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‘The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith’
12:06 pm


Mark E. Smith
The Fall
John Peel

You might have seen the news item this past week reporting that, with the intention of congratulating Mark E. Smith on his 60th birthday (!—dude doesn’t look a day over 77), the BBC mistakenly tweeted an RIP notice instead. Which seems a thoroughly Mark E. Smith sort of occurrence.

Smith once explained the question of the Fall’s identity thus: “If it’s me an your granny on the bongos, it’s the Fall.” The cantankerous lead singer and songwriter has famously churned through literally dozens of bandmates, prompting the recent creation of a handy cross-stitch pattern documenting the lineup changes. And yet, most of you reading this probably think of Steve Hanley and Craig Scanlon as core Fall members—and yes, perhaps even Brix too.

John Peel clutching a beloved copy of ‘Hip Priest and Kamerads’
The Fall were famously the favorite band of legendary BBC DJ John Peel—the Fall recorded a whopping 24 Peel sessions, the most of any act, and the 2005 box set containing all of them is essential listening for any Fall devotee—the second disc in particular is fucking great.

The BBC documentary The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith obviously cribs its name from the Fall’s similarly titled album of 1984. The program documents the Fall’s origins, including their first recording session, which was financed by Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon, through their furtive (Brix-fueled) attempts at wider popularity in the 1980s, to their, or rather, his more or less current status as undeniably batshit punk elder.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘New face in Hell’: Cross-stitch chart featuring 40-plus members of the Fall
11:37 am


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

The lineup changes of the Fall are the stuff of rock and roll legend. It’s been more than ten years since Dave Simpson, working for the Guardian, tracked down and interviewed as many ex-members of the Fall as he could. One of them, a keyboardist named Ruth Daniels, lasted only a single day. Simpson put the number of ex-bandmates at north of 40 and that was over a decade ago, who knows what it might be today?

According to Simpson, Smith’s rapid bandmate churn is more design than accident: “It’s a bit like a football team. Every so often you have to get rid of the centre-forward,” Smith says. 

An Etsy user with the name 8bitnorthxstitch who describes herself as a “Mancunian crosstitute” has created a remarkable cross-stitch tableau depicting 41 past members of the Fall, starting with Mark E. Smith, of course. It includes Tony Friel, Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, Paul Hanley, Brix Smith, and many more.

As any good chart should, it comes with a key—this one outlines the different colors that stand for bass, bongos, guitar, keyboards, drums, and vocals.

The pattern is available as an A4 print ($12.80) and as a greeting card ($3.84). However, 8bitnorthxstitch will only ship to the U.K. In addition to these paper products, 8bitnorthxstitch has also executed it as a cross-stitch, as you can see below. It’s not for sale in her Etsy shop, however.

If 8bitnorthxstitch is taking suggestions, I’d like to see a chart like this for Pulp, too.

Thanks Annie Zaleski!

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Watch The Fall break up into a million shards, live at Brownie’s in NYC, 1998

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Legend of the Fall’: A slapdash cartoon love letter to Mark E. Smith
12:09 pm


Mark E. Smith
The Fall
Jeffrey Lewis

Panel #12: “And Mark said the three R’s were ‘Repetition, Repetition, Repetition….”
I learned recently that antifolk musician and comix artist Jeffrey Lewis is a huge fan of the Fall, which, as it happens, I am as well. Lewis tends to celebrate his artistic heroes in his songs and artwork; some of his song titles are “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” and “The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song.”

One senses in Lewis’ love for Smith a respectful acknowledgment from one ultra-prolific artist to another. Lewis has fashioned a kind of “Where’s Waldo” poster involving many, many, many Fall tracks, under the title “100 Fall Songs,” which actually contains visual references to 112 Fall ditties. You can buy that at his website, and it even comes with a key so that you can test your Fall knowledge.

In 2007 and 2008 Lewis was given to a quickie “documentary” (his term) about the Fall that he would do in his live shows; maybe he’s done it since but he was definitely doing it at that time. The title of the piece is “The Legend of the Fall,” and if that puts you in the mind of a certain Jim Harrison novella that was turned into a Brad Pitt movie, you’re not alone.

Panel #16: “...who worked hard writing, touring, and recording….”
The “documentary” consists of twenty-odd panels drawn by Lewis himself, that were concocted to accompany amusing doggerel of rhyming couplets that Lewis had written describing the tumultuous history of the Manchester band.

