The Fall: A Top Ten List

A continuation of thoughts from And This Day: Mark Edward Smith (1957-2018) . . .

Marcia and I spent the past week in Hawai’i. On the (long) flights between Maui Kahului and Chicago O’Hare, I spent much of the time with headphones on, deeply appreciating a setlist of about 50 Fall Songs that I’d culled after the unfortunate early passing of Mark E. Smith in January. The (long) travel time provided a good period of focused listening and reflection on the amazing body of work that MES (as he’s regularly referenced among Fall fans — and why I use “JES” in my own short-hand notes) left behind for us all. I was equally moved by “classic” songs composed by a young man full of piss and vinegar, and by latter day works, when mortality had clearly intruded in the songwriter’s consciousness.

MES’s funeral took place while we were in Hawai’i, and his sisters released a statement today on The Official Fall Website that read:

We would like to thank family, friends and fans for all their kind words, condolences and memories about our brother Mark. Also, the N.H.S and staff who treated Mark throughout and Mark’s partner Pam who loved, cared and cherished our brother. Mark fought a long and hard battle after his diagnosis of terminal lung and kidney cancer.  He took every treatment going, which could be brutal at times and left Mark with some horrible side effects. Mark was such a strong man and hated letting his fans down and tried to carry on regardless against all advice. Mark had a great life and loved and lived it to the full and always by his own rules and we, as his sisters were privileged to be part of it too. Mark is at peace now and pain free, but we, his three sisters have been left heartbroken and will miss our big brother very much.

Barbara, Suzanne and Caroline.

I was very sad to learn what took Mark away from us, as it made clear the struggle he’d endured in recent months/years — and removed any “he died peacefully in his sleep, and he never knew what was coming” wishful thinking from the mix. His end was hard, and that makes his final album(s) and concert(s) all the more meaningful and amazing, as he was obviously creating and performing with full knowledge that he did not have much time remaining to do so, and was suffering in the process. MES was truly inspiring until the very end. I doff my cap to him, again and again, and I thank him for all the joy he provided me and so many other Fall Fans over the years.

I should note that Fall Fans are a diverse, global lot with myriad interests (musical and otherwise), though if anything binds us (beyond our obvious love for the Fall’s music and the musicians who made/played it), I would offer that it’s a love of list-making, data gathering, analysis and/or debate — as perhaps best evidenced by the ways in which the most seemingly mundane topics regarding The Fall routinely receive deep and thoughtful dives over at the Fall Online Forum (FOF), where I was long a regular contributor. Since MES’s death, I’ve read and digested boodles and boodles of tributes and lists and stories at the FOF and elsewhere, many of which I agree with, and many of which . . . well, not so much.

There are about 520 songs that have been recorded or played live by The Fall over the past 40 years, and as my own final tribute here to Mark E. Smith and The Fall, I offer my personal “Top Ten List of Greatest Fall Songs Ever” below. I’m defaulting to studio album versions for the links embedded in my list, though many Fall Fans will often cite Peel Session or other live versions as definitive. There’s no right answer, ever, when it comes to The Fall.

If you value my tastes and recommendations and want to learn more about The Fall, then these may be good places to start investigating. But if these don’t do it for you, then I most heartily recommend you explore any of the other 510 songs, as I’ll wager there’s a gem in the canon somewhere that will appeal to you, and once you establish that initial connection, it will itch and itch at you, and you will want to hear more (or all) of it, I promise.

#10. “Dr Bucks’ Letter” (2000, from The Unutterable)

#9. “Mountain Energei” (2003, from The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country On The Click))

#8. “Who Makes the Nazis?” (1982, from Hex Enduction Hour)

#7. “Weather Report 2” (2010, from Your Future Our Clutter)

#6. “Alton Towers” (2008, from Imperial Wax Solvent)

#5. “The Container Drivers” (1980, from Grotesque (After The Gramme))

#4. “Fall Sound” (2007, from Reformation Post TLC)

#3. “Fantastic Life” (1981, from Lie Dream of A Casino Soul (single))

#2. “Blindness” (2005, from Fall Heads Roll)

#1. “Noel’s Chemical Effluence” (1995, from The Twenty-Seven Points)

8 thoughts on “The Fall: A Top Ten List

    • Thanks!!

      My recollection is that the number was about 502-ish when we did the last Fall Cup, so in the ballpark, since there was another studio album and some live bits since then . . .

      Does Dan’s ongoing pair-wise ranking poll have them all? I think he updated after “New Facts Emerge” . . . that could be a good reference, too. I’ll have to dig to find the link to that if you don’t have it . . . it’s good time-wasting fun, as it generated an infinite number of song pairs, so you get to pick THIS over THAT, forever!!!

      • Well, I *think* it’s 525, so I’m going to stick with that. There are also another 16 that I don’t think have ever been recorded/released:

        1969
        Ben’s Instrumental
        Blue Christmas
        Classical Gas
        Cock In My Pocket
        Crackhouse (The House That Crack Built)
        Dropout Boogie
        Gapa
        Jack The Ripper
        Jeanie
        Race Hatred
        Reece Stick
        Surrogate Mirage
        The Love Between
        Werewolves of London
        You Don’t Turn Me On

  1. A list I generated for the FOF about what makes “Noel” the greatest of great Fall songs . . .

    * It features the first use of the word “abdomeniser” in a Fall lyric.

    * Songs about bathroom smells make me laugh! Always!

    * We still don’t quite exactly know who plays on it.

    * It’s like a slow jam at the rave: no real beginning, middle or end.

    * It honors the sacrifices of all the world’s great tour bus drivers.

    * The fact that it was buried on “The 27 Points” upon initial release.

    * It fits well next to Spiritualized in my favorite iTunes playlist.

    * It makes so many European football announcers very excited.

    * Mocking Dave Bush’s rave whistle is always fun.

    * I can play it at dinnertime without upsetting my Gran.

    * Zurich with the lads is better than Venice with the girls.

    * Because Craig just keeps going at the end when everybody else stops. Again.

    • Thanks!

      It was REALLY hard to pick just ten . . . . . still feeling mildly chagrined at not being able to shoehorn “Bill Is Dead” in there, but I couldn’t bear to cut any of the ones still standing.

      Guess I coulda had a tie for #10. Or maybe I just need to do the Next Ten List!

  2. Good Fall Top Ten list!

    Impossible for me to chose just ten… However, I was checking my iTunes playlist – the top twenty Fall songs on my list, in terms of number of times played over the years, are as follows:

    Scareball
    Hotel Bloedel
    Black Monk Theme Part I
    Athlete Cured
    Glam Racket
    Mountain Energei
    Octo Realm/Ketamine Sun
    Middlemass
    Frenz
    New Puritan (Peel Session version)
    Craigness
    Mike’s Love Xexagon
    Pinball Machine
    Oh? Brother
    Cyber Insekt
    Copped It
    The Book Of Lies
    You’re Not Up To Much
    Bournemouth Runner
    Victoria

    And there you go!

    • I reset all of my iPod playcounts annually, so cannot acquire that type of good data over the long haul . . .

      That is a great list there too, of course. And I have seen dozens of other great lists from knowledgable Fall Fans over the recent weeks . . . but hardly any of them are even close to capturing the same songs consistently!

      I think that is the beauty of the group on some plane: there are no right answers, there are many points of entry, and once you are in, there are many gems behind many doors, and no two paths toward them are the same.

      One friend of mine started an interesting Fall Song blog project a few weeks before MES passed, and he is continuing on with it. I have been enjoying it, and think you would too!

      thefallinfives.wordpress.com

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