SOMETIMES I think the world is simply too weird without Mark E Smith. Other times, I think it’s not weird enough.
Either way, I miss him. I wish he was still around to enlighten us with his opinion on the hole we find ourselves in today. I wish we had a new Fall album to look forward to rather than an unstoppable stream of reissues of varying quality and morality.
And I wish I could go and see the Fall one last time and wonder what version of MES we’ll be getting tonight, knowing full well it’ll either be very good or very bad but it’ll never be indifferent.
Luckily, the body of work he left behind bears repeated listening. Obviously.
ONCE upon a time, Crass had been all but erased from history.
They were at the epicentre of a genuine nationwide cultural phenomenon that changed thousands of lives profoundly and yet, a few years after they had ceased working as a band, where anyone took any notice of them at all, they were reduced to a mere footnote in the tawdry tale of corporate rock n roll.
That wasn’t good enough. Erase Crass and you also erase the experience of thousands of people like me, as if what we experienced had no value or validity.
It offended my sense of decency. I wasn’t having it. There are plenty of things in the world to get upset about, but righting this particular wrong was part of the reason why I started writing this blog in the first place.
And now? Everyone seems to be going on about Crass these days. Coincidence?
IT’S DIFFICULT to know where to start with Sergio Mendes.
The veteran Brazilian pianist and arranger has released around 50 albums since he made his name freestyling bossa nova tunes with the cream of Copacabana’s jazz and samba players in tiny after-hours dives in the late Fifties and early Sixties.
As John Peel once said:
“A lot of people write to me and say: ‘I heard Sergio Mendes, which record should I get?’ And I never have any hesitation in telling them, you must get them all. Apart from the one he did with will.i.am.”
“THERE is no time for sentimental nostalgia .. we might not make tomorrow,” say Girls in Synthesis on their last single, and you can’t help thinking that they might have a point.
This is a band who sincerely believe in just battering the shit out of their instruments and, by extension, any audience lucky enough to be in their vicinity at the time. In many ways, this is the only rational response to a world that currently seems to be on as long, extended, slow-mo nosedive into a cesspit of lies, hatred and bullshit of its own making.
IT’S a couple of days before I embark on a week of gigs as the actual tour DJ for my very good friends Gad Whip, promoting their Post-Internet Blues long playing-record around Germany and Switzerland, and I’m so excited I could spit.
A LOAD of us went down to the Ministry at some point in the mid 90s and, despite hearing some great music, we were not particularly impressed by the distinct lack of atmosphere compared to clubs such as Kaos, Basics and Hard Times in Leeds. There just wasn’t the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.
A few weeks later, me and Earnshaw DJed at a party at a mate’s house and someone did some jokey flyers saying we were residents at the Ministry of Shite. We ended up keeping the name when we started putting on parties ourselves.
It was all a bit rough and ready, but we had a run of great parties over three or four years at an old mansion house at the Weetwood end of Headingley in Leeds, with perhaps two or three hundred people coming through the door during the night, generally ending around 6am with no bother from the cops.
We played a lot of new US garage and vocal house but we also threw in old acid, techno, hardcore and hip house at key moments to ensure everything remained suitably blurry and twisted out of shape.
LOCATED in one of those patches of bleak post-industrial wasteland that Manchester used to do so well before all the foreign money arrived, the White Hotel is sort of white but it’s certainly not a hotel. The bar, with staff serving drinks from a sunken inspection pit, seems to indicate a former life as a garage. A dodgy garage, knocking out fake MOTs, no doubt.
It’s just over the other side of Bury New Road from HMP Manchester, in the area of Manchester that once gave the prison its name. They like their evocative place names in Manchester, and this is about as Manchester as it gets. Even if we are in Salford.
THE FALL got together exactly 40 years ago, to the day. Mark E Smith’s modus operandi of basic rock n roll accompanied by a very singular kind of northern beat poetry remains true to his original vision, albeit delivered by an ever-changing supporting cast of musical misfits. And assorted wives, girlfriends and lovers, older and otherwise.
Think what you want about him but nobody gets that lucky this often. The guy is a fucking genius and we are privileged to be breathing the same air as him.
Would I want to hang out with him on a regular basis?
Has he recorded songs that have made me happy, consistently, over a number of decades?
Do his lyrics still dazzle with a deranged, unique and often completely unexpected poetic worldview?
Has he presided over some of the most insane gigs I’ve ever seen in my entire life?
So, this is a few songs from the canon of MES. There is no definitive list of great Fall songs and people who tell you otherwise are liars. These are five MES songs I like today. It’ll change tomorrow.
And that is entirely appropriate.