Fall Overview

The Fall are an English post-punk band, formed in Prestwich, Greater Manchester in 1976. The group has existed in some form ever since, and is essentially built around its founder and only constant member Mark E. Smith. First associated with the punk movement of the late 1970s, the group's music has gone through several stylistic changes over the years. However, The Fall's music is often characterised by repetition, an abrasive guitar-driven sound, and is always underpinned by Smith's vocals and often cryptic lyrics, described by critic Steve Huey as "abstract poetry filled with complicated wordplay, bone-dry wit, cutting social observations, and general misanthropy (sometimes more implied than clearly stated, but apparent nonetheless)."

The group's output is prolific—as of July 2010 they have released 28 studio albums, and more than triple that counting live albums and other releases. They have never achieved widespread public success beyond a handful of minor hit singles in the late 1980s, but have maintained a strong cult following. The band were long associated with BBC disc jockey John Peel, who championed them from early on in their career and cited The Fall as his favourite band, famously explaining, "They are always different, they are always the same."



The Fall was formed in Prestwich, Greater Manchester in 1976 by Mark E. Smith, Martin Bramah, Una Baines, and Tony Friel. Friel came up with the name "The Fall", after a 1956 novel The Fall (novel) by Albert Camus. The band's unidentified first drummer, whose first name has been given as "Dave" and "Steve" by various sources, was quickly replaced by Karl Burns. Their musical influences included Can Can (band) , The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, and garage rock. The members were devoted readers, with Smith citing H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, and Malcolm Lowry among his favourite writers. The Fall's music was intentionally raw and repetitive.

The group played its first concert on 23 May 1977. Founding members Tony Friel (who went on to form The Passage) and Una Baines left in December 1977 and March 1978, respectively.

Their debut album, Live at the Witch Trials, was recorded in one day and released in January 1979. Karl Burns quit the group shortly after the album was recorded, and was replaced by Mike Leigh. In April 1979, Burns was followed by Martin Bramah, co-writer of most of the songs on Live at the Witch Trials Marc Riley switched from bass to guitar, and Craig Scanlon (guitar) and Steve Hanley Steve Hanley (musician) (bass), former bandmates of Riley and members of Fall support act Staff 9, joined to the group. Smith praised his playing in Melody Maker: "The most original aspect of The Fall is Steve ... I've never heard a bass player like him ... I don't have to tell him what to play, he just knows. He is The Fall sound." Yvonne Pawlett left the group in August 1979 to look after her dog. She later appeared in a band called Shy Tots.


With Brix's departure in 1989, Bramah returned briefly for 1990s Extricate, the first of the Fall's three albums for Phonogram Records. Bramah and Schofield left in advance of 1991's Shift-Work. Dave Bush, the multi talented programmer/musician joined on keyboards for 1992's Code: Selfish, followed by the band's return to an independent record label for The Infotainment Scan (1993), Middle Class Revolt (1994) and Cerebral Caustic (1995). These albums featured varying degrees of electronica and IDM, courtesy of Bush's keyboards and computers. Caustic saw the unexpected return of Smith's ex-wife Brix, who stayed long enough to record The Light User Syndrome before departing again in 1996. When Dave Bush went to join Elastica and Scanlon was sacked after 16 years (a decision Smith would later regret), 1996 saw the arrival on keyboards, guitars and computers of Julia Nagle for The Light User Syndrome. That year also saw the start of a torrent of compilations Compliation albums by the Fall of live, demo and alternate versions of songs, on the Fall's new label Receiver Records.

In 1994 and 1996 The Fall played at the Phoenix Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, England - the 1996 appearance being one of much surprise to many fans as they were not scheduled to play. They followed novelty keyboardist, Margarita Pracatan. The next album, Levitate Levitate (album) (1997), toyed with drum and bass and polarised opinion (long-serving drummer Simon Wolstencroft left halfway through the recording sessions, and was replaced by Karl Burns). Steven Wells Seething Wells in the NME (11 October 1997) wrote, "Imagine pop without perimeters. Imagine rock without rules. Imagine art without the wank. If you've never heard The Fall then Levitate will be either the best or the worst record you've ever heard." The group was temporarily reduced to Smith and Nagle when a disastrous U.S. tour ended in April 1998 with a violent onstage row and the departure of Hanley (bassist for 19 years), Burns and guitarist Tommy Crooks. The following day, Smith was arrested and charged with assaulting Nagle in their hotel.


The Fall achieved another comeback with Smith and Nagle being joined by Neville Wilding on guitar, Karen Leatham and later Adam Halal on bass, and Tom Head on drums for the albums The Marshall Suite (1999) and The Unutterable (2000). Further rifts followed in 2001, in which the new lineup of Smith, Ben Pritchard (guitar), Ed Blaney (guitar), Jim Watts (bass) and Spencer Birtwistle (drums) released Are You Are Missing Winner to mixed reviews. Spencer Birtwistle was then replaced by Dave Milner on drums in November 2001. September 2002 saw Elena Poulou - Smith's third and current wife - fill the vacant position of keyboards player, and that year Q magazine Q (magazine) named The Fall one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die." The Real New Fall LP The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) (reputedly renamed from Country on the Click after an earlier mix of the album appeared on Internet networks) followed in 2003, with a slightly different mix and some extra tracks for the US version. In 2004 the band released its first career-spanning compilation 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong to positive reviews in June, and a new album Interim (album) in November.

