Fall Sound


Woken up 
To Fall sound (1)
And you've just split up
With your long-legged rap chick 
On Fall sound
Th-this is it
'Cos your Daddy had a stroke in the tub
Took the funds out of your bank balance
Fall sound
I've seen POW's less hysterical than you (2)

Only water passes my lips
Only beer passes my throat, hit it!
No "guitar's dead" mob (3)
Fall sound
No '80s reprobates (4)
Fall sound
No laptop wankers overground
With Fall sound
It's a business line not a chat line
Wonderin' what's up?
It's Fall sound!
"I have woken up--"
No! It's Fall sound!
It's much too late
It's a scream for help that's desperate--

But it's tough luck
It's a Fall sound
You try to ingratiate
T-t-t-to the Fall sound
But you're much too late
For Fall sound
No fag-end blowin' your face
With Fall sound
No Newsnight for you, baby
With Fall sound (5)

You've just woken up to Fall sound
Fall sound!
F-F-F-Fall sound overground
No Newsnights with Fall sound
F-F-F-Fall sound
Whup (6)



1. The opening noises are presumably meant to sound a bit like an alarm clock, waking one up to Fall Sound. Reformation Post TLC is actually the only album recorded with this particular band; it somehow seems like a typical move, perhaps a bit perverse but making its own kind of sense in Fall terms, for MES to pick this moment to proclaim that the Fall aesthetic is now being definitively presented, and to insist on it being a group phenomenon. And indeed, Reformation is an album that sounds like nothing but the Fall; even though it really doesn't sound like any other Fall album, it is probably as typical as any of them can claim to be. MES is emphatically not a solo artist, despite the fact that a lot of solo artists may have as much consistency in terms of personnel as the Fall, and a good many of them have much more. His band members write the majority of the music on each album, and somehow it all comes out sounding like the Fall. It is a fascinating phenomenon--musicians who seemingly aren't brilliant songwriters in their own right, judging by the evidence of non-Fall products by Fall members, bang out some riffs and present them to MES, who shapes them into Fall songs, and more often than not they work. In fact, against all reasonable expectations, a good many classics actually result from this process, and indeed continue to issue forth even to this day, as songs like "Victrola Time" and "Loadstones" demonstrate. MES once insisted that Fall members can't be great songwriters without him, because something will always be missing. He went on to specify, though, that what is lacking isn't his vocals and lyrics--it's just that he knows how to make people write great songs. I don't have a reference for this, but I'm confident I've conveyed the gist correctly. 

MES employs the phrase "Fall sound" in a rather unusual way in a 1980 interview:

"[T]he music bit is very important. I mean, I'm not a bloody writer! I am one of the FALL, one of the Fall sound. The music should always represent what the singer is saying."

MerelyGifted points out that the riff somewhat resembles Joy Division's "Twenty Four Hours."


2. Are POW's known for being hysterical? I suppose they have reason to be...the idea may be that people in much worse situations complain less than whomever it is MES is addressing here. 

MES told the NME, in 1995, "You know how the British veterans of Japanese POW camps have gone over to Tokyo to get compensation? Well, I had two uncles who were both tortured in Japanese POW camps and they've been going on about how they were tortured and never got any compensation ever since. And they died last week! Four days before they were going to set off for compensation?"


3. This line ultimately goes back to an encounter between MES and another prominent Manchester figure, poet John Cooper Clarke. Smith told Mojo magazine (in an interview I cannot find online, but was quoted elsewhere): "[T]he Manchester scene never liked the Fall. John Cooper Clarke said a very funny thing to me, he said, 'I know exactly what you mean, Mark -- the guitars-are-dead mob.' Ha! Now they've changed their tune. We've never broke up, really. Well, I've never broke up."


4. The Story of the Fall decides that New Order may be the target of this line, but I'm not sure why they specifically would be identified as 80s reprobates any more than any number of other people. At the same time, it is entirely possible that MES was annoyed with someone in particular when writing this song and took a dig that only he can know about for sure.


