Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Detective Instinct: the Quest for the Source of the Essence of Tong

The lyrics to the Fall song Dr. Bucks' Letter (http://annotatedfall.doomby.com/pages/the-annotated-lyrics/dr-bucks-letter.html) are notable, among other things, for the inclusion of a section apparently read out of a magazine interview with the DJ Pete Tong.


Cheer myself up

Put the radio on, get the magazine out
And read about "The Essence of Tong"

Checklist:

I never leave home without:     

1. Sunglasses - I wear them all year around, and seem to need them more often, it’s a habit

Music - cassettes, CDs

3. Palm Pilot - it’s my lifeline. I think it’s my P.A.’s computer, she rules my diary and I download it

4. Mobile phone

5. Amex card - they made such a fuss about giving it to me but I spend more time getting it turned down!

I was in the realm of the essence of Tong. 
Ever since the song was released, nearly 20 years ago, Fall fandom has been agog to know if the interview was real and, if it was, where it came from. Well, mainly Fall fandom has been entirely indifferent, but it has kept me busy. 

After years of painstaking research, I have traced the interview.

It appeared in the Autumn 1999 issue of Hot Line, the "complimentary magazine for Virgin Trains passengers", issue #8 (p. 82).

Here it is:



Sunday, 24 March 2019

Tommy Mackay's List of Songs by The Fall (rev. ed.)

In 2018, Tommy Mackay published a book based on his long-running song-by-song blog, The Story of The Fall (which began in 2006)Entitled 40 Odd Years of The Fall, the book was initially crowd-funded before being published by Greg Moodie (who also did the illustrations).  Aidan Moffat wrote the foreword.  A revised edition appeared later in 2018.

I have converted Mackay's (revised edition) list into spreadsheet format, and allocated a catalogue number to each song.  Note that Mackay's list is in order of composition or first performance (or first appearance on record, whichever is earliest).

Statistical Analysis


There are 515 songs on Mackay's list.

The average number of songs debuted each year is nearly 12.6. 

The least productive year was 2002 (3 songs), and the most productive year was 1980 (22 songs).

A graph:

Notes

Mackay's list excludes Mark E. Smith's collaborations outside The Fall, as well as his solo and spoken word material.  Mackay also excludes some instrumental outtakes (he mentions Italiano and White Lines as examples) on the grounds that "they're not really Fall songs, are they?"

In Mackay's version of The Fall's canon the track "Bingo-Master" has the title "Bingo-Master's Breakout" (which was nearly the title of the single on which "Bingo-Master" appeared - it's actual title was "Bingo-Master's Break-Out").

Mackay treats the following alternative titles as the same song:
  • Psykick Dancehall / ESP Disco
  • C 'n' C - S Mithering /  C 'n' C - S Mithering - Stars on 45 / C 'n' C - S Mithering - Black Night / C 'n' C - S Mithering - Do The Hucklebuck
  • Winter (Hostel Maxi) / Winter 2 (Mackay treats the split track Winter under the former parenthesised title)
  • Pilsner Trail / Plaster on the Hands
  • 2 x 4 / Fiend with a Violin
  • Mansion / To NKRoachment Yarbles
  • Dktr Faustus / Faust Banana
  • Australians in Europe / Northerns in Europe
  • Bremen Nacht / Last Nacht / Bremen Nacht Alternative / Bremen Nacht Run Out / Bremer Nacht
  • Big New Prinz / Big New Priest
  • Acid Priest 2088 / Win Fall CD 2080 / CD Win Fall 2088AD
  • Squid Law / Squid Lord
  • Whizz Bang / Butterflies 4 Brains
  • Xmas With Simon / Christmastide
  • The Mixer / The Remixer
  • Dangerous / So-Called Dangerous
  • Glam Racket / Glam Racket - Star (Mackay treats the title of the latter variation as though it were the main title)
  • A Past Gone Mad / Passable
  • Feeling Numb / Numb at the Lodge
  • Spencer Must Die / Spencer
  • Janet Vs Johnny / Janet, Johnny and James
  • Blindness / Blind Man
  • Bo Demmick / Bo Doodak

Mackay treats the following songs, joined as one track on record but not necessarily played together live, as one song:
  • Hexen Definitive - Strife Knot
  • Octo Realm - Ketamine Sun
  • Loop 41 - 'Houston
  • Say Mama - Race with the Devil

And Mackay treats the following songs separately, though not everyone would:
  • Cab Dweller / City Dweller
  • Jap Kid / I Come And Stand At Your Door
  • Midnight in Aspen / Aspen Reprise
  • Zagreb, Movement III / The Funeral Mix
Finally, I've spotted one omission: The Fall's un-recorded cover of Lou Reed's Kill Your Sons mutated into Ketamine Sun, but ought to have an entry to itself.

