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The Fall are an Englishmarker post-punk group, formed in Prestwichmarker, Greater Manchestermarker 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 April 2008 they have released 27 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 Prestwichmarker, Greater Manchestermarker 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 by Albert Camus. The original lineup featured Smith on guitar, Bramah on vocals, Baines on drums, and Friel on bass guitar, but Smith and Bramah soon switched roles, and Baines switched to keyboards. 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. From the beginning, the group produced a sound quite unlike anything else being played in the run-down dancehalls of northern England's New Wave scene.

The original members of The Fall used to meet and read their writings to each other and take drugs. Their musical influences included Can, The Velvet Underground, 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 song "Repetition", declaring that "we've repetition in the music, and we're never going to lose it", served as a manifesto for The Fall's musical philosophy.

The group played its first concert on 23 May 1977. They recorded material for their debut EP in November 1977. The session was funded by Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon, who planned to release the EP on his New Hormones label. After discovering that he could not afford to release the EP, Boon gave the tapes back to the band. Two tracks, "Stepping Out" and "Last Orders", were released on the compilation Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus in June 1978 on Virgin Records, a compilation album recorded at the Manchester venue The Electric Circus in October 1977.

The Fall's lineup underwent several changes in 1977-78. Smith's girlfriend Kay Carroll became the group's manager and occasional backing vocalist. Founding members Tony Friel (who went on to form The Passage) and Una Baines left in December 1977 and March 1978, respectively. Jonnie Brown and Eric McGann had brief stints as The Fall's bass guitarist, the latter quitting in disgust of The Fall's van driver wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Marc Riley (bass) and Yvonne Pawlett (keyboards) were eventually recruited to the group. Martin Bramah blamed the dissolution of the original lineup on Smith's style of leadership: "The break-up wasn't so much about the music, though; it was more how we were being treated as people on a daily basis."

The Fall were filmed on 13 February 1978, for the Granada TV show So It Goes hosted by Tony Wilson, performing "Psycho Mafia", "Industrial Estate" and "Dresden Dolls". The debut EP, "Bingo-Master's Break-Out!", was finally released in August 1978 on Step Forward Records. The single "It's the New Thing" followed in November 1978. By this point, influential radio DJ John Peel had began championing The Fall. The first of their 24 Peel Sessions, collected on The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 in 2005, took place in May 1978.

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 and, according to Fall historian Daryl Eslea, "possibly the last true equal to Smith in the group", who went on to form Blue Orchids with Una Baines. Marc Riley switched from bass to guitar, and Craig Scanlon (guitar) and Steve Hanley (bass), former bandmates of Riley and members of Fall support act Staff 9, joined to the group. Hanley's melodic basslines became a vital part of the Fall's music for almost two decades. 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.

On 30 July 1979, "Rowche Rumble", The Fall's third single, was released featuring the new line up of Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Steve Hanley, Yvonne Pawlett and Mike Leigh.

Dragnet, The Fall's second album, was recorded on 2–4 August 1979 at Cargo Studios, Rochdale and was released on 26 October 1979. Featuring the stripped-down line-up of Smith, Scanlon, Riley, Hanley and Leigh. Dragnet signaled a sparser, more jagged feel, which on subsequent albums filled out into a more grinding, industrial sound.

Early 1980s

13 January 1980 The Fall release their fourth single, "Fiery Jack", their last record for Step Forward.

Mike Leigh's last gig was on Thursday, 20 March 1980 at Manchester Polytechnic, he apparently left and went back onto the cabaret circuit.

Paul Hanley, Leigh's replacement and Steve Hanley's younger brother, first plays live with The Fall on Friday, 21 March 1980 Electric Ballroom, London.

5 May 1980 Totale's Turns LP released on Rough Trade. The live album (apart from 2 tracks) documents the band during various appearances, with Smith announcing last orders at the bar and berating band members and audience throughout.

In mid June 1980 The Fall tour The Netherlands with drummer Steve Davis. He stood in for Paul Hanley, who took O level school exams.

The Fall release their fifth single on 11 July 1980' titled "How I Wrote Elastic Man." The single also introduced the line up of Mark E Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Steve Hanley and Paul Hanley.

17 November 1980 Grotesque Lp released. With the album came a significant improvement in production and content, which continued throughout the period.

In 1978, 1979 & 1980 The Fall played the Deeply Vale Festivals and Smith said in a 2004 TV interview that the Deeply Vale events were his all time favourite festivals, despite in later years having performed at many larger festivals. Smith also said his favourite place to record albums was in Rochdale which has featured heavily throughout their career as a town where The Fall have gone to record initially at Cargo / Suite Sixteen and later at Gracieland.

Slates, the mini 10" album, released 24 April 1981 their last recording for Rough Trade. Several of the tracks include Dave Tucker on clarinet; he had appeared live with The Fall on numerous occasions.

May - July 1981 The Fall tour America with the line up of Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, and both Steve Hanley and Karl Burns. U.S. immigration said Paul Hanley was too young to play America's "21 and over" clubs.

September 1981 Karl Burns appears as a second drummer with The Fall for the first time and 77 - Early Years - 79 LP (a Step Forward compilation) is released.

