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
GenrePost-punk, punk rock
Length38:33
LabelStep-Forward
Producer
The Fall chronology
Bingo-Master's Break-Out!
(1978)
Live at the Witch Trials
(1979)
Dragnet
(1979)
Alternative cover
Live at the Witch Trials U.S..jpg
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]

ReleaseEdit

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 founding 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 Break-Out!" 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] and again in 2019 by Cherry Red Records, as part of their "Fall Sound Archive" series.[7] Cherry Red also released a three-disc CD edition with the same bonus tracks as the 2004 Castle Music edition.[8]

ReceptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [9]
Mojo     [10]
Pitchfork8.3/10[6]
Q     [11]
Record Mirror     [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [13]
Sounds     [5]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[14]
Uncut9/10[15]
The Village VoiceB+[16]

Live at the Witch Trials was met with a very positive reception from critics upon its release. Record Mirror's Chris Westwood described the album as "a rugged, concerned, attuned, rebellious jukebox",[12] while Sounds reviewer Dave McCullough called 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 of The Village Voice said he initially found it "too tuneless and crude", but later "played it in tandem with Public Image Ltd. one night and for a few bars could hardly tell the difference", concluding that "in this icky pop moment we could use some ugly rebellion."[16] Allan Jones of Melody Maker was less impressed, being especially negative about the group's then-rhythm section of Marc Riley and Karl Burns.[17]

In their retrospective review, Tiny Mix Tapes praised Live at the Witch Trials as a "fully-formed, instant-classic debut album".[18] Trouser Press said that it showed the band "at once leaning towards punk's directness and charging headlong into poetic pretension".[19] Pitchfork's Jason Heller stated that the album established the Fall as a musically "far more wobbly and toxic" band than their post-punk contemporaries.[6] AllMusic critic Ned Raggett wrote: "That the first Fall album... would not only not sound very punk at all but would be a downright pleasant listen seems perfectly in keeping with Mark E. Smith's endlessly contrary mind."[9] In 2018, Billboard ranked Live at the Witch Trials as the sixth best Fall album; in an accompanying essay, Geeta Dayal wrote that "there were more ideas on this album than there are in some other bands' entire discographies."[20]

Track listingEdit

Side A
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
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
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
7."Underground Medecin"Bramah, Smith2:08
8."Two Steps Back"Bramah, Smith5:03
9."Live at the Witch Trials"Smith0:51
10."Futures and Pasts"Bramah, Smith2:36
11."Music Scene"Bramah, Yvonne Pawlett, Smith, Marc Riley8:00

2014 reissueEdit

Bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."Bingo-Master" (Bingo-Master's Break-Out! EP, 1978)Smith, Baines2:22
13."Psycho Mafia" (Bingo-Master's Break-Out!)Smith, Friel2:14
14."Repetition" (Bingo-Master's Break-Out!)Smith, Baines, Bramah, Burns, Friel4:55
15."It's the New Thing" (Non-album single, 1978)Smith, Bramah3:27
16."Various Times" (B-side to "It's the New Thing")Smith, Bramah, Burns, Pawlett, Riley6:39
17."Dresden Dolls" (Bootleg single; 1977 rehearsal recording)Smith, Baines, Bramah, Burns, Friel3:37
18."Psycho Mafia" (Bootleg single; 1977 rehearsal recording)Smith, Friel2:20
19."Industrial Estate" (Bootleg single; 1977 rehearsal recording)Smith, Bramah, Friel1:47
20."Stepping Out" (Live) (Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus, 1978)Smith, Friel2:45
21."Last Orders" (Live) (Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus)Smith, Friel2:21
Disc 2
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Rebellious Jukebox" (BBC Session)Smith, Bramah3:00
2."Mother-Sister!" (BBC Session)Smith, Baines3:07
3."Industrial Estate" (BBC Session)Smith, Bramah, Friel1:45
4."Futures and Pasts" (BBC Session)Smith, Bramah2:35
5."Put Away" (BBC Session)Smith3:34
6."Mess of My" (BBC Session)Smith, Bramah, Rick Goldstraw3:13
7."No Xmas for John Key" (BBC Session)Smith4:14
8."Like to Blow" (BBC Session)Smith, Bramah1:47
9."Like to Blow" (Live)Smith, Bramah2:05
10."Stepping Out" (Live)Smith, Friel3:09
11."Two Steps Back" (Live)Smith, Bramah5:51
12."Mess of My" (Live)Smith, Bramah, Goldstraw3:24
13."It's the New Thing" (Live)Smith, Bramah3:48
14."Various Times" (Live)Smith, Bramah, Burns, Pawlett, Riley4:59
15."Bingo-Master" (Live)Smith, Baines2:48
16."Frightened" (Live)Smith, Friel5:35
17."Industrial Estate" (Live)Smith, Bramah, Friel1:53
18."Psycho Mafia" (Live)Smith, Friel3:01
19."Music Scene" (Live)Smith, Bramah, Pawlett, Riley9:26
20."Mother-Sister!" (Live)Smith, Baines3:31
Notes
  • Disc 1 tracks 20-21: live at the Electric Circus, Manchester, October 1977
  • Disc 2 tracks 1-4: John Peel Session, 15 June 1978
  • Disc 2 tracks 5-8: John Peel Session, 6 December 1978
  • Disc 2 tracks 9-20: live at Mr. Pickwick's, Liverpool, 22 August 1978; previously released as the 2001 album Liverpool 78.

2019 reissueEdit

The first disc contains the eleven tracks from the original album. Disc 2 and 3 include the same bonus tracks, in the same order, as the 2004 reissue.

PersonnelEdit

The Fall
  • Mark E. Smith – vocals, guitar ("Live at the Witch Trials"), tapes ("Music Scene")
  • Martin Bramah – guitar, backing vocals, arrangements, 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.[21]

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

ReferencesEdit

  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", stereogum.com, 12 February 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2018
  5. ^ a b c McCullough, Dave (24 March 1979). "Music for the Man Who Has Everything (and Wants It All on One Album)". 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. ^ "FALL SOUND ARCHIVE: 'Live At The Witch Trials' and 'Dragnet' reissued in Coloured Vinyl & CD Box Sets this month!". Cherry Red Records. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  8. ^ "The Fall: Live At The Witch Trials, 3CD Boxset". Cherry Red Records. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  9. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Live at the Witch Trials – The Fall". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  10. ^ Harrison, Ian (October 2016). "Rebellious Jukebox" (PDF). Mojo. No. 275. pp. 62–67. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  11. ^ Segal, Victoria (July 2019). "Still One Step Ahead". Q. No. 399. pp. 116–17.
  12. ^ a b Westwood, Chris (31 March 1979). "The Fall Staying Ahead". Record Mirror.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Rubin, Mike (1995). "Fall". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 142–44. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  15. ^ Pattison, Louis (June 2019). "The Fall: Live at the Witch Trials / Dragnet". Uncut. No. 265. p. 45.
  16. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (28 April 1980). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  17. ^ Jones, Allan (24 March 1979). "The Fall: exposing contradictions". Melody Maker.
  18. ^ P Funk (21 September 2007). "The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  19. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Wolk, Douglas; Pattyn, Jay. "Fall". Trouser Press. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  20. ^ Dayal, Geeta (25 January 2018). "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  21. ^ "FallNews - Hey Peasants!".

External linksEdit