"You are the worst group I've ever seen. In the history of mankind. The worst tuneless rubbish I've ever heard, even worse than Siouxsie and the Banshees. I didn't believe it was possible. Please do a Session."
--John Walters, Peel Sessions producer, in a letter to Mark E. Smith
And thus, ignominiously started the longest stretch of Peel Sessions by any artist: 24. Such are the little nuggets in this great documentary to satisfy the most rabid Fall fan. (Me, I've watched it at least ten times). It's loaded with great live footage, interviews with luminaries such as John Peel, Tony Wilson and oft-time producer Grant Showbiz, interviews with ex-band members Steve Hanley and Marc Riley (lots of great anecdotes), and of course the man himself.
I don't know if this documentary is going to change anyone's mind on The Fall but, you know, fuck them. Who cares? And sure, MES is difficult to understand. He's smoking and drinking and slurring. But I transcribed that quote up there directly from his relating the tale in the film, so it's not impossible. You just gotta... Listen.
There's great old television footage (just clips, alas), and our interviewees take us on a trip through all the ups/downs/ins/outs of The Fall from the earliest days up 'til the making of this doc, which coincided with the taping of the last Peel Session. There's great footage of them recording Blindness and I Can Hear the Grass Grow and Mark admonishing his then-bandmates ("You've got to fucking play a bit harder and you've got to be in tune and you've got to do it on the changes").
The video itself is great quality. Nice widescreen picture. It was digitally recorded and I downloaded it from some forgotten spot a couple years ago (I can't find it today). If you just want to watch the film, there is a single-download 700 MB AVI version that will play in any media player and looks just fine. If you want to archive this or burn it onto a DVD, get the uncompressed 3-part download. It's pristine. But it's an MPEG file, as I got it. But if you have the great VLC Player, which everyone should cos it plays every format perfectly (and it's free and they never bug you for donations), you will have no problems.
And last but not least: My Connection (there always is, isn't there?). This film includes footage I shot in 1998 in NYC. It was their infamous "onstage row". Karl jumps out from behind his kit and assaults MES, to which he implores us to "Bear witness, laddies". Karl, Hanley and that Tommy guy all quit/sacked the next day.
There's about two minutes of my footage and it is really crappy-looking! Granted, it wasn't one of my best shoots, what with Brownies' having just built their gigantic stage and I wasn't prepared for that (TOO close), and of course it wasn't the greatest gig (The night before at Coney Island High was phenomenal - MES positively menacing with a black eye and the band smoking - there's a still photo in the film). But the worst part is it's from a very high-generation copy. I traded this with one guy in Manchester I traded lotsa Fall stuff with, and I assume he traded his out and they traded theirs out... But you'd think a bloody BBC researcher could have easily traced it back? But then maybe it wasn't in the budget. Maybe they liked that grainy bootleg look.
Oh well, at least I can say I've got footage in a BBC documentary!
At least that's something...
The 700 MB AVI single-download is HERE.
The 1.84 GB 3-part download: PART 1 * PART 2 * PART 3
(Download all 3 parts, double click file marked ".001" to extract all 3 parts and end up with one MPEG file. Burn to DVD, etc.)
Also: check out this very excellent compilation, Songs The Fall Covered over at Doctorfuckwit's blog!