REBELLIOUS JUKEBOX: Container Drivers vs God Only Knows

The draw hasn’t been kind to The Fall but I’m loathe to fix things. This could be the biggest mismatch so far but if I had it my way, Container Drivers would come out top no matter how great God Only Knows is.

That first time I heard Container Drivers. They say you often remember your first time don’t they. It was another Peel show on the radio and naturally,  aged eleven or whatever it was, I was listening beneath the sheets.


It was always exciting too, at that young age, to hear swear words in records. And there were plenty around. “Fuck’ if you listened to Bodies (Sex Pistols) or “Bastard” in Alternative TV’s You Bastard which will be coming along soon on the jukebox.

So lying there that night in my flanellettes, I was thinking, did he really just say “bastards”?

Net cap. of 58 thousand pounds
They sweat on their way down
Grey ports with customs bastards
Hang around like clowns the
Uh-containers and their drivers

My late uncle Karl was a truck driver so these lyrics appealed to me though admittedly there was a lot that young me didn’t fathom but that was exciting too when you had that natural thirst for knowledge.

God Only Knows I think is an iconic pop classic. You like it whether you like the Beach Boys or not. And I don’t particularly. Not all that surfing stuff which ultimately means I have no interest in Pet Sounds.

When the draw was made and I saw this tie, as I said, I’m loathe to change it, I did imagine what a coup it would be if The Fall defeated the Beach Boys in anything!

I considered whether it was actually The Fall’s best song but I don’t think that can ever be any kind of fact, seeing as how there are so many great ones.

Having seen Leave The Capitol fall to Revolution recently, the omens were not good. Dave Simpson in the Guardian, wrote this on Container Drivers.

It’s hard to know where to begin with a back catalogue that takes in 30 studio albums, hundreds of songs and somehow assimilates everything from rockabilly to techno to jazz to krautrock to classical music into a uniquely identifiable and inimitable “Fall sound”. When I first attempted to distil the labyrinthine Fall canon and into a mere 10 songs I started with a list of 23 and by later the same evening had somehow “whittled it” down to double the figure. In the end, I decided to start where it began for me: my favourite track on my first and still favourite Fall album, 1980’s Grotesque (After the Gramme).

An early example of the Fall’s early “northern rockabilly”, The Container Drivers has fascinated me since I first heard it as a schoolboy (and managed to miss them playing it as their opening song at Leeds University soon after because I’d been disoriented by my first ever pint of Tetley’s bitter). Hurtling along like a HGV on rocket fuel, the band sound like they are playing for their lives (and with Smith’s disciplinarian reputation, maybe they were), but with an audible glee, as they explore what was then a new and refreshing form of music.

It’s rockabilly, but far removed from the American original and born of northern pubs, cheap speed and Salfordian back streets. The lyrics are typically great too. Over the years, Mark E Smith’s words have taken on many forms, from intricate, otherwordly science-fiction short stories to barmy one-liners, but this is a brilliant early example of his withering observational style. Almost certainly drawing on his very brief pre-Fall stint as a docker’s clerk, he skewers the trucking existence with withering relish.

So with two ties each day in this tournament, I don’t have the time or inclination always to write a pertaining post but when you’re passionate about a song you must!

Let’s hope this endeavour can attract Fall voters in droves and ruffle the feathers of the Californians.

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