John Peel Wiki

The Fall and John Peel - August 1989

Related pages: Fall: Sessions, Fall: Festive Fifty Entries, and Fall: Show Appearances (Excluding Sessions)

The Fall were a post-punk band, formed in Manchester in 1976. It had existed in some form ever since, and was essentially built around its founder and only constant member Mark E. Smith. Initially associated with the punk movement of the late 1970s, the group's music had gone through several stylistic changes over the years, but was often characterised by an abrasive guitar-driven sound and frequent use of repetition, and was always underpinned by Smith's distinctive vocals and often cryptic lyrics. The band were noted for its prolific output: releasing 32 studio albums, and more than triple that counting live albums and other releases. They never achieved widespread public success beyond a handful of minor hit singles in the late 1980s, but had maintained a strong cult following. In 2018, Smith died at the age of 60, effectively putting an end to the group.

Links to Peel[]


John Peel - "The Fall, The Fall, Fall there, Mark E.Smith and The Fall, Fall, The Fall..."

Peel introduces his favourite band.

The Fall were long-associated with Peel, who championed them from early on in their career and cited them as his favourite band, famously explaining, "They are always different; they are always the same". Sheila added, "There was simply no other band that excited him quite as much." [1] JP could recall every incarnation of the group on demand. [2] When asked by John Walters why he liked them so much, Peel said:

"They've never disappointed me yet, and I suspect won't...I can't think of any other artist who's managed to do that for 10 years...I simply don't know what it is that I like about the Fall...He (Mark E. Smith) never takes the prevailing trendy attitude...I'm pleased that he does say what he actually thinks...The Fall are always identifiably The Fall, but they do seem to evolve." (Peeling Back The Years 4 (Transcript)

Festive Fifty[]

Main article: Fall: Festive Fifty Entries
Predictably, the Fall are the band with the highest number of FF entries (92 with 85 tracks while Peel was alive, and (up to 2014) a further fifteen). The only charts in which they did not appear were the first year they were eligible (1978) and 2009. Their number 1 tracks are Bill Is Dead (1990 Festive Fifty), Theme From Sparta F.C. #2 (2004 Festive Fifty) and 50 Year Old Man (2008 Festive Fifty). They dominated the 1993 Festive Fifty with 10 songs (20% of the chart) making the cut.

Loaded Interview[]

Peel's rampant enthusiasm for anything Fall-related hit a fallow period when he gave a qualified welcome to their Levitate LP. This recording experimented with drum and bass, but John proclaimed that the cover version of 'I'm A Mummy' was the best thing on it, and wondered whether it was "a brave new change in direction or whether it is the beginning of the end of a legend." [3]

Whether this less than enthusiastic opinion permeated to Smith is unknown, but less than two months later, he gave an "interview" with the male entertainment magazine Loaded's John Perry which is notable for its total lack of coherence, its self-pity, and its naked aggression. The latter vented itself on the band Ash, for whose career Smith claimed to be responsible, and on JP. Smith ranted, "Fuckin' John Peel, he's the fuckin' worst, he's worse than Tony Blackburn ever was. Bastard." [4]

John's reply (27 November 1997 (BFBS)) was typically generous:

"A hostile opinion of me, I have to say, but nevertheless, bearing in mind that he's not in perfect working order at the moment, and the band have given me intense pleasure over the years, I still love 'em madly."

John noted in the same show that Smith had sacked his entire band (in Ireland while on tour, although they were all reinstated days later).


Main article: Fall: Sessions
The band recorded 24 sessions for Peel. Smith found the recording conditions at the BBC favourable:

"The good thing was the tension. Get in and get out. The studio was great and the engineers were fantastic. I used to experiment a lot on the Peel things. I treated it as a glorified rehearsal." [1]

However, they were never invited to Peel Acres, as Sheila explained: "The producers pretty much vetoed it; they knew they wouldn't be able to take responsibility for what happened if Mark was here, given that some of his performances tended towards the volatile." [5]

First Session[]

The Fall were first spotted not by Peel but by John Walters, who following a recommendation from Danny Baker saw them supporting Siouxsie & The Banshees at the Greyhound in Croydon [6] and sent Smith an invitation for their first session using the words, "You don't know me but I know you." [7] Martin Bramah adds:

"We found a guy to drive us - the deal was that if he got us to London we'd let him play his congas on the session. Eric, our bass player, saw the congas and this guy in a Hawaiian shirt and said, 'Fuck this. If he's playing on the session I'm not. I'm not getting in the van.' I had to visit our first bass player, Tony Friel, and ask, 'Er, can I borrow your bass? We've got a John Peel session.' We couldn't ask Tony to play because he'd fallen out with Mark. But he hadn't fallen out with me so lent me the bass. I was a guitarist, not a bass player, so stripped it down to root notes and played very aggressively – the Fall bass sound was established there. At the time, the Fall were doing a lot of LSD and magic mushrooms, but we didn't take them in the BBC....If you listen to 'Rebellious Jukebox', the congas are on there – very low in the mix." [2]

Ten years later, Strange Fruit issued the first Fall sessions to make it to vinyl, but apparently Smith vetoed the first being included. JP made up for this however by repeating it four times, the last occasion being in 1996.


(The list below was compiled only from the Cover Versions page of this site. Please add more information if known.)

Artist | Track | First Known Play


Plays by Peel of various artist (v/a) compilations related to The Fall, excluding Covers Compilations.

(2xCD - Perverted By Mark E: A Tribute To The Fall) ZickZack

See Also[]



  1. Margrave Of The Marshes, Corgi edition, p.374.
  2. Margrave, p.272.
  3. See 25 September 1997 (BFBS).
  4. Full interview
  5. Margrave, pp.373-4.
  6. 07 May 1978.
  7. Margrave, p.372.