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The new Blue Orchids LP, featuring founding Fall member Martin Bramah, streaming exclusively on DM
12:19 pm


The Fall
Blue Orchids
Martin Bramah

Dangerous Minds is proud to serve as host of the debut stream of the entire new Blue Orchids album, The Once And Future Thing. Blue Orchids was formed in 1979 by guitarist Martin Bramah and keyboardist Una Baines, who in addition to being founding members of The Fall, were, accordingly, among the first members OUT of that band’s infamous revolving door lineup. Though the band, initially, was of a piece with most of the era’s spiky, rough-at-the-seams post punk-music, Bramah set his new group apart from the Fall by replacing Mark E. Smith’s speed-and-ale-fueled ravings with a more melodic and starry eyed psychedelia. The band further distinguished itself by serving as the backing band for no less an outré rock goddess than Nico.

There’s a straight line to be drawn between the Orchids and much of that strain of unadorned pop that followed through the likes of the Vulgar Boatmen and the Feelies in the ‘80s, Pavement and Sebadoh in the ‘90s, and in the lower-fi expressions of the British indie explosion of the ‘oughts. Bramah has kept that band going intermittently since the release of its debut LP The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain), and the band’s output from 1980 to the early 1990s can be sampled on the collection A Darker Bloom


In between stints with the Orchids, whose lineups have shifted almost as much as The Fall’s, Bramah has returned to The Fall (for like a year at the end of the ‘80s); recorded the wonderfully folky solo album Battle of Twisted Heel, released on CD in 2008, and soon to feel the sweet kiss of vinyl in a 2016 reissue; and formed the more roguishly gritty Factory Stars, which at times featured members of—surprise surprise—The Fall. It was Factory Stars that morphed into the current incarnation of Blue Orchids, and Bramah was kind enough to talk to DM about the new Orchids work and his musical identity-shifts.

There’s an ongoing theme—what’s in a name, a rose by any other name—both Factory Star and Blue Orchids were mainly vehicles for my songwriting and for collaborating with the friends who were involved, but it was December of 2008 when I started Factory Star, I wanted a fresh start without the baggage of Blue Orchids, and it ran for five years, but then there was a demand to hear the old Blue Orchids songs. Blue Orchids is a name with history, so it was easy to resume. It’d be a bit bloody-minded to drop it—I struck out with a new name for a few years, now I’m back to being Blue Orchids. I’ve used a few names over the years, I had a band called “Thirst” in the late ‘80s, I kind of swap and choose as I feel like it, and sometimes it’s kind of nice to pick something back up again. It’s like putting a different coat on.

With the new Orchids, I wanted to get back to what I knew best. I kind of cast it off for awhile, then you get that space and reassess it, and you can come back to it with a fresh take on it. I wanted to get some of the classic ingredients in there, things that were musically original to Blue Orchids in the first place—the more psychedelic themes. I always liked ethereal kind of angelic backing vocals and heavy keyboards, a strong poetic element in the lyrics. I put that hat back on and I started thinking that way again.

After the jump, hear that new Blue Orchids album…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | 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
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
Scramble your brains with the Fall’s 1983 home video ‘Perverted by Language Bis’
11:08 am


The Fall

“And what’ll you do when the rental’s up? / And your bottom rack is full of vids / Of programs you will nay look at”

Factory Records’ video imprint, IKON, released miles (kilometers?) of quality VHS tape in the 1980s, back when videocassettes came packaged in those hard plastic cases with snap-shut lids and transparent sleeves for the cover art. IKON had it all: the posthumous Joy Division collection Here Are the Young Men; Taras Shevchenko, a tape of New Order live in the Ukraine; the Birthday Party captured in their prime on Pleasure Heads Must Burn; The Final Academy Documents, a double cassette of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin collaborations concluding with their 1982 performance at Manchester’s Hacienda; and Claude Bessy’s hilarious, can’t-be-arsed “sales” vid Bessy Talks Turkey. And that’s skipping the videos by Survival Research Labs, the Durutti Column, Severed Heads, and Hunters & Collectors.

