Kay Carroll – 27.12.48. – 06.06.20.

Late 1970s Manchester. It wasn’t just about the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall, and Factory Records.  Manchester was also home to a clutch of amazing women, who contributed to the city’s emerging music scene. Fall member and manager Kay Carroll was one, alongside people like Liz Naylor; co-editor of the legendary listings magazine City Fun, and member of the band The Glass Animals. Both, or course are so much more than this…

This morning when we heard of the sad passing of Kay Carroll, we couldn’t think of anyone better to paint a picture of Kay and the contribution she made to the Manchester music scene and beyond, than Liz.

Punkgirldiaries is honoured to host Liz Naylor’s exclusive tribute to Kay Carroll, whose death was announced today.

Lots of the tributes to Kay involve the word ‘formidable’, so you’ll probably be able to gather how, er, formidable Kay was. Thing is, in the punk/post punk scene in Manchester at that time, which consisted of weird arty dropouts, Kay felt very grown up and wise. She had worked as a psychiatric nurse at Prestwich mental hospital and had an aura of care but straightforward no bullshit that you need to work in mental health. I think Kay was the community-focused heart of the early Fall. She did loads of benefit gigs and supported young bands like my and Cath Carroll ‘s Gay Animals. Kay helped our fanzine City Fun organise a big fundraiser for rent for an shared office and rehearsal space with the Fall. When we found somewhere to rent and paid the deposit etc, Kay announced that the building was haunted and never set foot in it again. She was probably right ……

Liz Naylor

image-2What’s clear to us at punkgirldiaries is that the success and longevity of The Fall owes a great deal to Kay, and that her strength of character to deal with difficult men stood out, in an era when women weren’t so often in charge of bands. She was The Fall’s manager between 1977 and 1983 and contributed vocals and percussion on Dragnet, Grotesque (After the Gramme), Slates, Hex Enduction Hour and Room to Live. It is reported that the song ‘An Older Lover’ referred to Kay, who was 11 years older than Smith. In January 2018, when MES died, Kay described him as … so funny and loving, and yet could be so infuriating, hard arsed, and yes cruel.”

If you’re a musician in a band, there may be lots of video film of you performing. As a band manager, there’s often little that remains. Luckily we have this record of Kay’s performance from 1982, where at 3’20 , Kay gets rightfully outraged at Factory Records Tony Wilson for ripping off the band. That’s the Factory Records who were famous for having ‘no contracts’.

In 1983, Kay Carroll left the band following an incident in a US bar. Internet accounts have described it as abandonment by Mark E Smith, a form which repeated itself – over 50 members and contributors are listed for The Fall on Wikipedia and dumping people after a time seemed to be part of Mark E Smith’s showcase. However, in a comment below, Andy Waide has a different version attributed to Kay herself and a great anecdote to go with it. Either way, Kay then settled in Portland, Oregon and we know very little about her later life.

Thanks for being a formidable force in the Manchester scene, Kay. You are remembered and admired; may you Rest In Peace.



13 thoughts on “Kay Carroll – 27.12.48. – 06.06.20.

  1. I’ve just stumbled on this, so sorry to hear of Kay’s passing. She was good fun and very kind to me many, many years ago. I have a tape of a gig with her on vocals and Tony Wilson on guitar (yes, THAT Tony Wilson) – it’s pretty rough quality. Kind of very ‘Fall-ish’ unsurprisingly.
    Kay was there in the great years, and was part of that greatness.

    1. you should put that online

  2. I hadnt seen the clip of Kay ‘sorting things out’ on the phone ,even Mark E keeps quiet (for a bit )
    The Fall did play some benefit gigs in their earlier days..I assume this was much to do with Kay…
    Obviously not just down to KC (Marc R, Karl, Una etc were a significant part) but I think the band struggled to ‘get their sound right’ after 82’83..
    And maybe sounded a bit like ‘a group with some people that like the Fall’ ..or is that being harsh??

  3. Spoilt Victorian Child June 10, 2020 — 8:45 pm

    This is such a loss. Kay was a force of nature. Very sad news.

  4. Well what’s the story regarding the split in NYC Andy Waide? No details?

  5. Wolfgang Sackreuter June 9, 2020 — 1:51 pm


  6. in the The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E smith which first gott shown on beeb 4,Steve Hanley mentioned kay left mark.

  7. A few years ago, my brother-in-law was in the USA as part of his work for a charity. He met Kay and conversation turned to music. He mentioned to her that I was a huge music fan and said that my favourite band was some bunch calling themselves ‘The Fall’…at that point he had no idea of her connection with the band.
    Kay smiled at him and said, “Tell him that you’ve just been speaking to Kay Carroll – he’ll know what you mean…”
    He phoned later that day and told me – my jaw dropped!

    1. Wow! Very impressed with that chance meeting!

  8. A sad loss glad good memories being shared
    I knew Kay in uk and then Portland I was a nurse at Crumpsall hospital and hung out with the fall and other bands .
    Portland is an interesting city with a lot of Fall fans . It was great finding Kay again and us connecting lives over such a long time span Andy named it about her spirit She also worked hard with community impacted by AIDS for years and was a great mum . Her humor and stories were the best and the way she could call you out a gift! I was hoping to connect with her to talk about the protests here and looking forward to her salty wisdom but it is not to be . A book or play from her would have given us all a whole different perspective but she probably would have told me fuck that shit I haven’t got time for it .

    1. So glad that you commented with your memories of Kay; thank you.

  9. Andrew (Andy) WAIDE June 7, 2020 — 9:38 pm

    Just read your piece on Kay, and thank you for the sentiments, she was a great person and woman. Just one point to set the record straight. Kay was not abandoned in a bar in New York by Mark. Kay was pissed off with Mark and the band, and she fucked off and left them. She was never a victim, that’s why she was loved and why she frightened people. Mark and the band asked her to come back a few days later and she said no way. We met Kay last year in Portland and she told us the story. Kay, Mark and I were good friends back in the day and when The Fall came back from the US tour I met Mark in The Foresters and he said “Kay stayed in the states… this is Brix”. I had no contact again with Kay until a few years ago when a mutual friend said she was in Portland, back in the day there were no mobile phones or internet. Last year we were lucky enough to be able to travel to US and met Kay a few times. She told us the story of how she left the Fall, and quite a lot more. You should know how a few days after Kay had left the Fall the band had been driving in the snowy wastelands of Canada/US borders, and the money from the gigs in New York was in a paper bag, in the back of the van, and in the snowstorm the van doors were opened and the wind took the money (a few 1000$s) and blew it down the highway, and how Kay told us the story about karma… Kay was never a victim.
    She was one of the best story tellers I ever knew, she wasn’t perfect but was a great human being and an inspiration. Never to be forgotten
    Andy Waide(nee Zero)

    1. Amazing! Thanks so much for letting us know all of that. We’ll amend the blog and hope that everyone reads your interesting comment. RIP Kay.

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