Thursday, 21 April 2011

Day 38: The containers, and the drivers.

Okay, one of my favourites today, and one I know holds special meaning for a lot of Fall fans, particularly author of excellent Fall-related book The Fallen, Dave Simpson. If you haven't read this particular tome, track it down now, I consumed it recently and its an amazing insight into how the group has operated over the 30 years it has existed. Basically, Dave makes it his life's work to track down every musician who was in the Fall and quiz them on their experiences, some are hilarious, some a bit tragic but all give an interesting account, he doesn't find a few as some seemed to have slipped into the ether, but read it to find out more.

Anyway, one of his favourite tracks is this, there's a horrible section in his book where he charts the breakup of his relationship thanks to his spending time away working on this book and ending up in the far-flung reaches of the country to do so. His partner actually leaves him and to his horror, is seeing a container driver, the ultimate insult.

Song: The Container Drivers
Album: Grotesque (After The Gramme)

Year: 1980

So here's a song that encapsulates several Fall tropes within its brief running time (really short for this era I reckon ) the humdrum job of container delivery drivers with some genuinely trite and funny remarks (They sweat on their way down/report with customs bastards/hang around like clowns) as well as being one of the most obvious blues-influenced songs they've ever written without it being a cover, it reminds me of all sorts of things, weirdly these millionaires come to mind, its the pace of the whole thing and the jangly guitars that do it, this is also of course, courtesy of the amazing Paul Hanley's drumming, this being his first album with the group, some rate this as the best Fall lineup ever and I'm almost inclined to agree, they sound spot on here, that first drumroll just makes this song and the railroad-esque chug-a-chug that makes up the clattering pace means its not only memorable, but damn catchy as well. There's even some truck/train noises towards the end and Mark's vocal exhalations only add to this.

The lyrics are incredible, almost an anti-traveling song in that it relates the monotony of their existence in concise detail: "Bad indigestion/The bowel retention/S'before their wages/Sometimes in short sleeves/Look at a car park for two days/Look at a grey port for two days/Train line, stone and grey/This is not their town" you can almost see them, rotund chaps in hermetically-sealed cabs belching and burping their way down the M1 to Dover to take a container full of whatever to some industrial estate (that's another day!) in the arse-end of rural France perhaps. I like the part about looking at a car park and looking at a grey port, having traveled in my band, I can empathise with these descriptions, there's something very dull about ferry transit and docks/service stations that brings something of horror to the soul.

I like the line about Communists just being part-time workers that thing that people who are proud of their work (no matter how banal) do when talking about people different from them, that narrow-minded sense of accomplishment.

I'm guessing this is influenced by Mark's time as a clerk at the docks in Salford, where he must have seen these types day after day, so I see this as a rare glimpse of autobiography within a Fall song, as he has said on many occasions, he writes objectively and outside himself.


  1. I always got the sense MES was a bit of a Marxist/Socialist himself. As such, I've always taken that line, the one in Totally Wired (a rich man had failed me!) and Prole Art Threat as a whole to be pokes at the misconceptions OTHER folks have about the commies.

  2. Oh yeah, that's what I'm getting at, he's working class all the way.

  3. Loved this track since I heard the Peel Session when it was originally broadcast. Came across this recently
    and thought it was the original until I realised Container Drivers preceded it by 15 years. I do, however, suspect that it is a 're-working' of a rockabilly original.
    Martin Clabburn