Recorded 27th November 1978, broadcast 6th December 1978:
- “Put Away”
- “Mess Of My”
- “No Xmas For John Quays”
- “Like To Blow”
“No Xmas” and “Like To Blow” ended up on “Live at The Witch Trials”, “Put Away” on “Dragnet”, “Mess Of My” unreleased until much later
Most Mark E Smith Lyric:
From “No Xmas For John Quays” (Needs to be song/spoken in a MES voice)
I’ll have a packet of three-five fives
Will you fucking put the monitors on for Christ’s sake?
Most Fall-like song title:
Some may say “No Xmas For John Quays”. However I’ve rather stupidly only just got the John Quays/Junkies pun and I’m not sure that I like it. I was happier knowing that a bloke called John Quays wasn’t getting a Christmas.
Therefore I’m going for “Mess Of My”, just because it doesn’t look like a finished title, it just trails off a bit.
At the time of recording:
- UK Number 1 single: “Mull Of Kintyre” by Wings (the first day of its interminable run)
- UK Number 1 album: “Grease (Original Soundtrack)” by Various Artists
- UK Prime Minister: Jim Callaghan
- Historical event on the day of recording: Politician and Gay Rights campaigner Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco
- Mark E Smith – vocals (second session)
- Martin Bramah – guitar, bass, backing vocals (second session)
- Yvonne Pawlett – keyboards (second session)
- Karl Burns – drums (second session)
- Marc Riley – bass (or maybe not) (first session)
In trying to contextualise these blog pieces on the Fall, I’ve gone back to what was happening at the time of session. It reveals what feels like a different world in some respects.
Bakers were on strike in November 1978 and certain bakeries imposed bread rationing was introduced. Strikes at the Times newspaper were imminent, closing the newspaper into early 1979. Pollyanna’s night club in Birmingham was forced to admit black and Chinese people after previously banning them and Viv Anderson was on verge of becoming the first black English international footballer. Labour had a minority government which was entering its death throes.
It feels like the start of the transition into Thatcherism. She would be resigning twelve years later to the day.
Oh – and the Fall were about to sign off the dole. The spirit of enterprise was truly amongst us.
This must have been quite a leap of faith. They were still a month away from recording their debut LP. They had released just one single and here they were, heading down to London on a Monday after a weekend gig at the social club of Mark E Smith’s local hospital in Prestwich. They were already starting to appear somewhat prolific with only two of the songs recorded appearing on “Live At The Witch Trials” when it was released five months later. We’ve already seen the first addition to the run of classic Fall line ups with Marc Riley arriving to play bass, although his role in the session was limited-to-non-existant, possibly closer to just being a roadie for the day.
It is six months after the first Peel session and already the band is sounding fuller. The one note keyboard playing of Yvonne Pawlett remains a feature. Mark E is getting playful with the stuttering delivery on “Put Away”. There is some recognisable verse/chorus writing on “Mess Of My” before Mark grabs his megaphone.
“Mess Of My” is a hidden gem in fairness, missed off of all of the contemporaneous releases. My friend Raymond Gorman has it down as one of his favourite. It is already showing Smith’s bitterness at the record companies even before their first LP is released (“Take no notice of me, I probably work for a record company”)
“No Xmas For John Quays” is fierce, starting with what would become a trademark tinny keyboard introduction. The Peel session version is brighter and fiercer (and for my money better) than the “Witch Trials” version. A vitriolic take down of smack addicts, it touches upon Smith’s particular resentment of slackers:
Open the room, there’s a cloud of smoke
Will you fucking get it together instead of showing off?
“Like To Blow” is over in just over a minute, with Bramah joining Smith on the chorus. This feels like the Fall having a blast at the Ramones/Damned thrash through and whilst it is bracing, it hasn’t really stood the test of time that well.
Steve Hanley’s brilliant “The Big Midweek” tells the story behind the personnel change. Apparently the regular bass player Eric Ferret refused to get in the van to London because he objected to the loudness of the Hawaiian shirt that the van driver Steve Davis (who had played on the first session). Smith already had issues with Eric’s performance as he had to chuck a chair at him mid-gig due to his lackadaisical performance. The shirt episode precipitated Eric’s sacking and Riley’s entry into the band.
It transpires though that for the purposes of the session, Martin Bramah did most of the heavy guitar lifting. Riley was in “observer mode”.
Riley’s time was still to come.
And so was Steve Hanley’s.