I don’t really know why I’m a fan of Mark E Smith and The Fall. Is it the uanabashed Northernness? Is it the mastery of prose? or maybe the fact that he never forgot his roots? I don’t know, but what I do know is that for whatever reason once I’d entered the Wonderful and Frightening World, I couldn’t resist it.
A Fall gig, for me, has always been special. Admittedly the odd one ranks with some of the worst live performances I’ve ever seen, but the times when they’ve been on it, they were difficult to beat. and thankfully they were on it more times than they were shit.
I first saw The Fall at the Hellfire club Wakefield back in 1983. I saw them in Wakefield again in October last year, and although he looked rough, I didn’t think at the time it would be the last time I would ever see Mark E Smith. I lose count how many times I’ve seen them over that 34 year period*. Infact someone just reminded today of a gig in Holmfirth that I’d almost forgotten. For all intents and purpose the show was over, MES had left the stage, the doors were open and people were leaving, and then we got ‘White Lightning’ with him singing from the dressing room. Maybe that’s been the allure? The unpredictability. That feeling for the first 15 minutes after the support acts finished; is it going to be a night to remember? who’s the line up going to be? and in later years – is he actually going to turn up? Then at the point where he would proclaim “We are The Fall!” and/or when the repetition kicked in, we were there. Whether it be a university or a soulless music venue, off your box dancing in a field, or in a working men’s club less than five miles from your house, you were in his clutches, mesmerised, hanging on his every word, transfixed – even when he read the football results. 250,000+ YouTube views can’t be wrong.
Some people say they never liked his music. Bullshit – everyone likes The Fall, they just don’t realise it yet. My wife always claimed she couldn’t stand his voice, and then we found her dancing in the kitchen to “Contraflow”. Bass player in a grindcore band was adamant a few years back, “No. I don’t care what you say. I just don’t like them”. Last night we sat and listened to his prized copy of Slates together. My son’s are fans, and my friends youngest daughter cried when her dad almost, threw his 50,000 Fall fans t-shirt in the bin. I could (and quite often do given half a chance and a few beers) wax lyrical about Mark and The Fall. His passing will leave a hole in my life, in memory to him I’d like to leave you all with a playlist I put together a while back. I was asked by an American fanzine to pick my favourite track from each album – those of you who are fans might not agree, but that’s ok. Those of you that aren’t, give it a listen and I predict at least some of you will be later.
This is a soundtrack of my life – thank you Mark, you’ll be missed.
(*Actually thats a lie, because apart from the one in Holmfirth, I know every single one. But that’s another (long) list for another day )