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The Biggest Library Yet 8
What Mark E. Smith (and some others) have had to say
in explanation, explication or examination of assorted Fall songs
over the years. Sometimes illuminating, sometimes mystifying - culled
from articles and interviews too numerous to remember.
You get kids asking for Repetition and I say: Do you
go to the same school as you did two years ago? Do you go to the same
pub as you did two years ago? I know I don't...
He's someone I know. That song's an attempt to get
back at the ageism thing, where people are supposed to be screwed
after they're 29. I mean, the people in the pubs where I go are 48 or
50, but they've more guts than all these other preeners. In every
generation, you get this core of spirit, and they never lose
A long tale, supposedly objective. In which J. Totale
describes the death of his father - a very personal thing - but
necessary and to the good. R.T. XVII has a heart attack on the last
Like 'The Third Man' after a shot an cover; having a
barney, rasputin, dustbinmen, jerusalem, and is conceptually
re-speaking old chap dear friends, to Lie Dream i.e. 'I just thought
I'd tell you... '
Joker Hysterical Face
It's about a couple who live sort of downstairs from
us, where we were living, and they used to play Abba and that stuff,
they always used to have it on full blast. She was a divorcee, I used
to know women like her, and it's not very far from the feminist
movement. Like the man is the main thing to blame.
I'm so proud of that song. I didn't see it as pure
pop because it hasn't been accepted like that. It's got good words in
it and that throws people off - their brains are so degenerate
now, that if they hear something they don't understand they just drop
it. I always thought it would appeal to children and it does. A lot
of very young kids - seven or eight - seem to like
I never thought, though, that the creep was the guy
who smelt bad at school; it was always the most popular guy in the
class, cause you knew damn well he wouldn't do well in life, the sort
who'd cry when the exam results came out.
Brix: Everyone thinks that Fall songs are about
themselves and that was especially so with C.R.E.E.P. Some people
thought it was about Morrissey which it wasn't. Marc Riley, our old
guitarist, thought it was about him, which it wasn't. It's about
every creep in the world.
Disney's Dream Debased
Brix, 1984: Mark got off this ride with tears in his
eyes he was so frightened. This ride is a mountain, 100ft in the air,
an exact replica of the Matterhorn; you ride at sixty miles an hour.
Ten minutes after we get off, a woman falls out of her sleigh, gets
trapped and decapitated by the oncoming one, They couldn't get her
out. There was fire engines everywhere coming out of the bushes, and
all these Mickey Mouse characters rushing out to distract people. It
took them seven hours to get the body off. Everyone was pretending
nothing had happened, they were all going : 'Disneyland is wonderful
land.' Mark was saying: 'Whaaat? There's a woman up there with no
head on!' but Mickey Mouse was just laughing away. Mark thought it
was like a bad trip.
in: PoW Centre -
We didn't really know what to expect when we arrived at Cannock's
Prince of Wales Centre. Accompanying our tickets was a variety of
info about the venue including a seating plan and details of how
drinks (plus ice cream, coffee and confectionery) could be
pre-ordered for the interval from the foyer, plus a programme
including details of other forthcoming events. Such delights as the
Pirates of Penzance, Budgie the Helicopter and Junior Startime
(Cannock Final) would soon be gracing the same stage as the mighty
Fall. There was even a double page spread to colour in and draw a
picture of a genie to win a pair of tickets to see
Thankfully the venue wasn't all seats. There was a
classic 1950s style cinema seating arrangement but also a dancefloor
between the red leatherette seats and the stage. The PoW staff were
very friendly and the woman on the door promised to reserve me one of
the advertising posters for after the gig. One of the bouncers told
me that he'd heard the singer needed to get 'absolutely bladdered'
before he'd even consider going up on stage because his nerves are
Before the gig we were talking to producer and
occasional vocalist with the band Mike Bennett, despite being
obviously the worse for having a few beers he was a most polite and
informative chap. Pretty soon he was joined by Steve Hanley who made
time to talk about the band and reminisce about some early Fall gigs
in my home town of Retford at a venue called the Porterhouse. My wife
and I were very pleased at having spoken to two of the band and
managing to scrounge one of only two posters in the whole of Cannock
advertising the show.
We talked to some fans from Stafford and were
laughing about the colouring competition in the programme saying
wouldn't it be the ultimate to get Mark E. Smith to fill the picture
in - the programme had referred to him as 'The Godfather of Scowl'. A
few minutes later Mike Bennett tapped me on the shoulder and drew my
attention to the fact that the great man was standing just a short
distance from us. 'Go on then, ask him' I dared my wife. Not only was
he happy to sign the picture for us but apologised for not bringing
his crayons to colour it in. Apparently, he'd just been singing with
Fall fans in the pub down the road. So much for the Godfather of
Scowl who gets drunk because of nerves theory.
