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
What’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.