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.
NEITHER fish nor fowl, single nor album, the Fall’s dinky 10-inch Slates is a little record that makes a big impression.
“I was looking through the import bins in Wax Trax in Chicago, and I found Slates,” said Brix Smith in an interview with Guitarist magazine. “I took it home and became obsessed. It was the most brilliant thing I ever heard. It was outrageous. Two weeks later they were playing Chicago at Cabaret Metro, so Lisa and I went along.
“Stephen Hanley was totally, totally hypnotic. I was scared of Mark E Smith. They played a lot from Slates. After the gig, Lisa took off with some boyfriend, leaving me at the bar on my own. Before I knew what was happening I was talking to Mark E Smith ..”
And we all know what happened after that.
Slates made a big impression on me too, although unlike Brix I didn’t end up marrying Mark E Smith. I have a vague recollection of buying it from some record fair some time later. But I’m not entirely sure that people like me and Brix were the target audience for Slates in any case.
“That’s what I was trying to do with Slates in England, you know, get across to people who have no music,” MES told an interviewer in New Zealand. “People who either haven’t been told about the music trappings and the rubbish that surrounds it or people who do know it and don’t like it.
“That’s why it was a 10-inch, neither single nor album. It’s very conceptual, do you understand? It’s like an attempt to get over to these thousands of working class or middle class people, whatever, in England who don’t listen to records anymore, who don’t buy records .. I’d be one of them if I wasn’t in a group, I know that.