The Fall at Surbiton Assembly Rooms


Ok, so I am going to write about The Fall now. One of the Scribbler’s favourite bands, and at the same time one of his most unreliable favourites. But it is the Scribbler’s blog, so a bit of self-indulgence is surely allowed. Isn’t it?

Many of The Scribblers’ loyal readers will may well not even know who the Fall are. Some may have inadvertently seen them in times gone past, or heard their records, and been instantly appalled. “What is that racket? Why is that scruffy bloke just shouting at the audience?”

But that is the essence of the Fall. You either love them or hate them. And sometimes, if you love them, you end up hating them as well.

And the key to all this is that they played in Surbiton. Oh yes they did. On June 28 1984, to be precise, at the old Surbiton Assembly Rooms. Now, sadly a part of Surbiton High School for Girls.

We used to have some fine (well fine-ish) old times at the Assembly Rooms. There was a disco every Thursday night in the late 1970’s, if memory serves the Scribbler right. And in the 80’s at least, bands played there. The Scribbler remembers The Sound, once touted as Kingston’s answer to Echo and the Bunnymen, topping the bill, supported by the Cardiacs.

It may well have been the Cardiacs, noted local prog/punk cult heroes, supporting Mark E Smith and the Fall that summer night in 1984. Your correspondent cannot recall.

The saying is with the Fall, it is usually a pivotal point in a relationship. When you take a potential new partner to see them for the first time, the reaction is crucial. Often it can be “Get me out of here…”

My wife refuses to see or even listen to them full stop, having been subjected to them some years ago, so that sorts that out really.

They are not the easiest of bands. 1984 was probably the third or fourth time your correspondent has seen them, the first time from memory being at Bradford’s Palm Cove Club sometime around 1981.

The Scribbler missed their gig at the Clapham Grand a few weeks back, but witnessed them three times last year, once at the Grand, once at the Under the Bridge Club at Chelsea FC, and once in Brixton at the Fridge.

They were average at the Grand, extraordinarily brilliant at Chelsea, and ok in Brixton.

That is the thing. As John Peel said, the Fall – “always different, always the same.”

The Fall emerged from Prestwich in the Manchester suburbs in the post punk era of 1976. The line -ups have changed continually, but the constant over nearly 40 years is Smith, who writes the songs, decides the direction, the membership – everything.


(The Fall, circa 1984….Mark E Smith front left).

That night in the summer of 1984 my mate, who had never seen them before, was stunned at the Fall’s sheer ferocity and relentlessness, and came away raving. Best gig he had ever seen.

They can get you that way. Early on, they usually do. But equally there are the nights when Smith spends the evening snarling at the audience, often turning his back on them (come to think of it he does that in the good gigs anyway), and arguing with the rest of the band. In fact, sacking them on stage halfway through a concert.  Seen that at least once.

But on a good night….

On a good night Smith will shuffle (get that? Shuffle) onstage, M&S man personified, sometimes with lyrics and notes in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. Sports jacket, trousers (never wears jeans), shirt, jumper. Sometimes he even takes the jacket off.

He will bark his words into the microphone and the Fall will propel the sound out behind and around him, churning, rattling, ravaging, ferocious – and mostly brilliant. These days he often wanders around and turns up their amps, or turns them down.  Sometimes there are two drummers, sometimes one.



(The Fall 2015. Smith centre front)

But always the Fall. Occasionally, the best band you ever saw. They must have been – because you keep going back.

And they were here once. In the summer of 1984….

The Scribbler.




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