Here’s an example of the couplets: 

Mark and his friends bounced ideas off the wall
He was gonna dress up & they were gonna call themselves “Flyman and the Fall”
Then they settled on “The Fall” after the Camus book
Though Mark couldn’t sing a note & didn’t care how square he looked

Panel #19 refers to a gig in 1998 when Smith punched a band member onstage and got arrested—DM published an in-depth chronicle of that memorable gig (complete with video!) last year.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Go to the pub, wait for people to get on your nerves’: The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide to Writing’ Guide
02:03 pm


Mark E. Smith
Guide to Writing

Yes! It’s true! You too can write like Mark E. Smith!

At home. In the pub. In your spare time. Sober or drunk—you can write just like Salford’s most famous son!

In The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide To Writing’ Guide—The Fall’s frontman Mark E. Smith takes you thru a step-by-step, day-by-day guide to writing.

No tiresome exercises! No unsightly stains! No tricks!

Use big words and know what they mean!

Impress your friends! Attract strangers with your belligerent antics! Drink pints and not be sick!

Yes! Mark will teach you everything you need to know about writing and how to be a real writer—just like the legendary Mark E. Smith himself.

Seems reasonable.
Yes, this man could be the key to unlocking your future…or drinks cabinet…which ever’s nearest.
In 1983, Mark E. Smith—him with the face like a crumpled cardboard box left out in the rain—gave his top tips on how best to write like a pro. It went like this:

Hello I’m Mark E. Smith and this is The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide To Writing’ Guide.

Day-by-day breakdown

Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper

Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternisation. Go to pub. Have drinks.

Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there a style is on it’s way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.

Day Four: By now, people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.

Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now, guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation. To write out of sheer vexation.

Day Six: If possible stay home. And write. If not go to pub.

More Mark E. Smith after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Fall’s Mark E. Smith was on the TV news again last night. It didn’t go very well.
10:52 am


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

C4 News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy and The Fall’s Mark E. Smith

Last night before I turned the computer off, I saw on Twitter that The Fall’s Mark E. Smith would be appearing on Channel 4 News. I made a note to myself to google this when I woke up as surely someone would have posted it by the time I rose. I was not disappointed.

An appearance by Smith on the nightly news or a sports show can often be pretty insane as everyone knows. And while the rocker is being condemned on social media this morning for some somewhat insensitive remarks he made about how all the Syrian refugees seem to be young males, it’s not that aspect of Smith’s appearance that I want to call your attention to, but rather to point out how utterly indecipherable what he’s saying—or trying to say—truly is. I normally have no trouble understanding even a thick Mancunian accent, but when Smith is speaking, it’s the matter of not merely a particularly heavy Manc accent but lots and lots (and lots) of lager. Is he slurring his words? Hell, I’m not really sure that he’s even speaking actual words. Or trying to.

And neither are the close captions that Channel 4 kindly provided convinced of this. I highly recommend turning them on. The funny thing is even when the translation is WIDELY OFF TARGET—as it is throughout the entire thing when Smith is talking—the words still come through as vintage Mark E. Smith-style angsty Cubist poetry.

For instance, “so the Fall were formed” reads “farmer farmer” on screen. “I wanted some discordant stuff—and repetition” is translated as “proud to discard and stuff and a replica weapons system.” A deaf viewer would be perplexed, but then again so would anyone else be perplexed. That dada quality is what makes it so much fun to watch MES in action. It’s just a pity this wasn’t a live interview.

But, wow, I mean, holy shit is this dude disheveled. Talk about the mileage on that body! He’s only 58, but looks like he’s 94.

The whole way he presents himself is very much like a drunk, semi-brain damaged Stephen Hawking, isn’t it?

Er… enjoy. Remember: DO turn on the captions. The new Fall EP Wise Ol’ Man will be released on February 19th by Cherry Red Records.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘No Place Like It’: Read a short story by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith
09:02 am


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

The City Life Book Of Manchester Short Stories, published by Penguin in 1999, included a contribution from the city’s public fountain of bile, Mark E. Smith. The book’s editor, Ra Page, then on the masthead of Manchester’s City Life magazine, subsequently published a “making-of” diary that suggested the Fall singer’s inclusion was more Penguin’s idea than his own.

Scans of the two-and-a-half-page story have long been up at, but it was actually simpler to transcribe this brief tale than to post the images. As far as I can tell, “No Place Like It” concerns the space-wasting activities of some unhappy Mancunians. I suppose someone has to be on the business end of Smith’s withering scorn; better them than me.

