Live At St. Helens Technical College 1981
Live at St Helens Technical College 1981, the vinyl only ‘new’ Fall live album is out now on John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records. Although some UK completists will have to wait until mid-March until it reaches these shores.
Last week Louder Than War exclusively shared the track Rowche Rumble from the release along with the tale of how this came to be, Marc Riley stumbling across a stream on YouTube and sharing with the aforementioned Osees frontman and Fall fan.
When I heard about this release and seeing the price tag of nearly £40, I was thinking, does the world need another live Fall album? I’m sure I’m not the only one. Long before Mark E. Smith passed away live albums were plentiful, covering the whole of the band’s 41-year career. The release schedule hasn’t slowed since.
Currently, not including the ‘extra’ CD’s included in the Cherry Red reissues, there are more than 50 official ‘live Fall albums’ (although this leaves still some way to go until they hit the Grateful Dead’s Guinness World record of 167!)
Despite this gig long being available on YouTube and shared amongst fans via social media, for some time there was still a fair bit of excitement generated by this news of the pending release from Fall obsessives, thus illustrating both the passion and hunger for Fall artefacts and the enduring appeal and love for the band. Equally, I’ve read much debate over the last month on social media between the most hardened of Fall aficionados and their views on the need for this release are split.
So does the world need another live album from The Fall?
For me personally, allowing my heart to rule my head I’ve fallen (no pun intended) on the ‘yes’ side of the fence. Partly because it’s the only sanctioned release by the surviving Riley, Scanlon, Hanley and Hanley (potentially a great name for a firm of solicitors); but also because Castle Face are donating 50% of the profits to Centrepoint, helping the homeless in the Manchester area get back on their feet. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.
But what about the music? For new fans or those casually interested, I would say this record, and this period in The Falls history offers a good introduction to the band. This set is made up of tracks from 79’s Dragnet, 80’s Grotesque the (then) forthcoming Slates ‘mini-album’ plus Jawbone and the Air Rifle, a song initially featured in their 3rd Peel Session the previous year but not officially recorded until December 81 and released on the following year’s epic Hex Enduction Hour (for the full story on that check out Paul Hanley’s excellent book, Have A Bleeding Guess).
I imagine like many Louder Than War (writers and) readers with a potentially unhealthy obsession for The Fall, this is one of many gigs that’s been sat on a hard drive and listened to occasionally over the years. For those not so obsessed, just to add some context, what you get here is them at the beginning of one of their busiest years in their history. 77 gigs in total. 1981 saw the band touring the UK, Germany, the US (for 2 months), playing and recording in Iceland before returning to the UK to tour again whilst finishing recording the aforementioned Hex).
It’s often said that The Fall’s live performances, as with Peel Sessions, often overshadow the ‘recorded’ versions. The same can be argued here with blistering takes on An Older Lover and Leave the Capitol.
This release highlights MES as a young artist developing his own language and style. The songs were longer (THE NWRA for example) and often improvised at a time before his sharp brain became impaired by his lifestyle. The opening Blob ‘59, for example, has him working through some ideas for the Lie Dream of a Casino Soul which was recorded and released later in 1981. It also captures Mark’s unique style and vision (informed by the likes of HP Lovecraft, Arthur Macham and Philip K Dick).
Even the relative obscurity and incidental nature of this recording show how strong and enduring the work is to this day (Prole Art Threat & Fit & Working Again, are just Fall classics). Who else in 1981 was making music like this? Has there ever been a comparison? Is there anyone close to being an equivalent now?
If you can afford to buy it, I would, it captures this incarnation of the band, a tight, well-oiled machine (possibly on sulphates washed down with brown ale), finely drilled, leading up the recording of their ‘master piece’.