Have a Bleedin Guess: The Story of Hex Enduction Hour -Paul Hanley
A repetitive, pulverizing barrage of unpleasantness briefly leavened by varying degrees of insanity and vandalized by the incoherent of its horrible non singing singer
That comment above is from comic genius Stewart Lee talking bout Hex Enduction Hour. It happens to be his favorite LP.
There ave been many books on the Fall that ave ranged from the good (Steve Hanleys The Big Midweek) the bad (Mark Middles The Fall, actually it/s good but annoying when he had a crack at fanzine writers). And the unclassifiable (Mark E Smiths Renegade gets an 11 out of 10 for the entrainment factor, but questionable on the history part). Now comes Paul Hanley with Have a Bleedin Guess, the story of Hex Enduction Hour.
Stewart Lee wrote the forward for the book and is now becoming the go to writer for introductions for cult legends in music (his liner notes for the recent Billy Childish anthology is magnificent). He mentions how he suggested Hex be a subject for one of the original 33 1/3 book series on classic LPs. They never approved it as they didn/t think it was worthy of a book, for fuck sake. At first I thought perhaps this book might be like a 33 1/3 but it/s not. In the sense it/s written by someone who was there, they spoke to the people involved, and is actually good.
Aving come off the back of his wonderful Manchester music book Leave the Capital, Hanley has written what will become the definitive text on the Falls “classic” LP. For my zine Munster I always ask as the final question what your favorite Fall LP, im yet to make a record of this but Hex is the club house leader. People who ave told me this include Kim Gordon and Steve Albini. And theres good reason for it. It is a cracked of a record. Mark E Smith is of course quoted saying if it/s me and ya granny on bongos it/s the Fall. Hex is the first LP that kind of lived up to that vibe. I always got the feeling the early releases pre Hex were a team effort and in later releases Mark took over as the band leader and not just frontman telling the group what he wanted from each song . It/s full of rage and venom and not a friendly listen and maybe not the first LP new comers should listen to, but it stands as a landmark achievement and while not my favorite it is in my top 5 Fall LPs and I totally understand the hype behind it. I remember listening to it when I was 19, and two minutes in with that incredible Steve Hanley bass line and drumming from Karl Burns and Paul Hanley on the Classical and with with MES screaming hey there fuck face I knew this was something else.
Hanley, for those unaware, became the Falls drummer when he was a teenager when long time drummer Karl Burns was AWOL. When the group toured the states in 1981 Hanley had to stay behind due to be under age and saw Burns back on the drum stool. When the group retuned it was decided both Burns and Hanley will remain in the group making the Fall a six piece with two hitters. As mentioned in the book, Burns was seen as MES/s closest confederate in the band, and could also be seen as a stooge for the great man, so Hanley was on his best form to prove to the groups leader he was up for the task.
The story pretty much picks up from when Paul joins the band, a discussion on the previous releases the Fall had done prior to Hex and the build up that lead to the LP follows. For me the highlight of the book is the story of the Iceland tour, which saw the concept of the LP come to life and where two tracks were recorded. MES mentioned the tour briefly in Renegade but Paul spends more time covering the shows. Paul mentions how due to rock bands rarely playing in Iceland people came out in droves and was front page news in the local papers, and the horror of beer being outlawed. One funny story was MES telling Paul he was disappointed in him for being hungover. Anyone that knows anything bout MES knows that/s a pot kettle black moment.
Returning home the group recorded more tracks at an old cinema. While the group was slumming it out on the cold stage, MES was upstairs in the warmth. Steve Hanley mentions there leader said the lads don/t need heating. Smith in interviews said this was to be the final Fall record, which was news to the rest of the group, but some members conceded when they look back and with some of the lyrics in the album do wonder that maybe this was meant to he the Falls swansong. But if it was the group asks what was MES gonna do next?
Each track on the record is discussed in detail. With information on when recorded, first played, who played what and the inspiration for it. Hanley has done an amazing job covering this LP. He specks of his own experience as well as interviews with the group which at the time were his brother Steve, Marc Riley and Craig Scanlon, as well as manager Kay Carol, long term mixer/producer Grant Showbiz and original member Martin Bramah. Also interviewed is folk singer Stuart Estell who possibly has the claim of being the shortest Fall member of all, aving played on one track live in 1998. And he was in the crowd when he played that one song. As Stuart Lee mentions in the forward he has done an incredible job with the footnotes. Some for historical purposes, other times its Pauls personal opinion. Karl Burns is not interviewed, anyone that/s read Dave Simpsons the Fallen will know why. While MES is no longer with us he does appear though many past interviewers. Although no longer with us you can almost guarantee he would ave no part of this given his disdain for nostalgia
One of Hanleys strengths is you sometimes forget he/s a member of the band when reading this. He writes it more as an outsider looking in. it/s not till he says the odd I or Me that you realize he was actually there. One of the running themes is the set up between him and Burns. Karl Burns was one of the few guys to be fired and rehired time and time again, and it appears MES had a softy spot for Burns and Hanley knew he had to be on his best form during the recording. Was fascinating reading who played what on each track and also hear Riley Scanlon and the two Hanleys discuss their take on who came up with what.
MES has said many things about past members, and all ave things to say bout him. Marc Riley has been one of MES favorite punching bags after Riley left and he doesn/t hold back here. Steve Hanley and Craig Scanlon never slag off their former leader, but all the praise they throw at him is all work related. MESs work ethic is a big talking point. Despite pumping out release after release Steve Hanley and Scanlon question his hard work front. Steve Hanley claims the story of Mark showing up at Rough Trade at 9am to make sure everyone has punched in is rubbish as he could never see him getting up that early. Paul Hanley himself shares his experience of working with MES and it come across like MES was in t5he office while Hanley was slumming it on the factory floor. As mentioned above each track is discusses in detail, and one story I loved his MES telling Scanlon what he wanted a riff on a song to sound like, and MES would show him on an old four string toy guitar how to play it. Anyone that has read more than one Fall book will know there has been different takes on different situations. When talking Hip Priest, Hanley discusses royalties. The track is used in Silence of the Lambs, and MES in Renegade claims he only gets 6% of the coin. Hanley claims because he wrote the lyrics MES gets 50%, and even a little bit of the remaining 50 as he helped with the music. Hanley seems to be more interested in setting the record straight as opposed to settling a score. The Classical is discussed in detail, and also the use of the N word. At the time the group received little to no backlash from fans or critics and even received very little today. The group all agree that it is not Smiths personal views and at the time had little problem saying the word given the use was in context, but all agree they would not use it today even with the context. A version of The Classical on Fall in a Hole, the groups 1982 live in New Zealand LP, months after Hexs release, sees the term not used.
MES gets the final word: The thing about browsing through these books is that you don/t find out anything about me at all, do you? I/ll leave that up to the reader
Hanley needs to be praised for his writing style, research and storytelling. Aving also written a cracker book in Leave the Capital a few years ago I hope Hanley continues to make more books as the man has talent.
This is up there with his Brother Steves book the Big Midweek as the best books on the Fall and one of the best books that is dedicated to a whole LP. An absolute must read for Fall Fans.