I was sad to see Craig Scanlon leave the band but it
has to be said that the current line-up can most certainly deliver
the goods. Hanley and Wolstencroft's relentless pounding of bass and
drums provides the foundation for the unique Brix guitar rhythms and
the talented Julia Nagle's keyboards, all forming the perfect
backdrop for the vocals/ comedy/ showmanship of Mark E. Smith (and
his occasional sidekick Bennett).
Now, owing to a copious amount of alcohol having been
taken on board throughout the evening I was relieving myself when the
Chiselers struck up and afterwards returned to my position at the
front of the stage. Then I saw Mark E. heading my way with a manic
and mischievous grin etched all over his rugged facial
Aaarggh, what does he want! he knelt down on one
knee, took hold of my shoulder, thrust the microphone into my face
and said 'Go on mate you have a go!' Talk about being put on the
spot, this was the last thing I'd ever expected. Suddenly, my throat
felt constricted, my tongue felt four times too big for my mouth and
my memory looked like deserting me. Somehow, right on cue my voice
disengaged from my brain and I actually sang the lines. Mark then
retreated further back on stage and much to my relief I received some
applause for my efforts.
It's just as well that there wasn't a queue in the
gents or I would never have had the chance to sing with the greatest
band in the world by invitation of the genius which is Mark E. Smith.
Believe me, by the time I'm through relating 'the legend of how I
became a Fall singer' to one and all my wife is going to wish I'd got
locked in there.
Odran Smith interviews John Peel
'Pop treats a-plenty on the extended John Peel
programme this Saturday and every Saturday from four till six.
Unbridled hardsteppers, raging Japanese noiselords, post Britpop
teensquirts, Zairean guitar beasts, timid West Country tunesmiths,
dub-thugs from the suburbs, hard-faced technospooks from the greater
Europe. All the fun of the fair.'
In December, Odran spoke to John Peel on the phone -
before the departure of Chris Evans and the rescheduling of Peel's
Radio One shows.
OS: I saw you DJ in the Rock + Roll Bar, Manchester a
few weeks ago. I thought after Germany and the Hacienda (when the
crowds were meagre) it was the end of you DJ-ing in venues.
JP: Well I did the Hacienda mostly because I wanted
to tell my grandchildren that I'd played there. I mean, I've played
at Wembley stadium twice, for charity matches. There were big crowds
there for youth international matches. I used to play the Public
Baths in Scunthorpe every year. Mostly because when people asked me
whether I was still DJ-ing live I could say yes. But as you get older
you only do the things you want to do. I must say I was really
dreading it because you don't know if somebody's going to come up to
you and say: Stop playing all that shit (puts on cockney accent) I mean,
it wasn't big money. But it was a great night, reinforced my belief
in humanity. I phoned Sheila as soon as I got out.
OS: Totally coincidentally, loads of people from my
home town in Northern Ireland went to the night, you're really well
JP: Well you know during the height of the troubles,
which coincided with punk, a third of the people who wrote to me were
from Northern Ireland.
OS: If you ever get the offer to DJ in Belfast you
should take it.
JP: I would do it but I'm too scared. Not of Belfast
I hasten to add but of flying. I'm terrified of flying.
OS: What did you say at the Rock + Roll Bar that
night about football?
JP: Probably something like 'You don't know much
about football here in Manchester.' I've said it in Glasgow too. I
was doing a gig in Middlesbrough a few years ago and I was slagging
Arsenal. Because I fucking hate Arsenal. Anyway I thought I'd be all
right in Middlesbrough even though it was on this street with all the
houses bricked up and the venue was full of skinheads. But this
really frightening bloke plonked down his hand and there was a big
Arsenal tattoo on it. So I thought I'm fucking dead. But he turned
out to be a thoroughly nice bloke and protected me and the equipment
for the rest of the night.
OS: What do you think of the current situation with
Manchester City? It's like Ian Broudie said in the NME: "One of the
best football songs ever for me is Kicker Conspiracy by The Fall,
which came a long time before the current crop of footy stuff. What
that semed to say was that it's sometimes it's hard to support your
team when you feel disgusted with the people in charge."
JP: I was sorry to see them go down 'cos I have a lot
of friends that support them. I've met Phil Neal [Man City manager at time of interview] he's a really nice bloke.
OS: Well you would say that.
JP: He is - isn't he Sheila. (speaks to his wife in the background.)
OS: So, when was the last time you saw The Fall and
how many times have you seen them?
JP: I can't remember. Did they play any festivals
this year? I suppose I've seen them about 25 times - not as many as
OS: There's this fat guy - who was mentioned in the
NME album review - who's seen them hundreds of times.
