Friday, 20 July 2018

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

I was back in Conway Hall, I was back with the London Fortean Society, and I was, for the first time, in the presence of Cathi Unsworth, a former Melody Maker journalist who, since 2005, has turned her hand to authoring a series of books about London noir, unsolved murders, witchcraft, and the mysteries of the British countryside.

Her talk, Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?, was to take us to the Hagley estate centred around Hagley Hall, a Grade II listed neo-Palladian pile perched in a beautiful rural Worcestershire setting. Hagley Hall so impressed the gothic novelist Horace Walpole that he claimed of it "I wore out my eyes with gazing, my feet with climbing, and my tongue and vocabulary with commending" but it's not due to its spectacular aspects nor its breathtaking ascents that Cathi had brought us here.

She was taking us not just across the country but back in time to the blackouts of World War II. In April 1943 some local schoolboys were playing football nearby on a lovely warm day when they decided to go explore, and poach in, the grounds. Beneath a heavily coppiced wych hazel (not actually a wych elm but the myth has long taken over the truth) they found a human skull that still had some skin and hair attached to it.

So far, so Stand By Me. The boys returned the skull and made a pact to tell nobody about it. That pact, however, did not last long as that night one of the traumatised youngsters broke down his tears and confessed his grisly find to his parents who immediately informed the police.

On attending the scene the police found the skeleton of a woman and a set of decomposed clothing. Some of the clothes, and some of the bones, were found more than one hundred metres from the tree. Verdict was given that this was a murder by a person, or persons, unknown and the corpse was identified as a roughly thirty five year old woman, about 5ft tall, who had lain dead, and presumably undiscovered, for between eighteen and thirty six months. It seemed that the cause of death was asphyxiation by an item of own clothing and immediately it began to look like our old favourite, the 'crime of passion'. But was it?

No further progress was made in the case but in the following days, and weeks, chalk messages began to appear in the local area. The first one, on a side of a house fifteen minutes away, read "WHO PUT BELLA IN THE WYCH ELM?" and this was followed by several more variants, slightly different messages with occasionally aberrant spelling but all essentially asking the same question, chalked around nearby Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Halesowen. Despite said variance in spelling all the messages appeared to have been written by the same hand.

Professor Margaret Murray was a respected Egyptologist, archaeologist, anthropologist, and historian who lost some credibility in academic circles due to her abiding interest, and belief, in various folkloric tales. Her fascination with, and belief in, witches received support from, and influenced, the writers Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves. Murray believed that the fact that the corpse of Hagley Woods was missing its right hand pointed to 'Bella', whom she was now becoming known as, being a victim of a black magic ritual. This theory was backed up by her assertion that placing a dead woman's body inside a hollow tree was a method of imprisoning their soul after death.

A more rational, if equally unproven, view was that an animal, a rodent probably, had simply gnawed off the hand but Murray's mostly discredited theories found some favour when two years later on Valentine's night in 1945 an elderly, quiet farmer called Charles Walton was found dead in his home in Warwickshire. He'd been pinned to the ground with his own pitchfork, one of the tools of his trade, and had had a large cross inscribed in his chest. Walton's was another case that remained, and remains, unsolved, obscured perhaps by the fog of war, but if it wasn't a black magic ritual it was certainly committed by somebody who wanted to make it look like one.

Eight years passed with no further developments until in 1953 a Wolverhampton journalist received a letter suggesting that Bella was a gypsy condemned by her own 'tribe' for having an 'evil eye'. The police didn't buy it for one moment suspecting, probably correctly, that it was being used to rally anti-romani sentiment in the community. That train's never late.

Another theory came forward that both Bella (in this version Clarabella Dronkers) and her murderer were Dutch and she'd been killed for passing secrets on to the Nazis during the war. This theory posited that the perpetrator had died insane in 1942, after the murder but before the discovery of the body. Again, it's a theory that seems to hold little water.

There's a lot of loose ends in this case, it's anything but an open and shut job, and at times it got quite confusing trying to remember various names, dates, theories, and just general stuff about it. It was fascinating but hard to follow. I hope that comes across but also hope that in some way I'm simplifying it for you, providing at least some kind of narrative structure. Cathi's talk was necessarily slight (not the forty five/sixty minutes that'd been threatened) and it didn't take the advertised digression into the life and times of Helen Duncan, the Scottish medium whose crappy fake ectoplasm saw her become the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft act of 1735, but it was informative and the slideshow added to it rather than merely illustrated it. I enjoyed it. Yet, now I digress. Back to murder.

In August 1984 the Bella graffiti started reappearing (including the example of the obelisk in the grounds of Hagley Hall) and then in 2012, after the declassification of various documents, another theory came to light. This one supposed that 5ft Bella was actually 6ft Clara Bauerle from Hamburg who had, during the war, become a Nazi spy due to being fluent in English and even speaking it with a Birmingham accent after several years teaching in the West Midlands.

Josef Jakobs was a German spy who was the last man to be executed in the Tower of London in August 1941 after he was captured parachuting into Cambridgeshire. A photo, found on his person, depicted his lover, Clara Bauerle, and speculation ran rife, despite the twelve inch difference in size, that Clara was Bella. This theory was well and truly extinguished when it was discovered that Clara had died in Berlin in December 1942.

Each road in this case appears to lead to a dead end. It frustrates my very human need for a neat narrative and a story that ties up all its loose ends in its denouement but it does mean that the question Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? remains as unanswered today as it ever has done and, in that, it is both an ongoing mystery and one that, quite possibly, will remain, for all eternity unsolved. Just the kind of thing for an evening of Fortean fun.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Fall:My 100.

Not long after the death of Mark E Smith earlier this year I decided, via Facebook, to, each day, share one of my 100 favourite Fall songs building up from number one hundred to number one with a paragraph or five about the song which could either interpret it, quote some lyrics, investigate some theories about the song, or simply be a personal reflection. It was, after all, a highly personal and entirely subjective list. It turned into quite a labour of love but now, after a suitable break, I'm sharing it in its entirety with you:-


Might as well start with a bang. This'll be a lot higher in most people's lists and was a live favourite for many (too many?) years enabling men with receding hairlines to live out their moshpit fantasies safe in the knowledge they're 'better' than those heavy metal bozos.

It's a cover of a track by LA spawned, SF based, psychedelic garage rock outfit The Other Half. Other Half vocalist Jeff Nowlen penned this one while guitarist Randy Holden later turned up in the influential Blue Cheer whose cover of Summertime Blues is heralded as a seminal text by scholars of hard rock (not least keyhole peeper and pasta sauce salesman Lloyd Grossman).

It appeared on The Fall's 1986 LP Bend Sinister (named for a dystopian Nabokov novel, The Fall are one of those bands that come with a 'suggested reading' list), an album that saw MES & producer John Leckie at loggerheads over the former's desire to master it from a standard audio cassette he had in his Walkman.

Cover versions, and paeans to amphetamine sulphate, will appear again in this countdown. Of that you can be sure.


"He had a weak pisser and one night at a darts match:- DECADENT SANDWICH QUAFF".

Now we're cooking on gas. After yesterday's paddle in the lukewarm shallows it's now time to venture into the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall.

This is one of the tracks that newcomers might describe as a 'rough ride'. It's from 1982's Hex Enduction Hour in which MES (sole author here) sought to create as much space between his band and 'bland bastards like Elvis Costello and Spandau Ballet' as possible.

It'd be a more contrary man than even Mark himself who'll claim he failed. Altogether now:- "His dream girl sings adverts for Weetabix. A fancied wit that's imitation of Rumpole of the Bailey".


It won't come as any great surprise that this list will be heavily weighted towards the late 70s and 80s. Even the most blindsided Fall follower would have to concede that the band's hit rate started to decline as age, alcohol, and drugs started to do to MES what age, alcohol, and drugs will do to all of us.

But that's not to say the band completely dried up creatively. Far from it. This is from 2005's Fall Heads Roll, the band's 24th long player. I found an interview where MES talks about 'skunk damage' (very much NOT his drug of choice) before going on to say the joint in the song where you can get 'carrots and meat' is simply a nice place to sit down! 

There's also an inexplicable reference to the Rudyard Kipling poem 'The Widow at Windsor' about Queen Victoria. Wonder if she'll crop up again in this run down?


Nicking the riff (without crediting it) from Spinal Tap's 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight' and overlaying it a with a tale of a German athletic star rendered unwell by the fumes from his brother Gert's Volkswagen that he parked "willy-nilly in the driveway". You can create a sumptuous feast from the most unlikely of ingredients it would appear.

It's from '88's The Frenz Experiment and also features MES tipping his hat to The Surfaris' 'Wipe Out', some mysterious and atypically coy stuttering, a few blasts on the ol' megaphone, and an "odour resembling hot dogs" that "permeated the whole bedroom".

The athlete eventually recovered but "this being East Germany , Gert patriotically volunteered to be sent on a labour beautification course in the countryside north-west of Dresden and was never seen again".



This 1979 single is the oldest track so far. Apparently the press release at the time read "this is a great dance number and combines a cheek-in-tongue put down of a popular sweetie with The Fall's tribute to Racey. Dig it".

Similarities with Weston-Super-Mare's finest purveyors of fifties inspired glam rock aren't readily apparent. To the best of my knowledge Some Girls wasn't about Valium, Lay Your Love On Me contained no lines about "Swiss gnomes dealing out potions", and Kitty (later covered as Mickey by Toni Basil) failed to mention her having "an addiction like a hole in the ass".

One song that HAS been half-inched here is Transfusion by Tennessee's Nervous Norvus. Rowche refers to Roche Holdings AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical company that introduced benzodiazepines like Valium (and Rohypnol) on to the market in 1957 (a year after Transfusion came out) and Rumble may be a nod to the hugely influential rockabilly guitarist Link Wray.

"Physician, heal thyself"

"Kick your liver in"


1993's The Infotainment Scan saw the band tackling Rodgers and Edwards' disco classic Lost In Music. Whereas Sister Sledge recorded their original in Manhattan's Power Station studio, The Fall opted for Rochdale's Suite 16.

They're both great though. MES, obvs, has decided to jazz up his take with some trademark strangulated yelps, gripes about pub refurbishment, and gnomic epigrams like "the palace of excess leads to the palace of access".

If you're one of those people that enjoy a list within a list then this is my ninth highest rated (of the ten that feature in the hundred) Fall cover.


"The trees are reeds with evil seeds for me"

Abel T Muzorewa (spelling got changed somewhere along the line for some reason) was a Methodist bishop who, in 1979, served briefly as Zimbabwean PM before losing, hugely, an election to Robert Mugabe.

