This exchange happened after the Fall’s gig at Brownie’s on the Lower East Side of NYC on April 7, 1998:
Fan 1: “That was the scariest thing I ever saw. Now I know who I want to go as for Halloween.”
Fan 2: “You mean Mark E. Smith? You don’t understand…he’s not usually like this.”
Fan 1: “Oh, that’s too bad. I feel like I finally saw my first real punk band! That was the greatest show I ever saw in my life.”
That reaction merely scratched the surface of what happened that night. An actual fight broke out between longtime Fall drummer Karl Burns and frontman Mark E. Smith midway through the set. Before the sun would rise the next morning, Mark E. Smith would be arrested for assault. Even more momentously, it would emerge that the three members of the then-quintet who left the stage in the middle of the final song had played their last Fall gig ever, including Burns, who had been with the band since 1977, and Steve Hanley, the Fall’s utterly essential bassist who had been slogging it out with Mark E. Smith since 1979. The combination of Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon, who had left the band in 1995, was every bit as crucial to the Fall’s elusive brilliance during the early 1980s as MES himself, as can be witnessed on such phenomenal albums as Perverted by Language, This Nation’s Saving Grace, and Hex Enduction Hour. (Few pieces of music bring me as much joy as the lengthy “Garden” off of Perverted by Language.)
It couldn’t have been easy being such a close compadre of volatile genius/crabapple Mark E. Smith for two decades, but in April 1998 frustrations boiled over. Three days earlier, tempers had flared during a show in Philadelphia; Hanley and Smith got into a “fight,” according to WPRB DJs who attended the gig, and half the band quit the stage in disgust, leaving just Smith and keyboardist Julia Nagle on the stage (which would happen again a few days later at Brownie’s). After the show there was an extensive discussion of the fracas on WPRB (this clip is very entertaining). Julia’s rebuttal, written ten years after the fact, can be found here, along with that clip:
the UK tour prior to the US had also been a shambles, as the group had received a large VAT/TAX bill and were not happy chickens (threats of houses being lost etc. were the main topic of conversation or argument). Also, regarding to the incident at the beginning of the US tour, I defended myself with my fists during an argument about sharing a room with Mark and in the morning he had a black eye from that fracas. (there were many fracas’s during this time in The Falls history and they were nothing to be proud of).
Continues after the jump…