But the Fall took advantage of the full range of possibilities of the new home video format on 1983’s fabulous Perverted by Language Bis. “Scripted” by Mark E. Smith, the collection brings together the usual material—no-budget promo videos, live clips and interview footage—but spiced with visual non sequiturs and linked with snatches of insane prose. Thirty-two years later, it’s still weird.

Detail from the back cover of Perverted by Language Bis

Speaking as a devotee of the compilation Palace of Swords Reversed and the album Perverted by Language, the video also happens to catch (lucky me) my favorite period of the Fall’s now very long career, namely the years just before and after Brix joined. Along with “Hip Priest,” “Totally Wired,” “The Man Whose Head Expanded,” and several tracks from Perverted by Language, you get videos for three of the four songs from the supreme summit of the Fall’s discography, the gemlike “Kicker Conspiracy” double seven-inch. There’s the title tune, in which MES vents his spleen about something to do with English sport (beats me), the rockabilly truck-driver song “Container Drivers,” and the sci-fi time-travel story “Wings,” set to perhaps the mightiest Fall riff of all. And unlike sucker me, who paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 for this thing just to shudder under its crushing weight for the rest of my born days, you’ll be watching it for the internet’s “nice price” of zero dollars, free from physical encumbrance and joint pain.


‘TV Wipeout’: Cabaret Voltaire’s rigorously post-punk 1984 video compilation resurfaces

John Coulthart has unearthed an utterly marvelous find from the early days of mass-produced video music content—Cabaret Voltaire’s TV Wipeout, a “video magazine” that was released on VHS in 1984. Watching it today, TV Wipeout is an excellent approximation of late-night avant-garde music programming from the early 1980s like Night Flight, albeit less scattershot and more rigorously postpunk in perspective. Of course, Cabaret Voltaire were often featured on Night Flight themselves.

TV Wipeout, videotape cover
As Coulthart explains, “This was the fourth title on the Cab’s own Doublevision label which was easily the best of the UK’s independent video labels at the time.” The compilation has plenty of gems. TV Wipeout features an interview with David Bowie on his latest movie, Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, excerpts from two Andy Warhol movies (Heat and Flesh), concert and documentary footage from the Fall at their creative peak, a video by Residents discovery Renaldo and the Loaf, footage of Marc Almond covering a Lou Reed song, and excerpts from cult classics like Plan Nine from Outer Space and Eating Raoul.

The footage of the Fall was taped at the The Venue in London on March 21, 1983. Their rendition of “Words of Expectation” is interrupted by an astonishing clip of the Fall’s manager, Kay Carroll, tearing the Factory’s Tony Wilson a new asshole for using some Fall music on a video without their permission.

(Click for a larger version)
On the next-to-last video, Marc & The Mambas cover Lou Reed’s “Caroline Says II” off of Berlin. For the first half of the song, Marc Almond is holding Genesis P-Orridge’s infant daughter Caresse in his arms until she starts to cry.

Coulthart also found a pretty hilarious interview in which Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder had the following to say about TV Wipeout (source: Cabaret Voltaire: The Art of the Sixth Sense by M. Fish and D. Hallbery):

Q: The next Doublevision was the TV Wipeout video which was a sort of disposable magazine compilation. It contained a fairly wide variety of contributors, from people like The Fall and Test Dept to some more mainstream groups like Bill Nelson and Japan.

Mallinder: The point was that Virgin Films were quite happy to work with us; they even gave us money in the form of advertising revenue for using some film clips from the Virgin catalogue. We were then able to camouflage them into the whole set-up and make them look as if they were part of the whole nature of the video compilation.

Q: One of those clips was a particularly inane interview with David Bowie. Was its inclusion merely a selling point?

Mallinder: Yes, it was purely that. There are a lot of people who will buy anything with David Bowie on it. So we said “Fuck it, why not use that as a selling point!” Actually the interview is appalling, it’s terrible. Our including it was almost like a piss-take. We were saying “you really will buy anything with David Bowie on it if you buy this”.

