1979, Music

Live at the Witch Trials (1979) by The Fall

Debut albums can be quite hit and miss. Most bands do not record their first album with a completely unique sound. The unique debut albums we do remember which stick out do so because they are so rare. Most bands’ debuts are not only not their best albums, but don’t capture them doing something wholly or mostly original.

Well, The Fall already sound like nobody else on this record. As others have noted, they appear fully formed on this debut, with their combination of punk attitude and energy (and a lack of professionalism) with ideas taken from Krautrock. I basically know of one precedent for it, and that’s one track – one single track – on a Strangers record from a year or two earlier which, from memory sounded an awful lot like more mature Fall. I have no idea if Smith heard it or not, but I think the scene was likely small enough that he did. Regardless, nobody to my knowledge had created an entire album like this, one so relatively unconcerned with conventional song structures and (catch) melodies, seemingly only getting by on the repetitive nature of the music and the weird charisma of Smith.

The Fall would get much better at their own sound. And I think Smith’s future collaborators would get better at creating music for him to rant over. (Not that he gave them credit very often. This is the rare Fall record with a lot of credit given to other members. I guess he wasn’t quite the dictator yet.) So, with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that this is not the best Fall album by any means. But it is pretty damn unique, and unlike basically any other post punk band. They were and are inimitable.


  1. “Frightened” (Mark E. Smith, Tony Friel) 5:02
  2. “Crap Rap 2/Like to Blow” (Martin Bramah, Smith) 2:04
  3. “Rebellious Jukebox” (Smith, Bramah) 2:51
  4. “No Xmas for John Quays” (Smith) 4:38
  5. “Mother-Sister!” (Smith, Una Baines) 3:20
  6. “Industrial Estate” (Smith, Bramah, Friel) 2:00
  7. “Underground Medecin” (Bramah, Smith) 2:08
  8. “Two Steps Back” (Bramah, Smith) 5:03
  9. “Live at the Witch Trials” (Smith) 0:51
  10. “Futures and Pasts” (Bramah, Smith) 2:36
  11. “Music Scene” (Bramah, Yvonne Pawlett, Smith, Marc Riley) 8:00
  • Mark E. Smith – vocals, guitar (“Live at the Witch Trials”), tapes (“Music Scene”)
  • Martin Bramah – guitar, backing vocals
  • Marc Riley – bass guitar
  • Karl Burns – drums
  • Yvonne Pawlett – keyboards

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