1985 Gigs

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With Steve Hanley still on paternity leave and Simon Rogers  drafted in on bass for the last few dates of 1984 the new Fall line-up started with  four dates in England before departing for America. On return, and with Hanley back on bass, and Rogers moving to keyboards/guitar, a short UK tour began, after Peel Session #8 had been recorded. The UK tour culminated with a slot at the WOMAD festival.

A seven date tour of Germany preceded a second Peel Session (the ninth) leading to a lengthy UK tour interrupted by the groups’ first live UK television appearance on The Tube.

7th March 1985   Town Hall, Hammersmith, London

The first gig of 1985 is  preserved as a reasonable audience capture – it is all a bit lost in the big hall ambience of the venue, however everything is very clear and MES is reasonably audible. Brix’s guitar does tend to dominate in parts.

Simon Rogers first gig and the difference between his and Steve Hanley’s bass is palpable – Rogers is more melodic, less intense, but he tries as in the intro for “2×4″ where he gets a good percussive sound, however he completely loses it on the middle bass figure.

The gig includes the first outings for “Couldn’t Get Ahead” “Cruisers Creek” and “Barmy”.

This is a no frills, no nonsense Fall outing with some great playing. The “Barmy” premiere is particularly unforgiving – a clashing rush of noises, morse code keyboard, inchoate guitars, and bubbling drums. Quite a unique early version and well worth a listen to see how it develops from this early primal form. “The Classical” is also revealed in a markedly different form with most odd structure indeed. “Cruisers” is still finding its way in the world and the plot is lost on a couple of occasions during the song.

Not a bad gig and notable  for the debut of a revised line up line up, and the new songs.

Notable that the support band was Khmer Rouge featuring Marcia Schofield.


14th March 1985   King George’s Hall, Blackburn

A slightly muddy bass and drum heavy recording remains as a record of this gig. In places it feels like a soundboard capture.  The vocals are reasonably clear if a little distant, for the most part, but there are some very bad overtones when all the instrumentation is in play. Although it possible to discern what is going on it is not the most pleasurable listening experience. The sound improves from “Fortress” onwards.

An odd mix of a set-list with TWAFWOTF dominating proceedings, and nods back to PBL, RTL and HEH. Once things get going it turns into a reasonably good gig. The newer material is generally performed with a little more commitment than the older tunes, although the versions of “Smile” and “Slang King” are both well above par.

“Clear Off!” is only partial on the recording.

A lengthy “Marquis Cha Cha” concludes the 65 minute set.

Steve Hanley on is allegedly on keyboards on Slang King.

16th March 1985   Wearmouth Hall, Sunderland Polytechnic

This is preserved as an average audience recording. Everythings a bit hazy, phazy and muddy in places. The tape is dominated early on by a young lady continually asking where Les is somewhere in the vicinity of the taper and then chattering away in the background in places.

The group is in good form and Rogers does a great job filling in for Hanley on bass. Whilst everything is played well there is not anyone thing that sticks out probably due to the quality of the recording which reduces everything to a dull splodge of sound.

“The Classical” feels incredibly rushed and verging on hard rock in places without the spiky angularity of three years before it just becoming a series of descending chords losing its unique structure.

The rest, with some exceptional exceptions, is basic country and northern and fallabilly with the band perhaps occupying a space of rest between the two albums. Indeed there appears to be none of the brio and bravado and downright insolence I saw at the International in June of this year. For me the scabrous ranting of “Hexen Definitive” is the most complete thing of the evening closer to the Fall ethos than any of the para rock the band was playing at this time. Having said that the speedy rush through “Lay of the Land” has a certain charm and the sloppy indifference of “Barmy” is redolent of the flare wearing culture of the time.

Why the band is still handing out the grumpy revenge of “Hey! Marc Riley” some two years after the poor chap has left the gruppe is questionable.

“Slang King” is excellent – a languorous self obsessed ramble of venal certitude. Muttered tapings introduce a troubled version of “Elves” which leads to a spiky speedy tumble through “No Bulbs” which suffers from something but I know not what. “Fortress” is a little rushed and inconsequential whereas the effortless “Cruisers Creek” perhaps describes where the group wants to be at this time.