PONDERING at half-step on the gross arrogance, blatant incompetence and thievery of the white trash in their late twenties, and their shaven-headed middle class imitators, FRANK circumnavigated what seemed like endless sand-holes, foxholes, spastic-convenient kerb stones punctuated by upright, kicked-over, reddy-orange and white fences on his way through the doing up of the Manchester Victoria post-bomb development.
  It had been a muggy, slowcoach taxi ride, due to the incompetent driver, who in his porn-stupefied brain had not turned left before the Cathedral, where FRANK had made an early exit.
  The only thing he remembered was the three healthy kids who’d thrown two rocks at the passing vehicles near the Rialto in Higher Broughton.
  He was getting the black illuminations again, i.e. All Is Substance – You Have Contact With None, or There’s Been Nothing on Granada For At Least Ten Minutes, Never Mind the Digital Testing.

DELIVERING leaflets 22 hours a week was just about manageable, thought JOE, if it wasn’t for those big over-powered cars making him jump every time he crossed the road – they made him remember the small metal splint in his upper right thigh from that time he’d ventured into Rusholme, pissed, and got half knocked over. He’d agreed with most of the shit on that political leaflet that other bloke he’d bumped into was giving out, apart from that repeated phrase – It All Makes Sense, Doesn’t It QUESTION MARK.
  The men in the yellow hats sniggered as he limped by, and it seemed that they’d deliberately sanded near him, sending vicious particles coupled with lime flowing through the muggy, close, damp Cheetham Hill mid-afternoon on to his forehead and into his eyes.

STEWART Mayerling sat down in the Low Rat Head pub near the bottom end of Oxford Road, trying to work out how his plans to distract and confuse his English Drama lecturer hadn’t quite worked out. Mother was a teacher, and the attention/distraction games had always worked on her. The pager going off, mid-lesson, the showbiz titbit asides in the middle of Hamlet, my vegetarianism – how the jumped-up prole sneered at that, of course not understanding my code of internal hygiene, well advanced beyond that of mere travellers and their ilk, or polytechnic balding lecturers. For that matter – I think I’ll head up to Victoria, skip the lecture.

THE MITRE Arms, adjacent to the Cathedral, and next to The Shambles was empty this afternoon. FRANK walks in, having well given up on getting past Marks & Spencer, and blanching at the apostrophe on the Finnegan’s Wake pub sign, towards the station. Picking a table was fairly hard even though – only one large eight-seater occupied by Joe.

In walks STEWART.

  ‘Is it OK to sit here?’ he asks the seated two.
  ‘It’s crap out there isn’t it?’ says JOE.
  ‘Damn right it is.’
  ‘Let’s form a Party,’ says FRANK . . .

                                        THE END

After the jump, MES reads the football results… as only he can!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Boy George, Gary Numan, Elvis Costello & more tell what ‘they’d’ do if they were Prime Minister

In June of 1983, in her first bid for reelection, Margaret Thatcher won “the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945,” according to Wikipedia. For the unionists, punkers, anti-nuke activists, and enemies of the National Front, it was a depressing outcome, parallel to Reagan’s easy reelection in the U.S. a year later. Labour’s platform was stridently left-wing, seeking unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, abolition of the House of Lords, and the re-nationalization of the major industries Thatcher had privatized.

Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman later referred to his own party’s platform as “the longest suicide note in history.” Labour was in the same predicament the Democrats in the U.S. found themselves in, led by standard-bearers like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.

As with any major election, the subject was on everyone’s lips for a time. Smash Hits, the U.K. magazine, printed a two-page spread in its June 9, 1983, issue—the issue that would be on the newsstands when voters cast their ballots—in which they asked various prominent musicians “What Would You Do If You Were Prime Minister?” Included in the spread were Elvis Costello, Mark E. Smith of the Fall, Boy George, Gary Numan, and Malcolm McLaren.

The answers given by Costello and Smith are terse, and, each in its own way, perfectly representative. Boy George and Numan actually appear to have given the question some thought and give detailed answers. In general the answers are thoughtful but overall, especially with McLaren’s answer, tend to give credence to George Orwell‘s 1946 reference to “the irresponsible violence of the powerless.”

Probably the most attention-getting item on the page is Numan’s avowal of admiration for Margaret Thatcher, whose perceived image among left-leaning musicians was roughly that of the Wicked Witch of the West, as it remains today. Numan’s received plenty of flak for his early views—in 2006 he expressed regret that he had ever supported Thatcher, telling DJ Jonty Skrufff that “I voted for Margaret Thatcher once and it’s lived with me ever since. ... Like a noose around my neck.”

Support for Thatcher (or Reagan) wouldn’t be high on my list of attributes I’d seek in a friend, but the way I see it, Numan’s original answer was thoughtful and heartfelt and, most important, it took true guts to counter the orthodoxy of the artsy crowd he was running with at the time. 

