The Fall came to an end when Mark E Smith died in January 2018, but there’s been no shortage of reissues, live albums and other posthumous releases since. Here’s one that’s definitely worth checking out: a live album recorded at St. Helens Technical College in February 1981 that will be released by Castle Face (the label run by Oh Sees’ John Dwyer) on February 19, which is almost to the day of the show’s 40th anniversary.
There have been a zillion lineups of The Fall but the one that played this show was one of the classic ones, featuring brothers Stephen Hanley and Paul Hanley on bass and drums, and guitarists Marc Riley and Craig Scanlon. This is around the time the band released the crucial Slates EP and all six of its songs are on this live album which genuinely sounds great. (There are a lot of not-so-good sounding Fall live albums out there but this is not one of them.) You can listen to “Leave the Capitol” from it, and check out the full tracklist and artwork, below.
Here’s Marc Riley on the show and how Live at St. Helens Technical College, ’81 came to be released:
I stumbled upon the link to the recording of the St Helens Technical College gig on Twitter. I started to listen and recognised it as one of the better sound-board recordings I’d ever heard. Knowing John (Dwyer – of Osees and Castle Face Records) was into The Fall I sent him the link just for him to enjoy. He got back and said it was one of the best live Fall sets he’d ever heard and asked if we were cool with him releasing it. So I contacted Steve and Paul Hanley…. then Paul got in touch with Craig Scanlon – and within the space of a week we’d given Castle Face the ‘OK’ from four of the five Fall members on recording. The fifth of course being Mark E Smith who is no longer with us. I believe (from a mate who is armed with a functioning memory and was there on the night) the gig was poorly attended. So much so that the Promoter attempted to pull our fee…which resulted in him being pushed to the floor by our manager Kay Carrol. Sounds about right.
John Dwyer notes that “We have reached out to every surviving member of the band, the sound person, the bootlegger who recorded it and the photographer and received their blessings & help piecing it all together.” Castle Face is donating 50% of the profits of the live album to Centrepoint which “helps the homeless in the Manchester area get back on their feet, so the local and deserving Fall fans get a little, and give a little back, too.” You can pre-order The Fall – Live at St. Helens Technical College, ’81 now.
You can read more of John Dwyer’s liner notes for the album, as well as recollections from Ian “Moet” Moss, singer for The Hamsters, who attended the show, below.
NOTES FROM JOHN DWYER
“I’ve had the pleasure of being a Fall fan since I was a teen.
I was lucky enough to have some guidance from my local record shop stoner-lords.
They turned me on to many of my heroes, but once I heard my first slanted and barky Fall song, I was part of the army for life.
The word prolific gets tossed around a lot.
It almost seems like a slag-off in the press, as if they wish the artist would produce less so they wouldn’t have to do their self imposed job of judging releases for the rabble.
The Fall is subjected to this lazy word often.
Yet I can honestly say that I am SO thankful for any nugget of Fall that lands at my feet and in my brain.
Live Fall performances are always a pleasure because they seem to take what already made the Fall great and push it even a bit more into the rough and bloody uncharted wasteland that is drug scorched proto-punk and heady political poetry.
So, it is with great pleasure that we introduce this Fall bootleg soundboard recording to you.
Recorded during one of the many strong points in the bands vast and mighty history.
They really burn bright here and bring every ounce of what you expect from this formidable force.
We have reached out to every surviving member of the band, the sound person, the bootlegger who recorded it and the photographer and received their blessings & help piecing it all together.
Castle Face will be donating 50% of our profits to Centrepoint which helps the homeless in the Manchester area get back on their feet, so the local and deserving Fall fans get a little, and give a little back, too.
Nothing but the hits here folks and as raw as you dig it.
This one really is exceptional in terms of live sound for The Fall.
All the stars were aligned over St. Helens that eve.
And it wouldn’t be complete with a bit of Fall fan saltiness so, fuck you too, Jason.” – John Dwyer
Live at St. Helens Technical College, ’81 tracklist:
Prole Art Threat
Jawbone and the Air Rifle
An Older Lover
Leave the Capitol
Fit and Working Again
Slates, Slags, Etc
NOTES FROM IAN “MOET” MOSS OF THE HAMSTERS:
Ian “Moet” Moss, singer for The Hamsters
The Fall were my favourite group and my friends also which placed me in the position of being able to travel with them to gigs occasionally, they played in unusual venues which I liked , I recall watching them perform a gut wrenching brilliant set in a Bolton Gymnasium, but the show at St Helens would prove to be the most memorable, it was a college show and the performance space was a small theatre used for students dramatic productions of ‘ Waiting for Godot’ or ‘ Hamlet ‘, There was a nice sized stage facing tilted seating for around 250 people , perhaps half the seats were taken when the lights dimmed and The Fall at their mightiest stepped out onto the stage and produced an exhilarating racket and anti showbiz performance that was a privilege to witness, this was par for the course, the wider world wasn’t fully aware but this band were alchemists and they distilled their influences into something precious and rare, I was stood with manager Kay Carrol , the gig had been good and she was content but she was definitely not a person to offend , her anger was a frightening thing to face, At this point the college ‘ social secretary’ and de facto promoter appeared in chunky jumper , jumbo cord trousers and hush puppy shoes and through wispy facial hair attempted to explain to Kay that because the attendance hadn’t matched expectations The Fall would have to settle for a reduced fee, the poor innocent had no idea who he was addressing or the trouble he was in , Kay set her eyes on him and then struck , ‘ who the fuck do you think your talking to cock ? ” she hissed ” I’m not discussing this , go and get me the money we agreed now” and with that gave him a mighty push sending him tumbling backwards over the seats , he picked himself up , collected what was left of his pride and scurried away to find the cash , The band appeared and we lingered for drinks before loading the van and setting off for home down the motorway , Having proceded only a few miles we found ourselves pulled over onto the hard shoulder by the Police , our driver ‘ Duncan ‘ was breathalised and found to be over the legal limit , he was taken away and we were transported to a motorway service station , stranded driverless , we nursed overpriced cups of coffee and blinked in the harsh neon glare of the cafeteria through tired eyes waiting to see if Duncan would duly be returned to us , impatience and Ill humour characterised our mood over the next few hours not helped by the arrival of a buoyant and bouncy ‘ Gene October ‘and ” Chelsea ‘ in transit from a fabulous gig in Liverpool we were informed, ‘ do please fuck off ‘ I remember thinking , it was the final straw , Mark and Kay had had enough of waiting , Taxis were summoned wiping out the takings from the gig and we headed homeward , weary , bleary eyed and hung over, As an east Manchester resident it was prudent for me to lodge the night on the sofa of the Hanley families south Manchester residence , a few hours later after a very welcome hearty breakfast and an hour’s Saturday morning TV I was off to seek out further weekend fun.