Musings on the byways of popular culture
24/01/2018 by Neela 81 Comments
The Fall have fallen.
24/01/2018 at 19:47
Looked in terrible condition the last footage I saw. RIP, you contrary old bugger.
Leicester Bangs says
It’s terrible news. He’s been such a huge part of my life for so long.
24/01/2018 at 20:00
Very sad but not unexpected. We’ll miss you you contrary northern bugger.
count jim moriarty says
24/01/2018 at 20:10
Not surprised, just very upset. Only my granny on jews harp left then. RIP you mad old sod.
Paul Wad says
24/01/2018 at 20:25
We did hear a few weeks ago that he was seriously ill, but to be honest I had forgotten. I only listened to This Nation’s Saving Grace on the way into town this morning too. I wonder if anyone will do a TV interview like his when John Peel died!
I liked Ghost in My House when it came out and I bought the 20,000 Fall Fans compilation when it came out too, but try as I might, and I did try every year or so, I just didn’t get it. It was only when I sat down and started listening to his albums from the beginning last year that it all clicked and I could start considering myself a fan. I think it’s safe to say there’ll never be anyone like him.
24/01/2018 at 20:37
That is (F)all.
I may be a little more fulsome later-ah.
Freddy Steady says
24/01/2018 at 20:42
Nooooh, who do I go and see now?
24/01/2018 at 20:49
Sad news. We’ll not see his like again. RIP
24/01/2018 at 21:18
I’ve not long finished reading Brix’s autobiography (weirdly she still keeps “Smith” in her name), and she obviously has some tales to tell on his behaviour as a husband and bandmate. And before that I’d read his autobiography Renegade, and knew fine well when he was glossing over certain areas or putting his own particular spin on things.
And the main single thing which convinced me The Fall are a truly great band was Dave Simpson’s book The Fallen, where he tracks down and interviews practically every ex-member of the band, most of whom have surprisingly positive things to say about MES, albeit they don’t portray him remotely saint-like.
And I always loved the negative reviews of their records – David Hepworth’s rightly remembered “man shouting at a bus station” one in particular – because they made me smile.
Because all of it – no matter how disparaging or negative or uncomfortable – still tells part of the story of this mad, sprawling, unpredictable, sometimes dire, sometimes genius, utterly utterly unique talent. Nobody else has left a musical legacy like it, always different and always the same.
24/01/2018 at 21:28
Sad, but not unsurprising, news. I last saw them a few years back (Re-Mit tour I think) at the Cambridge Junction and I thought he looked pretty unwell then.
There won’t be another one like him, which is as big a compliment as I can imagine of anybody.
Black Celebration says
24/01/2018 at 21:33
Apologies about the quality of the clip but this was the first Fall thing I remember seeing.
Sorry to see him gone.
24/01/2018 at 21:35
Very sad news. I know he was a cantankerous old bugger, but there has never been a band like The Fall. A big part of my life, the world is a little bit duller tonight.
(Posted this on the other MES thread)
Paul Waring says
24/01/2018 at 22:22
There will never be another band like The Fall. Love them or hate them, the world is a poorer place tonight. I am fucking gutted. The cantankerous old get.
24/01/2018 at 22:27
Very sad – a true original
Delighted to see them in Kilkenny a few years ago.
I’m glued to 6music now, staring into space
24/01/2018 at 22:35
God! This man loomed large for my whole adult life. I regarded his records as genius, even when they were dreadful. Oddly, I never tired of him, whereas I’d go years actively avoiding someone like Elvis Costello. Will be listening to his albums for most of the next few weeks.
When Rock Stars died, I used to say, “There goes part of my childhood…” Now, it’s, “There goes part of my adulthood…”
24/01/2018 at 22:58
Your last comment is very perceptive @tiggerlion
Colin H says
24/01/2018 at 22:55
The bus station is a quieter place tonight.
24/01/2018 at 22:59
Remember him this way…
24/01/2018 at 23:06
A persistent artistic reference point in my adult life. The Fall are not necessarily my favorite band ( any more than I have a favorite author) but rather something I feel compelled to go back to, or find myself quoting at unexpected moments. God knows, he was difficult and frustrating at times, but what brilliance.
Baron Harkonnen says
24/01/2018 at 23:07
A rant, a rave, a goodbye wave. Tara Mark E. Smith, you was a good ‘un.
25/01/2018 at 00:07
The ‘shouting in bus station’ dullards always failed to notice MES wit and wisdom. Man he had a wicked sense of humour
Dr Volume says
25/01/2018 at 01:18
Panic in Granadaland-ah!
25/01/2018 at 01:11
What can you say when someone who you’ve listened to for 32 years turns his toes up? I’m not entirely surprised, He was very poorly but he’s been through the mill health wise a few times and I kind of expected him back for another round of chaos. I shall miss the infuriating and occasionally inspirational Fall gigs. I shall treasure the music and my memories of an extraordinary man…and what a back catalogue he’s left us. RIP Mark E Smith and here’s a very early track from the brilliant and otherworldly Dragnet album with an apt lyric
“When I am dead and gone
My vibrations will live on
In vibes on vinyl through the years
People will dance to my waves”
25/01/2018 at 07:49
I’d (?) seen them live about 15 times. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes shambolic (Hello Witchwood!) but always, always mesmerising. I was a late starter compared to some- Shiftwork was my entry point- but feel compelled now to go back and re-investigate the earlier stuff.
They’ll be a lot of unemployed musicians out there this morning.
25/01/2018 at 09:50
To be fair, he’d already sacked most of them.
Vulpes Vulpes says
25/01/2018 at 08:45
Ale and fag shares plummet-uh. The contrarian’s contrarian leaves us with a stack of albums we’ll only ever listen to on our own. I’ll miss his baleful presence in the corner seat.
25/01/2018 at 10:07
“Sometimes, life is like a new bar.
Plastic seats, beer below par.
Food with no taste, music grates. I’m living too late.”
I’d love Mark E. Smith if he’d only ever written that.
25/01/2018 at 10:30
The Fall were a going concern for around 41 years, but the three times that I saw them live (all in Manchester) were crammed into a 12-month period around the time of “Hex Enduction Hour” and “Room to Live”. There was one poor gig, one pretty good one, and one brilliant one. I imagine it was ever thus.
I’m sad to read of Mark Smith’s passing. I stood next to him once. It was in the long communal urinal in the gents’ bog on the first floor of the Manchester University Union Building on the Oxford Road. I didn’t say anything to him. To be honest, I was afraid he might cut me down with a really sarcastic comment. The Fall were a band unlike any other. And now there’s only yer granny on bongos left.
This has always been one of my favourite Fall songs:
Went home to my slum canyon
On my way I looked up – I saw turrets of Victorian wealth …
25/01/2018 at 12:47
Brief obituary in the Washington Post
I was surprised to see this as I’m sure a lot of people, Americans in particular wouldn’t have heard of him.
Sewer Robot says
25/01/2018 at 14:30
Nice to see.
Dwelling, as I do, in The Afterworld, I was startled to see what big news the (granted, appallingly premature) death of Dolores O Riordan was in the “outside” world – well, outside Ireland anyhow.
(All the American “culture” sites I visit were effusive in their praise. Jack O Brien – someone who has given me actual musical tips – even closed his podcast with the dismal “Zombie” in its entirety).
Despite (MES) being acknowledged as a major figure on sites such this, I was beginning to fear the passing of someone with a body of work which can stand proudly alongside pretty much anyone in British music would go largely unreMARKed in the broader media..
Lando Cakes says
25/01/2018 at 14:52
I liked the idea of MES better than I actually liked MES and The Fall. It’s sad and I’ll play some Fall this afternoon.
25/01/2018 at 16:38
Tony Wilson said he wasn’t sure if he liked The Fall’s music but he loved The Fall.
25/01/2018 at 17:09
I too like the idea of Mark E, and of anyone doing their own thing, genuinely following their own muse and sticking two fingers up to fashion and orthodoxy in the music biz. Unfortunately, on a musical level, he offered nothing that I was interested in. (I’m not talking lyrics, I’m talking music; you could never hear his lyrics.)
25/01/2018 at 19:30
And you felt you had to share that?
Maybe you couldn’t hear his lyrics but one of the great things about The Fall were the references to music, literature, sci-fi and philosophy that came from a working class man that most dismissed and still do as a drunk idiot shouting in bus stations.
The tyranny of having an opinion when someone other people admire dies seems to override doing the decent thing and not revealing your crass ignorance. And that doesnt mean knowledge of the Do They Owe Us A Living? Hitmakers
Bingo Little says
25/01/2018 at 19:50
It’s one thing not much caring for Mark E Smith, but to be unfamiliar with the music of Crass? And to admit it on here? Disgusting.
25/01/2018 at 20:06
Punk is dead apparently
Rigid Digit says
25/01/2018 at 20:30
It just smells that way
25/01/2018 at 21:45
Since 1978, anyway.
25/01/2018 at 20:11
It was easy to be ignorant about the SFITFH as, in our local shop, their record covers were represented by 12 inch slabs of brown cardboard with “To see cover ask at the counter” scrawled on with marker.
I thought Colin’s remark (never got it, but admire the guy’s singular vision nonetheless) quite reasonable and this seems like just the place to share it….?
25/01/2018 at 20:19
25/01/2018 at 20:57
Blimey DFB, bit of an over reaction to Colin there!
25/01/2018 at 21:18
If I posted every time there was a thread I cared nothing about I would never be off this place. But when it’s about someone who has just popped off I don’t feel the need to let everyone know that.
It adds nothing – its like a written version of Alan Partridge shruggjng.
25/01/2018 at 22:49
Bollocks it doesn’t: it adds a whole layer of recognition, the fact that MES could be admired for what he represented, even if the nature of that representation didn’t appeal. I suspect there are many in that category, in realworld if not here, who liked the idea of him more than the substance. I probably fall into the same camp as Colin, feeling the world a better place for his right to shout and rail in it, as long as I don’t have to listen to the music. I have, instead, assiduously read his interviews and obituaries, enjoying the stories and the telling. It is possible, easy and appropriate to pay tribute to individuals, even if you don’t endorse every step they take. Many musicians fall into that category for me, Lemmy being another, whereas there are others who neither thrill nor interest me with their lives or their music, like Neil Diamond.
25/01/2018 at 23:04
Yeah first word described the rest.
25/01/2018 at 23:10
25/01/2018 at 23:25
I’m totes agree with you and Colin, Mr 2. There are a few artists I can think of whose music doesn’t interest me, but whose personality and artistic integrity I greatly admire. MES was one of them.
26/01/2018 at 00:59
I’m the same. I loved reading his interviews far more than the music. There are other artists that fall in the same category for me.
As a skint teenager, I used to read just about everything to do with pop music but could only afford to buy a small % of it. To me, being a fan of a person without intimate knowledge of their music is normal.
To paraphrase Muriel Grey, why go and spoil it all by actually listening to the records?
I don’t think this is speaking ill of the dead at all.
26/01/2018 at 08:27
In as much as it matters, I am in the opposite camp. I like the music, but was less enamoured of the man, or rather many of the specific behaviours.
Diddley Farquar says
26/01/2018 at 09:12
As is often the case while the work of the artist can be brilliant and gives much enjoyment, the person behind the art is revealed to have regularly acted like an unpleasant arsehole (see numerous books on the subject, especially The Big Midweek by Steve Hanley and Brix’s memoirs), which in this case was exacerbated by certain substance abuses. Such significant failings of the person must also be acknowledged in the final analysis, I feel.
Moose the Mooche says
25/01/2018 at 20:02
Having only recently started to immerse myself in Fall music, it’s quite sad to think that the journey I’ve started to make now has a definite endpoint.
25/01/2018 at 21:20
PS. playing Perverted By Language quite loud at the moment… I recommend anyone who is feeling a bit glum to do the same. What a splendid racket.
ME Smith – be born, be born
25/01/2018 at 21:22
Picked out 50,000 Fall Fans to play en route to gig in That London tonight – did the job
25/01/2018 at 22:07
Loads of old friends have got in touch to say, ‘Hey, sorry to hear about MES, thought of you,’ which has been an unexpected silver lining. (Feel a bit guilty, really, as I’ve been rather scathing about their recent output, but still.) Anyway, one of them asked me for a list of essentials, and here’s what I came up with.
Mod Mock Goth
Spectre vs Rector
New Face In Hell
The Man Whose Head Expanded
How I Wrote Elastic Man
Dr Buck’s Letter
Bill Is Dead
My Ex-Classmates’ Kids
Caveat being that I’m less fond of the early chanty, punky ones than the world at large, so no place for Totally Wired, Rowche Rumble or Kicker Conspiracy on my list. I think they sell the lyricism and storytelling short.
26/01/2018 at 07:50
You see I would have those three on my list. But that is one of the brilliant things about The Fall, lots to go at.
Plus I’d add Smile, absolutely terrifying.
26/01/2018 at 10:06
Perfect accompaniment to my walk to the bus stop in the dark this morning!
26/01/2018 at 12:27
Good thoughts, although I stand by my rationale. Smile was on my shortlist but didn’t make the final cut purely because there were already too many PBL-era tracks onboard. The same goes for Fortress/Deer Park. I’ve had some genuinely transcendent moments listening to that track, but with Hex already so well represented by *even more* mind-melting songs, it was relegated to a huge ‘bubbling under’ list. See also: Glam Racket, Container Drivers, Shake Off, Free Range, Crop Dust, Two Librans…
26/01/2018 at 12:36
Dave Simpson (who wrote The Fallen) was asked by The Quietus website to do a “top ten Fall tracks” list – he says he started with a long list of 23, then after thinking about it some more he whittled it down to 46.
26/01/2018 at 12:38
Glad you mentioned Spectre.. I went on the full journey with that last year from “God this is horrible” through “I really can’t get this song out of my head” to finally….”Masterpiece!”.
MES, er, replicating the Captain Beefheart trajectory right there.
26/01/2018 at 13:13
Re “Container Drivers”
I like that bit about “Grey ports with customs bastards”.
26/01/2018 at 20:22
Where to start ? Crop Dust, what an immense riff. Blindness perhaps even more so……” You were expecting Aristotle Onassis but instead got Mr James Fennings of Prestwick, Cumbria”. New Face In Hell, Totally Wired, Elastic Man, definitely DrBucks Letter, Sparta FC and dozens more. A mad genius.
25/01/2018 at 23:03
As my son is a big Lego fan, I follow a Lego group on FB called Brickgeekz. One of the moderators, a pleasant, man-child called Phil, posted how upset he was that his mentor, father figure and life- coach has passed away, accompanied by a couple of shots of him and MES sitting on a settee together.
I’m desperate to ask for more details as Phil seems a happy, positive soul, optimistic and totally non cynical.
26/01/2018 at 12:52
There are quite a few tales of MES being unaffectedly nice to ordinary members of the public (ie not musicians
, journos or Fall fans). He was a complicated man, and no-one understood him but his (many) women.
26/01/2018 at 07:54
Just following Brix on Twitter, there’s a nice message of condolence to her from Susannah Hoffs.
26/01/2018 at 14:24
Room To Live seems to be regarded as a lesser work, which I never understood. I’ve always liked it. Great words, cogently delivered, as in:
“There’s a D.H.S.S. Volvo estate
Right outside my door
With a Moody Blues cassette on the dashboard”
from the title track.
Or Hard Life In The Country:
“Its tough in home country
Councils hold the ring
D. Bowie look-alikes
Permeate car parks”
And elsewhere “Ted Roger’s brains burn in hell” (from Joker Hysterical Face – a top track).
26/01/2018 at 20:28
Part of their imperial period deffo only less regarded because was released the same year as Hex Enduction Hour
26/01/2018 at 16:36
Thought you would like to know that our Lenny Law – there couldn’t be another, could there?- has made the first item of the Times Diary column today, sending in an anecdote about Mark E Smith. It was on how Mark E used to irritate fellow musicians by fiddling with their amps mid-set, so the roadies came up with a solution. They fitted a box to his amps and told him it was called DFA (Dynamic Field Adjustment) and he could use it to alter all the others. This kept Smith happy for a time, until they admitted at the end of the tour the box wasn’t connected to anything and DFA actually stood for ‘Does F*** All.’
26/01/2018 at 16:56
26/01/2018 at 17:12
Yes, it’s Lenny formally-of-this-parish. He tweeted about it too.
27/01/2018 at 09:33
I’ve been commiserating with a work mate whose musical taste I respect (the only one come to think of it). He was pally with MES for many years & a huge devotee & has a few tales to tell.
I said I’d felt compelled to play ‘Totally Wired’ on the night I heard & he’d responded with his pick which was ‘Pat- Trip Dispenser’. Having given a spin, he was spot on, it’s immense.
I saw The Fall a handful of times & can’t really class myself as a proper ‘fan’ , but they & MES are utterly unique. Monstrous & magnificent in equal measure.
I’m very glad MES existed, a genuine, impossible artist with all that entails.
Vampire. Blues says
27/01/2018 at 10:16
In the mid eighties a friend played a C-60 tape belonging to his older sister which had 15 minutes worth of songs each by The Fall, The Cramps, Magazine and Cabaret Voltaire. The Fall songs were Lay of the Land, C.R.E.E.P and Pat Trip Dispenser (as mentioned above). I was 14/15 years old and had never heard anything like this before. Great memories and looking back now, in some ways a life changing moment.
27/01/2018 at 11:35
Nice one, VP.
Strange how seemingly ‘small’ moments can have such interesting & long term influences.
That’s a pretty interesting C-60, every single one of those bands had something pretty special going on but no outfit was ever quite like The Fall.
My work mate made the comment that he reckoned if Beefheart had covered Pat- Trip Dispenser it would have worked, & I think maybe he had a point.
We then went on to discuss certain parallels between the 2 .
Very difficult, unique individuals , completely inpenatrable to many , who seemingly ran their bands like dictatorships, with utterly devoted followers but utterly unknown to your typical ‘chart’ type music buyer.
27/01/2018 at 16:23
Re parallels between Beefheart and MES
Of course, they were John Peel’s two absolute favourite vocalists of all time.
27/01/2018 at 17:14
The parallels are interesting. Both bands had an inimitable sound even outside of the vocals, regardless of line-up changes – largely because of the quasi-military dictatorship exercised by the frontman.
The Fall covered Beatle Bones… in session, presumably partly as a nice little nod to Mr Ravenscroft. Would love to have seen his face when he first looked at the track list for that session.
28/01/2018 at 10:33
Nice piece by ex-Wordster Andrew Harrison here. “Smith wrote like a vorticist Les Dawson, gazing through the hole in the outside lavvy roof at the abyssal horrors beyond”
28/01/2018 at 11:30
Thanks for the link, Moosey.
Very good piece.
02/02/2018 at 17:08
A beginners guide to the Fall. (ATM)
Zanti Misfit says
03/02/2018 at 19:57
Comedy writer, actor and broadcaster Graham Duff’s loving tribute to his hero and friend.
12/02/2018 at 16:59
Cause of death, lung and kidney cancer.
All those drugs, all that booze. but the cigarettes get you in the end.
12/02/2018 at 19:24
Memoriam page… quite touching.
16/02/2018 at 23:44
Anyone else spot “Hit The North” playing in the background of a scene in the Queen Vic on Thursday’s episode?
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