The world’s grumpiest man has breathed his last breath, stuck his fingers up to the sky once more and went off to rant at the rest of eternity. I think I might be the only person on this blog team to know more than a couple of albums by The Fall, mainly because they seem to have their loyalist fan base on the septic land formally known as Albion.
Mark E. Smith was a man who had a face only his mother would love.
He was a hard man to get along with by all accounts and would regularly change the line-up of The Fall based on a hierarchy of which people he hated the least at that given moment in time.
My first introduction to The Fall was an old bandmate called Ross, we were both doing a media studies cause at Tynemouth College and we were tasked to make a music video.
I used a track by a band called Live, he went for the song “Everything Hurtz” from the album The Fall album, Code: Selfish. To this day, it’s still my favourite Fall track with its abrasive tone, its repetitive droning bass line and a vocal performance that sounds like a drunken maniac on a full-scale rant.
Over the years, I’ve listened to so many albums, EPs, and radio sessions by The Fall, but I never went to see them live. Mainly because I’d heard so many contrasting stories about their performances, also because they always seemed to clash with another band that would be coming to Newcastle, it was as if there was something deliberately in the way of me seeing this band live.
I’m sort of glad in a way, because by all accounts the last tour when Mark E Smith was near the end, he was performing from a wheelchair, or from the dressing room as he was too ill to make it to the stage. That is not how I would have wanted to remember him, that fiery legend who commanded fear and respect in equal measure reduced to a broken shell.
If I’m also honest, a few of my mates said it made him even angrier and the performances were amongst the most memorable they had seen.
Either way, I will only have that prolific recording output to listen to now, and it’s a mighty legacy. Thirty-two studio albums, five-part studio/part live albums, thirty-three live albums, a plethora of EPs and then you get to the bootlegs. For a fan, that is a huge body of work to listen to, for a casual fan (there is no such thing) it would be a nightmare to know where to start.
The Fall was not an easy band to get into.
You had to have a certain mindscape, and if I’m truly honest, and to want music that didn’t sound like a pop song. It was a raw, punk and unorthodox sort of music, tuneless to some, but with a soul of tarnished gold & honesty to others.
In summation, Mark E. Smith was a man who could start an argument in an empty room.
A scoundrel who was in full control of his band and didn’t take fools lightly, he was a force of energy and a law unto himself only. He was prickly, destructive, abrasive, brave and a true one-off. He was the sort of person you needed around, just to show people that it’s not all pretty lights, glossy magazines or easy times.
Sometimes, you need a bastard who will tell you exactly how it is and Mark E. Smith was the man for that occasion. He might not have been one of my favourite artists, but he was someone I respected just for doing it his own way, no matter what the cost it was always going to be done his way.
Rest well Mark, you abrasive git.
I’ve made a Mark E. Smith / The Fall Spotify playlist, it’s not a best of as there really is no such thing to be honest.
Owner of more Frank Zappa music than one human needs, two cats and looked after by an Angel, Eddie Carter thinks about music more than a Geordie should. Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, Eddie spends most of his time surrounded by CD’s and records. He also writes for All The Time I Was Listening to My Own Wall of Sound, his beard is grey and not long enough – also, he wants a pint.