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.