My introduction to the Fall was an inauspicious one. Sometime in the mid-80's, I remember seeing a postcard with their picture on it on a rack of "Punk Postcards" at the Tower Records on W.66th street. A gormless gaggle of chinless, sweater-vest-wearers with greasy hair, they looked more like a chess club than a band of proper "punks" (my idea of Punk Rock at the time still narrowly adhering to the tonsorial ludicrousness and slack-jawed nihilism of bands like The Exploited and Fear). In the same manner I'd initially dismissed Mission of Burma, I decided that since they dressed like bank tellers, the Fall must be boring (without hearing so much as a note of their music), so never gave them another thought.
A few years later, my mother was dating this gent that we'll call Angus. I can't remember what Angus did for a living, but I gather he was reasonably well-off. In any event, he got wind of the fact that I was a big music freak, so took it upon himself to make me a mixtape. Loaded with 12" mixes of crap like Shalamar, DeBarge and Chaka Khan (and titled "It's Getting Hotter!", or something simmilarly ridiculous), I pretty much immediately dismissed it. He asked me how I enjoyed the tape a little while afterwards. I pompously replied that it really wasn't my kinda thing and that I was more a fan of music that kicked you in the teeth, grabbed you by the scalp and dragged you around the room - rudely assuming that he wouldn't know what I was talking about in the slightest. A couple of months later -- after he and Mom had already stopped seeing each other, I got a note from Angus, saying he was changing his entire music collection over to compact disc, and would I be so kind as to take his vinyl collection off his hands. "Oh great," I thought, "all the Sheila E. and Eveyln 'Champagne' King records I could ever want." I consented, of course, and walked over to the man's apartment on Fifth Avenue (adjacted to the Frick Museum, if I recall correctly). Waiting for me in the lobby were three large boxes stuffed with records.
Well, it seems I'd prematurely sold Angus down the river for being a latter-day disco dingbat. Inside these boxes was a veritable trove of amazing Punk, Post-Punk and New Wave records -- including ones by Siouxsie & the Banshees, Rip Rig + Panic, The Slits, New Order, The March Violets, Nash the Slash, Television, Sparks, Pauline Murray & the Invisible Girls, Creatures, The Au Pairs, Altered Images, The Individuals, Swans, The Teardrop Explodes and loads more. He even included an original copy of Metal Box by Public Image Ltd. (which I still cherish today). Thinking that he'd easily replace all of them on compact disc seemed a bit naïve (some of these records are still not available on the soon-to-be-obsolete-format), but that wasn't my problem. I'd undeservingly inherited a gold mine of new music.
Scattered among these albums were a couple of selections by The Fall, notably Perverted By Language and the single of "Cruiser's Creek." The album, honestly, did so little for me that I almost didn't even bother playing the single. But, wanting to give it a fair shake, I placed it on my turntable and dropped the needle. Following a brief, bullhorned exhortation from notoriously caustic lead singer Mark E. Smith, that barbed, angular riff kicked in and knocked me over.
I couldn't keep up with The Fall. The band proved to be tirelessly prolific. The last "new" album of theirs I picked up was Middle Class Revolt in 1994. They've gone on to release about three-hundred albums since then. I'm sure some of them are brilliant, but it's far too late for me to catch up. I'm happy with the clutch of singles, albums and compilations of theirs I do have. And my favorite track will always remain "Cruiser's Creek."
The thing about "Cruiser's Creek," though, is that I have absolutely no idea of what the song's about. Swinging maybe? The lyrics are fairly oblique, and the entirely bizarre video for it is even less illuminating (although the shots of Brix Smith riffing away while the boys shimmy and frug around her is pretty entertaining). In any case, I think it's brilliant. Crank it.