Here are quotes from some of the participants:

Steve Severin, Siouxsie and the Banshees:

I’d stop the Cruise missiles, ban fox-hunting and animal experiments, change the licensing laws to open all the time—well, possibly—and I’d ban censorship, if such a thing were possible. I’d probably abolish the BBC or get it burnt down. One of the two. I’d also make Glenn Hoddle stay at Tottenham.

Gary Numan:

Personally, I’d like to see all the closed-down factories being incorporated into the school system so they can train school-leavers. I really like Maggie Thatcher—she’s everything that we needed and made me proud to feel British. The way the country’s going I really think that we’re on the way to recovery. Business is picking up and I liked the way she handled the Falklands’ crisis. But it’s hard for me to talk about British politics being rather outside it all.

Elvis Costello:

If Maggie wins again, I think I’d just take all the programmes off the air and just play Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All” for the next 24 hours.

Boy George:

I don’t think any politician is in touch with the realities and pressures that normal working class people have to live with. I realised that after seeing Margaret Thatcher on Jim’ll Fix It. There’s so much money and glamour involved in politics today that I can see why it’s hard for politicians to stay in touch. If I was in power I’d lean more towards ecology—improving the environment people live in. You have to understand why Coronation Street is so popular. It’s because people like the kind of environment where they can communicate with each other. The worst thing that ever happened to this country was council-built, high-rise blocks. I would spend more money on renovating old buildings in an attempt to preserve Britain’s character. I’d make a lousy politician, though, because I’m too soft.

Mark E. Smith, The Fall:

I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France and introduce conscription for all members of CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament].

Malcolm McLaren:

The Union Jack to be pulled down and a new flag with a big banana to be hoisted in its place. Free transport for everyone. An instant law that would shut out all TV, radio and press, encouraging everyone to invent their own truth. All public clocks to be put out of order.

The requisition of British Airways in order to transport all people under 16 to some more exotic part of the world. Parents must go to school and children to their Mum or Dad’s place of work. Everyone to write their own personal cheer, for example (sings): MY NAME’S MALCOLM—I COMMUNICATE/IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, YOU DON’T RATE/UPSIDE, DOWNSIDE/TURN THE TIDES MY SIDE/YOU—SHUT UP!

Everyone’s cheer shall thereafter be yelled by themselves throughout my term of office.


I found this issue of Smash Hits at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

Here’s the full spread—click for a much larger view:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Nick Cave, Mark E. Smith and Shane MacGowan arguing in a pub
12:06 pm


Nick Cave
Mark E. Smith
Shane MacGowan

Years ago, I read the transcript of this NME “summit” on some Fall obsessive’s fansite: it’s Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Mark E. Smith arguing in a pub in 1988 (published in 1989). I searched for it the other day and found that the Quietus reprinted this latter-day symposium in 2012.

If you like Mark E. Smith at his most truculent, you’re going to love this conversation. Cave is laconic (hates journalists), MacGowan is affable (loves drink), and MES is as voluble and contentious as ever. He complains that Fad Gadget (a/k/a Frank Tovey) “was doing incense and headstands” before a show, that the only good Bob Dylan album he’s heard is The Traveling Wilburys Volume 1, and that Morrissey is an Irish person. As always, there are splenetic outbursts concerning the many things Mark E. Smith doesn’t need to be told about, pal:

There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.

We had jazz arrangements in ‘82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.

Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grandparents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth.

But this is Smith dancing like a prizefighter. Just wait until MacGowan (whom MES addresses as “Sean”) calls Nietzsche “a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.” Friend, do you hear that bell? That’s Mark E. Smith, and school is back in session:

MES: If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.

SM: The Will To Power. Try reinterpreting that statement. You can’t, it says what it says.

MES: He wasn’t a Nazi – you’re only saying that ‘cos some polytechnic fuckin’ lecturer told you he was.

SM: I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically [racially?] impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t got a strong body, perfect features…

MES: That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German, pro-Semitic person…

SM: His books were full of hate.

MES: You just said you’re full of hate when you go on stage.

SM: I don’t go round saying Socrates was a c***, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do l?

MES: Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all them socialists and communists – second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.

SM: Listen to him.

MES: Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal!

