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The Classical

Written by:
  • Karl Burns, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley, Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, Mark E Smith
Initial release:
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Kamara KAM 005
  • [Australia and New Zealand release: Gap Records GAPK 1007 LP; TC-GAPK 1007; 1982]
  • [Germany release: Line Records LLP 5194 AP LP; 1982]
  • 8 March 1982

Subsequent releases:
  • Hip Priest and Kamarads, Situation Two SITU13 (some pressings SITL13 LP;  SITL13CD; SITL13MC Cassette; March 1985
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Line Records (Germany), LILP 4.00126 LP; LICD 9.00126 CD; ?.00126; Cassette; 1986
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP119 CD; 16 April 1999
  • Psykick Dance Hall, Eagle Records CD: EEECD010; 7 August 2000
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP141 CD; 2 December 2002
  • Rebellious Jukebox, Shakedown Records SHAKEBX115; 10 November 2003
  • 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong - 39 Golden Greats, Sanctuary SMEDD017; 31 May 2004
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Castle/Sanctuary CMQDD1059; 17 January 2005
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Earmark (Italy) EAR40040 LP; 12 September 2005
  • Hex Enduction Hour, Sanctuary Midline SMBCD427 CD digipak; 23 April 2007
  • The Fall Box Set 1976-2007 - Castle CMXBX1558, 10 September 2007
  • I’ve Never Felt Better in My Life 1979 – 1982, Great American Music Company GAMC11422; 8 July 2008
  • The Classical, Secret Records LP; 16 February 2016
  • Hex Enduction Hour LP, Superior Viaduct SV115; 21 November 2016
Officially released live performances:
  • In A Hole, Flying Nun (NZ) MARK1 LP;: MARK2 LP with 12” 45Hip Priest and Kamarads, BBL13CD; 1988 (recording details as above); late 1983 (recorded at Mainstreet Cabaret, Auckland, New Zealand, 21 August 1982)

  • In A Hole, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP102 CD; May 1997 (reissue of above mentioned)
  • Live To Air in Melbourne '92, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP108 CD; 4 May 1998 (recorded at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Melbourne, Australia, 2 August 1982)
  • Austurbaejarbio, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP125 CD; 5 February 2001 (recorded at Austurbaejarbio, Reykjavik, Iceland, 6 May 1983)
  • In A Hole, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint COGVP137CD; 3 February 2003 (reissue plus bonus tracks of above mentioned)
  • In A Hole, Cog Sinister/Voiceprint VP241019 CD; 6 October 2003 (album coupled with Liverpool 78)
  • In A Hole, Castle/Sanctuary CMQDD1225; 23 January 2006 (reissue plus bonus tracks of above mentioned)
  • Creative Distortion, Secret Records CD; October 2014 (recorded at King George's Hall, Blackburn, 22 September 2002)
DVD release:
  • A Touch Sensitive - Live, Secret Records SECDVD101, 8 March 2004 (recorded at King George's Hall, Blackburn 22 September 2002)
  • Creative Distortion, Secret Records CD; October 2014 (recorded at King George's Hall, Blackburn, 22 September 2002)


Group on initial performance:

  • Mark E Smith - vocals ; Marc Riley - guitar, keyboards; Craig Scanlon - guitar; Steve Hanley - bass; Paul Hanley - drums; Karl Burns - drums

First played at:

  • 7 December 1981 The Venue, London

Last played at:

  • 21 November 2002 Electric Ballroom, Camden, London

Number of known performances:

  • 73


MES in Renegade: (Viking, 2008, page 116): "That's the good thing about Hex - I was experimenting with speeding up a track and slowing down. I don't know what was in my head - but I can't think of anything else doing that sort of stuff. It probably works best on tracks like 'Winter' and 'The Classical'; in fact, that song sums up the fuck-you-very-much attitude best. It's the only anthem in there."


The story goes that Tamla Motown offered Mark E Smith a $46,000 advance to sign up with them. "The funny thing was," MES said, "this guy at Motown asked for some of our old stuff he could listen to and the only thing I had was Hex Enduction Hour and the first line on that is 'Where are the obligatory niggers?' [It isn't the first line, actually.] I thought, 'When they hear that, we've had it.'" Consequently, Motown's head office contacted him giving the verdict: "We see no commercial potential in this band whatsoever." [Quotes from Colin Irwin, "Perverted by Anguish", Melody Maker, 20 October 1984]

[The line in question can conceivably be seen as racist, but it is much more likely to be a tilt at those who pay lip service to equality while at the same time holding repellent, antiquated views about race.]

