" E V E R Y W E E K E N D W E W E R E G E T T I N G O U T O F O U R F A C E S . B U T W E D I D N ' T
S E E I T A S A N I H I L I S T I C T H I N G B E C A U S E T O U S I T W A S A Q U E S T F O R K N O W L E D G E , W E W E R E H U N G R Y T O S E E D I F F E R E N T WAYS O F B E I N G "
PP*ViOUS P a g e : M a r k E Sm i t h . M a r t i n B r a m s h a n d Tony F r i e l , T h e E l e c t r i c C i r c u s , M a n c h e s t e r , O c t o b e r 1 9 7 7
Be l ow : B r a m a h (on f l o o r ) . K a r l B u r n s , S m i t h , F r i a l a n d Una B a i n e s i n s i d e t h e K i n g swood Road f l a t ( l e f t ) a n d o u t s i d e P r e s t w i c h H o s p i t a l . M a n c h e s t e r , m i d - 1 9 7 7
Underground and The Doors, when Smith's sister, Barbara, came home with two i e w friends, Martin Bramah and Tony Friel. "Mark and I shared an interest in music," Friel recalls, "and would spend many evenings listening to records. Mark had an interesting collection, lots of bands I never listened t o before, like Can, and 60s US punk bands."
Bramah and Friel had met at Heys Boys Secondary School. Bramah remembers Friel as " a very eccentric boy. He got picked on a lot, but he had this wild imagination. I was drawn t o him because he was full of mad ideas and tall tales". Bramah left school with just one 0-level, in art. "We were really just factory fodder," he,says. " I t was a boys' school, very military in attitude, so we just tried to avoid it as much as we could. We would wander into town and do shoplifting. To be honest, most of the instruments we used t o start The Fall were stolen." Like Smith and Baines he lasted just three months in further education. His teacher at Radcliffe Further Education College described trying to teach him as like "pissing against the wind". Friel left school without any qualifications but was determined t o make his way as a musician. "I always had an interest in art and music," he says. 'The first record I bought was The Rolling Stones' "Get Off Of My Cloud". At the age of 11or 12, 1 really got into Marc Bolan, and he inspired me t o play guitar."
Friel, Bramah, Smith and Baines would often meet at the Kingswood Road flat t o take drugs (acid, speed, magic mushrooms), play music and talk about what they wanted to do with their lives. "We were totally wrapped up in music," Bramah says. " i t meant a lot t o us. The bands we loved, we loved dearly, i t was our escape from what the world was offering us. Every weekend we were getting out of our faces. But we didn't see i t as a nihilistic thing because to us i t was a quest for knowledge, we were hungry to see different ways of being. We were all writing poetry."
Soon after coming together this quartet of friends decided to form a group. At first Bramah was going to be the singer, with Smith on guitar, Friel on bass and Baines on drums. It soon became apparent, however, that Smith was never going to learn t o play the guitar, and he swapped roles with Bramah. Baines was also unlikely to be able to afford a drum kit and instead she started saving up for a keyboard. Even then they might not have taken i t any further had i t not been for the visit t o Manchester in June 1976 of The Sex Pistols. The four decided to go to the gig, at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, after reading a reference to The Stooges in Neil Spencer's legendary NME review of an early Pistols show. It turned out t o be an empowering experience, reinforced a month later when The Pistols returned t o Manchester and were supported by local groups Slaughter And The Dogs and The Buzzcocks. As Bramah explains, "The music scene was very different then. People didn't start bands in Manchester. The gigs were all at big venues and bands came from out of town and half of them were American. You didn't think you could really do it, until the punk thing happened."
A new urgency was injected into the group, but there was still the important question of what they should call themselves. According t o Bramah, Smith's nominations included Master Race And The Death Sense and, somewhat less inflammatory, The Shades. For a while they were The Outsiders, after the novel ( ~ ' ~ t r a n g e r ) by Albert Camus. When they discovered another group were already using that name, Friel suggested The Fall, the title of another book by Camus (La Chute). At a draft stage entitled "A Puritan Of Our Time", La Chute told the story of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister who came t o regard his bourgeois existence as a sham and exiled himself to Amsterdam where he became a self-styled 'judge penitent', prosecutor of both himself and those he met. It was a perfect name for the new group: simple, distinctive and evocative of the withering social and moral critiques that would come to define Smith's lyric writing.
At the beginning of 1977 there were few signs to indicate that Manchester would become a centre for innovation, the site of a new wave in music. The consequences of The Sex Pistols' appearances took some time to filter through t o live venues and works on vinyl. The first hint of what was to come occurred on 29 January, when The Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP was released on the group's own New Hormones label. The city's music scene continued to develop out of the
30 THE WIRE