It's the first track up from The Fall's 2nd album, 79's Dragnet, but definitely not the last. It's a rarity in Fallworld as MES ceded over most of the lyrics to Kay Carroll. It does, however, feature possibly his most high pitched yelping ever committed to vinyl. By the time I got into The Fall this was already considered a classic which Fall elders whispered about in hushed tones.

"Get that spot, put it in the pot for me"


"I had been let down by a first grade moron and I could not comprehend".

An utterly bewildering tale of espionage, miserable Scottish hotels, and J Edgar Hoover from '88's Frenz Experiment.

MES & Brix both report different interpretations of the song. MES's version involves him and Nick Cave's attempt to throw a TV set out of a German hotel window only to find it chained down expressly to prevent such rock'n'roll shenanigans. So they threw the drummer's duvet out of the window instead!

Guest Informant is the name of a range of hotel visitor guides, there's a steal from Kid Creole and the Coconut's 'Stool Pigeon', and the line "resembled a Genesis or Marillion 1973 LP cover" shouldn't be taken too literally. On live versions Mark altered the lyrics to reference Supertramp, Van Halen, Joan Baez, and even Stevie Wonder.

Marillion didn't form until 1978 (in Aylesbury) and their first album, Script From A Jester's Tear, came out in '83. Genesis' 5th album, Selling England by the Pound (the one with 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)' on) did come out in '73 but it's been hinted that the previous year's Foxtrot cover art is more fitting of the description provided here.


"They stay with the masses, don't take any chances, end up emptying ashtrays".

Back to Dragnet again for this tribute to Luke Rhinehart's fine book set over a mangled Bo Diddley riff as Mark expounds his own anti rock philosophy alongside his admiration for Rhineheart's concept.

"Do you take a chance, baby?"

91 - GOD-BOX

God-Box was the b-side of 1984's Oh! Brother single and a bonus track if you bought the cassette version of The Wonderful And Frightening World Of...which I did.

It appears to be inspired by nodding off in front of the television during an American religious show on a visit to see Brix's grandparents.

The music comes from a song Brix wrote for her previous band, Banda Dratsing, called 'Can't Stop The Flooding' and observers have spotted a resemblance to The Ramones' 'Go Mental' from their 1978 LP 'Road to Ruin' (the one with I Wanna Be Sedated, a cover of Needles and Pins, and the song Bad Brain which some Washington DC hardcore punks later nicked and pluralised for their own name).

All together now:- "Redhead skinny with back leg brace, he danced behind a singer who sung just like god box".


1999's The Marshall Suite saw the band deliver a surprisingly faithful and respectful cover of Tommy Blake's F-'oldin' Money.

Blake was born Thomas LeVan Givens in Dallas, TX in 1931 and released this, on no lesser a label than Sun, in 1959. Before that he'd been a marine, served time for statutory rape, and, somewhere along the line, managed to lose one of his eyes.

So it's quite likely this tale is based on some kind of personal experience. An alcoholic, and a bastard, most of his life, he was murdered by his wife on Xmas Eve, 1985. F-'oldin' Money is basically a more degenerate take on Summertime Blues.

"That's why I broke his jaw. That's why I'm doing time. But it takes a lot of blue backs to satisfy my honey. If I could get my hands on some f-'oldin' money".


"Consumed with premonition of trouble on the horizon. By the remarks I was certain I was destined persecution".

As if to prove The Fall can create lyrical and musical gold from the basest of materials here's the tale of Terry Stoate nicking the band's backdrop from a gig at Bournemouth Town Hall on 23rd October 1985. Reports suggest Stoate was both "the biggest football hooligan in Bournemouth" and was so chuffed to be immortalised in verse by MES he "painted it on his back", whatever that means. As it was the eighties I'm picturing an amateurishly Tippexed leather jacket.

This won't be the last song from Bend Sinister, an album named for Vladimir Nabokov's dystopian 1947 novel about a university philosopher, Adam Krug, who is crushed by his unwillingness to co-operate with the dictator Paduk and his Party of the Average Man (very Nietzschean) in the fictitious European city of Padukgrad.


Back in 1985 The Fall didn't really do cover versions so it was not without remark that the single Couldn't Get Ahead came out as a double A side (remember them?) with an oddly spelt cover of Gene Vincent's rockabilly stomper Rollin' Danny.

The original was on 1958's 'Gene Vincent Rocks! And The Blue Caps Roll! LP' which also featured a cover of Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart.

Vincent Eugene Craddock was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1935 and died in California in 1971, aged 36, from a ruptured stomach ulcer. When the Rockabilly Hall of Fame was launched in Nashville in 1997 he was the first, obviously posthumous, inductee.

Cover version wise this is number seven of ten on our list.

87 - I'M A MUMMY

The Fall's sixth best cover version popped up on 1997's Levitate LP. The original version came out in 1959 (check the lyrics) and was by Bob McFadden & Dor.

McFadden was an impressionist and a voice over actor who provided the voice for the cartoon characters Cool McCool, Milton the Monster, and Snarf from Thundercats. 'Dor' was a pseudonym for Rod McKuen and he had a very different background. One of the most successful American poets of the sixties and a man whose translations of Jacques Brel did much to bring the Belgian songwriter to the attention of the English speaking public. He wrote songs for singers as diverse as Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dusty Springfield, Waylon Jennings, and Chet Baker.

"I really came back to meet Paul McCartney but people ran from me" appears to be a line of MES's own confection.


"On my pants I spilled expectorant and the colonel shot better with thirty pints. They took his cup away".

A 'terse and gnomic', but banging, number from the debut album with an insanely catchy opening refrain of "yer nervous system, yer nervous system".

Take it away....

Take it away....


The Fall's fifth best cover appeared on 2005's Fall Heads Roll.

A version of The Move's second single from 1967 (Flowers in the Rain was third, Night of Fear first) penned, of course, by the then near ubiquitous Roy Wood (see also Wizzard & ELO).

It's yet another drug song on this crazy 100 song trip.

"I see rainbows in the evening".


"Hey you, horror-face".

The third (but not last) track from Dragnet sees our hero doing what so many musicians end up doing eventually. Writing a song that castigates music journalists. As you might expect, both musically and lyrically, it pisses all over tripe like The Stereophonics' Mr Writer.

"The singer is a neurotic drinker, the band little more than a big crashing beat, instruments collide and we all get drunk" may be a fairly reductive assessment of The Fall live experience but it's certainly not wholly untrue.

The wonderful annotatedfall website manages to find, in the final lines of this song, references to both German reformation poet Friedrich Holderin and Malcolm Lowry's classic modernist novel, Under the Volcano, about an alcoholic consul seeing out his days in Cuernavaca, Mexico. If there's any truth in that I don't know but, certainly, "with print you substitute an ear for an extra useless eye" is a coda that demands one's attention.


"Alright, we're going to go back" - all the way to 1978 for a live rendition of Various Times, originally the b-side to It's The New Thing.

A tale of 1940s Germany, the Salem witch trials, and weak beer. Annotatedfall manages to cram in references to The Shangri-Las 'Past, Present, and Future', the esoteric order of Rosicrucianism, Munich's White Rose resistance movement, Marvel comics, recently deceased science fiction author Ursula K Le Guin, Homer's Odyssey, and, c/o my old mucker Bagrec, Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch.

"But I'm the sort that gets out of the bath with a dirty face".


1989's Seminal Live was a peculiar album. Five new songs (including the wonderfully titled 'Squid Law' and 'Mollusc in Tyrol') and five live favourites. It was seen as fulfilling a contractual obligation before they left Beggars Banquet.

This was the pick of the new bunch, a rifftastic tune apparently inspired by an episode of The Flintstones where Fred, Wilma, and the Rubbles travel forward in time to the 21st century only to find George Slate the 8000th trying to get Fred to settle a debt, a $4 loan that, with interest, has spiralled into $23,000,000. "Come back here, you dead beat descendants" shouts Slate as he chases the prehistoric foursome.

Possibly also a dig at the 'Madchester' scene but more of that quite soon.


"Turn that bloody blimey Space Invader off".

MES was barking on about fake news back in 1983. Quoted in The Biggest Library Yet he said, of this song, "it's about this fellow who's been fucked up by too much misinformation posing as real information".

The song goes on to tackle soap operas, poisoned lager, and Space Invader machines. It's said the Casio keyboard riff is ripped off Trio's 'Da Da Da' though it's more likely that both bands just used the same preset beat.

"Sounds like a hick wap, huh?"

"Sounds like a lot of mick wap, huh?"


From 1984's The Wonderful And Frightening World Of...comes a tale of a New Jersey drug dealer of Hibernian descent who sold bum gear.

I used to think the line "McGinty thought he could fool The Fall with his imitation speed" was a swipe at Rolo McGinty's band The Woodentops (some of their songs were very fast, they were big at the time, and I had no idea what amphetamine sulphate was) but McGinty appears to be a nickname for aforesaid Hoboken trader in fake powders.

"Pat the trip-dispenser, friend of Syndicate of Sound, pigeon toed band".

"His head was full of icy calm, a clarity of nothing".


"Wait sir, wait sir, you'd better wait sir".

The best guess is that this is some sort of anti-consumerist tirade but what "Nose-Pin and the Punk Piggies" and "the hen centre" have to do with anything is anybody's guess.

Tune though (and nice walking bass line from Steve Hanley, thanks YouTube commentator Norman de Bellefeuille). From 1994's Middle Class Revolt.


First track up from 1996's The Light User Syndrome is a tale of scratched Mercs, passion wagons, and 'chutney ferrets'. Much of the song is sung by producer Mike Bennett (his CV:- Toyah, Hazel O'Connor, Clannad, Bad Manners, Sham 69).

Cheetham Hill is, apparently, a notorious red light district between Manchester and MES's own 'ends', Prestwich. Great squeaky swing guitar sounds on this. Pour a bit of oil on it, man.

"....and this London visitor had this to say...."


"See what flows- from his mushy pen".

The first of four tracks from 1983's Perverted by Language is this nearly nine minute tale of country and western dance troupes, dead sailors from Bury, Reg Varney, and baize lift shafts.

Lyrically:- almost impenetrable yet utterly fascinating at the same time. Me and my mate Shep used to call these songs 'lectures'. Stewart Lee, too, is a fan of this one, incorporating the line 'Jew on a motorbike' into one of his critically acclaimed routines.