In the Cave biography Bad Seed, an eyewitness to the summit reports that while Cave (who had just spent seven weeks in rehab) was clean and sober, MacGowan had “done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down.” MacGowan picks up the story:

I was out of my brains, Cave was dead straight, drinking tea, and Mark E. Smith was pissed on bitter and very belligerent. It must have been really difficult for Nick but I wasn’t in that position, you know what I mean. We were ranting and raving and Nick was very quiet that day. I was amazed how together he was, considering. At the time I was really pissed off with touring and I was going on about that in the interview, and he said, “Well, why don’t you just stop?” and I couldn’t think of a good reason because I was on the treadmill and you can’t get off it. Nick turned out to have a savage wit. He’s an intense person. It was a great interview, two soul brothers and Mark E. Smith. Cave was winding both of us up, he basically instigated the fight between me and Mark Smith. He was shit-stirring, seeing how far it was going to go. Mark E. Smith was saying things to me I couldn’t let him get away with, stuff about Ireland and the British Army. [Reporter] Sean O’Hagan went loony as well, he’s from Armagh, a Catholic. Nick was enjoying it as it got more and more intense and the reporters joined in and I started going barmy.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Hip Priest: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith used to do tarot card readings for drugs
03:59 pm


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

The other day I was in the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio, and I came across a book I’d been hunting for a while, that being a volume on lead singer of the Fall, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith, which turns out to be an odd little tome, a kind of catch-all of writings by Smith himself. It was this last point I only understood when I held the book in my hand; I had thought it was a reported book but in fact it’s all written by Mark E. Smith. 

One of the chapters has the remarkable title of “The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, The World and Eric the Ferret.” The title kind of gives away the fact that it’s about tarot, which it turns out Mark E. Smith has more than the usual interest in.

Here are a couple of key passages. I have to say I only half-believe Smith on this stuff—it’s a little hard to picture sports cars turning up at his flat all the time for readings—the whole thing is a fascinating brew of ego, half-baked erudition, superstition, and self-serving logic, a scammer’s mindset if you will:

I used to do tarot readings as well. I went through a phase of reading books on the occult. I was fascinated by it. I still believe that things leave vibrations. America, for instance; I’ve visited all these old Civil War sites and the atmosphere is incredible. You can almost reach out and feel it.

.…After a bit, when the drugs prevailed, it got ridiculous. I got more interested in the Philip K. Dick Time Out of Joint angle—the way certain pieces of writing have a power all to themselves, almost as if they can prophesize things. But I still did the readings. Kay had a lot of hippy mates, housewives with a bit of money, really, who were always seeking out people to read for them. And I had a natural talent for it. I’ve always been able to read people. My mam’s a bit like that. I never used to charge a lot, but now you can earn a fortune. When I was really skint in 2000, I thought to myself, I should be doing that again. You can earn £40 an hour.

When people did a tarot with me they’d walk away wth their life changed. But you can’t fuck around with those things too much. You’re dealing with a force. When it goes wrong you’re not being a vessel.


I did the readings for a year or two. But people started coming back too much. I had to tell them to stop. You get to the point where people can’t function without it—once a week turns into twice a week. They were driving up in their sports cars outside the flat, asking if they should go with this nice man they’d just met. A lot of fellas used to take advantage of that. Telling them they need more tarot—and that the tarot says you need sex with me.

One of the rules of the tarot is that you shouldn’t really take a lot of money for it, like psychics. It’s not good. So I’d take presents, a nice leather jacket. You’d go round to dope dealers and they’d give you two ounces of dope per reading.

Can you imagine visiting, say, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland and running into Mark E. Smith?

Most interesting, perhaps, is that as recently as 2000, after like 20 studio albums on his resume, Smith was “skint” enough to consider taking the practice up again.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The man whose stocking expanded: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith reads Lovecraft. For Christmas.
10:28 am


Mark E. Smith
H. P. Lovecraft
the Fall

They say music should be fun / like reading a story of love / but I wanna read a horror story.”

Readers, if this post seems disjointed and disordered—if I sometimes lose the eldritch thread that knits together the all-too-discrete patches of this bafflingly incoherent holiday quilt—it is because I am slowly going mad with terror as I write these words. You see, I’ve just watched Mark E. Smith read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space,” filmed in 2007 as part of BBC Collective’s Christmas festivities. And indeed, what better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord?

If you haven’t read “The Colour out of Space,” it’s basically the same story as O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” The main difference is that, instead of the woman selling her hair for a watch chain and the man selling his watch for some combs, there’s an extraterrestrial plague that kills the livestock, blights the crops, and drives everyone mad with terror. Merry Christmas! If you think about it, Mark E. Smith is kind of like Santa Claus, too, except instead of a bottomless sack of prezzies, he carries around a ruined stomach full of bile.

MES explained how he selected this festive text at the BBC Collective site:

I’ve been a fan of HP Lovecraft since I was about 17. I chose to read this story because it’s very unusual for him; it’s not like his other tales. They are usually about people who live underground, or threats to humanity - which I like as well - but The Colour Out Of Space is quite futuristic. He wrote it in 1927, which is weird.