JP: He's the guy with the balloons. There's also this
lawyer in Hamburg who sends me all the stuff off the internet. I
didn't know he sang on an Adult Net song or banged a tambourine or
OS: What have you thought of recent Fall
JP: I remember seeing them in Cambridge and he was
off his head on whatever. There was such an air of malevolence about
the performance and the state Mark was in that it was exciting. But I
mean it's okay to fall over if you're James Brown but not if you're
Mark Smith. The things that make it a bad gig can also be the things
which make it a good one, if you see what I mean. I've seen The Fall
over the years and I've seen the numbers are falling and the crowd
are mostly blokes in their late 20s, early 30s. They should be trying
to appeal to a younger audience. Not Boyzone, but you know...
OS: Mark always claims to journalists that Fall fans
are teenagers but it's not really the case (although I'm only 21).
And you don't want to be preaching to the converted.
You said in Jockey Slut: 'I've met Mark E. Smith a couple of times
and he seemed all right though I'm sure he's a bugger to work for,
but there's nothing that says to do good work you've got to be nice.'
JP: Yeah, you get roadies and crew saying he's
terrible but I'm sure Picasso was a dick. I just hope he can sort
OS: Yeah, well most boozers I know are
JP: Both my parents were alcoholics. Especially my
mother in her later years. But we were middle class so you didn't
call it that. I really hope Mark can get his act together. I mean
they have been one of the most important things in my life over the
last 20 years.
OS: (I'm reminded of what
Peel said after the death of Kurt Cobain: 'I felt guilty 'cos he
could have come and stayed with us.') Were
you surprised Jockey Slut wanted to interview you?
JP: No, not really. But it's nice to hear people like
what you're doing. It's a good magazine.
OS: Those guys are really lost in music: they work in
a record shop all day, DJ at night and find time to write
JP: There's a thin line between being hip and being
mad for it.
OS: I think Radio One is missing a proper dance music
show because Pete Tong and Danny Rampling aren't providing the whole
JP: Yeah you're right. It was like at Tribal
Gathering and I was handing over to Rampling and he'd memorised this
whole statement that I'd said about him. And he says 'I hope you can
stand to be in the same room as the man who...' It was a nightmare
because I hate arguments. But I love dance music. I listened to a
fantastic record this morning, and I played this song called
Fireworks all the time earlier this year, it was really extreme and
OS: What about Craig Scanlon's departure. Do you know
anything about it?
JP: Somebody said the first he (Craig) knew about it
was when he was watching TV and he thought - I'm in that band aren't
OS: There was talk that he was joining Elastica with
Dave Bush. I hope he sorts something out. Marc Riley doesn't seem to
have done too bad since The Fall. He was doing the Breakfast Show
again this morning.
JP: Yeah that's great. I didn't know they'd be on and
it was a pleasant surprise.
OS: A welcome change to Chris Evans. He must wield a
lot of power.
JP: Yeah it's terrifying.
OS: So there's no chance of seeing you on TFI Friday
and him calling you the guv'nor before chatting about money like he
JP: Not if I can help it. I'm sitting here with a
mountain of work while Evans has this massive organisation. When
somebody rings here asking to speak to John Peel's secretary the kids
give the phone to my wife Sheila. Ouch, I must get up, I've just been
sitting on a stone step.
OS: What about the time you and David Edwards of
Datblygu got kicked out of a pub?
JP: I don't remember that. I think I'd remember being
kicked out of a pub but I am losing braincells rapidly.
OS: What did you think of the covers Sonic Youth did
of The Fall?
JP: I thought they could have got Thurston Moore or
Kim Gordon to sing them. Instead they got Epic Soundtracks. Fall fans
will be interested to know that the next time they're in will contain
their 100th session track.
OS: You say you've only met MES a couple of times. Do
you agree with that old adage, you shouldn't meet your
JP: To an extent. You've got to remember that I'm a
57 year-old man from a small village outside Ipswich. I've never been
the type of person who goes backstage at gigs. It's like, would you
go to a team's dressing room after a match with the manager mouthing
I do get an odd letter from Mark. It's mostly
indecipherable but it's still much appreciated. When we meet it's
just a manly punch on the arm and that's it.
OS: Interviews with him and few and far between these
days. But he does do a great interview.
JP: The best one was in Making Music or some muso
magazine like that. Every second word he said was 'fuck'. To me that
is what Mark is like. Not some journalist putting his own slant on it
and trying to sound clever.
OS: You were saying you've just been to
JP: Yes, this student wrote to me to see if I'd go to
his mother's 50th birthday party. She reads me in the Radio Times and
is a big fan. I was guest of honour! It was a bit embarrassing but
OS: I thanked John for
taking the time to do the interview and he promised to buy me a pint
the next time he was in Manchester - 'but I always say
Fall down - Worthing
All Fall gigs are strange.