Kingdom of Evil is a phantasmagoric horror novel by Ben Hecht, Reg Varney played Stan Butler in On the Buses (and, famously, was the first person to use a cash point machine in Britain, Barclay's Bank in Enfield), and Wild Bill Hickock was part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

"The second god lived by mountains that flowed, by the blue shiny lit roads. Had forgot what others tried to grasp. He knew the evil of the phone".


"Sodomised by perception".


For a brief period in his mid-thirties Mark E Smith appeared to be feeling a deep affinity with another musical maverick and innovator, Mr Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

The Fall covered Kimble in 1992 and, a year later, improved on it with this lolloping take on Lee (and Joe Gibbs)'s Why Are People Grudgeful? It's the fourth highest rated cover version in this one hundred song list.


"Life should be full of strangeness like a rich painting. But it gets worse day by day, I'm a potential DJ, a creeping wreck, a mental wretch. Everybody asks me how I wrote "Plastic Man""

The Fall pretty much rip off the riff (and the chorus) of Status Quo's Pictures of Matchstick Men in this rich tale of a frustrated artist whose admirers can't even get the title of his biggest success correct. Hence the title is 'Elastic' but in the song we hear 'Plastic'.

The song also manages to shoehorn a dig in at both The Daily Mail and The Observer and pronounces shoppes with two syllables.

"Fuck it, let the beard grow".


"I am a rabbit from East Germany".

It's the third (but not the last) track from 2005's Fall Heads Roll and it's speculated that Elena Poulou may be the rabbit in question. Or that it may simply be an actual rabbit that lived in East Berlin. Here she is shouting 'Shipman' at some bemused Norwegians.


"Stop eating all that chocolate. Eat salad instead. In fact you're a half-wit from somewhere or other. Why don't you bog off to Ireland or Xanadu?"

A charming opening salvo from our second selection from '93's Infotainment Scan. This swipe at a brief glam rock revival of the time also doubles up as a dig at the infantilization of culture. Viz, Clearasil, and Stephen King all get a namecheck but the music press picked up on the supposed references to the band Suede whose debut, eponymous, album came out that year and were very much darlings of the NME back in 1993. This was denied vehemently by MES:- "The song has fuck all to do with the band Suede, and they should flatter themselves to think it is".

There's a hint of the Gary Glitter stomp to the track. It was four years before he took his computer to be fixed in Bristol and was rumbled as the hideous paedo we all love to hate today.

Glam racket indeed.


Our second track from Perverted by Language is a co-write with Marc Riley that features two basses (Steve Hanley and Karl Burns).

I used to think the line "Offer, offer, it was not an unreasonable offer" was "Arthur, Arthur, it was not an unreasonable offer" and the song was somehow about the TV show Minder.

It's not. It's about crisps, a 'French git', knives in the bathroom, and being hungry.

"I feel voxish, stack-heeled Hare Krish. Those disgusting vegan new punks caught my life mould, gave me silenced lectures".


"Popcorn double feature, the whole world's a funny farm. That man is your leader. No need to be alarmed".

First track up from 1990's Extricate is also number three in our supplementary Fall covers top ten.
The original version was a 1967 single by The Searchers. It didn't chart - and The Searchers never did again - but in '63/'64 they had three number one smashes with Sweets for my Sweet, Needles and Pins, and Don't Throw Your Love Away.


"Sticky pants are ostracised. Sermons with trad jazz guys".

There's a few deep cuts and a few oddities in this rundown and this qualifies as both. It seems to only be available on the live album Totale's Turns, recorded in front of unappreciative (or even downright hostile) crowds in the working men's clubs of Doncaster, Bradford, Preston, and Prestwich.

It's also the closest thing The Fall have to a doo-wop number and end its 105 second duration with a blast of kazoo. Observers suggest it's a spoof of The Beatles' 'This Boy' and MES once claimed it was about phoney punk preachers like The UK Subs!

"He came down from Accrington. He came down from Hovis land".

Cue Dvorak's New World Symphony and spit out an inversion of one of William Blake's pithy epithets.


"Idiot groups with no shape or form out of their heads on a quid of blow. The shapeless kecks are flapping up a storm. Look at what they are:- a pack of worms".

Our first track from 1991's Shift-Work LP is a jaunty, but sneering dismissal of the Madchester scene of the time in which MES appears to compare Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses to Freddie and the Dreamers and suggests that "your sportsmen's tears are laudanum"!?!

"Hey little singer, come on up. Show us your house and show us your cock".

 68 - HILARY

Our second track from Extricate is a rather slight, if very poppy, song that's provenance is, like so much in Fallworld, rather opaque.but appears to concern Mark's obvious dislike, and distrust, of the seemingly middle class titular character who parks her Audi outside Sainsbury's, listens to "daft African pop", drinks Bull's Blood wine, and still hasn't paid him back £60 she borrowed for the gas".

"New Faces on Saturday at six brought you back to me".


"Hey Mark. Why can't I live in England?"

An utterly sublime track from 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace (the first but far from the last from that, probably my favourite, Fall album) sees MES ruminate about "Paula Yates on vision mopeds", having a "liver and sausage dinner", "some drive in slap place in Breda, NL", and "a Swiss stewardess".

A story (possibly apocryphal) has it that Mark accidentally recorded the TV from his hotel room in the background on a Dictaphone and liked it so much he left it in. Apparently it comes from an Open University broadcast called "How do red giants make carbon?".

I love the bit at 2:07 when the volume goes up and the guitar comes crashing in and I love the bit where he's recounting a conversation with his "Mam" although I'm not sure about her view, seemingly shared by her son, that "them continentals are little monkeys". Sounds a bit ur-Brexit?

MES made an art of contrariness and was never very clear about his political affiliations (though, in his final interview, there was a suggestion of admiration for standing Salford and Eccles Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey) so make of this pull from a 1986 City Life interview with Dave Haslam what you will:-

"With Paintwork there's personal jottings and bits, but there's a lot there about England compared to Europe; how if you're not some flag-waving moron you don't fit in. That wasn't what England was about - it was about individuals and that's what Paintwork was saying".

Problematic? Possibly but there's worse to come.

"Then I woke up and decided to recommence my diary".


"It's good to live in the country. You can get down to real thinking, walk around, look at geometric tracery, hedgehogs skirt your leather soles, fall down drunk on the road. It's good to live in the country".

1982's Room to Live saw this co-write with Arthur Cadman/Kadmon. It was the only Fall song he either performed on or wrote, he was more well known for forming Ludus with Linder Sterling.
It's a tale of rural alcoholism, "nymphette new romantics", "D Bowie lookalikes", and valleys ringing with the sound of ice cream vans. There's a suggestion the title has been 'adapted' from The Seeds' 'It's A Hard Life' and this is one of four Fall songs the mention Bowie (see also Mere Pseud Mag Ed, He Pep!, and Get A Summer Song Goin').

"The villagers are surrounding the house. The locals have come for their due".


The fourth track from Fall Heads Roll, that's quite a return for a late period (this was their 24th) LP. Great driving bass from Steve Trafford and a co-writing credit for Spencer Birtwistle.

The "mercy come" refrain is said to be ripped from Tav Falco Panther Burns' 'Blind Man', the bass from Roots Manuva's excellent 'Witness', and the drums from Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition'. When the band appeared on Later (no boogie woogie clause) MES dropped in a line from Glen Campbell's 'Try a Little Kindness'.

"You expected Aristotle Onassis but instead you got Mr James Fennings from Prestwick in Cumbria" - Prestwick's not in Cumbria.

"Oh great one. I am a mere receptacle, the egg tester for your sandalwood and other assorted woods".

"I was talking to Jane Seymour".


"That Halifax copter sure dropped me a cropper".

Another track from This Nation's Saving Grace. This one tells the story of Mark buying a new house (no shit) in Bury that "according to the postman" is "like the bloody Bank of England". MES later clarifies that said house has "window sills with lead centred in the middle of 'em", a "creosote tar fence", that "the spare room is fine", and "it'll be great when it's decorated".

Such celebration of everyday life is not as anomalous in the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall as it may seem (about this time MES was eulogising early hip-hop's penchant for elevating the mundane into art) but, of course, he can't resist a blurring of realism and magical realism:- aforementioned spare room is "a little haunted", "the interior is a prison unconscious", "one could easy crack a mortal in it", and, at one point, he thinks he'll "ring swine tax" - whatever that means!


The first of four tracks from The Fall's third studio album, and first for Rough Trade, Grotesque (After the Gramme).

Critics at the time described the band as 'Mancabilly' but Mark Smith preferred the term 'Country'n'Northern'. 'Pay Your Rates' is a vitriolic, yet humorous, attack on small minded conformity and nimbyism. Warren Mitchell (Alf Garnett) gets a shout out.

Back in the eighties me and my mates used to, harshly, speculate that the rather excellent band Stump had extrapolated their entire career from the "debtors retreat estate" section.

"If your rate's too high write a snotty letter" - good to see the word 'snotty' in a pop song.

"Let's hear it for the working class traitors".


Dragnet (this is our 4th of 7 selections chosen from The Fall's second album) came out in October 1979 but I bought it around about 1985. I remember because I thought it sounded a bit like Grimly Fiendish by The Damned which was released in March '85.

"Don't cry for me, Mexico or Savage Pencil, I'm nearly healthy".

The "joke" here isn't remotely funny (or even, actually, a joke) but it works well in the context of the song. Also features some great self-awareness from MES in the lines "I don't sing, I just shout" and "just look at me - too much speed".

"Heavy clout, heart out"....


"The X in Xmas is a substitute crucifix for Christ".

The second of five tracks from Live at the Witch Trials sees Mark and the gang cutting strips off a junkie (John Quays) who, according to some (highly unreliable) sources, was actually really called John Quays!

Lines have supposedly been nicked from Joe Gibbs' 'Why Are People Grdudgeful?', The Equals' 'Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boy', Big Youth's 'Jim Screechy' (Big Youth is a Fall favourite, also getting cited in 'Get A Hotel' and 'City Hobgoblins'), and 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love?' by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Lymon died, aged 25, of a heroin overdose .... so that fits.

There's also a shout out to late 60s/early 70s Birmingham rock band The Idle Race, an early vehicle for both Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood. The Fall later covered their song 'Birthday'.

"Good King Wenceslas looked out. Silly bugger, he fell out".

"He thinks he is more interesting than the world".

"....and 20 special offer cigars".


Compiling this list has disabused me of my mistaken belief that White Lightning (number two in the top ten Fall covers) was a George Jones original.

