Those of you paying attention will have noted that The Fall had enjoyed a couple of years of stability in respect of all six members staying together. Things changed dramatically at the beginning of November 1984 during the UK tour to promote The Weird and Wonderful World Of….
On 1 November, the band returned to their hotel after a gig in Cardiff. For whatever reason, they don’t follow the usual practice of empting the tour van and taking the instruments into their rooms. The following morning, they return to the van and discover it has been broken into with almost everything stolen. By the time of the next gig, two nights later in Brighton, the record label has managed to get everyone temporary replacement instruments. The gig turns into the worst of the tour, with all sorts of mistakes, missed cues and cock-ups, after which Mark E Smith loses his temper with everyone.
It proves to be too much for Steve Hanley who was already struggling to keep things going after his first child, a boy, had been born prematurely and was seriously ill for the first few months of his life. Steve goes back to his hotel to think about things and after making a call home to his wife, he tells her he’s quitting the band and coming back on an overnight train back to Manchester. But he hasn’t told anyone in the band of his decision, nor that his intention was to get out of the music business altogether.
The next day, he gets a call from his brother who tells him that he had just informed MES that he was leaving, deciding that he would take up an offer from some old friends to start up a new band, one free of the control-freakery of MES.
The tour continues onto Europe, with The Fall now being like most other bands and having just one drummer. A call is put into Simon Rogers, a classically-trained musician who had become a friend of MES and Brix, and he replaced Steve as the bass player for the rest of the tour. In due course, things did calm down a bit but not enough for Paul Hanley to change his mind. Steve Hanley was officially put on an extended period of paternity leave, and although he helped out by playing bass when the band appeared on BBC TV’s Old Grey Whistle Test a few weeks later, he is absent when the band returns to the studio in early 1985; he would also miss a UK and US tour in the first half of that year.
So, it was a five-piece band who met up again with John Leckie early in the year, the fruits of which lead to a new double-A single that was duly released in June 1985, just around the time Steve Hanley was about to officially re-join.
I’m not going to offer too much on this one. It’s not that I dislike Couldn’t Get Ahead, but it doesn’t quite resonate with me in the ways that many of the previous (and later) singles managed to do. It’s kind of perfunctory if you really want my take on it.
Rollin’ Dany, not that I would have known it if I hadn’t looked at the sleeve notes in the The Fall 45 84 89 compilation that I picked up a few years later, is a cover version. I’ve never take to it as its opening notes somehow remind me of Shang-a-Lang by Bay City Rollers, a song I had been trying to forget for many a year going back to my early teens. Having said that, given it was the first ever official release by The Fall of a cover version, it is of historical significance.
Petty Thief Lout, which was made available only on the 12″, extends to over five minutes. It is a quiet-loud-quiet sort of number, but at no point does it come across as anything but the band somewhat going through the motions. Maybe everyone was missing the Hanley brothers…..
It reached #90, which at the time was the highest chart position achieved by any 45 released by The Fall. Brix’s dreams of being a bona-fide pop star were becoming increasingly distant.