Recorded 26 August 1981, broadcast 15 September 1981
- “Deer Park”
- “Look Now”
- “Who Makes The Nazis?”
Second of two sessions in 1981. “Deer Park”, “Winter” and “Who Makes The Nazis” appeared on “Hex Induction Hour” released in March 1982. “Look Now” was a non-album single released around the same time.
Most Mark E Smith Lyric
“Winter” (Needs to be spoken in a MES Voice):
The mad kid had 4 lights, the average is 2.5 lights
The mediocre has 2 lights, the sign of genius is three lights
At the time of recording:
Recorded 26th August 1981, First broadcast: 15th September 1981
- UK Number 1 Single: Shakin’ Stevens “Green Door”
- UK Number 1 LP: Various Artists “The Official BBC Album of The Royal Wedding”
- UK Prime Minister: Margaret Thatcher
- Historical event around the time of recording: MTV launched on 1st August 1981 in the USA
- Mark E Smith – vocals (5th session)
- Mark Riley – guitar (4th session)
- Craig Scanlon- guitar (3rd session)
- Steve Hanley – bass (3rd session)
- Paul Hanley – drums (3rd session)
So Buggles were wrong. Video didn’t kill the radio star. It was the internet that did. It just took us thirty or so years to work it out.
However, in 1981, a change was afoot. Up until now, there were two primary places where you could find music on UK television. If you were seriously into your music, then it was the Old Grey Whistle Test, then adapting to the post-punk environment under the guidance of Annie Nightingale. Failing that, your option was the long-running Thursday night Top of the Pops, still a mix of mimed studio performances with Legs and Co’s imminent final performance of dancing implausibly to some foreign or studio based artist that they couldn’t tempt into the BBC TV Centre.
This was about to change and the Fall would embrace this brave new world, eventually.
In 1982, the young upstart Channel 4 would launch Friday night’s the Tube, essential viewing worth having your tea on your lap whilst you watched (if you couldn’t shove a VHS tape into the new-fangled VCR in time). Within a year, the Fall had made their first appearance and their route to relative success was established.
Over in America though, something else was brewing. MTV would theoretically revolutionise the way we consumed music. And to an extent it did. An arms race started to create incrementally more extravagant videos to illustrate the product. The aesthetic did matter. Back in the 70s with the possible exceptions of teen pop and glam rock, no one particularly cared if the musicians were snaggle-toothed fashion failures. Eventually punk and new wave arrived but even then for every Vivian Westwood clothed Sex Pistol, there was a Mr Byrite Buzzcock. Music videos changed that. Yes – the teen idols still needed to be appealing but the middle ground was now moving toward the eyeliner and lipgloss of the New Romantics. Give it a couple of year and MES and the Fall would get there as well.
The UK still felt a distance away from this. As the Fall entered Maida Vale with an established stable line up again, Britain was basking in the dubious glow of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana and fifties rock’n’roll throwback Shakin’ Stevens was re-hashing pre-rock’n’roll Frankie Vaughan’s hit “Green Door”. We still felt that we were in the tail end of the 70s in many ways, tugging our forelock to the newly wedded happy royal couple whilst enjoying an unhealthy dose of free-market economics care of Thatcher and Keith Joseph.
What of this fifth Peel session? Was this an embracing of the coming video age?
Not quite but for the first time, this sounds like a session that was recorded in the 80s rather than the 70s. Deer Park seemed cut from a definite post-punk template, not a million miles away from what PIL were doing. The band had definitely clicked and whilst slickness is overstating it, the Hanley brothers rhythm section was locked and loaded. The band were becoming an international proposition, the session coming after a stint in America playing with the Clash and before heading off to Iceland to record Hex Enduction Hour.
A factor in the quality of the sound may have been down to Dale “Buffin” Griffin taking over production duties. Griffin was Mott the Hoople’s drummer during their 70’s hay day and after the band split forged a career as a producer, working on many Peel Sessions (including Nirvana) and separately The Cult, Hanoi Rocks and Department S’s Is Vic There?
Paul Hanley was particularly starstruck. He and Marc Riley’s first gig in Manchester was seeing Mott in 1973. Hanley attempted during the day to pluck up courage to ask Griffin for tales of his former band. It was apparent though that Griffin just wanted to get on with the job in hand and Hanley decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
Look Now was spare but melodic. The chorus was catchy and the backbeat finger-snappingly peppy. The ringing guitar riff that enters around the 1:40 mark firmly places us in the new decade. It jangles melodically and it isn’t a huge stretch from these few chords to Johnny Marr and Peter Buck’s arpeggiated style that within a couple of years would so refreshingly give flight to the Smiths and REM’s music. You can see why it was a single.
Winter is an almost 8-minute long tour-de-force. When it shifts gears and the band kick about a minute and a half into the song, it allows MES to soar (“gimme the lead, gimme the lead”). As often with Smith, it is the detail that places the song in a contemporary context. Reference to the British Leyland hatchback Austin Maxi (soon to be discontinued) and alcohol-free lager Barbican place us in a time and place that can only be the UK in the Thatcher years.
I’d just walked past the alcoholics’ dryout house
The lawn was littered with cans of Barbican
There was a feminist’s Austin Maxi parked outside
With anti-nicotine anti-nuclear stickers on the side
The boys on the inside said “give me a smoke”…
The final Who Makes the Nazis? is classic Smith but it’s a song I can’t warm to. It isn’t the subject matter which is pretty abstract despite the title. I just don’t dig Steve Hanley’s atonal plastic guitar mixed with Beefheartian nonsense poetry. The Annotated Fall website has drawn what looks a tenuous connection between this and Big Star’s Thirteen (“Remember when I used to follow you home from school babe?/ Before I got picked up for paedophilia” versus Alex Chilton’s “Won’t you let me walk you home from school/Won’t you let me meet you at the pool.“) Apparently, the Fall and Chilton possibly met in 1981 when they toured the States. It all sounds too far-fetched plus it kind of sullies Thirteen for me which I don’t want to consider.
It would be 18 months before the Fall did another Peel session. Some major personnel changes were in the offing but in the meantime, the Fall were starting to build their classic years body of work.
Things were getting serious.