Though 'no show' Jones did record it, and have a hit with it, the original was penned and recorded by J P Richardson - AKA The Big Bopper. The Fall's version appeared on the CD and cassette versions of '91's Shift-Work and also as a single the year before (it reached number 56 making it The Fall's fifth biggest UK chart hit).

The song has also been covered by Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, and Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets.

"Mighty, mighty pleasin'. Papa's corn squeezin'".


"Designer tramp goes grrr...looking jolly from Stoke".

I remember John Peel playing this between bands at a scorching hot Reading festival in the early nineties. Undoubtedly the lines "people in shorts drunk before ya", "armpit hairs are sprouting", and "they're well off their trolley" would've rung true.

It's essentially The Fall's take on Noel Coward's 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' and was initially released as a b-side to '89's 'Telephone Thing' before cropping up again as a bonus track on the following year's 'Extricate' album.

I like the fact that Mark can barely suppress a titter before delivering the "beached whale in Wapping" line and "I was a candidate for Club 18-30 but I've been through all that shit before" casts a delightful image of MES in his union jack shorts with a hanky on his head downing Jagerbombs and judging a wet t-shirt contest in Sunny Beach.

Altogether now:- "On train ride read Marx tracts, play Walkmans loud behind ya, demonstrate on Oxford Street".


"I was in the realm of the essence of Tong".

This is the second highest placed song in the list from 2000 onwards (it's actually on 2000's The Unutterable). I think this is fair. The Fall were still a great band in the last two decades of their life but they were no longer THE great band. Mark was no longer working the booze'n'drugs. The booze'n'drugs were working him. That's how it seemed to me - and this is a personal list.

Fall albums were always rough rides but, as time went on, there seemed to be fewer great tracks per album. 'Dr Buck's Letter' is a crunching, grinding (check out Adam Helal's bass) tale of regret, "welfare business reports", and "vulgar and arrogant abeyance" written from the perspective of a man who never leaves home without his sunglasses, mobile phone, Amex card, and PalmPilot. "The realm of the essence of Tong" indeed.


There are only two songs on this list that could be considered, in any real way, ballads - and this, the first one up, is a love song not to a person but to a city. Edinburgh, the Athens of the North!

It's our second, and final, selection from Shift-Work and sees MES reminiscing about the Scottish capital's "cobblestones", "streets at dawn", and "spires so clear".

"And in the morning walking your bridges home as I sit and stare at all of England's sores. I tell you something 'I wish I was in Edinburgh'".


"Pop stock, mix my pop-stock".

"Why are you smiling? Why are you laughing at or with this song? It's not like your scene".

Not even halfway through and we've already had FIVE songs from Dragnet. Choc-Stock prefigures the sort of novelty rock that Lawrence would later sculpt into an art form. The song was covered by Saint Etienne whose vocalist Sarah Cracknell was once romantically involved with Lawrence, he was punching above his weight there, creating a tidy triangle. There's not a lot of Fall cover versions out there so that gives Saint Etienne's version further novelty appeal.

It seems to be a riposte to snobby music fans who think they're too dark or edgy to enjoy the delights of pop music. As such it's a song very dear to my heart. I may not "eat pork piggies" nor "tolerate bad manners" (though I can tolerate Bad Manners) but I do "like chocolate animals" and I find it quite easy to "forget Lee Cooper" jeans.

"Now, come on kids. Let's get this thing together. Let's get this thing together - and make it bad".


The Fall released more singles in 1990 than any other year of their career - and they're all in the list. We've already had Popcorn Double Feature and White Lightning (and there's one more to come) but this hit the heady heights of number 97 at the tail end of the year that saw Margaret Thatcher step down and Nelson Mandela released from prison. The band have chosen to celebrate by, possibly ill advisedly, wearing SS uniforms for the video.

Simon Ford's book 'Hip Priest' claims the title comes from minimalist composer La Monte Young's 'The Second Dream of High Tension Line Stepdown Transformer' (a title more Fall, even, than The Fall). Young's piece claims to have no beginning, middle, or end - which could explain why this track, quite uncharacteristically, fades both in and out.

Number 24 in John Peel's 1991 festive fifty, the year Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' won it.


"This is the spring without end. This is the summer of malcontent. This is the winter of your mind".

Yesterday we had The Fall's last single of 1990, today we have their first from 1991. It's the only Fall non-cover to ever reach the UK top 40 (number 40!), was number six in 1992's festive fifty (Bang Bang Machine's 'Geek Love' claimed the top spot), and is the only track from '92's Code:Selfish to make our top 100.

It appears to be MES's response to the fall of the Iron Curtain but, typically, pulls in references from Shakespeare's Richard III and Nietzsche (or possibly Richard Strauss) and namechecks both Moravia (now in the Czech Republic) and Moldavia (currently shared between Romania and Ukraine).

"It pays to talk to no one - NO ONE".

"Insect posse will be crushed".


Banger alert!

"Something happened in Bremen, I know. Something I don't want to".

Here's a funky, frenetic, and fucked up nine minutes plus of uncomfortable escapades in North-West Germany. YouTube commenter Roy 'Oily' Phillips nails it with his observation:- "The Fall invent Arctic Monkeys and play their whole career in less than 10 minutes".

It's our third and final track on 1988's The Frenz Experiment and served as the highlight, the centrepiece, of that somewhat patchy album (in fact the shade from this mighty oak appears to have stunted the growth of all other trees in Fall orchard that year). Number sixteen in the 1988 festive fifty (topped by The House of Love's 'Destroy the Heart').

Here's MES talking about the track to Roy Wilkinson in Sounds that same year - "I'd been to Bremen twice before on tours. The first time I just puked my ring up all day, spewing up this black liquid. The dressing room was like a fucking gas chamber, man".

This seeming dislike of Bremen fails to prevent Mark singing a few lines in cod-Deutsch:- "Ich raus schnell mach von Bremen nacht", "Ich leave real quick das Bremen nacht" etc; In English he makes the bold claim "I was more than usual pissed" (which would be very very pissed indeed).

"Thank God skin patch is nearly gone and the impress of fingers dead have disappeared and left me alone".


"They say 'what about the meek?'. I say 'they've got a bloody cheek!".

This is better than you'll remember it. A spit flecked second, and final, track from 1999's The Marshall Suite that also turned up on advert for the Vauxhall Corsa. Reformation website comes with tales of it being half-inched from the VU's 'Waiting for my Man' yet that didn't stop MES and Julia Nagle getting into a bitter contretemps about the song's royalties. Mark claiming "at the time I needed the money. We're not all Elton John".

Elton will be cropping up again very soon in this list. You can't keep Reg from Pinner down. Number four in '99's festive fifty (behind Cuban Boys 'Cognoscenti vs Intelligentsia' and two Hefner cuts:- 'Hymn for the Cigarettes' and 'Hymn for the Alcohol'. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci romped in fifth with 'Spanish Dance Troupe').

The video appears to mark the exact moment that Mr Mark Smith turned from reasonably attractive young men to wizened Grinch.

"I know, I know, I know".

"You're dying for a pee so you go behind a tree and a Star Wars police vehicle pulls up".


"Get a whiff of that Antipodean breeze".

The b-side to Hit the North was nearly as good as the single itself. What a great release this was from a band at the peak of its powers. It didn't last long in the live set but I do remember they played it on the day of my 19th birthday at Reading Festival. I'd been drinking vodka so I don't remember it very well, mind.

Hit the North was number nine in that year's festive fifty and this was number two, only beaten by The Sugarcubes' 'Birthday' which is an ace song anyway so that's fair enough.

The line "their cover versions are naff and they live in Berlin" is supposed to be a dig at Nick Cave who MES seems to have enjoyed/endured something of a thorny love/hate relationship with. Cave was indeed based in Berlin at that time and The Bad Seeds had realised Kicking Against The Pricks, an album of cover versions just one year earlier.

"You're like a Van Gogh savage, McGregor's kilt with no chin".


Hitting the halfway mark with the third selection from Live at the Witch Trials. There's more to come, that probably won't surprise you. This Martin Bramah co-write (according to Reformation website) is only known to have been performed live nine times, most recently in Prestwich Hospital Social Club in November 1978 and MES has claimed it's one of the first three songs he can remember writing. The other two are still to come - showing just how fully formed the songwriting was even on the first Fall album.

annotatedfall says "an astoundingly mature lyric" that "considers time as a kind of maze always circling back round to the centre, the isolated self bewitched by a procession of events that are factually varied but identical in their meaning". It harks back, or perhaps forward, to a time when "the pubs were closed, it was three o'clock".

"Look at the woman of thirty-nine. Look at the man of forty-nine. You can read their lousy lives. You can see their ugly face lines".


"I've sold my car, thrown in my job, I'm thirty-four years old. I think it's time I saw the world and not Australia".

We've finally reached the number one Fall cover version and it's neither originally by The Kinks nor R. Dean Taylor. I'd never even heard of Steve Bent when I bought The Infotainment Scan back in '93 but this take on his 1974 contribution to tv talent show New Faces proved to be the best track on it.
Bent's version appeared on a 1978 LP called The World's Worst Records (compiled by Kenny Everett) which also included tracks by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy (Paralysed), Eamon Andrews (The Shifting Whispering Sands), and even 'Surfin' Bird' by the Trashmen!

MES added ten years to Bent's original age of 24 and, perhaps oddly considering how Fallesque it was, dropped a line about hating cheese'n'pickle sandwiches but kept in the stuff about cousin Norman and being given "some tapes of Elton John" by "the factory floor".

It reached number 22 on that year's festive fifty, sandwiched between Senser's 'Eject' and 'Web in Front' by Archers of Loaf. Chumbawamba and Credit to the Nation topped the list with 'Enough is Enough'. They were different, more innocent, times.

"I hope I can quickly learn the language".


"How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you, Gretchen Franklin".

Mark claimed he didn't know Gretchen Franklin played Ethel Skinner in Eastenders when he chose her name for this track about the then popular themes of phone bugging and surveillance, telling the NME in January 1990:- "I don't even watch fucking Eastenders. I hate it" and "OH NO! It's not the woman with the dog is it? It's not?".

The song was co-written with Coldcut members Jonathan More and Matt Black and inspired by a track, 'My Telephone', they did with Lisa Stansfield the year before on their album 'What's That Noise?". An album that MES contributed a guest vocal to (the track '(I'm) In Deep').

Telephone Thing appeared on Extricate and it's the third of four from that LP on our list. As a single it reached number 58 on the UK chart. LCD Soundsystem played tribute to it on the song 'Movement', a single from their debut album.