Here's Mackay's List (in what I'm calling ODD number order). The stats sheet shows number of songs debuted by year and decade:


View, manipulate and download the data from Google Docs

Click here to download the datasheet as a CSV file

Click here to download the datasheet as an excel (.xlsx) file.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Must We Fling These Facts...?


This isn’t really a Fall data thing, but it’s a question that came up on the Fall Online Forum, and I think the answer deserves a wider audience.

The newspaper headline, “Must we fling this filth at our pop kids” is quite well known and widely cited (e.g. 1, 2, 3, and see also knowing re-uses such as Gurr (1980) and Maconie (1992)).   

However, it is attributed to various sources and inconsistently dated.  In fact, I have hitherto been unable to find an accurate citation anywhere.  

Those referring to the headline cannot even agree on the circumstances in which the headline came to be written.  

Cliff Richard, Bill Grundy, the NME and the Sex Pistols are often mentioned, as are various tabloid newspapers. Later in this piece I will discuss some of these mistakes.

For some time I accepted the information provided in Pat Long’s history of the NME as the best available (Long confidently states that the headline appeared in the People in 1973), but a desire to track down the original headline and definitively establish the place and date of publication drove me to continue researching, and a few days ago I succeeded in locating the article (using the British Newspaper Archive database).  As far as I can tell I am the first person to do so since it first appeared.

Here is the infamous headline, as it appeared in the Sunday People, 14 November 1976, p.11:



The headline is over an article by columnist Peter Bishop, complaining about ‘bad language’ in the New Musical Express.   According to Bishop,
As a newspaper the Sunday People prides itself on plain speaking. We are not mealy-mouthed. 
But we are not foul-mouthed.
Obscenities are barred because they deeply offend millions of people. And crude language is not needed for straight talk.
Which is why Bishop objects to the language used by the NME, especially since it is read by children.
That is where a much-respected paper called "New Musical Express" has laid itself open to severe criticism. 
The paper is one of our most popular and authoritative publications in the field of pop and rock music. It has a circulation of more than 180,000.
Some seven out of ten of its regular readers are aged between 15 and 25. It has a following among even younger people. 
Which means that girls and boys wanting to read about current pop heroes are treated to some of the vilest language to be seen outside pornographic muck sheets.
Apparently, "in one recent article alone the four-letter word for sexual relations appeared no fewer than seven times."

Bishop was also uncomfortable that NME and the Sunday People shared a publisher (IPC):
I am particularly concerned about the descent of the "New Musical Express" into the gutter - it used to keep itself clean until fairly recently - because it is distantly related to the Sunday People.
The two papers are run quite independently of each other but they are part of the same group of newspapers.
Nick Logan, who was the editor of the NME at the time, is quoted defending the 'paper's policy:
Our policy is not to use the four-letter words gratuitously.  We use them when we are quoting some rock star or personality verbatim and only when we think it reflects accurately the artist's life-style, attitudes, and personality.
We try honestly to present the rock scene as it really is.  Rock is about sex, about life, about young people. Some papers use the system of putting the first letter and then dashes. But everyone knows what the word is so why pussyfoot around?
That is how the rock scene is, warts and all, and we feel we should report it that way.
Peter Bishop, however, was not impressed.
Well, it is realistic reporting, all right. But it teaches youngsters to accept sewer language as normal.
That, in my opinion, is wrong. And my disgust is shared by some of the stars themselves.
The disgusted stars turn out to be Dana, Cindy Kent ("former lead singer with The Settlers") and Cliff Richard.  Since Cliff Richard is often mentioned in connection with the headline, here's his bit:
CLIFF RICHARD refuses to have "New Musical Express" in the house.
So there we go.  The newspaper was the Sunday People, the year was 1976, and the occasion was a general complaint about the use of four-letter words in a popular pop/rock magazine read by young people. Cliff Richard is sort-of quoted.

A good many writers have quoted the headline, but all of the references I've found have got one or more of the key facts wrong.

