" M A R K L E T F L Y W I T H S U C H V E N O M F R O M D A Y O N E . IR E M E M B E R H E S O R T O F R E A C H E D I N T O T H E A U D I E N C E A N D V I R T U A L L Y P O K E D H I S F I N G E R
U P H O W A R D D E V O T O ' S N O S E J J Bs l ow: The F a l l p l a y o u t i n M a n c h e s t e r . August 1977. I n d i v i d u a l p o r t r a i t s , l e f t t o r i g h t : Bvarnah. F r i a l . Bainms. Sm i t h
A belief in their own creativity dictated against The Fall playing any cover versions that night. Instead the set consisted of original material, including the anti-racist rants "Hey! Fascist" and "Race Hatred" (complete with its "What yer gonna do about i t?" chorus), the bitter humour of 'Bingo Master's Breakout", and the adrenalin rush of "Psycho Mafia". The set ended with an extended two-chord dirge titled "Repetition". The song was almost a manifesto for the new group, albeit one laced with a heavy dose of sarcasm, with Smith's lyric prophetically announcing, "Repetition in the music and we're nevergonna lose it".
The sound was poor and the musicianship rudimentary, but the commitment, range and charisma were there for all to see. I t was a phenomenal debut but before The Fall could move on, they needed to find a drummer who shared at least some of the group's ethos. The answer was close to hand.
Prior to The Fall, Bramah had been a member of a putative group called Nuclear Angel, which also included Karl Burns. "I first met Karl Burns on the street," recalls Bramah. "He had this picture of Hitler and two of his henchmen and one had a ring round his head and Karl was insisting this was his father. That was my first meeting with Karl Burns, this mad kid claiming his dad was a Nazi."
Burns was a natural musician on guitar and drums. Nuclear Angel never performed live but used to rehearse in the cellar of a shoe shop off Deansgate (in Manchester city centre) that was owned by the bass player's father. Here they would thrash out New York Dolls and Stooges covers - until one night they got carried away and trashed all their equipment. At the time Burns had long hair and was into Heavy Metal, but Bramah persuaded him to give the new group a chance. 'Dave' therefore holds the dubious honour of being the first of many members to be sacked from The Fall.
The Fall's second gig took place on 3 June at a 'Stuff the Jubilee' festival (1977 marked 25 years of the
Queen's reign) in a space known as The Squat on Devas Street. Earlier the group had attended an antiJubilee demo. "There was about 1 2 of us," Baines recalls. "Someone tried to unfurl this banner with 'Stuff the Jubilee' on it and the police came along and said, 'Put that banner down'. He refused saying it was his democratic right to protest and they just pulled him into the back of a police van and kicked his head in. So that was the end of the demo."
The Squat was situated in a decrepit building that had once been the home of the Royal Manchester College of Music. When the College revealed plans to demolish the building, it was occupied by students who then successfully campaigned for it to be turned into a live music venue. Other local groups appearing at 'Stuff the Jubilee' included The Drones, Warsaw (who would soon rename themselves Joy Division), The Worst and The Negatives (which included Paul Morley on guitar and photographer Kevin Cummins on drums). Baines, who now had her own keyboard, remembers the night well: "I played the national anthem with all these explosion sounds from my new keyboard. I t was called a Snoopy and the week after I bought it, it got reviewed in Sounds or Melody Maker as the worst keyboard you could get - totally slated. I t was just the cheapest, but even so I never did pay off the loan."
Later that month The Fall played a Rock Against Racism benefit supporting The Buucocks and The Verbals at North East London Polytechnic. As Martin Bramah explains, there was always a strong left wing element in the group, but they were wary of bandwagons: "The core of that left wing attitude was working class struggle and that's what we related to. Una was a very strong feminist and would be prepared to strike up an argument in a pub with any man who said anything remotely sexist. Tony Friel was a member of the local Communist Party."
These were politically polarised times. A month later in August 1977 there were violent clashes as demonstrators tried to halt a National Front march through Lewisham, South London. Although appreciating the exposure Rock Against Racism gigs gave the group, Smith found the populist and sloganeering attitude of the organisers ideologically suspect. "I was disillusioned very quickly," he told lan Penman in NME in August 1978. "I'd always equated leftwing politics with revolution...What happens is before you go on they say, 'Will you hold this poster up?', and i t 's a picture of Belsen: 'DON'T LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN'. I would say, 'We're a political band, that's what we sing about.' But they want you to make announcements between songs; they see you as entertainment. You might as well be singing Country & Western."
Along with Rock Against Racism benefits, The Buzzcocks continued to be the best source of gigs for the new group. On 4 July The Fall supported The Buzzcocks at the launch party of the Vortex at Crackers on Wardour Street, London. The Buzzcocks were now the leading group in Manchester, and in August signed to United Artists for f75,000, which must have seemed like a fortune at the time. Record company interest in other Manchester groups was stimulated by articles such as Paul Morley's cover story for NME in July 1977. The cover line read: "Manchester: The Truth Behind The Bizarre Cult Sweeping A City's Youth." The article featured The Buzzcocks, Howard Devoto, Slaughter And The Dogs and The Drones. The Fall were classed - alongside Warsaw and The Worst - as interesting newcomers. Over the weekend of 1-2 October the new Manchester groups put together their first real collective show of strength. The venue was the Electric Circus, an ex-bingo hall situated two miles north of the city centre. Like many Manchester venues, i t had seen better days, but its scuzzy informality was perfect for the new groups and their fans. In fact i t was the popularity of the local groups that led to the club's downfall. The Electric Circus had a legal capacity of 280, but the likes of The Buzzcocks were regularly attracting audiences of 500 or more. By October the club was facing closure due to numerous breaches of fire regulations.
32 THE WIRE