"Does the home secretary have the barest faintest inkling of what's going down?". Ask Douglas Hurd. Or maybe David Waddington.
47 - 2x4
'The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...' is The Fall's most rifftastic album - and this is the best riff on that album. It just goes to show what an ace guitarist (and writer) Brix was, and still is. Give credit to Doc Shanley here, too, for that distorted bass sound.

As for what it's all about, well, see if you can work it out for yourself from the four lyrical excerpts below:-

"There's a new fiend on the loose jolting in his tradition, it's a fear of the obtuse".

"Used a table leg to club son-in-law".

"He said show me my quarters and glasses".

"Nowadays he has a Georgian glazed porch".


"English Chelsea fan:this is your last game. We're not Galatasaray, we're Sparta FC".

This IS the final selection from the current millennium. A Mark E Smith/Ben Pritchard/Jim Watts composition (though I guess Elena wrote the Greek bits) produced by Grant Showbiz and recorded in Rochdale (Rochdale keeps cropping up, I've never been there).

It appeared on The Fall's 23rd album, 2003's The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) and enjoyed a second life as the theme music to Final Score:- resulting in Mark's infamous red button reading of the football scores, an event that made me question my sanity and look for acid in my Cornflakes.

It was number two in John Peel's 2003 festive fifty (behind Cinerama's 'Don't Touch That Dial') but the following year, the final year of Peel's life, it was number one. A fitting tribute to Mr Ravenscroft.

Sparta is in the Laconia region of Greece (on the Pelopennese peninsula) and their football club finished 7th in the Greek second division last year. Mark boasts, possibly accurately, "I do know quite a few Greek football fans and their attitude to soccer is completely different to Britain" before claiming, less plausibly, that the song has a "Greek motif on the guitar".

"Cheap English man in the paper shop, you mug old women in your bobble hat".

"Your fleecy jumper? You won't need it anymore".


"Some people have stars in eyes. Some people want eyes for stars. They've been like that for years. They've been like that for years. I suspect they're just if if if. I just want room to live".

Our second and final track from 1982's 'Room To Live' album is the title one. This definitely has that country'n'northern/Mancabilly feel. I love the way MES says 'years', I love the bassy sax low in the mix, and I was always impressed with how vivid the line "there's a DHSSS Volvo estate right outside my door with a Moody Blues cassette on the dashboard" is.

"Some people think happy is way to live. Some men want to cram up to women. I've been down that street before, it just makes meat out of the soul".

"There's no hate in the point I give. I just want room to live".


"You don't see many cats on leads".

Debatable if this, strictly speaking, is one or two tracks but it's surely Mark Smith's only shared writing credit with William Blake. It's certainly a very Fallesque move to pair a ranting anti-dog diatribe ("big tea chest fucker dog", "Plato of the human example and copier dog master pet mourner", "lousy dog role model for infidel dog house") with Blake's poem, 'and did these feet in ancient times' that later, with the addition of Hubert Parry's music, became the hymn Jerusalem.

It's from '88's 'I Am Kurious Oranj' and the Jerusalem half (two-thirds) made 36 in the that year's festive fifty.

"And was Jerusalem in the dark Satanic mills?"

"It was the fault of the government".


In 1986 The Fall were so good they could throw away a track like this as a b-side (to Mr Pharmacist). It still reached number 37 in that year's festive fifty ('There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' by The Smiths topped the poll). The song seems to have been knocking around for at least a decade in some form at that point, a letter to Tony Friel from Mark Smith in August 1977 mentions a song called 'Lucifer Over Manchester'.

Simon Wolstonecroft's book 'You Can Drum But You Can't Hide' claims members of The Fall would use the intro beat to knock on each other's hotel doors while on tour to signify it wasn't MES paying an unexpected visit!

"And the sky moves on, his cock-eyed moon, a useless priest under your power".

"Monstrous kiss/wet dagger".


"What really went on there? We only have this excerpt".

Mark and Brix both sounding, and looking, excellent on this number 96 hit from 1985. Number three in that year's festive fifty behind two JAMC tracks ('Never Understand' and 'Just Like Honey'). I saw them play this as part of their epic seven encore gig at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town in 1986. It may still rate as the best gig I ever went to.

Accounts of subject matter vary from an office party to a library on a boat but with the "shirt tails flapping in the wind", "nice pink bubbles in my mouth", and "Bianco on the breath guaranteed" it's certainly rich in imagery.

"No more Red Wedge in the pub or ZTT stuff".


"How long is long in a hellish place?".

Despite appearing in live sets as far back as 1980 this Smith/Scanlan composition only surfaced in recorded form on the cassette version of 'The Wonderful And Frightening World Of...' (and the concurrent 'Call For Escape Route EP') in 1984.

It's been noted that the riff owes a debt to Lou Reed's 'Vicious' and Victor Draygo were a Rossendale outfit that supported The Fall occasionally between 1979 & 1983. Their conga player sometimes drummed for The Fall but there's no evidence of any acrimony.

"I am the one who gave you a chance in life. How can you try and end my life?".

"Hate from the hills".

"Hate from the hills".

"Hate from the hills".

"Hate from the hills".

40 - R.O.D.

"Hide, dive, hide, reasonable people in silence do exult".

Third of four tracks from '86's 'Bend Sinister', reached no.26 in that year's festive fifty (sandwiched between 'Whole Wide World' by The Soup Dragons and The Age of Chance's 'Bible of the Beats').

There's a few theories about the title. 'Realm of dusk' is repeated eight times in the song but a double meaning has also been suggested by former roadie and Junior Manson Slags member Colin Burns who claims it's a 'tribute' to him (our roadie)! Someone else has been bold enough to imply that it's about Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone! Hmmm.

A more plausible explanation for some of the song's other lyrics comes from WB Yeats' wonderful poem 'To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing'.

"It's approaching, 600lbs gas and flesh, rotten, tainted".

"Flickering lexicon or a stray dog pack cleaner.

All over a bastardised surf riff from Brix.


The Fall's second ever single from November 1978. Written by Mark E Smith and Martin Bramah. Ian Birch's Melody Maker review, "little more than a big, thrashing beat with instruments colliding and everyone getting drunk", was later, in a slightly amended form, co-opted for the song 'Printhead'.

The song references Eliot Ness and The Untouchables and legendarily unambitious Manc band The Worst (Paul Morley said they "make The Clash sound like Rush"). The "ba ba ba"'s are said to be ripped from Gene Vincent's 'Brand New Beat'.

"New hotels look like science fiction films or revival gothic pigswill".

"It's the new LEATHER thing.


"I'm searching for the now. I'm looking for the real thing, yeah".

Our fourth track (of six) from 'Live at the Witch Trials' is a catchy piece about "drinkers dancing at the bar" and "waiting for the music craze".

The band's penultimate performance of it was at London's Rainbow Theatre in May 1980 and then at the Kentish Town Forum twenty-nine years later it got one solitary, almost random, airing!

"Taxi for Mr Nelson"!

37 - LA

Third track (with more to come) from This Nation's Saving Grace. Sadly lacking the reference to Lloyd Cole having "a face made out of cow pats" but including an introduction by John Peel who denounces it as his least favourite Fall track of all time. Or at least up to that point.

It still reached no 42 in his festive fifty that year so I'm not the only one who disagrees with Margrave of the Marshes here. It's not far from an instrumental with the odd line, "Odeon sky" or "bushes are in disagreement with the heat", conspiring with helicopter rotor guitars and strangulated Lancastrian grunts to portray a very Fallesque take on California's biggest, and America's most confusing, city. A love letter to home from Brix.


"Armageddon! This beautiful tree".
Second (and final, if you don't include the cassette version) track from 'Wonderful and Frightening World of...". It reached no 9 in that year's festive fifty behind Sisters of Mercy's 'Walk Away' ('How Soon is Now' by The Smiths topped it).

The 'LAY LAY LAY' chant at the start, apparently nicked from Quatermass, made me wonder, in my callow/sallow youth if this was a cult? It kinda was, I was one hundred songs inducted.

"Kerb crawlers of the worst order".

"Eldritch House with green moss".

"When the height of culture is a bad stew".

"Where's the lay of the land, my son?".


Neat! This is 35 in this list and was 35 in the 1983 festive fifty (New Order's 'Blue Monday' was number one).

An early attack on the gentrification of football, it takes on "J Hill's satanic reign, ass lickers, Keegan's team", "hotdogs and seats for Mr Hogg", and "lurid brochures".

I love the stuff about "Pat McCat, the very famous sports reporter" and "plastic/slime/partitions/cocktail/zig-zag/Tudor bar".

"Remember! The police are rough".

"Under Marble Millichip the FA broods on how flair can be punished".
"Check the record. Check the record. Check the guy's track record".

A live standard, a glam rock stomper, and MES boasting. In many ways it's the archetypal Fall song. Number 24 in the 1988 festive fifty and inspired by both Gary Glitter (!) and an earlier Fall song which appears next in this list.

"Drink the long draught for big priest".


"He is not appreciated".

Following Big New Prinz, it's that song's older, and weirder, less muscular, brother. The one that was used on the soundtrack of Silence of the Lambs. It's the second (of four) from Hex Enduction Hour.

"White collar hits motorway services".

"It's purple psychology".

"Drunk from small brown bottles since I was so long".

"I'm as clean as a packet of chocolate Treets".

All great lines but the one nicked from Kris Kristofferson's 'Sunday Mornin' Comin Down', "I got my last clean dirty shirt outta the wardrobe", is probably the pick of this peculiar near eight minute single take recorded in Iceland where the band had travelled to play a gig organised by Einar Orn, later of The Sugarcubes.


"The dwarf plays pool to prove his height. People play games when they lose in life. There's no sport, lad. Just acid tension stomach flash, a madness in my area".

Very early Smith/Riley/Scanlon co-write which appeared as a b-side to Rowche Rumble back in '79 and was last played live at London's Acklam Hall in December 1980. A deep cut you might say.

Interesting keyboard work from Yvonne Pawlett and some good early examples of self-reference from MES. Check out the lines "can't remember who I've sacked, just stupid faces looking bad" and "former friends suck on The Fall:genuine white crap article".

"I have seen the birth of bad. I have seen declining tracks. I have the seen the madness in my area".


"This is the home of the vain".

"This is the home of the vain".

Our third track from Hex Enduction Hour is the most problematic of all Fall songs. Not because of the repetition of the line "Hey there fuckface" but, instead, because that repetition follows the line "where are the obligatory niggers?".

It seems highly unlikely Mark E Smith is actually a racist and far more possible that he's just indulging himself in a bit of PC baiting as well as very bluntly trying to make a point about those, and it seems there were many at the time, who paid lip service to equality by roping in a couple of black backing singers for 'authenticity' and paying them as cheaply as possible.