In January 2005, The Fall (described as "one of the most enigmatic, idiosyncratic and chaotic garage bands of the last 30 years") were the subject of a BBC Four TV documentary, The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. Later that year, a 97-song box set containing all of the sessions the group recorded for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme was issued to widespread acclaim. Their 25th studio album, entitled Fall Heads Roll, was issued on 3 October 2005, preceded by a single "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" (a cover of a song by The Move) on 6 September 2005 (US) and 19 September 2005 (UK). Ben Pritchard (guitar), Steve Trafford (bass), Spencer Birtwistle (drums), all of whom played on Fall Heads Roll, left the group somewhat acrimoniously during the group's Summer 2006 tour of the US after just four dates. In a US radio interview, Smith described their departures as "the best thing that ever happened" to The Fall, although it was some months before he confirmed that they would not be returning to the group.

From 9 May 2006, Smith and Poulou were joined by Tim Presley (guitar), Rob Barbato (bass) and Orpheo McCord (drums) who joined them for the remainder of the US tour, a flagship show in Manchester held in June 2006 and an appearance at the Øyafestivalen in Oslo, Norway in August 2006. Presley and Barbato are members of the band Darker My Love while McCord was one half of the experimental duo . With Barbato and Presley fulfilling Darker My Love commitments back in the US in late August, the first 'squad rotation system' of Fall musicians emerged with new members Pete Greenway (guitar) of West Midlands group Pubic Fringe (more recently known as Das Fringe), and Dave Spurr (bass) making their Fall debuts alongside Smith, Poulou and McCord at the Reading and Leeds festivals in August 2006. The musicians appeared in various configurations, usually with two bass players although on occasion gigs were played with a double-drummer lineup.
On 1 June 2007 Presley, Barbato and McCord played their most recent gig with The Fall. Although no official statement by the band has been made they are now assumed to have ceased being part of the Fall, with the line up of all gigs since having consisted of Smith, Poulou, Spurr, Greenway and Melling. Melling and Spurr play together in the group . Recently, the Fall have been joined onstage by former bass player Simon 'Ding' Archer, whose group Bobbie Peru are supporting the Fall on their current UK tour. In April 2009, The Fall have signed with UK-based independent record label Domino Records. A new studio album - titled Your Future Our Clutter - was released on 26 April 2010.Of the group's influence, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that "the Fall, like many cult bands, inspired a new generation of underground underground rock bands, ranging from waves of sound-alike indie rockers in the U.K. United Kingdom to acts in America United States and New Zealand, which is only one indication of the size and dedication of their small, devoted fan base."

The Fall have also had a profound influence over groups such as Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand (band) , These New Puritans, LCD Soundsystem , The Long Blondes, The Birthday Party The Birthday Party (band) , Nirvana Nirvana (band) , Faith No More, Pavement Pavement (band) and Happy Mondays.

Sonic Youth covered three Fall songs (and "Victoria" by the Kinks, also covered by the Fall) in a 1988 Peel Session, which was released in 1990 as the 4 Tunna Brix EP on Sonic Youth's own Goofin' label. The 1990s indie acts Pavement Pavement (band) (who recorded a version of "The Classical") and Elastica (Smith contributed vocals to their final EP and album) showed an influence of The Fall, while Suede Suede (band) parodied the band with "Implement Yeah!", a song found on the cassette edition of their 1999 single "Electricity".

The Fall is referenced in the Jens Lekman song "Maple Leaves" with the lyrics "And when she talked about her fall, I thought she talked about Mark E. Smith". The Electric Soft Parade album No Need to Be Downhearted is named after a lyric from The Fall song "15 Ways". The German rock band Tocotronic has a song called "Ich hab geträumt ich wäre Pizza essen mit Mark E. Smith" (German for "I've dreamed I ate pizza with Mark E. Smith"). Scottish Band Belle and Sebastian also reference The Fall in their song, "Nice Day for a Sulk." The Dutch indie band Seedling refers to The Fall in their song "The Upshot", singing "You make it sound so ***y, as if you're Mark E. Smith from the Fall". U.S. indie singer-songwriter Barbara Manning's song "Mark E. Smith & Brix" describes running into "the man of my dreams" (and his then-wife) while out walking. Homestead/Merge indie rock band Volcano Suns recorded a song called "Sea Cruise". The song is about The Fall attempting to sell records in America. It was written after touring with The Fall. The lyrics "why did the chicken cross the road when there ain't no other side?" refers to the This Nation's Saving Grace tour of 1985. The Jazz Butcher's first single in 1983 was the oxymoronic " ." Jeffrey Lewis wrote the song and comic The Legend of the Fall, which is a documentary of The Fall and features in The Fallen (Canongate), Dave Simpson's book tracking down all the ex-members of the group.

UK indierock band The Wedding Present are clearly influenced by the Fall: in the song "Take Me!" (from 1989's Bizarro (album)) Gedge explicitly name-drops the band as he recalls a perfect date: "And can you really have stayed till three/Orange slices and that Fall LP?"

In May 2008 the Communication, Cultural and Media Centre at the University of Salford hosted Messing Up The Paintwork: A conference on the Aesthetics and Politics of Mark E. Smith and The Fall. Papers from the conference were published in 2010 in Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art, Music and Politics.;Studio albums


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