Errata

In the 1970s, the Sex Pistols were banned from gigging by local councils and their phenomenon generated the tabloid headline “Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?” (Huq 2017)
But the Sunday People article does not name the Sex Pistols, and does not mention punk or banned gigs. Note that Huq does provide a citation for this information - to "Bevan". 

Here's Bevan:
Suddenly, in the Silver Jubilee year of 1977, McLaren had given them a way to become anarchists, revolutionaries, rebels on a street corner with a very different God Save The Queen as their very own national anthem.
Must we fling this filth at our pop kids?” screamed the Daily Mirror headline, while the band’s gig at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly brought the controversy even closer to home. (Bevan 2010).
But it obviously wasn't a Daily Mirror headline, and it wasn't about the Sex Pistols or their Jubilee year antics.  Bevan's chronology is also confusing, since the Sex Pistols' gig at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly took place on 14 December 1976.   Both that gig and the Silver Jubilee post-date the Sunday People headline.

This Popmatters blogger gets the newspaper title wrong:
Hysterical headlines in the News of the World and The Sun were aimed one week at the Sex Pistols: "Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?" and next week at the Provisional IRA... (Stephens 2001)
Peter Doggett absurdly manages to attribute the headline to outrage over Cliff Richard's sexy image (thereby misdating it by about twenty years):
[Jack] Good stripped away Cliff’s Elvis-like sideburns and guitar, and encouraged him to writhe and smoulder (provoking one the great British headlines of all time: “Must we fling this filth at our pop kids?”). (Doggett 2015)
Pat Long (who sadly died in August 2018 [link to NME obituary]) was a former NME journalist and Live Editor who wrote an excellent history of the NME. Here is the relevant bit:
An outraged article in the Sunday People decrying the kind of material the NME was printing appeared in 1973 following the declaration by Cliff Richard that he refused to ‘ have the paper in his house. The People’s article appeared under the deathless headline ‘Must we fling this filth at our pop kids?’  To the staff of the NME, the answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’.
As we've seen, Cliff Richard was not actually quoted in the People article; instead his opinion was summarised.  Nor was the article based around his opinion.  And the year was not 1973.

Ian Macleay (2010) is not alone in wrongly dating the headline to the fuss over Bill Grundy's drunken TV interview with the Sex Pistols on 1 December 1976 (Link).  Of course, the headline preceded that incident.   And 1 December that year was a Wednesday, and the People a Sunday newspaper.
Nobody was really prepared for the media reaction the next day. That's where The Filth and the Fury movie came from: some of the tabloid headlines were classics.
'Must We Fling This Filth At Our Pop Kids?'
'I Kicked In My TV Set Says Angry Father Of Four.'
That's an echo of Jon Savage's interview with Richard Boon, reprinted in The England's Dreaming Tapes (Savage, 2009, p.564).
I see the Grundy thing as being absolutely key in the whole way of the thing.
'I Kicked in My TV Set, Says Angry Father Of Four', and 'Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?'  The filth and the fury. Yes, I'm sure it was absolutely crucial. If it hadn't happened I think it might have just withered away.  It's too hypothetical.

References

Bevan, Nathan (2010). "Malcolm McLaren: A rock ’n’ roll swindle?" WalesOnline, 11 April. [online].

Doggett, Peter (2015). Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the IPhone – 125 Years of Pop Music. p.249.

Gurr, Ronnie (1980). "Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?" Record Mirror, 7 June.

Huq, Rupa (2015). “Smells Like Focus Group Spirit? The Changing Nature of Pop Fandom and its Deployment as a Political Tool." Popular Music and Society, Vol. 38 (1), pp.95-99 [online]. Quote from p.

Huq, Rupa (2017). “Smells Like Focus Group Spirit? The Changing Nature of Pop Fandom and its Deployment as a Political Tool”, pp.207-211. in Duffet, Mark (ed.). Fan Identities and Practices in Context: Dedicated to Music. Quote from p.208.  [See also Huq (2015)]

Long, Pat (2012). The History of the NME: High times and low lives at the world's most famous music magazine. London: Portico Books.

Macleay, Ian (2010). Malcolm McLaren - The Biography: The Sex Pistols, the anarchy, the art, the genius - the whole amazing legacy. London, John Blake Publishing.

Maconie, Stuart (1992). "Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?" New Musical Express, 9 May, pp.28-30, 32.

Savage, Jon (2009). The England's Dreaming Tapes. London, Faber and Faber. 

