Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

FALL, The

A UK rock band, an institution formed in Salford in 1976 and still going over 30 years later. Innumerable lineups with over 40 musicians passing through had the corrosive if occasionally incomprehensible lyrical genius of Mark E. Smith (b 5 March 1957) the only constant factor. Guitarist Craig Scanlon, bassist Steve Hanley and drummers/bassists/keyboardists Paul Hanley and Karl Burns were the longest-serving sidepeople; American interloper 'Brix' had the highest profile as mid-'80s Mrs Smith. Martin Bramah and Una Baines's Blue Orchids and Marc Riley's Creepers were the most significant of numerous spin-off groups; Smith also worked in multi-media (play Hey! Luciani; dance collaboration with Michael Clark on I Am Kurious Oranj). First Bingo Masters Breakout EP on Step Forward '78 promised 'The three R's -- Repetition, Repetition, Repetition', but the endlessly prolific Smith constantly shifted the balance of opposing musical forces, his eclectic influences (Can, Beefheart, Lee Perry, Sister Sledge) rendered all but unrecognizable in the studio cement mixer. What nearly always came out was Smith's bizarre, literary, sardonic slant on human foolishness, which he described as 'primitive music with intelligent lyrics', and which might be droned, whooped or whispered.

Chart success wasn't really an issue, but their impact on a global hardcore fan base (John Peel a celebrated advocate) was enormous, their insane work rate rendering a complete discography impracticable. Random top ten: Live At The Witch Trials and Dragnet both '79 and Early Years '77-9 '81, all on Step Forward; Grotesque (After The Gramme) '80, Slates '81 and Perverted By Language '83, all on Rough Trade; The Wonderful And Frightening World Of... '84 and This Nation's Saving Grace '85 on Beggar's Banquet; Bend Sinister '86, The Infotainment Scan Permanent '93. Levitate '97 on Artful was said to be their 40th album.

On one occasion in 1998 the whole band quit except for the keyboardist, his girlfriend Julia Nagle, and Smith was arrested after a fight back at their hotel. In 2006 in Phoenix Arizona Smith fired the whole band, except for the keyboardist, his third wife Elena Poulou. 'If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's a Fall gig,' he once said. Hip Priest was an affectionate unofficial book about the band by Simon Ford in 2002; Renegade 2008 was a quasi-memoir ghostwritten by Austin Collings, described by Robert Potts in the Times Literary Supplement as probably 'a smart marshalling of numerous rambling pub conversations.' Dave Simpson's The Fallen: Searching for the missing members of The Fall was also due in 2008.