i did three a-levels, English, History and Psychology, and I went from doing absolutely no work and hardly going to school to doing *some* work and mostly going to school. Apart from psychology, which I barely attended and for which I ended up getting an entirely deserved E.
You might think that the comparative scarceness of my participation in psychology would mean that going to a psychology conference in London would stick out, but it seems to exist in a void. I think that’s probably because I spent a lot of time mentally shutting out school because I was frightened of the consequences of not doing any work.
The only thing I remember about this psychology conference are the high-backed wooden benches raked steeply round the theatre, focused on the central lectern.
And the fact I bought Hip Priests and Kamerads and Seminal: Live. Two! I think I already knew that Hex Enduction Hr. was supposed to be a masterpiece, and I think I probably went to HMV to get that. They didn’t have it though - it wasn’t reissued or available.
I did however get a cassette of Hip Priests and Kamerads (which I saw had many of the songs on Hex - or did I know that, did I only know it later?) and a dirt cheap cassette of a to-me-unknown Seminal: Live. I definitely didn’t know that was held by most music critics to be the antithesis in some ways of Hex; a contract-breaking mess of an album of very little worth. Maybe it was Hip Priests and Kamerads that was cheap, I can’t remember.
I DEFINITELY had a walkman this time though, as the main thing I remember about the actual act of the lecture, other than the context of the high-backed benches, was effectively trying to listen to all of both albums on my walkman without conspicuously being seen to do so.
I was and am an extraordinarily, cripplingly self-conscious person. Well, it’s less bad now - drink helped with that, as with many other things.
So it’s a testament to the *urgency* with which I had to listen to these albums that I sat, high and visible at the top and side of the auditorium, with my hand cupping one headphone over one ear to listen to them.
My first impression of the masterpieces collected on Hip Priests was that this was…. well, I guess I thought it MUST be good, so i considered it would be a challenge best left to different listening circumstances.
Seminal: Live, however, to my surprise, proved immediately electrifying. Dead Beat Descendent and Pinball Machine were the first Fall songs to provide that immediate electrical thrill - a mixture of the veridical (you know what you’re going to get with The Fall, or at least i knew what I wanted, and this was IT) and the sequential (the exact path it takes is full of surprises). Always the same, always different, repetition of universal variety.
or to take the constructions of the subject of the conference i was at, the contents of which I remember not a solitary thing - the dopamine counterbalancings of reinforcement; better than expected, worse than expected, same as expected, do again, don’t do again, it’s routine: and the opiod flushes of excitement - the wow and ugh antennae.
except with The Fall, and I’ve never quite understood this, ‘the opposite applies’ - the dopamine inhibitors of ‘worse than expected’ - harsher, bleaker, more unpleasant, found me returning and returning, as if the strength of the repulsion was considered commensurate to the richness of an unknown reward, and the rebarbative ‘ugh’, the aesthetic gag reflex, was an indication of that which the human mind could learn to love, a step away from the milk and sugar of childhood, a reaction against the deterministic mechanisms of society, history and neurochemistry - a counterintuitive zen: learn to love that from which you instinctively recoil, and fear the automatic kicks of pleasure and comfort that you would seek.
ok, i’m overworked, attempting to move flat, which is turning out to be more arduous than it should be. nothing of any worth is getting done basically, apart from desultory reading.
perfect time to embark on some quick series of no-thought tumblr content.
the fall as a media thing or cultural symbol have become a 1st class bore. they’re written about too much to no end, usually poor attempts to graft old virtues onto new albums. MES as cultural symbol even more so, even when he’s not being an actual bore, which is *quite* often. he’s interesting sure, but the manner is overplayed and the matter underanalysed, in a way that curiously undervalues his actual artistic achivements, which I do actually think are considerable.
But i’m going to cut thru all this shit with my amazing SPECIFIC PLACE I FIRST HEARD SUCH AND SUCH A FALL ALBUM mini-series.
So, without further ado:
Cassette tape brought from… think it must’ve been HMV in Croydon? But might have been HR Coates, which is where I bought the Ed’s Babe EP immediately prior to CS.
Boilerplate white middle-class Home Counties 15-year-old starts listening to Peel, likes some of it, pretends to like most of the rest of it, really really doesn’t like this horrible group The Fall.. Ed’s Babe gets stuck in head, buys Ed’s Babe I feel a roman fleuve coming on.
Not sure how i got the money, but I may have either used some of my Abbey National savings of £200, or possibly gone to the bank of my mum’s purse, tho this may have been just after my bout of still-shameful-to-me domestic theft.
Specific location: Not sure I had a functioning walkman at this stage, so I would have waited until I got back home, on leafy commuter town village (described by Pevsner as ‘strangely grim, like a north industrial mill town’), went up the stairs and put it on my stereo. One of those hollow hi-fi tower block things, with record player, twin cassette decks (one of which had a record-play button, the other of which had just one large play button) and a radio. No CD player.
My bedroom was tiny, red floorboards, sloping ceiling, more than half of it taken up with the bed, heavily stacked bookshelves above bed and cluttered workspace. Think the wallpaper with the letters on had gone by this stage and the walls were just painted white.
Not sure I enjoyed it other than The Birmingham School of Business School (hey, this beats sounds a bit like the Happy Mondays!) and Free Range.
The album itself didn’t make sense until a few months later, possibly summer, and I was sitting in the kitchen on the stool, listening to Return, and suddenly the way the bass and guitars interleave their unrelentless rhythms clicked with me.
This was a *musical* moment of education - a sudden appreciation of the motorik, or german-derived aesthetic virtues - rather than a *Fall* one, but I didn’t realise that at the time, and in fact most of my musical revelations were specifically associated by me with The Fall.
This means even today my ability to critically or even emotionally assess music is totally hobbled by the fact I have consciously remove THE FALL from my perception filters, leaving a load of hanging ‘wires and bits’ where a more natural and wide-ranging set of developed influences and aesthetic instruction should be.
NEXT UP: SEMINAL LIVE and HIP PRIESTS AND KAMERADS and the SIXTH FORM PSYCHOLOGY CONFERENCE.
woke at two. tired brain running all over the place. put on world service. scrambled vistas of 21st century terra. the sort of thing archaeologists will piece together.
now a hexed wakelessness. reflexes dirt slow or jumping nonsensically at nocturnal megrims, unwashed by the night.
procedural decision-making sending me down unmonitored channels without intervening action.
deliberation dead in the water.
puffy-faced. alien-eyed. the only stimulus - paranoia crackling at the edge of the brain.
also got a lung-cold.
*looking forward to the day ahead, frenz august.*