72. Is the Fall falling?

Posted on 26/10/2017

72. Is the Fall falling?

The Fall is an extraordinary band. Its focus is Mark E Smith. I am not sure if the E stands for anything, like the great heavyweight champion John L Sullivan, who put the L in for effect. I have always admired Mark E. One of the earliest quotes I read of his was where he said, as a life long Labour supporter, that he could no longer stand Labour becasuse of its dishonesty. He liked the Conservatives because of their bare facedness. That may no longer apply but shows the type of man he is.

His band is about 40 years old and has had many more than 40 members. Smith sacks them pretty often. But he manages to create an excellent sound with a new bunch of musicians. His singing voice is almost all on one note, and he has a characteristic sort of glottal stop at the end of each phrase. With that, here is ‘Totally wired‘.

He has been married quite a few times, most memorably to an American Brix Smith, who stayed in his band for almost a decade: nearly a record. He appears to have fought with most members of his band as a sort of recreation, and one can see why that might lead to departures from it. But he mainly does the sacking: he is the employer and a pretty ruthless one too. I’m not sure who the girl in this next video is, but probably one of his wives.


Here are the lyrics of the following song: Touch Sensitive. As you can see, pretty eliptical and hard to work out what he is getting at. But the words flow along nicely.
Hey Hey Hey
Hey Hey Hey
I know, I know, I know
In the cars or on the street
If you smile you are a creep
If you don’t say it’s very cold
You are drunk or too old
They say what about the meek?
I say they’ve got a bloody cheek
Vanity and presumption
Living in the hard porn shop lately
I say Hey hey hey
Touch Sensitive
I know, I know, I know
And you’re dying for a pee
So you go behind a tree
And a Star Wars police vehicle pulls up
I say gimme a taxi
Touch Sensitive
Touch Sensitive

The Fall song that I play most often is Mark E’s version of Jerusalem. The most notable phrase is him saying that he was most disappointed in the government. But if you read the words he is taking the mickey out of himself as a left wing scrounger expected to be given a handout!

Jerusalem, Jerusalem Jerusalem, Jerusalem And did the countenance divine Shine forth on clouded hills? And was Jerusalem In the dark satanic mills? Jerusalem, Jerusalem Jerusalem, Jerusalem It was the fault of the government It was the fault of the government I was walking down the streets When I tripped up on a discarded banana skin And on my way down, I caught the side of my head On a protruding brick chip It was the government’s fault It was the fault of the government I was very let down from the budget I was expecting a one million quid handout I was very disappointed It was the government’s fault It was the fault of the government I became a semi-autistic type person And I didn’t have a pen, and I didn’t have a condom It was the fault of the government I think I’ll emigrate to Sweden or Poland And get looked after properly by a government Bring me a bowl of burning gold, bring arrows of desire Bring me spear, O clouds

The last clip shows Mark E in  a wheelchair, a couple of months ago, though still singing away with vim. His voice is not like anyone else’s unless you include Captain Beefheart.

This is a bit of a switch: i was reading this review and thought it made some sense in with MARK E. I may well be wrong!



The critic Simon Reynolds described Smith’s lyrics as

‘a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and the uncanny, voiced through a unique one-note delivery‘.

That pretty much says it. The video above shows him in a wheelchair (perhaps due to his hip fracture of a few decades ago. I hope he rises from his wheelchair and keeps the Fall from falling for a good bit longer!

Unfortunately not! (Jan 27 2018) RIP

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