Episode 18 - The Legacy of The Fall

Many bands have taken The Fall as their sonic template. 

Some started out with a slavish adherence. Compare Pavement's Our Singer with Hip Priest, or Conduit for Sale with New Face in Hell, and you'll get the idea. The problem that Mark E Smith had with this is that they were making money out of his idea: an intellectual property infringement. Understandable for a proud northern man who understood the value of money. 

There's a good story (as ever) attached to this. A young support band were happy just to be on the same bill as The Fall, broaden their audience, pick up experience. They didn't expect to make any money out of it. Mark E Smith asked them how much they were earning, and they told him. "That's no good, lads," he said pulling out a bundle of notes from his pocket and handing over 300 quid. "Always get paid."

Bands are still doing it. I've just been pointed to a review of new band , Shame. The first line reads: "Shame once received a hate letter that read, “Dear Shame… You can’t even compare yourself to a crusty piece of shite hanging from Mark E Smith’s slender arse. Some would suggest that it’s time to call it a day. Give over.” " My son Scott's just been to see them at The Laneways Festival and said they were very good. If there's no Fall any more, it's fine for their sound to live on.

Other bands took certain aspects of what Mark E Smith had in mind. The impish humour (Half Man, Half Biscuit). The Twilight Zone paranoia vibe (Sonic Youth, at times). The delivery effect (LCD Soundsystem). Even the extra syllable (Protomartyr - "Here's the thing-uh"). Talking down your best lines and allowing others to discover your lyrical genius (Guided by Voices).

But the legacy is more than the music, it's - to be annoying and academic, for one moment - a gestalt. Mark E Smith saw The Fall as a project (but would have never used the word). It took in collaborations, plays, ballet, even a soap operatic sideshow involving drama, walkouts, wives, girlfriends, no-shows, audience alienation and so on. He was a relentless PR machine while disdaining the concept with naked hostility. Firing a sound engineer for eating a salad, abandoning the drummer at the motorway service station was all part of the idea of The Fall.

And yet the music, especially The Golden Period during the '80s will, I believe, grow in stature as the years roll by. His delivery which ended up, let's be frank, garbled, almost self-parodic, obscured the intense lyrical poetry as often as it'd enhanced it in earlier times. The States have Dylan; England has Smith. I think both are happy enough with that arrangement. 

Tied up to posts;  blindfold, so can't feel maintenance
Kickback: art thou that thick? Death of the dimwits
Businessman hits train
His veiled sex seeps through his management sloth
The journey takes one hour

And its a hexen hour
Hexen school
Hexen cursed
Hexen bowl boils
Hexen rule
Explain the mood harm

The DDR scene
Alpine pullovers
Alpine give over
You can clutch at my toes, you will drive me insane
You know nothing about it, it's not your domain
Don't confuse yourself with someone who has something to say

'Cause its a hexen rain
Hexen fodder
Hexen cursed
Hexen bowl boils
Hexen rule explain the mood harm

While Greenpeace looked like saffron on the realm
Brown, shrivelled
A Kellogg's peace
The opposition was down
Red church on a hill
Styrofoam insides, aluminium tiers
Louis Armstrong tapes waft down the aisles

And its a hexen hour
Hexen file
Hexen rule
Hexen bowl boils
Hexen rule in the hour of The Fall

It takes grace to play the second fiddle well

His cap emblazoned a crusty knife
... (indecipherable)
Goes with you down, and pats your head

That's strife knot
Strife ker-not
Strife is life and don't forget it
Strife is life, you don't want to hear it
Could be thirteen or thirty one of this mob
Could be thirteen or thirty one of this mob
Strife knot
Strife ker-not

Life is strife but you don't want to hear it
Strife is life and that's it
And that's it, and that's it
And that's it.                        
(Hexen Definitive Strife Knot)