Not a classic but OK for all that

17th March 1985   Royal Court, Liverpool

A distant “back of the hall” recording is tinny but clear. Again Rogers hasn’t quite hit the Steve Hanley bass sound/style and the music sounds slightly odd in parts.

The version of “The Classical” improves on the London version ten days earlier, and the reading of “Lay of the Land” is suitably manic.  ”Barmy” is still finding its’ feet and feels a little tentative in places, “Slang King” suffers slightly from a strange guitar tone which feels a little out of kilter with the rest of the instruments, and an excellent “Draygo’s Guilt” makes one its remaining appearance (the song was dropped after this gig until November and was only played twice more after this appearance).

Some wag in the audience shouts for “Repetition” before the debut  performance of “Petty (Thief)Lout” which seems to have more slide guitar than usual.  A muscular performance, with some very odd rhythm guitar noises, of “Copped It” concludes matters as Smith observes “it’s been a hard day today”…..and makes a pointed comment about being “commercial” to someone in the audience who “…..should know”.

Generally a great gig which builds to a good climax.

22nd March 1985   Hollywood Palace, Los Angeles, California


23rd March 1985   Texas Records, Santa Monica, California

An in-store appearance of highly dubious recording quality. MES is inaudible throughout apart from a few snippets.

Some accounts have “2×4″ being played – there is no evidence on my copy. Brix plays the chords/riff to “Vixen” at the beginning only. A turgid morass of over recorded noise.

A much clearer recording of Mark and Brix interviewed at the event survives – whether this was part of a planned TV appearance is not known.

23rd March 1985   Oskar’s Cornhusker, Azusa, California

A clear audience recording – with a good live feel. A lengthy intro tape, which consists of  an improvisation around the opening section of “Lay of the Land”, precedes an interesting version of “Wings”. Sadly whilst the instruments are well presented both of the  Smith’s vocals are lost in the mix. Karl seems to play an odd shuffle beat, and Brix’s contributions appear to consist of a scratchy rhythm figures and the rising riff in the break-downs. The tune is stripped to the bones around Craig’s excellent guitar and Simon’s improving bass.

Indeed it is clear from the opening section of “2×4″ that Roger’s bass playing is more in keeping with the group’s usual output when compared to the opening gigs of the year. Unfortunately the vocal mix does not improve. The group is very tight on a good performance of “Barmy” and for lovers of Craig Scanlon’s work the particular nature of this recording allows for a thorough examination of his technique.

An excellent “Fortress” leads into a menacing “Elves” unfortunately the vocal delivery gets worse as the gig progresses. There is a tape-flip during “Lay of the Land”. The last 40 minutes of the gig consists  of “Lay of the Land”, a nine minute version of  ”No Bulbs”,  ”Copped It”, and encores of  ”Hey! Marc Riley” and “The Classical”. 

What appears to be an excellent gig is marred, recording wise , by the inaudible vocals.

25th March 1985   I-Beam, San Francisco, California

The recording of this gig is not the best but the vocals are generally audible – in comparison with the performance from a couple of nights before. The group, once again, appears to be incredibly tight and the overall feel is very good.

There is a notable piece of strange wordplay and ambient noise at the beginning of “Elves” which I’m assuming is some of recording which continues as the riff commences. There is a tape flip between “Elves” and “Clear Off” after which the overall quality of the recording improves considerably.  The version of “Slang King” is very good indeed,  however  ”2×4″ feels a little slow and concludes the main set.

Encores of “The Classical” – which is excellent – and “Hey! Marc Riley” – which is reasonable –  conclude what appears to be a good overall performance from the group.

 26th March 1985   Keystone, Palo Alto, California

This survives as an audience recording with the taper standing very close to Brix’s amp, therefore she tends to dominate throughout. Vocals are a little muddy but still generally audible. Drums are OK, the bass and Craig Scanlon is somewhat indistinct except for the times when Brix turns down her volume.

