The Fall

The Fall was an English post-punk band led by Manchester singer, musician, and songwriter Mark E. Smith. Between 1979 and 1988, they released eleven albums.

Members: Mark E. Smith (vocals, tapes, violin, keyboards), Martin Bramah (guitar, vocals, 1976-79, 1989-90), Tony Friel (bass, 1976-77), Una Baines (keyboards, 1976-78), Steve Ormrod (drums, 1976-77), Karl Burns (drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals, 1977-78, 1981-86, 1993-98), Jonnie Brown (bass, 1978), Rick Goldstraw (bass, 1978), Yvonne Pawlett (keyboards, 1978-79), Marc Riley (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, 1978-82), Mike Leigh (drums, 1979-80), Craig Scanlon (guitar, 1979-95), Steve Hanley (bass, 1979-84, 1985-98), Paul Hanley (drums, keyboards, 1980-85), Kay Carroll (percussion, kazoo, vocals, 1981-83), Brix Smith (guitar, vocals, 1983-89, 1994-96), Simon Rogers (keyboards, bass, guitar, 1985-86), Simon Wolstencroft (drums, keyboards, 1986-97), Marcia Schofield (keyboards, 1986-90)


The Fall formed in late 1976 when Mark E. Smith gathered his then live-in girlfriend, Una Baines, and two Prestwhich literary friends, Martin Bramah and Tony Friel.

Smith was born Mark Edward Smith on March 5, 1957, in Broughton, Salford; the oldest of four children of working class parents Jack Smith and Irene (née Brownhill). At fourteen, his interests settled on music. His first record was “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. The first concert he attended was the Groundhogs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. At sixteen, he quite school and moved in with Una.

Mark worked as a shipping clerk in the days prior to June 4, 1976, when he saw the Sex Pistols make their northern debut (opposite Mandalaband) at the Free Trade Hall. He suggested the band idea after the second Pistols Free Trade show on July 20, an event opened by Slaughter & The Dogs and (in their live debut) Buzzcocks.

For their band name, Smith suggested The Outsiders: a name soon claimed by a London punk trio and used beforehand by a ’60s Dutch beat group and an American pop band. Friel suggested The Fall, the title of a 1956 novel by Algerian-French philosopher Albert Camus.

An an untrained quartet, they picked their roles at random: vocals (Mark), guitar (Martin), bass (Tony), and percussion (Una). The Fall drew influences from the music of Can, Captain Beefheart, The Monks, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, and the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, Malcolm Lowry, and Raymond Chandler. Una, who couldn’t afford a drum set, played makeshift metals and soon switched to keyboards.

Early Appearances

The Fall made their live debut on May 23, 1977, in the basement of the North West Arts Center. Soon after, they hired drummer Karl Burns, a Friel colleague from the earlier unsigned Nuclear Angel. On the night of October 1–2, The Fall played Manchester’s condemned Electric Circus as part of a final night blow-out event. Two Fall numbers from that night (“Stepping Out,” “Last Orders”) appear on Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus, a document of the event on Virgin Records with cuts by Buzzcocks, The Drones, John Cooper Clarke, and Joy Division (called Warsaw at the time of the concert).

In November 1977, the lineup of Smith, Baines, Friel, Bramah, and Burns cut their first EP, financed by Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon and slated for release on his label New Hormone, which suddenly ran out of money. Meanwhile, Smith monkey-branched from Una to her psychiatric co-worker Kay Carroll, who became The Fall’s manager. This development alienated Friel, who exited in December (he resurfaced the following year in The Passage). The Fall hired bassist Eric “The Ferrett” McGann.

On February 13, 1978, The Fall performed three songs (“Psycho Mafia,” “Industrial Estate,” “Dresden Dolls”) for the Granada TV music program What’s On, hosted by Tony Wilson. This marked the only appearance of the Baines–McGann lineup. In March, Baines left after a drug-induced nervous breakdown. The Fall hired keyboardist Yvonne Pawlett and cut their first sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. McGann quit between the 5/30 sessions and 6/15 broadcast, which aired four songs: “Futures and Pasts,” “Mother-Sister,” “Rebellious Jukebox,” and “Industrial Estate.” The Fall hired their roadie Marc Riley (then sixteen) as their new bassist.

Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!

On August 11, 1978, The Fall marked their proper vinyl debut with Bingo-Master’s Break-Out! The three-song EP (10:02) constitutes their Boon-financed November 1977 sessions. Bingo contains one group-written original “Repetition” and co-writes between Smith and Friel (“Psycho Mafia”) and Una (“Bingo-Master”).

A1. “Psycho Mafia” (2:19)
A2. “Bingo-Master” (2:32)
B1. “Repetition” (5:11)

The Fall self-produced the three songs at Manchester’s Indigo Studios, where they recorded a fourth track (“Frightened”) that Smith deemed unsatisfactory. Bingo-Master’s Break-Out! appeared on Step Forward Records, a punk label co-founded by American music mogul Miles Copeland with Sniffin’ Glue editor (and Alternative TV frontman) Mark Perry. Bingo was the tenth Step Forward release (SF 7) after singles by Chelsea, The Cortinas, The Models, and Sham 69.

In November 1878, The Fall released “It’s the New Thing,” a Smith–Bramah song backed with the group-written “Various Times.”

A. “It’s the New Thing”
B. “Various Times”

On December 15, The Fall recorded their debut album in a single day. After its completion, Karl Burns cleared out for drummer Mike Leigh of the local cabaret act Rockin’ Ricky.

Live at the Witch Trials

The Fall released their debut album, Live at the Witch Trials, on March 16, 1979, on Step Forward.

In April, Smith became the sole founding Fall member when guitarist Martin Bramah quit the band. Bassist Marc Riley switched to guitar and Smith hired bassist Steve Hanley and second guitarist Craig Scanlon, both Riley bandmates in the early Fall support act Staff 9. Bramah later resurfaced with Una Baines in the neo-psych Blue Orchids.

In July, Yvonne Pawlett to care for her dog.

Dragnet (1979)

Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980)

Hex Enduction Hour (1982)

Room to Live (1982)

Perverted by Language (1983)

The Wonderful and Frightening World Of… (1984)

This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)

Bend Sinister (1986)

The Frenz Experiment (1988)

I Am Kurious Oranj (1988)


  • Live at the Witch Trials (1979)
  • Dragnet (1979)
  • Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980)
  • Hex Enduction Hour (1982)
  • Room to Live (1982)
  • Perverted by Language (1983)
  • The Wonderful and Frightening World Of… (1984)
  • This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)
  • Bend Sinister (1986)
  • The Frenz Experiment (1988)
  • I Am Kurious Oranj (1988)


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