Life is strife, and that's it. Thanks for everything, Mark. Tracklist:-

I want you, The Inspiral Carpets

I bet that you look good on the dance floor, The Arctic Monkeys 

Watch me jumpstart, Guided by Voices 

Dust, Parquet Courts 

How he wrote 'Elastica Man', Elastica 

Eric's Trip, Sonic Youth 

Trigger Cut, Pavement 

Tending the wrong grave for 23 years, Half Man Half Biscuit 

Heads of Dead Surfers, Long Fin Killie 

Here is the Thing, Protomartyr 

Men for Miles, Ought 

Movement, LCD Soundsystem 

Container Drivers, The Fall 


Episode 17 - A tribute to Mark E Smith of The Fall (5/3/1957-24/1/2018)

This is the day we thought couldn't happen. Another year, another Fall album. That was the law of the known universe since as long as most of us can remember. 40 years, 32 studio albums. Now we'll never hear what came next. Mark once said he'd retire at 60 though, and in a way he has.

How to describe The Fall to someone who, for whatever reason, has operated in a Fall-free universe? Personally I had exactly this experience early in December. I was with a colleague late at night in a bar in Brisbane, and the conversation ended up at music. My wife knows what happens next; she's always gently admonished me for forcing innocent people to listen to The Fall when they'd rather be in bed. 

I played an old clip of the group (never the 'band') performing 'Smile' on The Tube from 1983, (introduced by John Peel) on my phone. Commentary: "Do you listen to this music for pleasure, or conceptually?". "I can't believe I've got to this age and never heard this band." The following day via text: "The Fall is so fucking good."

I first heard Mark E Smith in the sixth form centre at school: track, "Fiery Jack". I'm 45. I live off pies. And I drink, drink, drink. To start with they were just one of many post-punk operatives, but then I heard "Cash'n'Carry Stop Mithering" on John Peel late at night, and something clicked.

The things that drain you off and drive you off the hinge.
Boils, dirty socks, the ceiling's collapse.
The Sunday morning loud lawn mower,
the upstairs Jewish girl damn hoovering every thirty minutes, 
from valium cig withdrawal.
She wants communal, fluent flat household.
I want privacy.

Something 'other' with a cultural specificity, and a brutal disregard for convention (as lo-fi a recording as you could get, even then). Something proudly northern, both primitive and intensely intellectual, but with a disdain for academia. Funny too. And the work of a lyrical genius.

Some people measure the years by the calendar, others by their team's sporting seasons. For others among us, it was by Fall gigs and albums. Reading the review of This Nation's Saving Grace walking through the park on the way to the office for my first job. Meeting my wife of 26 years, and taking her to see the Extricate tour gig. Finally getting to see the band in Melbourne, and explaining to the neophytes I was with that Mark might walk off stage and not return. Perversely he was playful and engaged - and played several encores.

Never again. A sad day. But all men die. Not all men live. Mark E Smith lived, and by his own rules. Which of us can say that? And the results of his cussed independence - the true spirit of rock'n'roll - will always be with us. This tracklist features a smattering of personal favourites but naturally omits some more recognised 'classics'. You can have fun finding them for yourself.

How I wrote 'Elastic Man'

Cruiser's Creek

Dr Buck's Letter

Big New Prinz

Bill is Dead


English Scheme

Leave the Capitol

Living Too Late

Janet, Johnny and James

Hexen Definitive Strife Knot

Episode 16 - 'Festive 20' 2017, Tracks 10-1

And here it is. The inaugural Festive Top 10. For an introduction, please go to Blog/Tracklist for Episode 15. Plenty to argue about here:-

10. Slowdive - Star roving

9. The Weather Station - Thirty

8. Father John Misty - Ballad of a dying man

7. Four Tet - Two thousand and seventeen

6. Mogwai - Old Poisons

5. Magnetic Fields - Never again

4. LCD Soundsystem - Call the police

3. Richard Dawson - Soldier

2. Mount Eerie - Ravens

1. Protomartyr - A private understanding