Recording issues aside this is notable for the absence of Steve Hanley, The muscular core of the Fall is absent and the impact is more than obvious. Rogers is a more than competent musician but he cannot deliver the particular sound that Hanley conjures up. This is particularly notable on “Oh! Brother” which suffers from some seriously inappropriate and slightly out of tune guitar from Brix in places….evidenced by her re-tuning at the end of the song.

An amazing mixture of sounds presages “The Classical” – a girl in the audience narrates the words to “Leave the Capitol” and the band play a short strange ethereal piece – then the detritus hits the air extraction device – the band is playing “The Classical” – not sure what Brix is playing but it is not apposite to the tune. Things are recovered with a good musical reading of “Hexen Definitive” which unfortunately however has an almost inaudible Smith. Vocals move up the mix slightly more with an exquisite version of “Lay of the Land”, people in the audience ask for “Repetition” and “Rowche Rumble” – they get “No Bulbs” which seems to be beset by odd little overtones on the bass and the disappearing Mark E Smith voice. Again Brix appears to have tuning problems and there are some odd discrepancies in the playing.

“God-Box” provides a welcome relief to this oddness with a solid performance, we get a request for “Psycho Mafia” but instead get an excellent version of “Barmy” until the troubled guitar sound of Brix Smith again provides an annoying distraction. When you can hear Craig Scanlon you realise what a superior guitarist he is.

Encores are a great version of “2×4″ where Ms Salingers guitar volume and tuning appear at least to have been remedied. The gig is rounded off by a great version of “Marquis Cha Cha” where all of the previously mentioned problems appear to have been completely exorcised. Smith pokes fun at Paul Weller at one point in the song with a faux southern accent. An odd extended end half of the song with some martial drumming from Burns.

An oddity this one. Nice to have one with the sans-Hanley line-up for comparison purposes but to all intents and purposes enjoyment of the performance is nullified by the dominance of Brix’s guitar.

28th March 1985   Danceteria, New York City, New York


29th or 30th March 1985   City Gardens, Trenton, New Jersey

There is no known recording of this gig.

31st March 1985   9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.


1st  April 1985   Agora, Columbus, Ohio

An exceptionally clear soundboard recording survives of this gig - it is a bit heavy on the guitars, the bass is non existent and the backing vocals indistinct – but generally it is notable for the clarity of MES’s vocals.

The highlight of this gig is a memorable reading of “Elves” which starts with strange with chitterings and mutterings and resolves into a blistering mass of unrelenting sound. I assume keyboards are played by Rogers which assumes that Brix picks up bass duties at some stage, however given the keyboards dominate what appears to be Brix’s guitar slot on the song it could be she is playing them but the modulation/chords imply Rogers more dextrous hands – a bit of a mystery but for all that a brilliant reading.

I also assume that we are without bass for a few songs as there is clear evidence of two guitars and a keyboard playing – the assumption is that Rogers is doubling up on both bass and keyboards at this stage. Talented chap!

I don’t know what the mutant alien sounds are on “2×4″ but it sounds like a heavily overdriven guitar which provides for a completely different perspective. More akin to noise-niks than the group. Note also Rogers brave attempt to do a Doc Shanley!

The over-amped guitar gives an entirely new perspective on “Slang King” which comes across as an angry fractured thing more like the Gang of Four at their “Solid Gold” funky best than was produced on TWAFWOTF.

There is evidence of extensive keyboard buggery by MES especially on “Barmy” the opening section of which is an atonal confection. Nothwithstanding this a memorable reading of some violence.

The version of “Wings” is brilliant – Scanlon holds the riff as the group builds a hypnotic locked groove around motorik motion through the airline routes – this is an insane twisted and broken reading which drips pure Fall….indeed “always different – always the same”. There is an awful lot going on here which bears careful listening.

“Lay of the Land” is a partial and fades in.

3rd April 1985   Spit, Boston, Massachussets


4th April 1985   Exit Club, Chicago, Illinois

A near pristine soundboard survives of the penultimate date of the  US Spring tour.

One or two tracks have cuts so it is  not perfect but it as near as damn it.

Highly recommended.