Still, an n-bomb doesn't make for an easy listen now. Public Enemy and NWA can get away with it but a bunch of white blokes? Not sure a few reggae covers can really justify it. Rumour has it it's the line that stopped them getting signed to Tamla Motown which would've been a pretty bizarre event anyway.

It's a pity because musically it's something of a messed up masterpiece, it sounds like two different bands playing two different songs in places until somewhere near the end they hit on a groove and kind of make sense of it all.

Elsewhere, in the lyrics we get everything from coruscating critiques ("there is no culture in my brag, your taste for bullshit reveals a lust for a form of office"), the vaguely humorous ("I just left the Hotel Amnesia. I had to go there. Where it is I can't remember"), and the utterly bonkers ("there are only twelve people in the world. The rest are paste") before concluding on an upbeat positive note ("I've never felt better in my life") that sits at odds, yet fits perfectly, with such a caustic song and soon becomes an earworm.

It's a song I still can't fully get my head around but I know "you won't find anything more ridiculous than this new profile razor unit made with the highest British attention to the wrong detail".

Number thirty-eight in 2000's all time festive fifty. Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' was number one. Possibly helped by the fact that it doesn't contain any blatant racial slurs.


"The Siberian mushroom Santa was in fact Rasputin's brother".

Another deep cut, another b-side, but something of a classic and one I was once told had been incorporated into a Manchester City football chant. It's a song about people having "too much brandy for breakfast", selling "surplus oil to Arab fighters", and having "a barney on Corporation Street".

"Ours is not to look back. Ours is to continue the crack".


"Is there anybody there?".

"Rocky! Rocky!".

The sixth (of seven) tracks from Dragnet is the album opener. Psykick Dance Hall took a 28 year break from The Fall's live set but reappeared in 2009, eventually getting more airings than it did back in '79/'80.

"You gotta come for a mental orgasm".

Apparently it was inspired by Kay Carroll's mum opening a psychic centre in Prestwich.

"My garden is made of stone. There's a computer centre over the road".

"When I'm dead and gone my vibrations will live on in vibes, not vinyl, through the years. People will dance to my waves".


"Do you know what you look like before you go out?".

"Today on The Vitamin B Glandular Show". This 1982 tune, built around one of Doc Shanley's traditional agricultural bass lines and some plinky-plonk keyboards from MES himself, seems an unusual choice, in retrospect, for a single.

It's slight, it's messy, but it's highly effective. Recorded in Reykjavik in 1981 at the same time as 'Hip Priest', annotatedfall claims the Casio VL tone preset employed here is, not for the first time in this list, the same as the one used on Trio's 'Da Da Da' and that Marc Riley 'fessed up on Twitter that his 'guitar outbursts' were based on 'Candyskin' by The Fire Engines.

"That's why you eat crap food, that's why nobody talks to you, that's why you mess up everything you do".

"Happy memories leave a bitter taste".

"But I say 'get it down yer neck'".

27 - I'M INTO CB

"My family's a weird lot. My stepsister's got a horrible growth, listens to all this muzak shit, reads Smash Hits while she's eating her tea".

"My father's not bad really. He got me these wires and bits, apart from that he talks to me hardly. I'm just into CB".

The b-side of 'Look, Know' edges it by just one place. An epic, hilarious, and oft-overlooked Fall classic that tells, over a surprisingly compact six and half minutes, the tale of a socially gauche chap who finds solace conversing with strangers on citizens band radio. Wonder where he'd be spending his time now, eh?

Has some great lines about getting "plastered in the stations and swing parks" on "cheap sherry" and "a bottle of Martini", "having trouble with the terminology", and receiving a letter that's "buff with a confidential seal" as well as referencing the earlier Fall song 'New Face In Hell'. So, if you've "never had a car" or "never been near a lorry" then, I'm afraid, "to me that sounds like bad CB".

"That's what you get for having a hobby".

26 - U.S 80S/90S

"No beer! No cigarettes!".

There's no denying this is massive. The sound of a band at the peak of their powers steamrollering the opposition. Crunching drums, grinding guitars, booming bass, and MES holding court about having "had a run in with Boston immigration", "cones of silence" (seemingly a reference to the Mel Brooks sitcom 'Get Smart'), and how the "Kentucky dead keep pouring down by death stadium".

It's our highest placed track (of four) from '86's 'Bend Sinister' (unless you owned it on cassette that is) and reached number ten in that year's festive fifty, where it was sandwiched between JAMC's 'Some Candy Talking' and 'Ask' by The Smiths.

"I'm the big shot original rapper but it's time for me to get off this crapper".

"The cops are tops".


"They say damp records the past. If that's so I've got the biggest library yet".

From the cassette version of '84's 'The Wonderful and Frightening World of...' here's a riff heavy monster about, er, trying to find a belt in a messy flat!

"In need of black strap".

"In need of black strap".

Number 44 in that year's festive fifty (between New Model Army's 'Vengeance' and 'Dark Streets of London' by The Pogues).

"He is genius in allocation of space".

The line "compared to this St.Petersburg was nothing" suggests MES is fully aware that having to replace a light bulb is small beer compared to the Siege of Leningrad in which over a million people died - but he's still gonna record an eight minute song about it. Yeah, "the biggest library yet".


"The rabbit killer left his home for the clough and said goodbye to his infertile spouse".

The top selection from 'Hex Enduction Hour' and it's only no.24! It's one of those great Fall songs where words, story, and tune all come together to create something bigger than the sum of their parts.
The imagery of the "loose sex criminal", the "jawbone caked in muck", and the "visions of islands heavily covered in slime" is absurdly rich and, according to reformationpostpm, is inspired by both M.R.James and H.P.Lovecraft.

"There's been no war for forty years and getting drunk fills me with guilt. So after eight I prowl the hills. Eleven'o'clock, I'm tired to fuck. Y'see, I've been laid off work".

"Advertisments become carnivores and road workers turn into jawbones".

23 - C.R.E.E.P.

When I first got into The Fall this song was already being cited as an example of how they'd sold out and gone pop!

Sure, it's not the dense knotted tanglewood of 'Hex Enduction Hour' but, as every walker knows, you need a variety of terrains to make a journey interesting and this is from the green sunlit uplands of planet Fall. It rocks too.

In retrospect a lot of the mithering seemed to be a load of old sexist claptrap about a girl, and worse an American girl, being given such prominence in the band. Brix co-wrote this, a no.91 single, with her then husband, Craig Scanlon, and the Hanley bros.

Apparently, some people thought it was about Morrissey. Marc Riley thought it was about Marc Riley. Both these claims were denied by the band.

Number eighteen in the 1984 festive fifty (between The Smiths' 'What Difference Does It Make' and Echo & The Bunnymen's 'The Killing Moon', what a year).

"He is a scum-egg, a horrid trendy wretch".

"This ugly gawk is offending. Make sure you're not absorbed".

"Populist!" - in 1984!

But the ultimate insult is saved until the very end:- "He likes ABC". Hey, I like ABC.


"Two swans in front of his eyes. Coloured balls in front of his eyes. It's number one for his Kelly's eye, treble six right over his eye".

The Fall's first official release was recorded on the 23rd May 1977 by Mark E Smith, Martin Bramah, Tony Friel, Una Baines, and Karl Burns. By 1980 all, except MES obvs, had gone (though Bramah rejoined once and Burns three more times).

Baines wrote the music and Smith the words about a suicidal bingo caller suggesting, immediately, that this was not your normal band:- "All he sees is the back of chairs. In the mirror, a lack of hairs"."A glass of lager in his hand, silver microphone in his hand. Wasting time in numbers that rhyme"....and finally...."A hall full of cards left unfilled. Ended his life with wine and pills. There's a grave somewhere only partly filled. A sign on a graveyard on a hill reads 'BINGO MASTER'S BREAKOUT".


"Yeah, yeah, industrial estate".

Anyone who saw Ben Wheatley's 'High Rise' will have been treated to a blast of this, the fifth of six selections from 'Live at the Witch Trials' in this top 100.

On the 30th April 1998 at The Alley Cat in Reading, during what was surely the band's lowest ebb, I witnessed MES hand a guitar to an audience member who gamely played along to this song. That was a sorely depleted line up indeed.

I nearly had a crack at it with The Fallen Women at The Lexington in December but my friends cried off. I had a nice night anyway.

It's a surprisingly perky rant at the grimness of working to make someone else rich:- "and the crap in the air will fuck up your face, and the boss will bloody take most of your wage, and if you get a bit of depression ask the doctor for some Valium".

"Yeah, yeah. industrial estate".


"Look at a car park for two days. Look at a grey port for two days".

A rollicking slice of country'n'northern, a Mancabilly masterpiece featuring some insanely good drumming by Paul Hanley who was just sixteen at the time (replicated very impressively, some years later, by Danny O'Brien from Fall tribute act The Hideous Replicas) and some great yelping from MES as he barks out a tale of "grey ports with customs bastards", "bad indigestion, bad bowel retention, speed for their wages, suntan, torn shirt sleeves" and how "communists are just part time workers".

It's the second track (of four) from 1980's 'Grotesque (After the Gramme)' LP. The video must've been made later as it features Brix who wasn't in the band at the time but it's a joy to watch. The part where MES's face is superimposed on a trucker used to have my friends and I in stitches.

"R.O.R.O. roll on roll off".

"....and there's no thanks from the loading bay ranks".


"In a week earned money for a month, got all my jobs done. My eyelids were sick of it. Gist was I could sleep for a day but bad bills have no respect for a decent man's rest".

The fourth of seven from TNSG reached no.90 in the 1985 charts and no.39 in that year's festive fifty, just behind the Truckin' Mix of Prefab Sprout's 'Faron Young' and just ahead of Billy Bragg's 'Between The Wars'. I loved it at the time (and still do). I loved the way MES spun lyrical gold from the base materials of life, I loved the urgent, impulsive rhythm laid down by Karl Burns and Steve Hanley.

"On an Asiatic plane with wings not of the grain. Toilet queue was endless, couldn't get a beer. The hostesses were Muslims. When I get in toilet, light flashes 'return to seat'. I feared withdrawal and I feared beer was making sludge of my head".

"Put on some Armani clothes and act like ET".


"Crow's feet are ingrained on my face and I'm living too late".

Another chart smash from the mid-eighties, this one reached the heady heights of number ninety seven in 1986. It only featured on the cassette version of 'Bend Sinister' but reached fifteenth place in the '86 festive fifty (between Half Man Half Biscuit's 'Trumpton Riots' and 'Once More' by The Wedding Present.

