The Fall, L.A. (1985)

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Artist: The Fall
Title: L.A.
Description: B-side, Cruiser’s Creek; album track, This Nation’s Saving Grace
Label: Beggars Banquet
Release date: 1985
First heard: 1985

To put this choice into context, here are 32 other songs by The Fall which might equally occupy this hallowed seat, and in fact, do:

Cruiser’s Creek
Muzorewi’s Daughter
Totally Wired
Living Too Long
Lucifer Over Lancashire
C.R.E.E.P.
Australians In Europe
Hit The North Pt 2
Guest Informant
The Container Drivers
Black Monk Theme Pt 1
Hilary
British People In Hot Weather
Ride Away
What About Us
I Can Hear The Grass Grow
Early Days Of Channel Fuhrer
Mere Pseud Mag Ed
Who Makes The Nazis?
New Big Prinz
Bad News Girl
Cab It Up
Glam Racket
I’m Going To Spain
A Past Gone Mad
Garden
Barmy
Spoilt Victorian Child
Couldn’t Get Ahead
Gut Of The Quantifier
My New House
There’s A Ghost In My House

And even that’s not a definitive list. I could draw up another 32 right now. I don’t think I need state which late-nite DJ introduced me to The Fall. I am certain it was in 1980, when I had just turned 15, and lived the cliché of the kid listening to a transistor radio after dark, under the bedsheets, with a single waxy earpiece in. (Within a few years, I would be listening with parental permission, with my finger hovering over the pause button on a tape recorder. I wish I still had those cassettes, with their occasional disembodied intro or outro from Peel, although the songs on them are forever burned into my brain’s own internal hard drive.)

I don’t know it if was the screeching, dual-speed Musorewi’s Daughter from 1979’s Dragnet, or the stuttering, beguiling The Container Drivers from 1980’s Grotesque, or whether it was the original or a Peel Session version, but whichever song came first floored me at once. I was Mark E Smith’s forever. The more beaty Totally Wired, in its scribbly sleeve, was my first Fall purchase, in 1980, and it led to a lifetime of future purchases. I believe my Fall collection is the largest of any artist. They must be my favourite band.

Why L.A.? Well, This Nation’s Saving Grace abides as my favourite album, maybe because it was the first one I’d purchased the week it was released, like a real fan. My friends at the time were not Fall fans. My devotion was one that defied peer pressure. Some nights I felt it was between me and John Peel. And then I arrived at the NME in 1988 and found a modest but passionate support group. When features editor James Brown whisked Mark E Smith through the art room where I worked and I was suddenly breathing his Rothmans air, I was dumbstruck. He asked, out loud, “How do you spell ‘appalling’?” and I opened my mouth and something came out. It was this: “A.P.P.A.L.L.I.N.G.”

Why L.A.? Because it’s driven by a chuffing synthesised sound and a keyboard pulse, and some of Karl Burns’ heaviest but metronomically tumbling drums, and most of it feels like an instrumental, with that dirty twanging guitar and guttural bass, the vocals more of a wash than a foregrounded detail: Mark E Smith sort of coughing along and occasionally spelling out the title: “L – L – L – L – A – A – A – A – A- A …” He squeals in the distance, then intones words and phrases that add up to little more than “Odeon … sky … canny … bushes … something something … heat”, after which Brix drawls something garbled about a “happening” that “freaks me out“. And yet, for all its confusion and smoke and blurgh, it says Los and it says Angeles. It’s certainly a long way from Salford and the dark, satanic mills on the sleeve illustration. This is a cool group.

I’ve always defined Mark E Smith as a beat poet, but with a trucker’s beat (a trucker’s beat poet), and one who knows the value of a good riff.

Why L.A., above all others? Why the fuck not? It is my happening, and it freaks me out.

 

P.S.: It has been pointed out to me that L.A. was Peel’s least favourite Fall track. That’s rather poetic.

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4 thoughts on “The Fall, L.A. (1985)

  1. I too first heard The Fall first on that DJ’s show and like you would listen via those earpieces that would fail regularly and you have try and lie in a certain position so the wires inside would connect!

    15 years ago when we moved out of a flat and into this house my Mum gave me two faux-crocodile skin attache cases which held cassettes which she had been storing. I had bought them from Boots when I worked there in the early 80s and inside they were full of tapes that I had made of Peel’s show and some of David ‘Kid’ Jensen’s prog as well. I have had a lot of pleasure from these recordings (Sofie and Peter Johnson a real joy that only I seem to have heard of!) I have now saved them as MP3s and am always being told to share them but I really would like to keep them to myself, they seem really personal to me and me only. The fragments of Peel before and after the tracks do add a poignant feel to the recordings.

    I am really loving this blog Andrew, don’t get to 143 to soon! Or perhaps built an extension!

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  2. The FaLL were a line that certain music lovers in the U.S. simply couldn’t traverse in the early 80’s. Once you “got them,” you understood suddenly why the fluff that leaked into your collection like Adam and the Ants was in many ways, a bit silly. I was a bit relieved the one time I rang Mark Smith for an interview and found him not at home. I didn’t think I was up to it and that he would leave me in tatters. Shocked, I was, when he not only called back, but apologized for being late. Apologized? “Mark Smith doesn’t apologize to anyone!”, I thought. He gladly signed my copy of the aforementioned “scribbly” Totally Wired sleeve about a year or so later when he and x version of the band came through town. Truthfully, I’ve not heard every Fall LP yet although I have dozen or more in my collection. It’s a comfort though to think that when/if Mark ever shuts down operation that there’ll still be fresh material to explore as I approach my dotage…

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