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