On 13 November 1981 The Fall release their sixth single called "Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul." Produced by Richard Mazda, recorded at Workhouse Studios in London and released on Kamera Records featuring the line up Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley and Karl Burns.

On 8 March 1982 Hex Enduction Hour also produced by Richard Mazda is released on Kamera Records and Live in London 1980 cassette only live album is released later in the month on Chaos Tapes.

The Fall's seventh single is released 19 April 1982 titled "Look, Know" on Kamera.

May 1982 A Part of America Therein live LP released on Cottage Records, having been recorded during their last tour of America.

27 September 1982 Room to Live album released on Kamera.

Marc Riley's final appearance with The Fall is on Wednesday, 22 December 1982 at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester.


1983 was a year of changes in The Fall camp and marked The Fall's return to Rough Trade Records, after being promised better treatment this time around.

On 7 June 1983, Rough Trade Records issued The Fall's ninth single The Man Whose Head Expanded and on 19 September 1983 issued the 10th single and double pack Kicker Conspiracy. Bizarrely in November 1983 Kamera Records issued around 2-3 thousand copies of the planned 1982 single Marquis Cha Cha, the release date having been put back due to Kamera's financial troubles in late 1982, making it The Fall's eleventh single issue.

1983 heralded another dramatic change with the arrival of Smith's Americanmarker girlfriend and later wife, Chicagoanmarker Brix Smith on guitar. Born Laura Elise Salenger, she was nicknamed after the track "The Guns of Brixton" by The Clash, a favourite song of hers. Brix's tenure in the group marked a shift towards the relatively conventional, with the songs she co-wrote often having strong pop hooks and more orthodox verse-chorus-verse structures. Additionally, Brix's keen sense of fashion gradually influenced the group's members to give more attention to their clothing and styling—but her platinum blond hair and glamourous style were always somewhat at odds to the otherwise working class appearance of the Fall. Brix's first live appearance with The Fall was on Wednesday, 21 September 1983 at the Hellfire Club, Wakefield.

Perverted by Language, released 5 December 1983, was the group's final album for Rough Trade Records, but the first to feature Brix. Also released in December 1983 was the live album In A Hole, recorded during The Fall's tour of New Zealand in 1982, on Flying Nun Records.


This era found The Fall scoring a few modest hits with singles from a string of highly acclaimed albums: The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (1984), This Nation's Saving Grace (1985), Bend Sinister (1986), The Frenz Experiment (1988). I Am Kurious, Oranj is notable as the fruit of a ballet project between Smith and dancer Michael Clark. Simon Rogers and later Marcia Schofield played keyboards, and Simon Wolstencroft replaced Burns on drums after This Nation's Saving Grace. Wolsencroft's playing also shifted the group's sound; his drumming was described as "nimble" and "funky" when compared to Burns.


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 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-Avonmarker, 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 (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 Wellsmarker 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. The Real New Fall LP (reputedly renamed from Country on the Click after an earlier mix of the album appeared on Internet file sharing networks) followed in 2003, with a slightly different mix and some extra tracks for the US version. Interim, was released in November, 2004. In 2002 Q magazine named The Fall one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die".

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 Oslomarker, Norwaymarker in August 2006. Presley and Barbato are members of the band Darker My Love while McCord was one half of the experimental duo The Hill. 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 MotherJohn. 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 - provisionally titled Our Future - Your Clutter - is due to be released by the label in January 2010.


Of the group's influence, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that "the Fall, like many cult bands, inspired a new generation of underground bands, ranging from waves of sound-alike indie rockers in the U.K.marker to acts in Americamarker and New Zealandmarker, 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, LCD Soundsystem, The Long Blondes, The Birthday Party, Nirvana, Pavement 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 and Elastica (Smith contributed vocals to their final EP and album) showed an influence of The Fall, while Suede 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"). The Dutch indie band Seedling refers to The Fall in their song "The Upshot", singing "You make it sound so sexy, 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. The Jazz Butcher's first single in 1983 was the oxymoronic " Southern Mark Smith." 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. The Manchester protest group Colour Bük has a song titled "The Fall Sucks" which is allegedly a strike at the "DIY" aesthetic often associated with Post Punk and those influenced by it.


Studio albums


  • Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Faber and Faber, 2005. ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6



  • Smith, Mark E (1985). The Fall Lyrics. Berlin: Lough Press.
  • Edge, Brian (1989). Paintwork: A Portrait of The Fall. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-1740-X
  • Ford, Simon (2003). Hip Priest: The Story Of Mark E Smith And The Fall. London: Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-8167-2
  • Middles, Mick & Smith, Mark E (2003). The Fall. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9762-4
  • Thompson, Dave (2003). A User's Guide To The Fall. London: Helter Skelter Publishing. ISBN 1-900924-57-9.
  • Smith, Mark E (2008). Renegade: The Lives And Tales Of Mark E. Smith. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-91674-0
  • Simpson, Dave (2008). The Fallen - Searching for the missing members of The Fall. London: Canongate Books. ISBN 978-1-84767-049-6 (Released in paperback as The Fallen: Life In and Out of Britain's Most Insane Group, ISBN 978-1-84767-144-8))

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