I’m writing my own book at the moment. It’s supposed to be my autobiography, but I’ve put a few short stories in it too. It’s out in April 2008. My stories are very much like Lovecraft’s actually. Everyone wants me to write about dark and doomy things, like my lyrics. But some of my stories are quite cheerful.


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Becoming a hermit solves nothing’: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith writes Tony Friel, 1977
10:21 am


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

A few weeks ago DM posted a remarkable typewritten letter from Mark E. Smith, frontman, songwriter, and The Only Guy That Matters in The Fall, to his friend and co-founder of The Fall, bassist Tony Friel. That letter was written around Christmas 1976; in it, Smith gushed about The Clash, quoted the Johnny Thunders song “Chinese Rocks,” and peppered in a couple of references to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

Eight months later, in August 1977, Smith was still writing Friel Prisoner references, signing off “Be seeing you, number six.” This letter is another gorgeous slab of cranky stream-of-consciousness invective from a man who did that kind of thing exceedingly well. He mentions some interactions with “Devoto,” obviously the Buzzcocks’ Howard Devoto, in which Smith reports that Devoto admires Friel’s work on the bass. Smith mentions a visit to “Richard’s a while back”—from the context I am assuming this is a reference to Richard Boon, who managed the Buzzcocks at the time. (An aside: you have to love Wikipedia, which is the only place you’re likely to find a sentence like this: “Richard Boon went on to work for Rough Trade Records, and is now a librarian in Stoke Newington Library, Hackney, London, where he facilitates a monthly reading group on the second Tuesday of each month.” If you find yourself in Hackney next Tuesday, you know what to do.)
Mark E. Smith
The notoriously prolific songwriter Smith mentions a slew of songs that he’s been working on, but the titles aren’t familiar to me; the only ones I recognize are “Oh! Brother” and “Psycho Mafia.”

In a parting shot, Smith puts down something called the “Rivington free festival,” which apparently was held from 1976 to 1978. Here’s the poster for 1977; the event happened just a couple days before Smith typed up this missive:
Rivington Pike
“If you’d been at Rivington free festival, you would have heard enough “Musical” groups to last you a fucking LIFETIME.” What was MES doing at this thing??
I was lucky enough to find this letter on the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive; it took quite a bit of sleuthing. It came from Friel’s website, which was called Atomic Soup and didn’t have all that much to do with the Fall, which was outfit he didn’t stay in for very long. If Mr. Friel is out there reading this and would like to post any further correspondence with Mark E. Smith, we at DM would be awfully interested to see it. Write us at the “Contact Us” link above!

The Fall, “Psycho Mafia” (live, 1979)

The Fall, “Oh! Brother”:


Here’s the full text of the letter:

Augustus’2’ 77

Dear Mozart,

Why is eating meat bad for your karma? Who ‘revenges’ on behalf of dead animals? To be quite honest, I don’t like 99% of your so-called ‘top ten’ the ones I’ve heard anyway BUT as you in your new guise would say ‘do your own thing’. In other words GOOD FOR YOU. When did this Harmonic duet take place ? could you supply me with LP serial nos etc?

Yours sincerely,
A Heep Freak.

Dear Heep Freak,

Don’t ask me, you can write direct to Tony yourself : his address is:

So you have new songs eh ? Why don’t you show me them? I would be tres interested. I have some to, one is sub-reggae so get working on the Family Man Barret bass lines. AS to your referal to re-hashed chord progressions, you have 4 5th of the groups backing (incl. yrself)so what’s the trouble-DON’T expect people to do things for you-a thought pattern too prevalent in The Fall for my liking. Becoming a hermit solves nothing.

I forgot to tell you, but when i went down to Richard’s a while back, Devoto told me he thinks your bass playing is superb,and he wants to know what bass + strings you use-he’s got a X reggae bass player for his group now.

Here’s the new stuff anyway:

X ‘impotency’ ‘Lucifer Over Manchester’ + ‘Untitled’(my sub reggae thing it’s got no chorus though-do you think they are necessary ?)

Not so new but EQUALLY VIABLE:

‘Oh! Brother’ ‘Psycho Mafia’ ‘Roll the Bones’ ‘Don’t think about it’ The last one is yours, so ‘get it together’

When Richard came down last time and we asked him to boss us, your pal Herrie was there, trying to integrate himself into the group-you can do what you want with him, but watch out and if i see him again i will be very tempted to ki ck the shitheads nuts off.

