play. This was the case with Violence by Editors, an album that to me just appeared out of nowhere.

This was weird, as I’ve been an Editors fan ever since their first album. For me, they are at their best when they mix their music between the organic and the electronic. Up until Violence, my favourite was In This Light and on This Evening, a fantastic blend of old synths and grungy guitar sounds. Stand out track for me is Bricks and Mortar, with its stunning keyboard line and repeated bass.

I always like their stuff, but find their lighter moments a bit spartan, particularly 2015’s In Harm, a record that didn’t capture my imagination one bit. I tried, I really tried, but the whole album seemed too flimsy for my tastes, lacking the punch of their earlier work.

And then along came Violence. I have one of those very “hard to describe” jobs, where I spend some of my time gathering information from groups of people and the rest of my time alone in a quiet room piecing it all together, and in those situations, I will listen to music. I found a tucked away place at the top of my office building one day and, sat with sheets of paper and post-its sprawled over the table, reached for my phone to find something to listen to.

Clicking on NEW MUSIC I was amazed to see that there was a brand new Editors album, released that very day, that I had no anticipation of. So I put it on, and listened to it. And then again. And again. Five times over, one after the other, each time enjoying it more and more. I think it is simply a fantastic album.

It reminds me most of Violator by Depeche Mode, in my humble opinion one of the greatest albums of all time. Five tracks on one side, four on the other. Even the quieter songs are in the right place, and track 3 has an extended, electronic ending. I think the title track is one of the best things Editors have ever done, with so much warmth and richness to the synth sounds that circle and flow during that closing minutes. Even the cover reminds me of Violator.

Equally good is the album of earlier version of the song that make up Violence, that form The Blanck Mass Sessions, where producer Ben Power helped to mould the songs. Some critics were a bit snooty about Violence, calling it out for being too poppy, or too commercial, but that is exactly what I like about it. Editors made their music accessible, with very little compromise, and I hope they continue in a similar vein.

2017 – Ride – Cali

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

Making a comeback must be so difficult. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be wondering if your audience is still out there, whether they are still interested in your music or in seeing you in the flesh. The fear that you might end up bottom of the bill in a windy tent at a Rewind Festival, rather than stepping proudly onto a Glastonbury stage.

I guess it all depends on your legacy and the quality of your music, and that’s why the reunion of Ride was met with such enthusiasm. They have come back in their own right, with no sense of novelty. And very little nostalgia, with fans as interested in their new music as in their back catalogue.

And what a back catalogue. Tarantula aside, the never failed to excite me during the nineties, with a brace of fantastic EP’s and equally thrilling albums. The best in my mind is Going Blank Again, released in 1992. It demonstrates their skills not only at making delicious, overwhelming noise, but a deft hand at pop song construction. This is evidenced in the two singles. Leave Them All Behind is the shoegaze equivalent of Stairway to Heaven, slowing building to a magnificent cacophony of squalling guitars and thunderous drums. This contrasts nicely with Twisterella, a magical pop song that deserves more praise.

I was thrilled to hear that their return was not about returning to past glories, but about making new music. This has also been the best thing about the reformed Slowdive – in fact, when I saw them live two years ago, it was the new songs I was most interested to hear. I thought Weather Diaries was terrific, an excellent collection of songs that perform the rare trick of sounding fresh, yet at the same time sounding like Ride.

My favourite song is Cali. I love the optimistic, summer like feel of the track, with the little guitar flourishes and loose beat. There is also an insanely wonderful bit towards the end where there is a double tap on the snare that leads into the joyous second half of the song, where the band let rip and fly, playing with the melody of the song and taking it to new levels.

I have such a fondness for the bands of my youth who are not just still around, but taking care to preserve their legacy and expand their catalogue. I also adored last years This Is Not A Safe Place, and hope for more to come in this new decade.

2016 – PJ Harvey – The Wheel

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

I am a very regular person, with a regular job, living a very normal life. My life has routines and schedules, and I spend the vast majority of my time doing what I’m told and what is expected of me. So I find it hard to imagine the freedom that must come with being an artist, particularly one who seems to have spent their whole career doing whatever they want.

And so I admire people like PJ Harvey immensely. Way back in 1992 she seemed to come from nowhere, her uncompromising image all over the music papers. She was never controversial or offensive, but exuded a powerful strength. You knew that you would not want to mess with her, that she was a force to be reckoned with.

That said, I’ve not always engaged with her music, but when I do, it hits hard. My absolute favourite is 2011’s Let England Shake, a superb collection of songs. It captures a bleak sense of past, present and future, and a darkness despite the lightness of some of the instrumentation. In 2015, displaying a real “I’ll do what I want” spirit, she began to record The Hope Six Demolition Project in front of a live audience, making the construction and recording akin to performance art.

The high point is The Wheel, a wonderful, rolling piece of music, which sounds designed to be played live. Indeed, my first introduction was through her performance at Glastonbury in 2016, the album having past me by in its year of release. I was captivated by the performance, how it grooves, through its repeated refrain that I could listen to forever.

She’s far from my favourite artist, but this song is definitely by favourite for this year. And I must confess to feeling a certain envy for how she’s managed to live her life, doing what she wants, without compromise.