Stephens, Michael (2001). "25 Up: Punk's Silver Jubilee: Shadow of a Gunman: Brit-Punk and Northern Irish Terrorism." Popmatters, 29 November [online].




Thursday, 7 March 2019

Dave Simpson's "The Fallen" (2008, rev. ed. 2009): an index

On 5th January 2006, The Guardian newspaper published an article by Dave Simpson, entitled "Excuse Me, Weren't You in The Fall?" (Link), in which Simpson wrote about attempting to track down and interview 43 former Fall members.

The article featured Mark E. Smith, Tommy Crooks, Marc Riley, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley, "Eric the Ferret" (Eric McGann), Tony Friel, Kay Carroll, Brix Smith, Adrian Flanagan, Nick Dewey, Adam Helal (though only to say that Neville Wilding was in Guadalajara), Ben Pritchard, Ed Blaney, Dave Bush, Una Baines, and Craig Scanlon.

A book publisher got in touch, and Simpson embarked on an all-consuming two year search for ex-Fall members. The research for the article and book had real-world effects, putting former group colleagues back in touch with each other and making some realise that they had stories to tell (Steve Hanley's book was to follow), all amid the disintegration of Simpson's relationship with his partner (see: "The Curse of The Fall", The Guardian, 17 September 2008).

Simpson's book was first published in hardback by Canongate in September 2008 (ISBN 9781847670496).  A revised paperback ("NOW with added ex-members!", the cover proclaimed) followed in August 2009, also published by Canongate (ISBN 9781847671448).  It contained three new "Fallen".

The hardback is subtitled, "Searching for the missing members of The Fall".  The paperback is subtitled, "Life in and out of Britain's most insane group."

Simpson later (a year or so after the publication of the book) uncovered the real name of the first Fall drummer. Often referred to as Dave, he was actually Steve Ormrod, who tragically took his own life in August 1994 (see Simpson's blog posting here, and a Guardian report about the case reproduced on this Fall Online Forum thread).

The table below lists all the interviews featured in the books, citing the relevant page numbers of the substantive content.  Since the books lack indexes, this is time-saving information if nothing else.

The hardback and paperback editions have the same page numbering up until the additional "Fallen".  The side by side comparison is probably unnecessary but might be useful to somebody out there.

I've also included a datasheet including all the names (some of them not interviewed) in Simpson's full list of "The Fallen", included at the beginning of his book (I've used Steve Ormrod's correct name; when the book was published he was listed as "Steve AKA Dave"). 

Note that Simpson defines a member of The Fall as follows:
to qualify as a Fallen, a musician will have to have played an instrument live with the group.  This rules out Adrian Niman, who played saxophone for 15 seconds on the Room to Live album in 1982, but includes Stuart Estell, who "joined " The Fall from the audience for an encore in Reading in 1998. (pp.29-30).
I call this "Simpson's Rule". Note that Simpson thereby excludes musicians who only appeared on record, but that he also includes vocalists like Lucy Rimmer and backing vocalists like Kay Carroll and Mike Bennett.  Note also that Simpson's book in fact omits various musicians who qualify as Fallen by his criteria who ought to have been included but were not (perhaps because they have only subsequently come to light - but he did also omit Eleni Poulou).  For the sake of completeness, I have brought his list up to date and included the missing Fallen.  The data sheet indicates who these additions to Simpson's list are.

Like Simpson, I've omitted Coldcut, despite the fact they did play live with The Fall for a television broadcast.

A full list of all contributors is a project for another day.  The Fall Online biography is worth consulting in the meantime.

This datasheet reproduces Simpson's information as he listed it, except I have tended to only list each musician's main instrument(s) rather than every instrument they may have played live or on record (in the book, for example, Karl Burns is listed as playing drums, guitar, bass and keyboards).  This means that there are a couple of errors included in this data.

For the record, they are:

Eric McGann resigned on the day of The Fall's first Peel Session recording on 30th May 1978, but Simpson lists his final date as "June 1978".  He was also in the group at the What's On recording on 13 February 1978, so his start date should be at least that rather than "March".

Ruth Daniel played other dates than the one listed by Simpson.

I may find more in due course.


View, manipulate and download the data from Google Docs (includes full list of "The Fallen" according to Simpson's Rule).

Click here to download the datasheet as a CSV file.

Click here to download the datasheet as an excel (.xlsx) file.