Coulthart asserts that some clips of Cabaret Voltaire and Japan are missing from this playlist, but I think that’s not right, at least if the list posted above is right, it’s just the Japan track that is missing, and you can find that one here.

Posted by Martin Schneider | 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
‘In my headphones it sounds like the f*cking Smurfs’: Mark E. Smith vs. Kevin the Sound Engineer
12:26 pm


The Fall
Mark E Smith

Honestly, would you expect anything less from Mark E. Smith after watching this hilarious short video? I mean, really? That’s how the magic is made, right?

If you turned this video into a drinking game and took a shot of whiskey every time Mr. Smith said “fucking”... you’d be on the floor, smashed to the gills, in 1 minute and 38 seconds.

Kevin and his assistant just go with the flow. When you sign on to work with Mark E. Smith, I think this is pretty much exactly what you expect it’s gonna be like. I’m sure if Smith turned out to be a nice guy it would be… disappointing.

via WFMU on Twitter

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Watch The Fall break up into a million shards, live at Brownie’s in NYC, 1998
01:19 pm


The Fall

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…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Perverted by Language: John Peel introduces The Fall… over and over and over and over again
12:49 pm


John Peel
The Fall

“Apparently, there are some people out there who don’t love the Fall,” John Peel once said on his BBC Radio One program. “I spurn them with my toe.”

The Fall did 24 live sessions for legendary BBC Radio broadcaster John Peel, more than any other act. The group were his favorite band and he was a tireless champion of Mark E. Smith’s music, although apparently Smith was ambivalent about “Fuckin’ John Peel” in return, opining that he was “the fuckin’ worst, he’s worse than Tony Blackburn [Peel’s fellow BBC Radio 1 DJ] ever was. Bastard.”

Peel didn’t mind and brushed off the insult, noting that Smith was not perhaps “in perfect working order at the moment” (that was an understatement when Peel was still alive, and more true today) and adding that “the band have given me intense pleasure over the years, I still love ‘em madly.”

Here then, is an entire hour of John Peel introducing The Fall…

“The Fall, The Fall, Fall there, Mark E.Smith and The Fall, Fall, The Fall…”

It’s… hypnotic.

Via Holy Moly!

Posted by Richard Metzger | 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
Kicker Conspiracy: Mark E. Smith reads football scores in his inimitable Mancunian drawl
09:22 am


Mark E. Smith
The Fall

Anyone who’s grooved to “Theme from Sparta FC” from the Fall’s 2003 The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) has probably figured out that postpunk legend Mark E. Smith is a serious fan of football, or as we say in the United States, “soccer.”

“Theme from Sparta FC” is a fanciful meditation on the existence of a soccer team in ancient Greece, quite possibly one of the Fall’s more immediately comprehensible compositions. Since 2005, much to the BBC’s credit, the song has been used as the theme music to the “Final Score” section of BBC television’s Saturday afternoon sports coverage.

On November 19, 2005, the producers of the show invited Smith into the studio to read the day’s results. For anyone who has indulged in the Fall’s indelible catalogue, Smith’s scarcely modulated rendition of the scores (“Reading 3, Hull City 1 ... Sheffield United 2, Millwall 2 ... Southhampton Town 3, Leeds United 4” ...) needs little more than a typically hypnotic Fall bassline to become an accepted part of the Fall canon.

The Mancunian‎ Smith, not very surprisingly, is a Manchester City fan, and it is to be presumed that he despises his club’s crosstown rivals, the far wealthier and more successful Manchester United. On that particular day Manchester United bested Charlton Athletic 3-0, whereas Manchester City had to settle for a 0-0 draw against the Blackburn Rovers. Later in the clip, Smith calls Manchester City’s performance “hopeless, as usual.” Smith also makes fun of the haircut of host Ray Stubbs and disparages England’s national team as a collection of eleven millionaires rather than a cohesive unit of cooperating players.

In 2010, Smith recorded an earnest (for him) World Cup ditty titled “England’s Heartbeat” for reasons unknown, that includes a sing-along chorus and the inspirational phrase “Like a rainbow through a storm.”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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