Story of the Song: Bingo Master's Breakout, The Fall (1978)

Robert Webb
Friday 18 July 2008 00:00
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Formed in 1976 by Mark E Smith , The Fall sounded as discordant as a cutlery drawer sliding downstairs. The teenage Smith was a fan of Captain Beefheart and the garage sound of early-Sixties America.

Fired by seeing The Sex Pistols, he met other like-minded musicians and got noticed by Richard Boon, who ran the New Hormones label.

In November 1977, Boon stumped up money for a recording session. First up was "Bingo Master's Breakout", a number about a dispirited bingo caller who "flipped his lid" – "A glass of lager in his hand / Silver microphone in his hand/ Wasting time in numbers and rhymes."

Smith had typed out the lyrics during lunch breaks at his work at the docks. It was a roughly thrown pot of a song, but it captured what The Fall were about. "Nobody liked it," Smith said. "It was... out of tune and that. It was good. Stark, sort of." It was meant to be a single, but cash was tight and Boon passed the tapes to Kay Carroll, The Fall's manager, who sent them to the London indie Step Forward, financed by Miles Copeland and run by punk Mark Perry. Copeland signed The Fall after some cajoling from Perry's friend Danny Baker.

A year after it had been recorded, "Bingo Master's Breakout" became The Fall's debut single. Perry said the version issued was the second take, "a deliberate rejection of the first take which was much more melodic".

The TV presenter and soon-to-be Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, who'd put The Fall on his show So It Goes early in 1978, said: "I remember getting a copy of 'Bingo Master's Breakout' and thinking: this sounds bloody weird; this sounds like part of the explosion."

The tale of the suicidal bingo-caller is available on a Step Forward retrospective, I Wanna Punk Rock, compiled by Perry, and was adapted by Niall Griffiths as a short story for the Serpent's Tail anthology Perverted By Language, a collection of stories based on Fall songs.

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