Take The Fall for one Hex-cellent read
Have A Bleedin Guess. The Story of Hex Enduction Hour
by Paul Hanley (Route Publishing)
Straight outta ... Pontefract ... comes Route's latest (rather brilliant) publication. For what I suspect is a small publisher, Route (est. 2000) punch above their weight. This is their 10th music book - the third to deal mostly with The Fall and - gulp - the second by a Fall drummer.
You can snaffle Simon Wollstencroft's “You Can Drum But You Can't Hide” and Steve Hanley's tour de force “The Big Midweek. Life Inside The Fall” at Route's website, and Paul Hanley's “Leave The Capital” (a history of Manchester music and liberation) as well.
My copy's pink with black writing, and signed. Though I'd like to think you'd see this one in Dymock's or JBHiFi, don't hold your breath. I ordered mine, yes from overseas, and it arrived in a timely fashion, and much better wrapped than most books you order from overseas.
Which is excellent; particularly since it anticipates Cherry Red's upcoming '"1982" Fall box, the latter of which I expect I'll get to in due course.
Now, unlike his brother Steve, Paul Hanley approaches “Hex Enduction Hour” in two minds. The bulk of the text follows the obvious pattern: what came before the album, how the songs were put together, the context of the band in their time and so on. He approaches the album as a music historian, but is also able to correct wrongly-held beliefs (such as the likely identity of King Shag Corpse) with restrained glee, while inserting footnotes which reveal the bloke you want to meet at the pub. Rather puts me in mind of Terry Edwards' book on Madness' first LP, written for the 33 1/3 series.
Speaking of which, in the foreword, Stewart Lee (no, no idea) tells his sad story of wanting to write a book on “Hex” for 33 1/3, only to be rebuffed with the old “ain't commercial enough”, a sad and common refrain to many an enthusiastic writer (if not fan).
Certainly one could see that series' 'format' here, but frankly, this is the one which got away, and in doing so reveals some of the many flaws with 33 1/3. First, “Bleedin Guess” is longer than any book in that series, and secondly, it's chockas with carefully-sourced facts (Fall fans occasionally resemble train-spotters) as well as a magnificent droll humour.
Even more so, I suspect the series wouldn't allow someone who'd been in the band to write about a “significant LP”; it's rather wonderful to see that Paul Hanley has both the maturity and sufficient distance to be able to view his time in The Fall with amusement (you almost expect a footnote saying, “crikey, did I really do that? Bloody hell”) and perspective.
Now, all around “Hex” were constant gigs, chaos (mostly organised by Mark Edward Smith, Esquire), and I suspect quite a few painful memories. We don't see the pain - though you can read between the lines. Meanwhile, to a large extent the working innards of The Fall are revealed (and doubtless, upon publication, MES's ashes are swirling to life to wreak beer-sodden, speed and fag-riddled vengeance upon all associated with the book. And the readers. We're all fucked).
I'm going to give you one extensive quote, apropos the song “Jawbone and the Air Rifle'” ... the various sections [of the song] are of a set length, the notable exceptions being when Mark abandons metre for the two spoken middle-eight sections. His wilfully indeterminate phrasing on these breaks meant that the transition back into the verse and chorus respectively was always a matter of interpretation. You can hear the difficult this presented on the version recorded for John Peel in 1980, where the roll into the last chorus comes mid-bar and causes some not inconsiderable timing issues.
Steve Hanley: It was impossible to get right!
Marc Riley: There was always terror in everyone's eyes, coming out of the break. You can hear the panic!
Craig Scanlon: Two years playing it and we still couldn't get it right.
There are, of course, those who would argue that that is, in fact, the point of The Fall, the members being lead (only slightly maliciously) up the garden path, round the bend and left, teetering, on the edge of a musical cliff.
“Have a Bleedin Guess” isn't just for the loopy aficionado, of course; it's a primer on recording techniques and realities, band friction and perspective.
It's bloody wonderful. Get it here: