You never speak ill of the dead.
Mark E. Smith was a prick, but he was our prick. Selfishly, and probably to his own horror, he will remain a beloved figure of tour mythology and drunken folklore. Whether he was terrorizing an unprepared interviewer or firing different members of his band hours before a show, Mark E. Smith was anything but a dullard. He carried himself as a giant of nihilism who cared so much about the music of The Fall that everything else, including self-preservation, fell to the wayside. He was consistently unpredictable. Prone to fits of violent rage and acts of irregular kindness, Mark E. Smith fought vehemently against settling for anything less than what he would envision.
Spending the late 1970’s in a post-punk band out of Manchester wasn’t an unusual phenomenon. The Fall itself was an unusual phenomenon. With a catalogue of rotating members who never seemed to last more than a single album, The Fall kept their fans guessing for every show. How drunk would they be? Would there be a mid-song fist fight with Mark? Would they even play? No one could be sure what they were getting themselves into. The only certainty was that you would at least have a story.
My own introduction to The Fall was from a 1988 compilation called Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father. It was a collection of UK groups and, for some reason, Sonic Youth. The album is a track for track cover album of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and the whole thing is very silly. The Sonic Youth track for Within You Without You is tight. Frank Sidebottom sings For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey sing a duet for She’s Leaving Home, which is very endearing.
The whole thing ends with The Fall performing A Day in the Life and that was the song I listened to the most. Up till then I had only known The Fall as a band I should know. Once I did some digging, I couldn’t stop. With a 32 album discography, practically an album a year, there is plenty of Fall to go around.
Selfishly, I would have liked some more.
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Nicholas Panagakos is a writer based out of Cambridge, MA. He has published one book of poems and illustrations titled Laughter You See and plays in bands regularly. Soon to open a home for adult orphans. Buy him a drink.
Anti-Cop. Anti-ICE. Pro-Union.