Sam Fox reviewed this in Smash Hits at the time and said "it's really crappy", "he sounds like he's been having yodelling lessons", and "the lyrics are really depressing". 1986 was the year that the former page 3 'stunna' hit no.3 with 'Touch Me (I Want Your Body)'.

It ('Living Too Late', not 'Touch Me (I Want Your Body) grinds out a tale of a depressed middle aged man who thinks "sometimes life is like a new bar:- plastic seats/beer below par/food with no taste/music grates" who's "finally going through old parasite gate but there's a twenty four hour clock watch".

"I see trouble in the streets, fearing catastrophe to meet. Walk down the devil's boulevard but still my heart is hard".

17 - CAB IT UP!

"Cabbing it uptown, you're moving it uptown. You taxi it uptown, uptown".

Our final selection from '88's 'I Am Kurios Oranj' features Marcia Schofield's xylophone style keyboard very heavily. It's been compared to OMD! No.89 in the pop charts and no.14 in the festive fifty (thirteen was Morrissey's 'Suedehead' and fifteen was 'I'm Not Always So Stupid' by The Wedding Present).

"A Shepherds Bush man eats from a can".

"Your business friend's Australian".

"Sideways, sideways".

"Michael, Michael".


A massive number 57 UK chart hit back in 1987 and number nine in that year's festive fifty where it was squeezed between two Wedding Present songs, 'A Million Miles' and 'Anyone Can Make A Mistake'.

Apparently, a ploy by Brix Smith and Simon Rogers to increase the popularity of the band. Well, the music is certainly uptempo and poppy but it seems MES didn't get the memo. Here's a few sample lyrics:-

"All estate agents alive yell down nights in hysterical breath".

"From the back, 3rd eye psyche, the reflected mirror of delirium, Eastender and Victoria's lager".

"95% of hayseeds are corn pones, guaranteed".

"My cat says eeee-ack".

Frank Sidebottom's cover is worth a view/listen too.


"Totally Wired is ugly and terribly produced. I can't see there's an audience for The Fall's constant verbal battery".

Danny Baker's assessment was as untrue as it was unkind. This song has been covered by The Last Shadow Puppets and Terry Edwards, sampled by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, and featured in three different festive fifties including 2000's all time list where it nestled between The Clash's 'Complete Control' and The Jam's 'Going Underground' at no.34. It even reached the top thirty in New Zealand. Not bad for a celebration of amphetamine (ab)use.

"I drank a jar of coffee then I took some of these".

"You don't have to be weird to be weird".

"My heart and I agree. I'm irate, peeved, irate, peeved".

"And I'm always worried".

"And I'm always worried".

"And I'm always worried".

"And I'm always worried".

14 - BARMY

"In Turkey when I've been due to World War I, Istanbul is the place 'cos of my birthday".

It's the 12th of July 1986 and my seventeen year old self is at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town for my first ever Fall gig. Mark E Smith wanders nonchalantly on to stage, lobs a carrier bag (presumably full of cans) to the side, intones into the mic "Hello, we are The Fall", and then the monster riff of 'Barmy' fills the room and I'm blown away, a fan forever.

I didn't know at the time that the riff was nicked from 'Valleri' by The Monkees but now I do it still doesn't matter. I just think back to 1986. 'Papa Don't Preach' by Madonna had just knocked Wham's 'Edge of Heaven' off the number one spot, Thatcher was in power, and Jorge Luis Burruchaga had scored the winning goal of the World Cup final for Argentina against West Germany in the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The Fall were not part of that world. The Fall were part of that world. It's our fourth track from 'This Nation's Saving Grace' and we've still two to come.

"Just call me the first".

"Just call me the first".

"Friends disintegrate within circles of cash, residue after years of fab genius is a pension for the Jews and a medal from the company which I wiped my butt on and hung on a laburnum tree".


"I'm in the furniture trade. Got a new job today but stick the cretin on the number three lathe".

"They looked at my coat, they looked at my hair. An Easy Rider coot grabbed the edge of my coat, said 'you're too smart for here'. I said 'I'll see the manager'. He was the manager".

'Eat Y'Self Fitter' (the 2nd of 3 songs of this from list from 1983's 'Perverted by Language') took its title from a slogan on a packet of Kellogg's All Bran breakfast cereal. It's six and half minutes of MES's heightened social observance over a militaristic beat co-penned with Steve Hanley and it's a great example of the band in the pomp of their two drummers era, both Paul Hanley and Karl Burns on sticks here.

It made number eight in that year's festive fifty (7:- Billy Bragg - 'A New England', 9:- The Smiths - 'Hand In Glove') and John Peel, in 1990, chose it as one of his Desert Island Discs (along with Handel, Rachmaninov, Roy Orbison, Jimmy Reed, Misty In Roots, The Four Brothers, and, of course, The Undertones).

"I met a hero of mine. I shook his hand. Got trapped in the door. Felt a fool, I'll tell you" - said hero is believed to be John Cale.

The lines "Panic in Sudan. Panic in Wardour. Panic in Granadaland" are said to have inspired The Smiths' 'Panic'. Other rumours say The Smiths were named after Mark E Smith. The love in appears not to be mutual as The Fall left Rough Trade (for Beggars Banquet) after this album as they felt RT were putting all their resources behind Morrissey's lot.

"The Kevin Ayers scene/South of France/plush velvet/Aback/Aback/Aback/Aback/Greek holidays/Barrett heritance".

"Who tells you what to tape on your vid chip? How do you know the progs you miss are worse than those you single out?".

"Where's the cursor? Where's the eraser?".

The video is made by someone who labours under the pseudonym Kickboy Face but it's definitely worth watching (to the very end) and not just to see Mark E Smith dancing. There's a challenge.

"Up the stairs, mister".


"And it's painless sitting in subterranea. Ancient reference to Mesopotamia".

This haunting, yet sketchily executed, track must be Brix's best vocal contribution to The Fall's oeuvre. It's an unconventional (no shit) duet with Mark about a night spent in a Nuremberg hotel next door to an abattoir, it's the highest placed track from 'Perverted by Language', and it's one The Fall never once performed live. Though Brix & The Extricated do wonderful justice to it now. It's actually adapted from a song, 'Everything for the Record', Brix wrote for her previous band, Banda Dratsing.

"Our words repeat in patterns, our minds encapsulating time".

"A long way south, to a reasonable smell of death".

"2,013 Vicksburg confederate graves are uncovered throwing new light on this nineteenth century conflict, sparking off a repeat. These Southern spectres were disease ridden, dusty, organic, and psychic".

"And it's quiet again".


The penultimate track from 'This Nation's Saving Grace' is built around a monster riff penned by Simon Rogers (but played, presumably, by either Brix Smith or Craig Scanlon) and some lyrical ideas that MES had already had knocking around for about a decade or so by 1985.

Number 23 in that year's festive fifty just below That Petrol Emotion's 'V2' and just above 'Sunrise' by New Order.

"I know that the servants keep their order knowledge and as you walk on in the footsteps of steed, babe, into the encrusted green unwild you know you are a spoilt Victorian child".

"The child was spoilt Victorian".


"He saw mercenary eyes. The streets are full of mercenary eyes".

The top ten begins with our final track from '79's 'Dragnet' which, with seven of its ten songs reaching the final cut, is, perhaps surprisingly, the best represented Fall album on this list.

'Flat of Angles' tells of a man who "killed his wife" because "she was wasting his life" and is now "trapped in flat of angles" with "soap operas all day in rooms of dirty laundry". I owned 'Dragnet' for years before realising this tale of matricide, remorse, and police procedurals was the best song on it. The flanging guitar has an almost synaesthetic quality for me and the way Mark barks out a story of murder and paranoia just keeps bringing me back.

"Phone in for the Dragnet man".


"Wireless enthusiast intercepts government secret radio band and uncovers secrets and scandals of deceitful type proportions".

How's that for an opening line? You having that? The third, and penultimate, selection from 'Grotesque (After the Gramme)' is dominated both by Kay Carroll's kazoo and MES's 'paranoid tale of sinister government agencies 'disappearing' innocent amateur radio hams'. You'll remember it's good. You won't remember just how good.

The 1968 film 'PJ' (starring George 'Hannibal' Peppard and Raymond 'Ironside' Burr) was renamed 'New Face in Hell' for its UK release. Pavement liked the song so much they stole the riff for their own, excellent, 'Conduit for Sale'.

"A prickly line of sweat covers enthusiast's forehead as the realisation hits him that the same government him and his now dead neighbour voted for and backed and talked of on cream porches have tricked him into their war against the people who enthusiast and dead hunter would wish torture on. A servant of government walks in and arrests wireless fan in kitchen for murder of his neighbour".

"The dead cannot contradict. Sometimes the living cannot - A NEW FACE IN HELL".

"Nearly........A NEW FACE IN HELL"!


"This is the three Rs, the three Rs, REPETITION - REPETITION - REPETITION".

Recorded in Manchester in 1977 with a line up of Mark E Smith, Martin Bramah, Tony Friel, Una Baines, and Karl Burns.

"President Carter loves repetition". This song is so old that 'Peanut' was still in the first year of his presidency.

"Chariman Mao, he dug repetition". Mao Zedong had died the previous year.

This, er, repetitive tune about "simultaneous suicide", "mental hospitals" that "put electrodes in your brain", and "daughters and sons who are sick of fancy music" turned up on the flip to Bingo Master's Breakout but seemed to give a much clearer indication of both the band's ethos and their future direction. A big marker.

"Repetition in China. Repetition in America. Repetition in West Germany".


"Ich hasse, die masse, die kleine, gemeine, die lahme, die zahme, mein herzblut, raubt".

"Oh, little brother. We are in a mess. Don't look at me that way. Don't put me to the test".

A number 93 single in 1984, this song first appeared in The Fall's live set seven years earlier when they played Stretford Civic Theatre's Rock Against Racism Xmas Party with The Worst and John Cooper Clarke (admission £1, 50p if unemployed). Jon the Postman joined the band for an encore of 'Louie Louie' and just to add to the jollity MES appears to have sacked Tony Friel during the gig.

John Leckie's production gives the song more of a pop sheen than it surely had back in the seventies when it was said to have a "Bo Diddleyish" feel.

"When I first saw you people said 'he scrutinised a little monster and disappeared through the red door'".

It's not clear exactly what sort of mess MES and aforementioned brother are in but he goes on to clarify that he's "not a communist" and complain that somebody's "D-jacket's a mess". Donkey jacket?

