I just recently rediscovered a CD-R I made of favorite songs The Fall played over the course of their 24 appearances on John Peel's legendary radio show (only Ivor Cutler guested more often). Though the mix is a little heavy on the band's mid-eighties to early-ninties output and is not arranged in chronological order, it's a fairly even survey of the band from their first appearance on the show in 1978 until their last in 2004 and I think it's the most flattering and comprehensive picture I could give someone of The Fall.
The Fall's appearances on John Peel's show are inconsistent (to say the least) which makes the 6-disc Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 infuriating even as it is a treasure trove of great, great performances. With this said, when The Fall were at their best on Peel's show, they were also at their overall best; the peaks documented on this mix show the band at their finest in every period of their ludicrously prolific career. It's another witness to the validity of John Peel's indefatigable quote about The Fall ("always the same, always different").
The first song, "What About Us", was played on the group's last appearance on the show and would have a studio release the next year on 2005's Fall Heads Roll, which was the first album of theirs I heard or owned. It remains a favorite.
Thing is: I hated the album the first time I heard it. I thought it was a joke. To this day, given the violence of my reaction against it, I have no idea why I played Fall Heads Roll a second, third or fourth time but, by that point, it had magically snapped into place and I played it repeatedly for the next month.
Only one of the songs I included is a cover (of The Sonics' "Strychnine") and it's worth the time spent to stop over at touched mix where a brilliant, brilliant blogger has compiled that and many other of the songs The Fall have covered (including their infamous one of The Kinks' "Victoria").
For the most part I skipped songs The Fall performed that veer dangerously close to being throwaway novelty songs and stuck to songs that can be found (in various versions) on studio recordings in the band's catalogue. An exception is 1994's "Glam Racket - Star" which baits the then-popular British group Suede, of whom I am also a large fan. Suede would 'return fire' with a cassette-only B-side called "Implement Yeah!" half a decade later (oh... snap?).
The Christmas songs also played on the session that included "Glam Racket - Star" ("Jingle Bell Rock" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing") are the sort of songs I wouldn't put on a mix like this. The band Elastica, in their own Peel Sessions, would play a song called "I Wanna Be a King of Orient Aah," lightly mocking Fall vocalist Mark E. Smith's ridiculous vocal tics as applied to these Christmas season standards.
Unlike Suede, however, Elastica were no Fall-detractors: for a time, former Fall member David Bush played keyboards for Elastica and Smith (who is the only consistent member of The Fall) added vocals to one version of an Elastica song, "How He Wrote Elastica Man," itself a tribute to The Fall song "How I Wrote Elastic Man."
The mix ends with another song from The Fall's last appearance on Peel's show, "Job Search," which feel appropriate as I am currently in a state of employment aporia (aka "I don't think my job pays me enough to survive on"). I seem to remember being in the same state when I made the mix... always the same, I suppose.
It's annoying that I constantly preface the mixes I post with caveats, but here it seems neccessary in light of the relationship I have with the band:
I do not listen to The Fall for their musical excellence.
I'm... not exactly sure why I do.
The Fall is not a band.
The Fall is a way of life.
The Fall is like waking up, realizing that there is a large, possibly venomous tarantula sitting on your chest and not moving for fear of angering it while also starting to admire the complex beauty of the fine hairs all over its body.
And now, all hyperbole dispensed with and with no further adieu:
Me I'm Mark (The Very Best of The Fall as Heard by John Peel)
1What About Us
2Spoilt Victorian Child
3Gut of the Quantifier
5Hot Aftershave Bop
7What You Need
10Ladybird (Green Grass)
11Futures and Pasts
12Numb at the Lodge
13Strychnine [The Sonics cover]
15Paranoia Man in Cheap Shit Room
17Groovin' with Mr. Bloe- Green-eyed Loco Man
Elastica- "How He Wrote Elastica Man" (unfortunately, not the version featuring Mark E. Smith)
Suede- "Implement Yeah!"
Pavement- "Mark E. Smith" (live)
(Pavement are also avowed enemies of The Fall, having been accused of 'ripping-off' The Fall by Mark E. Smith.)