From Simon Ford's "Hip Priest", page 143:

“When Clark needed a musician to orchestrate the Fall’s “The Classical” for his HAIL the Classical with the Scottish Ballet Company (because the Musician’s Union refused him permission to use recorded music), he turned to [Simon]Rogers. Despite his efforts, however, it proved to be an impossible task for the celebrated Royal Scottish Orchestra, as an exasperated Smith explained: ‘You’re talking about two chords and about three inflections in the whole song. Simon scored the whole thing for the orchestra and they couldn’t get it, the couldn’t get, they couldn’t play the fucker. I mean can you believe it? It’s disgusting. You know, it cost a lot of money to score it for a thirty-two-piece orchestra. And I did a vocal tape that they were supposed to play along with. And they couldn’t carry it. I couldn’t believe it, they couldn’t carry it, they couldn’t play, it was too difficult.’
[quote from: Scott Brecker, ‘Wordsmith’ in Option Magazine, July/August 1986]

Simon Rogers:

"It was a hopeless task in retrospect and at that time I don't think technically I was up to making a really good orchestral version. Also there was no reliable way to synch the orchestra and Mark's vox so it was doomed from the off. During conversations with Mark about "The Classical" though he asked me to come and play bass so I guess something good came out of it. " [From email interview with Simon Rogers; full transcript here: https://sites.google.com/site/reformationposttpm/members-of-the-gruppe/simon-rogers]

The song does have a complicated structure. Stuart Estell: "The Classical is, in muso-speak, bitonal - in two keys at once. I can't be sure without it to hand but I'm pretty sure the bass part is in a mode of A, while Scanlon's scratchy guitar part is in something like C#. That's why the sound of the thing changes so much when it gets to "I've never felt better..." - at that point Scanlon's chords start following the bass part and suddenly everyone's playing in the same key."

Discussion of the lyrics on The Annotated Fall website: http://annotatedfall.doomby.com/pages/the-annotated-lyrics/the-classical.html

The Classical was voted no. 38 in John Peel's All-time Festive Fifty in 1999.


Gigs played at:

7 December 1981  The Venue,  London 
12 March 1982  Bristol Polytechnic
19 March 1982  Palm Cove, Bradford 
24 March 1982  Leicester Polytechnic 
25 March 1982  Hammersmith Palais, London 
27 March 1982  Manchester Polytechnic 
1 April 1982  Nightmoves, Glasgow
2 April 1982  Nite Club, Edinburgh 
10 April 1982  Paard Van Troje, The Hague, The Netherlands 
12 April 1982  Vera, Groningen, The Netherlands 
13 April 1982  De Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands 
23 April 1982  North London Polytechnic 
24 April 1982  Dancehall, Students Union, Essex University, Colchester 
28 April 1982  Blue Note, Derby 
29 April 1982  Vanbrugh College, York 
4 May 1982  Band on the Wall, Manchester 
2 August 1982  Prince of Wales, Melbourne, Australia 
5 August 1982   Prospect Hill, Melbourne, Australia 
6 August 1982   Mt. Erica Hotel, Melbourne, Australia 
17 August 1982   University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
18 August 1982  Town Hall, Christchurch, New Zealand 
19 August 1982  Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
20 August 1982  Main Street, Auckland, New Zealand 
21 August 1982  Main Street, Auckland, New Zealand 
18 September 1982  Sporting, Athens, Greece 
2 December 1982  Leadmill, Sheffield 
22 December 1982  Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester
14 February 1983 Effenaar, Eindhoven, The Netherlands 
21 April 1983  Larry's Hideaway, Toronto, Ontario 
22 April 1983  Traxx, Detroit, Michigan 
27 April 1983  First Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 
29 April 1983  Pop Shop, Cleveland, Ohio 
30 April 1983  City Gardens, Trenton, New Jersey 
4 May 1983  White Columns, New York City, New York 
6 May 1983  Austurbµjarbeio, Reykjavik, Iceland
21 May 1983  Electric Ballroom, London 
5 June 1983  Arena D, Vienna, Austria 
10 June 1983  Loft Club, Berlin, Germany 
15 June 1983  Odeon, Muenster, Germany 
15 July 1983  Ace, Brixton, London 
22 October 1983  Sheffield University 
29 October 1983  Polytechnic, Portsmouth 
6 October 1984  Woughton Leisure Centre, Milton Keynes 
18 October 1984  Hacienda, Manchester 
25 October 1984  Caley Palais, Edinburgh 
28 October 1984  Powerhouse, Birmingham 
30 October 1984  Lyceum, London
31 October 1984   Bristol University 
1 November 1984   New Ocean Club, Cardiff 
6 December 1984  Broadway, Leuven, Belgium 
8 December 1984  Tivoli, Utrecht, The Netherlands 
12 December 1984  Salle de la Citú, Rennes, France 
7 March 1985  Town Hall, Hammersmith, London 
16 March 1985  Wearmouth Hall, Sunderland Polytechnic 
17 March 1985  Royal Court, Liverpool 
22 March 1985  Hollywood Palace, Los Angeles, California
23 March 1985  Oskar's Cornhusker, Azusa, California 
25 March 1985  I-Beam, San Francisco, California 
26 March 1985  Keystone, Palo Alto, California 
28 March 1985  Danceteria, New York City, New York 
31 March 1985  9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
3 April 1985  Spit, Boston, Massachussets 
6 April 1985   Peppermint Lounge, New York City, New York 
28 August 2002  Arts Centre, Colchester
22 September 2002  King George's Hall, Blackburn
25 September 2002  Rock City, Nottingham
27 September 2002  Zodiac, Oxford
30 September 2002  Concorde 2, Brighton
2 October 2002  Irish Centre, Leeds
3 October 2002  Guildhall, Gloucester
5 October 2002  Students Union, University, Liverpool
21 November 2002  Electric Ballroom, Camden, London