For me it's Brix's backing vocals that give the song its glory The sugar in Mark's mug of builder's tea.

"Won't you give me one more chance?"

"Won't you give me one more chance?"



"They take from the medium poor to give to the needy poor via the government poor. Give it to the poor poor. They're knocking on my door entrance entranced".

This is an absolute fucking beast of a song. The revivified and violated corpse of some old garage rock tune, it features insanely good drumming c/o Karl Burns, Steve Hanley's textbook industrial funk bass, and MES at both his most arcane ("cheap fog/rotting scout belt"), his most vitriolic ("I'm not saying they're really thick but all the groups who've hit it big make the Kane Gang look like an Einstein chip"), his darkest ("Shawn and Petula Macabre. Here are your wedding pictures. They are black"), and possibly his rudest. It's suggested "stick it in the gut, stick it in the mud" is a reference to dp. 

But, oh my, just listen to the sound of those three different guitarists in the last minute of the song.
The huge list of songs that the annotatedfall website say this song has nicked from includes 'The Changeling' by The Doors, 'Tramp' by Lowell Fulson, and Junior Walker's 'Shotgun' but 'Gut of the Quantifier' is definitely more than the sum of its parts. It's the final selection from 'This Nation's Saving Grace' and most of the band seem to agree that Brix wrote the bulk of the music (though Karl Burns and Simon Rogers, along with MES, also receive writing credits).

A shockingly low placing of 33 in 1985's festive fifty saw it squeezed between 'Meat is Murder' by The Smiths and 'A Hundred Words' by The Beloved! I'm putting that down to the fact, in places, it sounds like about eight different songs that've been stitched together but unlike, say, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' they're all good ones. You need to live with it for a few years before you can truly appreciate such fucked up majesty.

"Who are the riff-makers. Who are they really? How old are the stars really? Half-wit philanthropist, cosy charity gig. If God could see this he'd stick it".

"I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this:- Life can be a downward chip".


"Spit on the streets. Numb heads and feet. Nowhere to go. Won't let us in the shows 'cos we talk about love and the Psycho-Mafia. I'm talking 'bout love and the Psycho-Mafia".

"No soul in the discos. No rock in the clubs. Won't let us in the pubs".

Another VERY early Fall song and another that got its live debut as far back as 1977. It was never a single and it was never on any official album (just many compilations). This Mark E Smith/Tony Friel penned banger is still something of a Fall anthem and something of a mission statement too:-
"Spit on the streets. Shot heads and teeth. Our eyes are red. Our brains are dead. Going on about drugs".

Apparently it began as a 'tribute' to a local street gang but "took on a sinister aura - an aura of oppression, a sort of subconscious manifestation of events which were happening" on its completion. Compared to the likes of Gut of the Quantifier or The Classical it's a very direct, almost straightforward punk song. Certainly about as straightforward or direct as The Fall ever got. But it does have a very good -ah count. Sonic Youth covered it for a Peel session they did back in '88 consisting of nothing but Fall covers.


"These are finest times of my life. This is the greatest time of my life. This is the greatest time of my life. These are the biggest times of my life".

As established there are only two songs in the Fall's oeuvre I'd class as ballads. 'Edinburgh Man' which is a ballad to a city and this surprisingly tender, almost completely out of character, number which appears to be about an actual real woman. Even though it's uncertain who that woman is. Debate has raged in Fall chat rooms but consensus there is none.

Of course, he still manages to get "pasted in a bar" and throw in references to Dynasty, crow's feet, and spending two days getting high but the song also goes on to explain how the alchemical power of love has changed him:-

"Just lately seeing you I rise AM off pink sheets. I am renewed. I am aglow. Red brick and green is the streets. You dressed today as if for riding school, your legs are so cool" is almost richly romantic even if the image of MES ejaculating ("came twice, you thrice") may not be one you wish to ponder for too long.

With music penned by Craig Scanlan, it's the first post 1990 song, it featured on that year's 'Extricate' LP, in this list since 'Theme From Sparta FC' at number 46 and the first song from that decade since 'Telephone Thing' back at number 48. Simon Wolstonecroft's drums and Marcia Schofield's keyboard playing are both particularly prominent on this song.

Covered by The Sick Anchors and seeing off My Bloody Valentine's 'Soon' and Ride's 'Dream Burns Down' it topped the festive fifty that year and The Fall, or Mark E Smith, were never this lovey dovey again. Typically, in interviews, Mark undermined his own song by dismissing, at least the original version of, the song as "piss-take of The Smiths" and saying "The 'finest time' shit is just a chorus really". Well, he may've had a heart of stone (or more likely pretended to) but this one melts mine.


"I sweated a lot. You could feel the violence".

This amphetamine fuelled paranoid fantasy of northern, and psychic, dystopia was the very first song on the very first Fall album and Mark E Smith is on record as claiming he penned it when he was about sixteen years old. FUCKING HELL!

With the top three I'll be sharing every single word, so powerful do I believe they are so here you go:-

"Someone's always on my tracks
And in a dark room you'd see more than you think
I'm out of my place, got to get back
I sweated a lot, you could feel the violence

I've got shears pointed straight at my chest
And time moves slow when you count it
I'm better than them, and I think I'm the best
But I'll appear at midnight when the films close

'Cause I'm in a trance
Oh, and I sweat
I don't want to dance
I want to go home

I couldn't live in those people places
Oh, they might get to know my actions
I'd run away from toilets and feces
I'd run away to a non-date on the street

'Cause I'm in a trance
Oh, and I sweat
I don't want to dance
I want to go home

I feel trapped by mutual affection
And I don't know how to use freedom
I spend hours looking sideways
To the time when I was sixteen

'Cause I'm in a trance
Oh, and I sweat
I don't wanna dance
I wanna go home

I'm frightened
Amphetamine frightened
I go to the top of the street
I go to the bottom of the street
I look to the sky, my lips are dry
I'm frightened, frightened, frightened".

My mate Shep swears this should be number one and says it reminds him of growing up in Barrow-in-Furness. I feel a more specific anger, a northern one certainly, but one that could only run through the dark veins of Mr Mark E Smith. The guitars (either Martin Bramah or Marc Riley) sound like knives being sharpened for four decades of psychic warfare and an ever more brutal war against mediocrity. The punks may've gobbed at The Fall but these spittle flecked invectives would've done far more damage.





"O'er grassy dale and lowland sea
Come see, come hear the English scheme
The lower class want brass
Bad chests
Scrounge fags
The clever ones tend to emigrate
Like your psychotic big brother who left home
For jobs in Holland, Munich, Rome
He's thick but he struck it rich
The commune crap, camp bop
Middle class flip flop
Guess that's why they end up in bands
He's the Greenpeace in us all
He's the creep creep in us all
Condescends to black men
Very nice to them
They talk of Chile while driving through Haslingden
You got 60hr weeks in stone toilet back gardens
Peter Cook's jokes
Bad dope
Check shirts
Lousy groups
Down pokey quaint streets in Cambridge
Cycles our distant spastic heritage
It's a gay red roundhead
Army career
Grim head
If we was smart we'd eimgrate'

A devastating, coruscating critique of the British class system from 'Grotesque (After the Gramme)'. Last played live in Camden's Electric Ballroom in 1983.

Over Marc Riley's ice cream van keyboard (the Hanleys knocking out a low key rhythm, Craig Scanlon on guitar) Smudger barks out his distaste for pretty much everything:- Peter Cook, bad dope, the army, psychos, thickies, even flip flops get traduced.

Listen to how the music builds on the word SWITCH and then later as MES switches his class hatred up a notch. 'Down pokey quaint streets in Cambridge cycles our distant spastic heritage' should be our post-Brexit motto.


"Well, I didn't eat the weekend
But I put the weight back on again
And our kid came back from Munich
He didn't like it much
Has a psyche that hasn't been synthesized
Just like machines
It's getting like that here now
It just goes to show
I got no nerves left Monday morning
And I think I'll cut my dick off
The trouble it got me in
Went home to my slum canyon
On the way I looked up
I saw turrets of Victorian wealth
I saw John the ex-fox sleeping in some outside bogs
There's a silent rumble
In the buildings of the night council
It's a meeting of controllers
Who drive right through the gates in white roll tops
And I guess this just goes to show
The lie dream of a casino soul
I'm a but jagged right now
In a tongue tied wired state
Cause Sunday Morning, dancing, I had an awake dream
I was in the supervision dept of a big town store
Security floors 1-4
They had cameras in the clothes dummies
A man came up to them
He wanted sex in the dummies eyes
Then came up the cry
'Security mobilized'
Meanwhile, in the sticks
Proles, rich, dance in cardboard pants
And I guess this goes to show
The lie dream of a casino soul scene"

So, the best Fall song ever (in a personal list) was a 1982 single that only came out in Australia and New Zealand, was never on a proper album (just comps), and only reached number 47 in the 1981 festive fifty (a year before it came out) below legendary acts like Pigbag, Heaven 17, and Stiff Little Fingers.

Yet it's the epitome of what made The Fall, and/or MES, so great. Not because of the lads band (line up here is Smith, Riley, Scanlan, Burns, and P. Hanley) era that some Brix haters hark back to but because it fucking rocks.

Two drummers knock out a punishing rhythm as Mark narrates a tale that's nominally about the Wigan soul scene but soon extrapolates wildly as he warms to his favoured themes of drug fuelled paranoia, mental illness, Mancunian architecture, the proletariat, emigration, bureaucracy, and the suburbs. Oh, and the sexual violation of mannequins which even for The Fall is niche.

The Savage Pencil artwork is absolutely correct and in the chat rooms people try to interpret this song. Picasso, Franco, Ultravox, Dexy's, John Lennon singing 'Be My Baby' and much more crop up.
I don't know. The mystery deepens and the song just improves.

As MES toot toots over the last few bars it sounds like he's riding off into the sunset. Which, in a very real sense, he has already done leaving behind a trail of destruction, sure, but also perhaps the richest body of work any musical artist ever bequeathed. If you've enjoyed this 100 and still think he's a tramp shouting through a traffic cone then clearly I'll never convince you.

I've no idea if Mark Smith was a religious man but if he's in any kind of heaven or hell now I hope he's still using music to convey violent emotion. I hope he's still sticking it the gut. I hope he's still sticking it in the mud.

If you've been affected by any of the issues touched on in this Fall 100 I can't help you and nor, now, can Mark.

Truly he broke the mould. Join me, once more, in raising a glass to the hip priest.