Live at the Witch Trials

Live at the Witch Trials is the debut studio album by The Fall. It was released on 16 March 1979, through record label Step-Forward. It is not, despite its title, a live album and was recorded in a studio in a single day and mixed by producer Bob Sargeant.

Live at the Witch Trials
Live at the Witch Trials.jpg
Studio album by
Released16 March 1979
Recorded15 December 1978
StudioSound Suite, Camden, England
ProducerThe Fall, Bob Sargeant
The Fall chronology
Bingo-Master's Break-Out!
Live at the Witch Trials
Alternative cover
Original US cover
Original US cover

Production and contentEdit

The album was recorded at Camden Sound Suite on 15 December 1978 and mixed by producer Bob Sargeant on the 16th.[1][2][3] The group had been booked into the studio for five days but Mark E. Smith had fallen ill, and cancelled the first three days.[4]

Some of the songs date from earlier incarnations of the group and feature writing credits from former members Tony Friel and Una Baines. Lyrical subject matter includes a tirade against the music industry ("Music Scene"), low quality jobs ("Industrial Estate"), and drugs ("No Xmas for John Quays", "Like to Blow", "Frightened", "Underground Medecin").[4] "Frightened" was described by Dave McCullough in Sounds as "a breathtaking, ominously culminating monster of a song".[5] "Rebellious Jukebox" was described by Pitchfork as "one of the first self-aware Fall anthems", with the title viewed as "[summing] up The Fall's stance against prevailing trends".[2][6]


Live at the Witch Trials was released on 16 March 1979, through record label Step-Forward.[1] The US release of the album came with different artwork and removed "Mother-Sister!" and "Industrial Estate", replacing them with "Various Times", the B-side of the group's second single, "It's the New Thing". All subsequent editions have followed the original UK track listing.

No singles were taken from the album, a practice that would be commonplace for the group until 1986. By the time the album was released, drummer Karl Burns had left the band and guitarist Martin Bramah also quit shortly afterward to form Blue Orchids, leaving Mark E. Smith as the sole remaining founder member.

The album was available in its original form through the late 1980s, being reissued on vinyl, cassette and CD by I.R.S. Records in 1989. In 1997, Mark E. Smith's own Cog Sinister label issued a CD edition that was poorly mastered from a below-standard vinyl copy. However, in conjunction with Voiceprint, Cog Sinister reissued the album again in 2002 as Live at the Witch Trials +, claiming to be remastered but was, in fact, simply a clone of the I.R.S. disc, and adding the tracks from the group's first two singles, "Bingo Master's Breakout" and "It's the New Thing". In 2004, Castle Music released a two-disc CD "Expanded Deluxe Edition" of the album, mastered from the original tapes and with a vastly expanded track listing. However, the Castle Music reissue used a vinyl source for the three "Bingo Master's Break Out" EP tracks, the original tapes having been lost.

The album was reissued on vinyl in 2016 on the Superior Viaduct label.[6]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [8]
Mojo     [9]
Q     [10]
Record Mirror     [11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [12]
Sounds     [5]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[13]
The Village VoiceB+[14]

The album was given a generally positive reception from critics upon its release, with Record Mirror giving it a full five stars and describing the album as "a rugged, concerned, attuned, rebellious jukebox".[11] Sounds reviewer Dave McCullough also gave it five stars, calling it "an album of staggeringly rich, mature music, inner questioning hand in hand with rock and roll at its fiercest, its finest, its most honest, rock and roll at its naked, most stimulating prime."[5] Robert Christgau gave it a B+ rating.[14] Melody Maker was less impressed, being especially negative about the group's then-rhythm section of Marc Riley and Karl Burns.[15]

In their retrospective review, Tiny Mix Tapes called it a "fully-formed, instant-classic debut album".[16] Trouser Press viewed the band "at once leaning towards punk's directness and charging headlong into poetic pretension".[17] Pitchfork gave the 2016 reissues Witch Trials and its follow-up, Dragnet 8.7/10.[6] AllMusic gave the album four stars, with Ned Raggett calling it "a downright pleasant listen".[7]

The album was included at number 6 in Billboard's list "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks", with Geeta Dayal stating "there were more ideas on this album than there are in some other bands’ entire discographies".[18]

Track listingEdit

Side A
1."Frightened"Mark E. Smith, Tony Friel5:02
2."Crap Rap 2/Like to Blow"Martin Bramah, Smith2:04
3."Rebellious Jukebox"Smith, Bramah2:51
4."No Xmas for John Quays"Smith4:38
5."Mother-Sister!"Smith, Una Baines3:20
6."Industrial Estate"Smith, Bramah, Friel2:00
Side B
1."Underground Medecin"Bramah, Smith2:08
2."Two Steps Back"Bramah, Smith5:03
3."Live at the Witch Trials"Smith0:51
4."Futures and Pasts"Bramah, Smith2:36
5."Music Scene"Bramah, Yvonne Pawlett, Smith, Marc Riley8:00


The Fall
  • Mark E. Smith – vocals, guitar ("Live at the Witch Trials"), tapes ("Music Scene")
  • Martin Bramah – guitar, backing vocals, production
  • Marc Riley – bass guitar, production
  • Karl Burns – drums, production
  • Yvonne Pawlett – keyboards, production

That voice calling out the time on "Music Scene" ("six minutes!", "six forty!") was the group's driver - the son of the actor Peter Adamson who played Len Fairclough in Coronation Street.[19]

  • Bob Sargeant – production
  • John Wriothesley – front cover artwork
  • Graham Rhodes – sleeve photography
  • Steve Lyons – sleeve photography


  1. ^ a b Fletcher, Tony (2013) Boy About Town, Windmill Books, ISBN 978-0099558552, p. 270
  2. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (2008) The Fallen, Canongate Books, ISBN 978-1847670496, p. 101
  3. ^ Gimarc, George (1994) Punk Diary 1970–1979, Vintage, ISBN 978-0099522119, p. 177
  4. ^ a b Ham, Robert (2015) "Live at the Witch Trials",, 12 February 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2018
  5. ^ a b c McCullough, Dave (24 March 1979). "Music for the Man Who Has Everything". Sounds.
  6. ^ a b c d Heller, Jason (17 June 2016). "The Fall: Live at the Witch Trials / Dragnet". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Live at the Witch Trials – The Fall". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  9. ^ Harrison, Ian (October 2016). "Rebellious Jukebox". Mojo (275): 62–67.
  10. ^ Segal, Victoria (July 2019). "Still One Step Ahead". Q (399): 116–17.
  11. ^ a b "The Fall: Live at the Witch Trials". Record Mirror. 31 March 1979.
  12. ^ Gross, Joe (2004). "The Fall". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 292–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  13. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  14. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (28 April 1980). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  15. ^ "[Melody Maker review]". Melody Maker.
  16. ^ "The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials | DeLorean | Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  17. ^ Azerrad, Michael;Wolk, Douglas; Pattyn, Jay "Fall", Trouser Press. Retrieved 5 March 2018
  18. ^ Dayal, Geeta (2018) "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks", Billboard, 25 January 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018
  19. ^ [1]

External linksEdit