Have to go now, I keep phoning your place and some comedian keeps coming on saying x ‘no money,no money no money’ Who is he?

Be seeing you, number six.

P.S. ‘E-D that’s all I can play’ read anybody EXCEPT Z-Z-Z (ILLEGIBLE, please explain)

P.P.S. If you’d been at Rivington free festival, you would have heard enough “Musical” groups to last you a fucking LIFETIME.

Mark E. Smith CONTD.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Fall’s Mark E. Smith predicts ‘The Clash are going to be very big,’ 1976
10:39 am


The Clash
Mark E. Smith
The Fall

Mark E. Smith
In this fascinating document we can see the endlessly amusing and enigmatic mind of Mark E. Smith, founder and resident genius of The Fall, not even 20 years of age and several months before the Fall’s first gig in May 1977.

The date is December 20, 1976. Smith is writing a letter to another founding member of The Fall, bassist Tony Friel—Smith refers to “your ‘bass’ pop guitar.” (Friel would remain in the band only for a few months.) Smith is referencing a gig held at the Electric Circus in Manchester on Thursday, December 9, 1976, featuring The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, and The Clash—quite a lineup! (Which DM reader wouldn’t give about three toes to have seen that show? Then again, maybe one or two of you were there.....) The din of the show must have still been ringing in his ears—Smith starts the letter with a snippet from “Chinese Rocks,” the legendary Heartbreakers song jointly written by Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell.
Anarchy Tour
The main purpose of the letter, in addition to waxing hilarious and weird in a way only Mark E. Smith was ever capable of, was to affirm his enthusiasm about this new band The Clash, who clearly made a huge impression on Smith: “New pop group the CLASH are going to be very big,once they do a tour of the Village,and then signed on to Village records Ltd.” But he wasn’t telling Friel about the band, surely. Smith and his buddy Friel had quite probably discussed The Clash already, both having most likely seen them at the Electric Circus. Indeed, later on he adds, “Combined, The Heartbreakers and Clash were better than Sex Pistols, doncha?” As in, “Right? You agree? You who saw them too?” Smith was putting on his oracle hat and predicting great things for The Clash. Seems like he hit that one on the head.

The postscript is a snippet of dialogue (real or imagined?) from the immortal 1960s TV series The Prisoner.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

? Dec. 76

for: No. 505048A99FU
from: the new number 2

Dear Above,

‘I’m livin on a Chinese rock/all my clothes are in the pawn shop’ WRONG.

And today, the new number two is wearing a ‘Healthiflex non-restricti Collar’ dark blue in colour.

New number two says “New pop group the CLASH are going to be very big,once they do a tour of the Village,and then signed on to Village records Ltd.”

Please find attached a rough ‘set’ for the Outsiders.Apologies for any ommissions. Also find attached a little pres for you,a sticker for your ‘bass’ pop guitar.Last night I did not notice any “plain clothes policemen in pop gear” did thou?

You had better stick the fucking syticker on your ““bass”” or your ass.Or I will tell news agency Tass.

I did not get any sleep last night as i was speeeeding maaaaaan.

Combined,The Heartbreakers and Clash were better than Sex Pistols, doncha? Je tres fatigue - non dormir!

too incoherent,sorry.

be seeing you,

the new number 2

No6: “How did that typewriter get here ? At night ???”
No.14: “I am not allowed to answer that.Be seeing you.”
No.6: “Moron”.

Here’s the letter (you can see a much larger version here):
Mark E. Smith letter

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘People paint to The Fall. They write novels listening to The Fall. Strange people’
05:25 pm


Mark E. Smith
The Fall


“People paint to The Fall. They write novels to The Fall. The guy who wrote Silence of the Lambs wrote it… people like that. Strange people.”

Mick Middle’s low budget documentary about Mark E. Smith and The Fall was completed in 1994, but not seen until 2009 when it was made available as part of the Northern Cream DVD. 1994 was a good time to make a documentary about The Fall because at that point they’d been around enough to have gone through several incarnations—the group’s membership has been a revolving door since the beginning—including the Brix period of most of the 1980s when many feel Smith created his best music. That would include The Fall’s two collaborations with dancer Michael Clark. This is the period that I am the most interested in, so I thought this short film was a lot of fun.

Cigarette in one hand, pint in the other, the ever… charming Smith reveals how his father hated pop music, so there was never even a record player in the house until he was fourteen. When the kids at school talked about the Beatles and the Stones, he had no idea what they were going on about.

Asked if anything positive came of the “Manchester scene,” (i.e. The Smiths) Smith replies with characteristic bluntness: “Nowt.” He also slyly says that if you drink “out in the open” (in a pub) you “don’t become an alcoholic.”