6th April 1985   Peppermint Lounge, New York City, New York


16th June 1985   Clitheroe Castle, Lancashire

This free gig was transmitted live for Steve Barker’s On The Wire show on BBC Radio Lancashire. With Steve Hanley returning from paternity leave the group was back to a six piece with Rogers moving on to third guitar and performing the bulk of the keyboard duties.

The opening “Kicker Conspiracy” is missing from the live broadcast, as are the closing “Cruisers’s Creek” and “Oh! Brother”, however there are recordings available which include the latter.

Overall an excellent recording and a great performance and with the first plays of “Gut of the Quantifier” and “Spoilt Victorian Child” a good  indication of what would be coming from the group on the next studio album.

Notable for one of the only six performances of the excellent “Stephen Song”

19th June 1985   International, Manchester

On a cramped stage in the new venue (at the time) in south Manchester the group are in fine fettle with – as I recall – Brix tending to dominate. A reasonable audience recording with the vocals a little lost in the overall mix at the beginning but then settling down to create a good overall listen.

My abiding recollection of this gig was the three guitar attack on an amazing version of “Wings” , and the very lengthy version (nearly ten minutes” of “No Bulbs”

The second outing for “Gut of the Quantifier” is very impressive, and similarly the second performance of “Spoilt Victorian Child” is memorable, although Smith is a little out of kilter with the rhythm at times with his phrasing.

“Paintwork” also gets performed for the first time but feels a little lumpen in comparison with the album version. A very fast “Lay of the Land” concludes matters.

Overall a great performance with a good sound.

18th July 1985   Underground, Croydon


19th July 1985   W.O.M.A.D. Festival, Mersea Island, Essex

This survives as a complete video recording. The audio quality is very good apart from an occasional loss of sound.Visuals are from stage right and mostly concentrate on Mark and Brix with the occasional glimpses of the others.

An interesting experience. Notable is Mark prowling the stage, sipping on a can of lager, insulting his drummer and generally having the look of a man in control of his world. Musically it’s generally fine, one or two dodgy notes and some fairly tuneless wailing from Brix on “Disney’s Dream Debased” but here is a band at the zenith of its’ powers.

The highlights include an exceptionally brash “Couldn’t Get Ahead, Craig’s jerky robotic dance as he bashes out the riff for “What you need”, and Brix’s sexy little smile and movement as she plunders the “Smile” riff. Indeed “Smile” itself is a particular tour de force with great dynamics and a great work ethic.

A moment of abiding humour is Mark’s interrogation of the lack of drumming from Karl at the beginning of “Gut of the Quantifier” which like “Smile” before it is delivered with intense power and collective zest. The meshing of three guitars that this band achieved is a wonder to behold.

Jacket back on and some microphone stand twiddling leads to a sultry swinging and mesmeric “Petty Thief Lout” with some exceptional phrasing and exposition from Mark.

The encore break leads to the loss of the first few minutes of “Kicker” which seems particularly thrashy tonight – a lovely turbulent mess of a noise followed by an equally unforgiving charge through “Lay of the Land” – Brix rooted to the spot and moving with the beat, Craig prowling the stage like a caged beast sending out shards of chords.

Probably the best capture of this iteration of the group.

9th September 1985   Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany


10th September 1985   Soxs, Hannover , Germany


11th September 1985   Schlachthof, Bremen, Germany

This survives as a pristine radio capture, the guitars are a tad loud and drown out other instruments in places, but generally a very good recording. One gripe might be that MES is a little  tinny.

Most of This Nations Saving Grace performed  in a live setting and with much more brisk readings of key tracks. If you want to do a forensic analysis of the group live then this is the one to listen to. It is fascinating to hear, for example, the complex interplay between instruments on the slow parts of “Barmy”.

The highlight for me is a superb “Petty Thief Lout” which is a masterful piece of playing

Transmitted by Radio Bremen.

12 September 1985   Luxor, Cologne, Germany


13 September 1985   Zeche, Bochum, Germany


15 September 1985   Batschkapp, Frankfurt, Germany


16 September 1985   Hunky Dory, Detmold, Germany


3 October 1985   Riverside, Newcastle


4 October 1985   Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow


5 October 1985   Victoria Hotel, Aberdeen

There is no known recording of this gig.