4. On October 26, 2004, Mark E Smith appeared on the BBC current affairs program Newsnight to talk about the death of John Peel. Smith seemed a bit distracted and his behavior may have seemed slightly eccentric, with a lot of grimaces and quite a bit of footage of Smith's tongue, and he later confessed to being a bit confused by the format. Despite nothing very noteworthy happening in the interview, it became a minor scandal; as far as I can make out, the percieved problem seems to have been that Smith wasn't as effusive about Peel as he should have been. Smith did mention that he and Peel were not friends, but colleagues; this in itself doesn't seem particularly objectionable, as Smith does not seem to be pointing this out maliciously, and he also praised Peel for his objectivity. What seems to have happened is that Smith, who often treats interviews like barroom conversations (which, in his case, they usually are) that will not be overheard, has built up enough of a reputation as a source of sensationalistic press fodder that the third estate is eager to hand hima microphone and hope for the worst, and when the worst doesn't happen to carry on as if it had. As a false scandal, this comes in second only to the Lauren Laverne non-incident (which also made it into a Fall song).


6. Here are the lyrics to the amazing alternate version of "Fall Sound" from The Fall Box Set 1976-2007:

No overground
With Fall sound
No "guitars are dead" mob
With Fall sound
No 80s reprobates
With Fall sound
No laptop talking to your mates
With Fall sound
It’s a business line--
It’s a business line,
Not a chat line
You are just woken up
To Fall sound 

To Fall sound
And you’ve just splitten up
Due to Fall sound
With your long legged rap chick
Due to Fall sound

There’s no overground
There’s no underground
With Fall sound

It’s much too late…
It’s a scream for help 

You try to ingratiate
To the Fall sound
But you’re much too late
For the Fall sound 

There’s no overground
With the Fall sound
The Fall sound
It’s not a chat line
It’s Fall sound
It’s Fall sound

It’s tough luck, mate
But it’s Fall sound
And you’ve got to ingratiate
To the Fall sound


Comments (11)

  • 1. MerelyGifted (link) | 08/03/2015
The riff sure sounds a lot like Joy Division's Twenty Four Hours.
  • 2. bzfgt | 28/03/2015
I can hear it, I'm not sure if it is coincidence or unconscious influence or more intentional...
  • 3. Doc | 22/04/2019
'No big fat arse in your face, with fall sound' - Hammersmith Palais Live 2007
  • 4. Bob | 22/12/2019
'You can hear it on Reformation. There’s a lot more going on than you think. It was intended as a parody of Manchester groups, but turned, remarkably, into a piece of solid music.'

Smith, M., Renegade, Penguin, 2006.
  • 5. Anon | 14/11/2020
Funnily enough, Smith uses the phrase 'Fall sound' in a 1980 fanzine interview (later he would always refer to himself as a writer).

'[i][/i]I mean, I'm not a bloody writer! I am one of the FALL, one of the Fall sound. The music should always represent what the singer is saying.'
  • 6. dannyno | 15/11/2020
Comment #5, the source is Cool fanzine, text available here: http://thefall.org/gigography/80febcool.html
  • 7. bzfgt (link) | 13/02/2021
I think that is very interesting, "one of the Fall sound" is not an ordinary phrase, so it kind of suggests that meant something idiosyncratic to him that far back
  • 8. bzfgt (link) | 13/02/2021
Maybe it's just because the Fall is the only band I annotate, but it seems like MES was interviewed more than any other musician that ever lived....
  • 9. dannyno | 13/02/2021
You may have a biased sample.
  • 10. harleyr | 27/12/2022
"Only water passes my lips
Only beer passes my throat"

This seems likely to be Smith corruption of an aphorism, but if so I'm not familiar with the original. However I was struck by the connection with this phrase in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (p209 of the Vintage Books 1998 paperback):
"O, sir, this champagne is only for outward show. The instant it touches my lips, it turns to water.'
Mark Oliver
  • 11. Mark Oliver | 25/09/2023
Re. 'The Newsnight' incident; if anyone gives a toss about my take on it, see my comment on the YouTube clip of it- can't be arsed to rewrite it.

Add a comment