Nostalgia: Ever-changing line-up of influential post-punk bands from Prestwich

Photo: Fall lead singer Mark E. Smith on stage, January 1988 (00080320) © Mirrorpix

Some bands undergo very few line-up changes during their lifetime.

Others, like the Rolling Stones, can swap one or two members over the decades.

Fall lead singer Mark E. Smith on stage, January 1988 (00080320) © Mirrorpix

Not so Manchester post-Punk outfit The Fall. No less than 66 musicians played for them during their 40 years of existence, starting in Prestwich in 1976.

In fact, the number became so large that founder and lead singer Mark E. Smith commented, ‘If it’s me and your grandmother on bongos, it’s The Fall!’

Sex Pistols, whose concert in Manchester inspired The Fall, December 1976 (01270006) © Mirrorpix

The Fall only came together after the hugely influential Sex Pistols’ concert at Manchester’s Lesser Free trade hall in July 1976.

Inspired by the energy they witnessed at the concert, Smith and his girlfriend Una Baines, Martin Bramah and Tony Friel decided to form their own group.

Smith was then 19 years old and had left home three years earlier to move in with Baines.

He left Stand Grammar School to take an evening class in A-level literature while working as a clerk on Salford docks.

Literature played a major role in shaping the new group. Smith read Raymond Chandler, HP Lovecraft and New Brighton author Malcolm Lowry.

Even the group’s name ‘The Fall’ comes from the 1956 novel by Albert Camus.

Autumn Idols Iggy Pop and David Bowie, March 1977 (00206632) © Mirrorpix

Musical influence included Iggy Pop and Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Velvet Underground and the experimental German rock band Can.

Bramah became the group’s guitarist with Friel on bass. When the band could not afford a drum kit, Baine’s rhythms were based on biscuit shapes before switching to keyboards.

The early sound of autumn was raw and repetitive. Their debut concert in the North West Arts basement in May 1977 so their first line-up changed when drummer Steve Ormrod was replaced by Karl Burns.

Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon funded the group’s first recording session, resulting in material for the EP Bingo-Master’s Break-Out.

The only problem was that Boon could not think of releasing it.

The Fall had to wait until June 1978 for theirs vinyl debut with two songs on the album Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus – a compilation album of live recordings made at the Manchester venue before it closed.

Bez from Manchester band The Happy Mondays, influenced by The Fall, August 2007 (00031366) © Mirrorpix

Several line-up changes took place after Kay Carroll, a friend of Baines, became manager.

Friel left in December 1977 to be replaced by Jonnie Brown and later Eric McGann.

Baines left the group in March 1978 to be replaced by Yvonne Pawlett, and then McGann left in May.

Eventually, the group’s 16-year-old roadie Marc Riley – was recruited to play bass guitar.

He continued to work extensively on radio with Mark Radcliffe and currently presents BBC Radio 6 Music.

Manchester TV and record label owner Tony Wilson, November 1999 (00160506) © Mirrorpix

Despite staff changes, The Fall still managed to perform three tracks for the Granada TV show What’s On, hosted by Tony Wilson, in February 1978.

They also recorded their first session of influential disc jockey John Peel who was to become a great supporter.

Over the years, The Fall played 24 sessions for Peel’s programs.

Disc jockey John Peel – a big fan of The Fall, February 1976 (00145816) © Mirrorpix

In December 1978, The Fall recorded their debut album Live at the Witch Trials in a single day. Burns then left to be replaced by cabaret musician Mike Leigh.

Founding member Bramah also stopped by to form the band Blue Orchids with Baines, and Riley’s former bandmates Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley arrived to fill the gap.

Riley moved over to guitar along with Scanlon to allow Hanley to play bass.

It was an important step as Hanley’s baselines became a trademark part of The Falls Sound. Pawlett left in July 1979 to care for his dog.

Leigh left the group in March 1980 to return to cabaret and was replaced by 16-year-old Paul Hanley, brother of Steve Hanley.

His age caused a problem when the band planned to tour the United States.

He was denied a visa on the grounds that he was too young to play American clubs serving alcohol.

Karl Burns was invited back in the group for the tour, resulting in the album titled A Part of America Therein, 1981.

Brix Smith, former band member of The Fall, February 2016 (00917206) © Mirrorpix

In 1982 Smiths American girlfriend and future wife Brix Smith joined the band to play guitar. Her nickname came from the song The Guns of Brixton by the Clash.

The arrival of platinum blonde Brix brought a more conventional pop influence to the group as well as a new sense of fashion.

The fall was set fair for their next three decades.

Mark E. Smith and The Fall at Reading Festival, August 1991 (01538205) © Mirrorpix

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