When the mighty Fall came to New Zealand

The Press' photograph of Fall guitarist Marc Riley arriving at Christchurch Airport was on the front page of the paper ...

The Press' photograph of Fall guitarist Marc Riley arriving at Christchurch Airport was on the front page of the paper and later on the cover of a Fall live album.

Cult British band The Fall's 1982 New Zealand tour was defined by punch ups, legal threats and "astounding" gigs. The Press also played a role in their troubles, reports CHARLIE GATES.

He has a briefcase in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. His arms are held out, he is smiling and his Doc Martens boot is kicked out at a jaunty angle.

When Marc Riley arrived in New Zealand at Christchurch Airport on August 17, 1982, The Press was there to capture the moment.

Fall frontman Mark E Smith with his plastic bags after arriving in Christchurch on August 17, 1982 for a Kiwi tour.

Fall frontman Mark E Smith with his plastic bags after arriving in Christchurch on August 17, 1982 for a Kiwi tour.

The photograph of the 21-year-old guitarist from The Fall came to represent the cult British band's brief, but influential tour of New Zealand. The photograph appeared on the front page of The Press newspaper the next day under the headline "Happy Fall Guitarist" and also featured on the cover of Fall in a Hole, the live album that captured the band performing in Auckland.

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But, the chirpy looking photograph and headline masked tensions within the band. Riley had been in a punch up with the band's singer, Mark E Smith, just weeks earlier and was exhausted after a nearly-month long tour of Australia. The front page photograph only made tensions worse and its appearance over a year later on the live album cover made Smith angry all over again, even though by then Riley had been booted from the band.

Fall guitarist Craig Scanlon, left, Marc Riley, and drummer Paul Hanley after arriving at Christchurch Airport.

Fall guitarist Craig Scanlon, left, Marc Riley, and drummer Paul Hanley after arriving at Christchurch Airport.

A relatively obscure but influential and much loved band in their homeland, The Fall were not prepared for the mainstream attention in New Zealand, where they had a Top 20 hit. ​Riley remembers being surprised by the photographers at Christchurch Airport.

"It was bizarre," he says.

"We were tired and a bit jaded. Out of devilment and being playful, I made out to be really delighted to be there and threw a shape. But in reality we were all tired and homesick and wanted to go home.​"

Previously unpublished photographs taken by The Press on their arrival present a more realistic image of the band's mental state. They show a more grim-faced Riley walking through the airport and seem to show the band split into two camps, Mark E Smith on one side and the rest of the band on the other. 

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Marc Riley looking less chirpy on arrival in Christchurch.

The Dead C guitarist Bruce Russell remembers The Fall's arrival in New Zealand.

"There was wild excitement," he says.

"When we heard that they were coming some friends of mine belted out to a big billboard on Colombo St and wrote with a black spray can 'Bang, f...... bang, the Mighty Fall are coming' in huge letters."

Former Press music writer David Swift wrote the caption for the front page picture.

"The news editors were so taken with the image of the gangly Marc Riley swinging his suitcase at the arrival lounge of the airport they ran it on the front and told me to caption it in a way that even grannies would understand. So I did,  with tongue in cheek," Swift later wrote on a Fall fan website.

A Press photo of Fall guitarist Marc Riley was on the front page of the newspaper and the cover of live album Fall in a Hole.

But the front page coverage just meant more trouble for Riley. Smith did not like Riley's cheery smile.

"In the morning, the cleaner where we were staying was saying, 'Where is he? Where's the fella on the front of the newspaper. I want to see him".' he says.

"Mark didn't like that very much either, which was a good thing."

The photograph on the front page of The Press in August 1982.

The clipping on the front of live album Fall in a Hole.
The tensions between Smith and Riley had come to a head about a month earlier on the first night of the Australian tour in Sydney.

Smith took offence that Riley and his band mates were dancing to The Clash at a nightclub after the gig, so he proceeded to slap each of them in turn to make them stop. Riley took the slap and then punched Smith to the ground, giving him a black eye.

"That had been bubbling under for a while," says Riley.

"He had all the power and the purse strings in the band. We were being treated as hired hands. We were all a bit hacked off.

"I was the most vocal about it. I was the shop steward, if it was a union."

Just hours after the punch up, Riley and Smith had to be interviewed together on Australian television show Sounds. Smith's black eye was concealed with make up.

"The next morning I thought I was going home. I thought my passport would be slipped under the door with a ticket home, if I was lucky," says Riley.

"We carried on with the tour and nothing more was said about the exchange of punches. He was probably being pragmatic. Let's get this tour and see what happens from there."

The interview has since appeared on YouTube and the awkward tension is palpable.

Riley was fired from the band soon after the Kiwi tour. He played his last gig in Manchester, England in December, 1982.

But Riley managed to enrage Smith once more, nearly a year after he left the band.

When The Fall played Auckland, Kiwi musician and artist Chris Knox recorded the gig. He claims he later got permission from Smith to release the recordings as a live album through the Flying Nun record label.

"After the shows, we had the lads . . . round to our place and wined and wined em through till the cracking of various dawns, during which time we played the cheerful Northerners the four-track tapes we'd made of their sterling performances. They liked em and, as I remember it, Mr Smith drunkenly agreed to a release of the mixes on Flying Nun," Knox wrote in 2002.

Knox designed the album cover, using The Press clipping of Riley on the cover. Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd writes in his new book, In Love with These Times, that after pressing hundreds of copies of the album for export he got a call from an Australian music publisher in December 1983.

"The words unauthorised, illegal, bootleg, lawsuit, conviction, fine and prison were all mentioned or imagined. Mark E Smith had already seen a copy in the UK and was not amused.

"And what's more, it didn't look like a Fall album. And worst of all, it had ostracised ex-member Marc Riley on the cover.

"Desist from export, press no more copies, and give us all the income from all of the sales. I feebly restated the agreed understanding but soon caved in to their demands."

Russell remembers seeing boxes full of unsold copies in Flying Nun's offices.

"It became the equivalent of the EU butter mountain, it was The Fall mountain."

Riley was amazed that he was still capable of upsetting Smith so long after his departure.

"I was still getting under his skin even though I wasn't in the band anymore."

But, despite the tensions within the band and the fallout from the live album, The Fall had a good time touring New Zealand. Fall in a Hole is now considered by many fans to be their best live album.

Smith writes fondly of the New Zealand tour in his book Renegade.

"They were right behind us in New Zealand . . . They were brilliant. All the local labels put us up in their houses."

Riley agrees.

"We weren't really prepared for how great New Zealand was going to be. All the people from Flying Nun were great."

"It is all on Fall in a Hole. The band were playing really well."

Russell went to both Christchurch gigs and said they were "astounding".

"It's just great that it happened here and we have our little part in that story."

Roger Shepherd is speaking about his Flying Nun book as part of the Word Festival in Christchurch on August 27.

Previously unpublished shots of The Fall arriving at Christchurch Airport on August 17, 1982.

The Press photograph of Marc Riley that later became a Fall album cover.

Fall guitarist Craig Scanlon, left, Marc Riley, and drummer Paul Hanley at Christchurch Airport.

Vocalist Mark E Smith and bassist Steve Hanley arrive at Christchurch Airport.

Mark E Smith, left, and Steve Hanley.

Mark E Smith passes through the international arrivals on his first trip to NZ.

Drummer Paul Hanley, left, and Bassist Steve Hanley arrive in Christchurch.

Fall guitarist Craig Scanlon.

Marc Riley looking less chirpy on arrival in Christchurch.

 - Stuff


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