But their October 96 show at Worthing's expansive, palatial Assembly
Hall I was easily the strangest I've ever experienced. My first taste
of The Fall's unpredictable live show was back in 1990. This meant
that I had always missed seeing Brix Smith. With the woman who is
surely the definitive Fall guitarist back in the gang this seemed
like my chance to fulfil a long time ambition to see her in
Yet, as the band took to the strangely empty stage, I
realised with disappointment that there was an ominous lack of
amplifiers around. Sans Brix, the show began with both Mark E. Smith
and keyboard player Julia Nagle strapping on guitars. For a few
minutes Mark strummed away before violently slinging his guitar to
the ground. This was the first unsubtle hint that something was
amiss. As the band launched into a mostly instrumental version of M5
it became clear that Mark was either pissed off or just pissed. In
fact it was a combination of both.
After a couple of songs Mark swayed and staggered to
the front of the stage. There was no barrier and the crowd were able
to shake his hand in turn. Curiously Mark allowed this. Curiouser
still he gave them the microphone. This was passed from one member of
the audience to another until finally someone had the nous to do
something other than bellow. As whoever he was began an endless
eulogy to The Fall, the band played on. And Mark, now cheesed off,
strolled off. There then followed some instrumental versions of Fall
When Mark finally returned Simon suggested the last
resort: Mr Pharmacist, the perennial crowd pleaser. Worthing's a
weird place and the fun-starved fans went crazy. The stage was
invaded countless times. It was odds on as to who would rip the leads
and knock over the stands first, Mark or the mob. When some of the
latter took to cavorting saucily on the boards Mark drunkenly slung
his arm around Steve Hanley's shoulders and (against Hanley's will)
they exited stage right.
Steve returned for another instrumental break. It was
actually quite good to hear a stripped down Fall improvise with their
tunes. But it was Mark who was stripped down when he came back on
stage, barechested beneath his jacket. Having tinkered lazily with
the keyboards Mark gradually unbuttoned his coat. The world's least
likely exotic dancer. The words of The Mixer became an anti-Worthing
rant: 'You are provincial, you are provincial scum.' Despite the
insults, or maybe because they fulfilled the crowds expectations of a
cartoonish, raving Mark E. Smith, the song got a cracking
At last it seemed it was all well when, foolishly
perhaps, Mark braved the front of the stage. Legend has it that, at
this point, someone tied his shoelaces together. Whatever the cause,
Mark took his band's name to heart. And fell. Flat on his back. This
was the final straw for Steve Hanley, who threw up his hands in
surrender. Mark was probably just throwing up. The last sightings of
the man himself was of him being carried out through the nearest
And that was it. The abrupt, premature finale of a
Fall gig that was fragmented, frustrating, fascinating and bizarrely
highly entertaining. Mind you, at £8.50 a throw, I still got a
Mark E. Smith, who has a Prince Valiant haircut, a maroon shirt that
keeps coming out at the back, an indomitably accusing voice and more
personal courage than anybody else in the hall that night, kept on
'singing' after a lesser human would've split the stage in either a
flood of tears or a fit of pique.
Charles Shaar Murray, 1979
The Fall is niet geinteresseerd in de mythen van
'rock' of 'pop'.
Anton Corbijn, 1983
The Fall are a mass-minded sycophant's happy notion
of his individual iconoclasm... Jeremy Lewis, 1984
The Fall are the perfect start-of-term tradition, a
slithering, scoring concoction of dated garbage for
pseudo-intellectual school leavers, ageing would-be hipsters and
first year philosophy students. By the second year, anyone with half
a brain has realised that The Fall should be despatched down La Chute
as quickly as possible.
Tom Morton, 1985
My enduring admiration for their unwholesome racket
is not something that can sensibly be analysed.
John Peel, 1986
Eyes extending invisible tendrils of contempt, the
bastard offspring of Natassia Kinski and an irate squid.
Stephen Dalton, 1991
For all his celebrated bluntness, Smith is strikingly
courteous and affable in person. When he raises a pint glass to his
lips, which is something he does a fair amount, he cocks his little
finger like a matron of the Raj.
Ben Thompson, 1992
Tone-deaf, harshly Mancunian, occasionally employing
a loudhailer, he barks and slurs his mysterious phrases and stanzas
in unique, unforgettable style.
David Cavanagh, 1994
... poet, punk, pub philosopher, national institution, vilifying
visionary, sacker of thousands, beloved of millions, relentlessly
prolific artistic auteur, spectacularly unrepentant grumpiest man in
Sylvia Patterson, 1996
Treating Smith as sane necessitates viewing most
modern British rock with the contempt it deserves.
Stewart Lee, 1996