As I write this it’s less than 24 hours since the announcement of Mark E Smith taking a sideways step from this world, that is to say his death. I first saw The Fall in the summer of 1980. They were supported by Rhythm Clicks (fronted by Gary Chaplin who was one of the founder members and original guitarist of the excellent then and now Penetration). Rhythm Clicks were a short-lived but good outfit, their catchy punchy one off single “Short Time” has unwittingly, in my opinion, actually stood the test of time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bley_ejIwZw and wouldn’t sound amiss as an intro/outtake from Bowie’s Blackstar album. (In fact, they kind of merge together in my head from time to time.) The other support bands that evening were Flesh, who were I think Scotland’s answer to the Human League, and did a cover of Millie’s classic 1964 hit My Boy Lollipop which was also a single. As well as this also listed on the bill were Cabaret Voltaire. But to be honest I don’t recall much of the evening.
I think this was because going to such gigs at the time was an experiential thing, being there, in the moment, just taking the whole evening in rather than a “taking a mental note” for future reference. Nowadays the notion of just being there has shifted to where attendance at any event be it gig or exhibition has the proviso that the reason for going to said event is to be able to tell others about it afterwards, especially via social media. I mean is there any point of seeing a band if no one else knows you were there? Answers elsewhere please. Over the following decades I got to see The Fall several more times. I was never the biggest fan, had a few albums which I loved dearly, along with home recordings of John Peel sessions but I was never that much into Mark E . Going to Fall gigs always had the anticipation that they would be ramshackle events, where things could go wrong, an element of uncertainty more akin to ordinary stuff of real life such as lateness , indifference and beer stains rather than the tribulations of rock stars . Part of the magic of Mark E smith was his anti shamanic stance, demystifying , a legend transgressing in the opposite direction from the tired collection of music luminaries seeking legitimacy into the rock and roll hall of fame. As the man said “Who wants to be in a Hovis advert anyway?”
Of course his passing is very sad, but I will leave it up to others who are closer or more familiar with M E S than myself. I was saddened by the news though I had been listening to Code Selfish earlier in the day, in particular The Birmingham School of Business which over the years has become a Family Favourite, something to play in the car on long journeys with the kids.
Was there ever a Fall fan club ? I hope not. Will there be a painted mural popping up?Please no. A new face on a tote bag? Mark E Smith stepped sideways, he’s somewhere over the horizon and not coming back. Leave him be and listen to the back catalogue to your heart’s content, be inspired.
Mark E Smith R I P