7 October 1985   Coasters, Edinburgh


8 October 1985   Sheffield University


9 October 1985   Hacienda, Manchester

Seven tracks from this gig were officially released as part of Live At The Hacienda 1983-1985 (Cherry Red CRDVD67) on 25th October 2004.

10 October 1985   Leeds Polytechnic


12 October 1985   University of East Anglia, Norwich


14 October 1985   Hexagon Theatre, Reading


15th October 1985   Rock City, Nottingham

An very good audience recording exists of this gig.

16th October 1985   Pink Toothbrush, Rayleigh


17 October 1985   Leicester University


19 October 1985   City Hall, St. Albans


20 October 1985   Powerhouse, Birmingham


22 October 1985   Shelley’s, Stoke


23 October 1985   Bournemouth Town Hall


25 October 1985   Bristol University


26 October 1985   Mandela Hall, Sussex University, Brighton


31st October 1985   Klub Krackers, Liverpool

A phenomenal 88 minute plus spectacular – a good audience recording with some limited chatter. The sound is generally great but there is annoying feedback in places, and at times the volume of the band causes a bit of distortion.

Some notables here tonight with the last outing for “Wings” for a long time, and run-outs for “Totally Wired” and “Rowche Rumble”.

Matters commence with a hyperfast “Mansion” on tape which slows down and fades into spoken word and then a collection of violent chords. A stunning version of “Wings” commences things proper. This version of the band, as I have said on more than one occasion, had this song down to its core brilliance, driven by Burns unforgiving drumming.

“Bombast” suffers a little from wow and flutter from the recording and the drums seem to drown out the rest. A laconic “Clear Off!” feels a little restrained amongst all of the other numbers tonight and the over use of cymbals and sharp keyboard tone seems to lose the core of the performance somehow.

Things are rectified with an amazing version of “Gut of the Quantifier” where I think we hear the first outing of Mark singing “Bourgeoise Town” in the intro, a rant about the North West of Nowhere and then a consummate performance with brinkmanship on the tension buildng and release, and chaotic guitar sound taking the sound to somewhere altogether alien. Internal rhythmic turns make this a maelstrom of intense sound,

For technical reasons “I feel Voxish” gets two outings, I assume because the monitors have failed at some point – as MES conducts a period of volume increasing in a self deprecating fashion – at this point on the recording a young lady starts whittering on next to taper. However one should not complain as version2 is somewhat superior to its shorter predecessor. Said female continues to shout unintelligible things which tend to detract from what is an immense wall of sound.

“What you need” is initially, like “Clear Off!” a little lost in the overall intensity of the gig, however Hanley saves the day with the trademark bass twang and the double keyboards add a unique sense of purpose, and as it develops it becomes a relentless festival of repetition.

Unfortunately the good “Dktr” is cut short but is welcome prior to his visit prior to the sharpish end and demonstrates again the power of this iteration of the gruppe in layering the sound into laminal walls of noise.

A strange ultra fast 46 seconds “Paintwork” (I think) precedes “L.A.”, It has the bones of the riff but there is some unintelligible ranting from MES which implies it is something else. Very good reading of the latter which holds together well as the guitars weave riffs around rock steady beat and driving Hanley riffing.

The three guitar line up with Rogers could play some amazing stuff when on full tilt and never more so tonight than on a blistering “Damo” which has complex interweaving lines which slowly collide and collapse into a memorable coda.

A memorably sloppy “Wired” is a mass of unforgiving rhythm, the fact that Brix forgets to drop the beat on the response makes it all a bit power pop, but I’m being churlish, this is wondrous stuff, a thorough going over in fact, probably one of the best versions on record. The Fall at their best.

Matters conclude on a similar high with the ghost of Nervous Norvus chasing MES around the hall in an unforgiving mad dance, for some reason the very clear vocals on the preceding track are lost, one can only assume the taper has moved to the rear of the hall?

Highly recommended – some exceptional performances here despite the aforementioned glitches and noisy adjacent crowd.

9 November 1985   Great Hall, Lancaster University


11 November 1985   Hammersmith Palais, London





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