I first saw the Fall in November 1980 at the old Manchester Poly. It was a day event compared by John Peel which also featured Orange Juice and other bands I can’t remember. Marc Riley was on bass that night but I never knew who he was. I knew the lead singer was Mark E Smith (MES) but couldnt have told you who the others were.
In 1984 I was in the basement of Paperchase (in St Annes Square, Manchester) when I saw an LP by Marc Riley and the Creepers. A hand written note stuck to the sleeve said he was ex of The Fall and as I had £3.49 burning a whole in my pocket, I bought it. What a gem it was. Any album that starts “Why does a head like a boiled egg make Joe shit himself” is a winner in my book and as with the Fall, some of the best tracks were the worst recorded (‘Snipe’ being a case in point). There was a sense of humour that shone through - ‘Earwig ODowd’ still makes me laugh.
More trips to town had me hunting for their singles, my favourites being ‘Polystiffs’ and ‘Jumper Clown’. The latter I assume referring to his ejection from The Fall by MES. Marc and other band members had been berated by MES for dancing at a disco and having a laugh. This ended up in a fist fight and you can see MESs shiner on this Auzzie TV clip – Mr Riley’s last act as a group member.
There was a great Peel session in 1984 which was subsequently released as a 12″ and spawned the awesome ‘Paisley Shirt Scene’. With a lack of band merchandise to buy, I made my own Creepers T-shirt to wear at an open air gig they played at in Platt Fields with James, Easterhouse and Simply Red in August 1985.
I was really into taking photos around that time. I used to draw on them in felt tips and send them as postcards. As I loved the Creepers I started sending these postcards to them, signed ‘Bob the Chiropodist’. The next time I tried to see the Creepers was a gig at the new Poly in Jan 1986. I arrived late and missed them! A drinking pal (Mark from the Duke of York in Eccles) introduced me to Marc “So youre Bob the Chiropodist” Says Marcs misses “You’re an enigma y’know” – Is that good or bad? “Oh definitely good” “Yeah you get letters off people you talked to at gigs and think ‘what a dickhead’ but yours, I was thinking have I met him or what?” When I asked why they were supporting ‘Age of Chance’ and the ‘June Brides’ and not headlining “Well if you headline you can’t have a drink – the June Brides are getting withdrawal symptoms back there”. My diary tells me I also copped off with Lee that night………and we’re now married……so it wasn’t all bad.
A few months later they played a gig for amnesty international with Pete Shelley and Frank Sidebottom was the compare. Marc and Frank used to write for Oink! Magazine and I often sing my kids to sleep with the ‘Oink! Song’ which they recorded as a 7″ you got through the mag.
After moving to London I saw them at a gig one Friday night at the George Roby (Jan 1987) with ‘Gaye Bikers on Acid’ in support. They were a great live outfit (as the live ‘Warts’n'all’ LP testifies). I was planning to go home that weekend and when I told Marc this he offered me a lift “Great!” I thought…..well, it would have been if I had a change of clothes with me but the beer was flowing and I didnt think of that. I spent that night heading back to Manchester with the band asleep in the back of a van and ended up sleeping on the drummer Eddie Fenn’s floor. The next morning I was on the wrong side of Manchester without a clue as to where I was and it took me hours to get back to Little Hulton. It would have been quicker to get the train from Euston. Still, I’d hitched a ride with the Creepers how RocknRoll was that!
The LP at that time was ‘Miserable Sinners’ with the wonderful ‘Sound as a pound’ and ‘Stroke of genius’ on it - songs that get in your head and wont leave. Their last vinyl outing was 88′s ‘Rock’n'Roll Liquorice Flavour’ with ‘Derbyshire’ finishing off where Earwig O’Dowd had started.
His next project was a charity record for AIDS with the Mekons Jon Langford. They got together a galaxy of (indie) stars to do Johnny Cash covers. They even got to meet the great man as the cover testifies. The last time I saw him perform was with ‘the Rednecks’ doing Cash Covers as a support to Frank Sidebottom (Bloomsbury theatre, Nov 1988). There was a matinee and evening performance and I ended up going to both. Darlene and I took her son Oliver to the Matinee who must’ve been about 4. Marc was quipping between tracks and Oliver shouted out “You’re a very funny man” “He’ll go far that lad!”
In 1995 I left London and headed for Leeds. My job involved a lot of driving, probably 2+ hours a day behind the wheel and daytime radio was driving me mad. So I started taping Mark Radcliffe who was on Radio 1 of an evening with Marc as his sidekick ‘Lard’ (Mr Lard had started out as one of Frank Sidebottoms characters who only ever said “Lard”). I had a double tape deck that would tape both sides of both tapes, so you could just leave it running when they were on and have decent music in the car the next day. If there was something I particularly liked, I’d tranfer it to another tape for keeps. There are 30+ of these tapes that mix Marc + Mark with Peel and Kershaw shows – tapes I go back to again and again.
A few years ago we finally got a digital radio for the kitchen and discovered the wonders of BBC 6 Music. A Godsend for indie kids everywhere. Marc has the 7-9pm slot with the wonderful Gideon Coe from 9-12 and most nights the TV gets forgotten as we listen to their shows – Highly recommended.
As I’ve always done, I write in when I have something to say, the difference now being you’re pretty much interactive with email. My cousin Si, after hearing me name checked (again) accused me of being a 6 Music Whore! I’m sure there are worse things in life. It’s reconnected me with Marc and when he emailed back “You should come in one time and see a band” well, it’d be rude not too wouldn’t it.
Bob the Chiropodist