“I used to be psychic, but I drank my way out of it”.
Mark E. Smith’s passing was symmetrically honoured by it kicking off at his wake; he won’t miss us, we will miss him.
Before the end it began on the 15th December 1978 four days short of my 7th birthday and 414 miles from my home. On that day The Fall recorded Live At The Witch Trials in a Camden recording studio, preparing proles for the weird and frightening world of the rebellious duke-box. A paranoiadelik masterpiece, it was released on the 16th of March 1979, a mental brilliant groove laden record paid for by The Buzzcocks. Imagine Northern Soul played in hell and you’re getting close. Frightened is the first track and bugger the tits on a bishop you will be. What an announcement:
“In a dark room you see more than you think- I've got shears pointed straight at my chest- but I'll appear at midnight when the films close -cause I'm in a trance- and I don't know how to use freedom. I spend hours looking sideways to the time when I was sixteen-cause I'm in a trance. - I'm frightened”.
The music is jarred jerking loose Can style made in Prestwich and so far ahead of the Punc formulae that it’s no wonder the leathers didn’t get it.
For the muso’s out there, hear the prototype light/ shade - heavy/soft style later synonymous with The Pixies and Nirvana. There’s also the wondering glue legs of the Butthole Surfers amongst the denizens who populate dark streets and numinous demon amphetamines. I Like to Blow sounds like Mark did indeed like to blow.
Happy Mondays debut album, produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground, is strewn with northern funk Fall shards. The Velvets recorded the bulk of their incredible first LP in a studio that most folks would consider to be a derelict building. The map as metaphor. A band without contract, who upon handing in their first recordings, were informed by the record label that they must be insane if they thought anyone would listen to such noise. High strangeness therefore that Cale couldn’t handle never mind fathom the chaos which was the Mondays getting the Mondays onto tape. Mark E Smith evacuated to Edinburgh when Madchester kicked off creating a perfect lineage of influences that couldn’t cope with each other.
Live At The Witch Trials, like the Dead Kennedys and The Stooges, had my Ma on the phone to social services. Priceless, the look of abject concern as she caught me in full flow shouting the words to Psykick Dancehall. A few years later my mate hustled Thurston Moore for a ticket to Sonic Youth’s show at the QM in Glasgow offering his cool as fuck Dragnet badge as a swap. New York’s noisers didn’t have a clue what he was on about and Mudhoney stole the show.
The Fall released 31 studio albums, recorded 32 live LP’s, 40 compilations and 5-part studio/part live records. In the process 66 people at some point were in the band, spanning 41 years. Hex Induction Hour lasted much longer than anyone ever imaged.
In 1991 I took to the stage to support The Fall. I never met the band, but I can guarantee that Mark would have hated us. The Fall opened their set with Idiot Joy Show Band …” Out of their heads on a quid of blow” …To be fair we had consumed more than a quid’s worth, but the point was well made. I looked around for Mark after the gig to say hello only to be informed that the same taxi which had brought him to the show had the metre running throughout, whisking him away the minute he threw the mike down, proclaiming the festival “pointless”. I was happier than a goal in injury time. A day which will live long in the fog of the 80’s 90’s.
‘Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith’ is a must read. Musicians are like football players, most shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a typewriter. Not so the hip-priest, this is a book that kicks the cunt off the shiny happy people world created by those who think music has rules.
Colour Is Sound did have a go at a design inspired by the mighty Fall but we shat it. How can you get close? Working with a design intertwining a megaphone and an arndale argyle jumper, and like many drummers and bass players who have tried to be The Fall, we gave up.
Shit ...I forgot I’m on the blog…
Northern crap that talks back is in full flow and ya just gotta go find some weirdness. I strapped the Alba Walkman on and hit the north in the pissing rain walking until the batteries went flat immersed inside no Christmas for John Keys. Eventually a Fall inspired need to smoke overcame me and I nipped into the nearest bank to borrow a lighter, which is when it all went totally wired. It’s more likely you could scream Who Makes The Nazis in Lidl’s and be handed a million quid than witness what I saw in the bank (who, by the way, don’t offer lighters to the public).
Barred again; to the sound of one hand banking…
Only suspicions were raised as Charlie Cabernet walked in through the revolving doors of the twenty-four-hour Consumer Credit Bilder Bank and its Consumer Technicians trained to never ignore commission opportunities. Charlie’s own behaviour normalised just enough to avoid escalation of the security harmer alert system.
“Good evening Sir, welcome to prosperity through credit, would you like to see the set menu of credit transactions available this evening? We also have some wonderful debt management specials”?
Above Charlie's head swam a mesmerising array of digitized images, a marketing bombardment of smiling faces; the lives of those who had found affordable mort-gagged bio survival capsules (what folks used to call a home), sky rafts, holidays in Palamine, affordable bio-chemistry solutions, and a whole strata of other material ways to make life in the face of oppression better through credit.
“Before I continue Sir, I can see from the status report on your Consumer Conscript pass, remotely decoded, as you wisely chose to walk in through the doors of welcome and plenty, that you abide in a Peace Block two grids from here, number 23 Thread Needle Plaza. I am delighted to inform you that we have recently opened an Insolvency Practitioners Life Alignment Acceptance and Instruction Unit in your block”.
Charlie wanted to punch her in the mouth, instead he calmly replied, “The economy is deranged. I would like to withdraw all my money. That will be all thank you”.
Slow Flation, a devout follower of subservience with an unshakeable faith in the banking system could not comprehend Charlie’s request.
“Oh goodness Sir, I do hope you have not been drinking! It is quite clear that the best package for your current credit condition is a Life Time Qualitative Easing Loan, a robust stimulus package that can rebuild your debt management credit potential allowing you to shop in the Freedom Malls again. Consider that a promise! If of course, you maintain your hourly repayment schedule”.
“I want to withdraw my goddamn fucking money you stupid fucking fuck! Are you deaf? I want my money you brain dead shit fuck of a robot. Give me my money! Give it to me now”.
Not for nothing was Slow Flation nominated Branch Consumer Technician of the Year. As she feinted, her quick wits and valour ensured activation of the security harmer high alert button on her RFID swine reader. Ironically, an unnecessary act of courage; the security harmer alert system was also customer voice activated.
Members of the bank’s own private armed militia quickly wrestled Charlie to the ground before bundling him downstairs where he met the open arms of the onsite micro prison. Days later he began to enjoy the view from Floatship Pegasus.
Upon Slow Flation’s return to work, having been awarded two hours’ sick leave on full pay, colleagues recalled her incredible act of bravery in the face of terrorism and bad personal banking.
“Oh Slow, I’m sure he was about to kill you! As you fell, still clutching your swipe card, you explained to the Terrorist that it would be impossible to withdraw all his happiness credits, even quoting Article 23; for security reasons we do not allow customers to withdraw more than 500 creds in one transaction unless they notify us three years in advance. You really are a hero Slow Flation, a hero to us all”.
Taxi for Mr Nelson.
Too many careerists coveted The Fall; see the words on the other knuckle son.
Mark E. Smith: “Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines”.
There will never be another band like The Fall.