When the interviewer asks Smith about the group’s fanatical American fans, particularly in California, he replies that “It’s funny, America… your’re talking about twenty countries there, in one country. Like the time we went to Cleveland and they hated our guts.” Smith says he thinks Los Angeles is the “most boring town in the world. The most boring city I’ve ever been to in my life.”

He just doesn’t know the right people here.

Fun fact: “Hip Priest” is used in the film adaptation of Silence of The Lambs, during the scene when Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) hunts down Buffalo Bill in his home.


Bonus clip: The twin drum attack of “Eat Y’Self Fitter” caused British DJ John Peel to claim that he’d fainted on air and had to be revived by his producer.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Nijinsky with a mohawk: The edgy collaborations of punk ballet dancer Michael Clark and The Fall

Although he and his dance troupe have performed choreography set to the music of Wire, Glenn Branca, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Igor Stravinsky and others, it is his work with The Fall that the work of Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark will always be the most closely associated with.

The classically-trained Clark has said that hearing the manic, rubbery, jagged-edged relentlessly repetitious music of Manchester’s post-punk bard Mark E. Smith was a sort of clarion call for him as a young man to start doing his own work—if punk bands could do their thing, then that same ethos and attitude (and shock value) could go into creating a new form of modern ballet. Clark’s vision of ballet happened to incorporate Leigh Bowery wielding a chainsaw, syringes strapped to his dancers and sets festooned with fried egg trees . Clark seemed touched by the gods. His angular, asymmetrical, yet bizarrely graceful form of movement caused a sensation in the dance world. He was Nijinksy with a mohawk.

Michael Clark as Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books

The Fall and Clark’s company appeared together on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984 in a provocative performance of “Lay of the Land” that saw Clark prancing around in a Bodymap leotard that exposed his ass cheeks to the nation as the group made a mighty roar behind him.

They collaborated more formally in 1988 when The Fall provided the live soundtrack for Clark’s ballet “I Am Curious, Orange” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London (The Fall’s LP was called I Am Kurious Oranj). Some tantalizing looks at what that production was like come from Cerith Wyn Evans videos for “Wrong Place, Right Time” and “New Big Prinz,” which were apparently shot at a rehearsal.

Below, “New Big Prinz”

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing
06:59 pm

Pop Culture

Mark E. Smith

It’s time Manchester did the decent thing and honored its most celebrated son. If their Merseyside rivals can honor John Lennon by renaming their international airport after the sarky mop top, then Manchester should do something similar and at least rename its bus station after Mark E. Smith. 

But let’s not stop there. A local holiday should be adopted on his birthday, with street parties and free beer, with a statue erected in his birthplace of Broughton. Not much to ask for the man whose band The Fall have been essential listening over the past thirty-odd years.

Forty odd years indeed, with Smith the only constant in The Fall’s ever-changing line-up through a long, difficult, but productive, and brilliant career. How the great Mancunian has survived the bitter fights, spiked drinks, broken bones and riots says it all about Smith’s ambition and touched-by-genius talents.

Yea, let us rejoice, for we are alive in the days of Mark E. Smith.

This little gem is from Grenwich Sound Radio in 1983, when Smith gave his “guide to writing guide.” Not the kind of toss you’ll get from those writing-by-numbers courses, no, but something far more oblique and entertaining.

Here’s how it goes:

“Hello, I’m Mark E. Smith, and this is the ‘Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide.’

Day by Day Breakdown.

Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper.

Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternization. Go to pub. Have drinks.

Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there as style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.

Day Four: By now people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.

Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation. To write out of sheer vexation.

Day Six: If possible, stay home. And write. If not, go to pub.”

I must remember this the next time I have writer’s block…


Bonus: ‘The Fall - The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith.’

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Becoming a hermit solves nothing’: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith writes Tony Friel, 1977
‘No Place Like It’: Read a short story by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith
‘The Legend of the Fall’: A slapdash cartoon love letter to Mark E. Smith
Babies that look like Mark E. Smith
For H. P. Lovecraft’s birthday: Mark E. Smith reads ‘The Color Out of Space’
Mark E. Smith fabric doll
As far as Morrissey is concerned, what do Mark E. Smith and Robert Smith have in common?
The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith
Mark E. Smith, Morrissey, Tom Waits, Barbra Streisand and ‘Spinal Tap’ face cakes
Mark E. Smith: A brief tour of Edinburgh
Mark E. Smith As A Mancunian Jesus
Hip Priest: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith used to do tarot card readings for drugs

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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