Profile of The Fall, one of the most enigmatic, idiosyncratic and chaotic garage bands of the last 30 years, led by the belligerent and poetic Mark E Smith.
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I came top in English for two years. They never thought it was me.
All the other Smiths got congratulated, except me.
I like that. It's good being a Smith sometimes.
You get away with murder, you know?
This programme contains strong language.
# We are the Fall We were spinning, we were stepping
# Cop out, cop out As if from heaven
# The difference between you and us Is that we have brains
# Cos we're Northern white crap But we talk back. #
How you doing? All right?
# Bang fucking bang The mighty Fall. #
RADIO: ..Radio 1 now with John Peel.
Time for me to warn you that it is possible that in the next hour and 55 minutes or so,
you may hear rough language or be introduced to concepts you find unwholesome.
If this is a possibility, listen to something else.
As regular listeners know, there are few words finer than, "Tonight, a new session from The Fall."
We think it's the 24th, but we're not absolutely certain about it.
Before I play the first track, an email from Chris Goodhead -
"A quick message to say I've had a bloody awful week.
"Nevertheless, I'm excited about another mighty Fall session.
"Been to some recent shows - there's a great song about Harold Shipman.
"They played Walk Like A Man. The bass player is now the guitarist.
"All business as usual! Chaos, but good chaos."
-What you doing now?
-Just trying to tune...
They don't need tuning up. You just...fucking play 'em, innit?
# Shout! #
When they start saying they like The Fall, it's usually they've run out of ideas.
I remember Wet Wet Wet saying that -
"We're doing our own stuff, a bit like The Fall."
It's like, "Shut the fuck up!"
# I'm totally wired. #
No-one exemplifies attitude more than Mark E Smith.
He is attitude personified.
# Yeah, yeah, industrial estate. #
# I hear you Telephone Thing. #
Mark's an inspirational character and also an awkward get, y'know?
# A green eyed loco-man #
His behaviour's become more mystifying and erratic since I left.
People do use the word "genius" a lot, but I do think he's a genius.
I think he's got talent, charisma, like it or not. He's not a nice guy.
# He reads books... #
We don't know anything about him, as fans.
All we know is this absolutely distinct stage persona and voice.
You can't compare other bands - nobody really sounds like The Fall.
When bands do sound like the Fall, you go, "You're trying to rip off The Fall. Fuck off!"
With The Fall you can never be absolutely certain what you're gonna get.
Sometimes it may not be what you want, but it's still...
They're The Fall, that's all you need.
# I know, I know, I know I know, I know #
..hopefully this will brighten up your evening for you a bit, from The Fall - Clasp Hands.
Needs summat at the end, so just go da, da, da, da.
Then sad, y'know. Just be yourselves.
# All here Clasp your hands. #
My dad's sort of attitude was,
"You follow me into the business y'know, or go into the army,
"otherwise you're a waste of bloody time", innit?
I used to work for my dad in the school holidays...summer holidays.
For about ten years, from when I was six till I was about 15,
I worked for my Dad every bloody school holiday.
I used to think he was a right bastard, but in a way it's good, y'know?
He did virtually chuck me out the house, which...I liked that.
Cos nowadays they can't get rid of the lads, can they?
They stay at home till about 35, don't they? Must be awful, that.
Must be hard - I couldn't do that. I couldn't bring up any kids.
It's hard with the bloody group. That's enough for me!
I formed me group, cos I wanted to write music and...
I was laid off the docks and all this shit, y'know?
So it was a way of earning money at the start.
First group started just as three people.
They realised their true mission was to be in The Fall.
ELECTRIC GUITAR RIFF
We wasn't taken seriously in them days.
It's a bit like now, you think you've gotta have a million quid
before you start a group. It was a bit like that then.
I was writing a lot, so it started as like a sort of poetry reading,
pissing around, y'know what I mean?
We used to meet up and hang out at my flat on Kingswood in Prestwich,
and listen to music.
We were into punk before punk.
We were into the garage groups, like the early '60s groups, y'know.
In 1974-75, you could like music like Iggy Pop, avant-garde jazz
and electronic German music, all sorts of strange things.
And that was in the air, anyway.
People were putting bands together that had those weird influences.
It just didn't have a focus, a name.
It didn't have a sense it could be anything other than local.
# I am an Anti-Christ... #
The Sex Pistols coming up those two times completely shattered all that
and made everything intimate and close and do-able.
Those gigs galvanised Manchester musicians or wannabe musicians.
# Anarchy! #
People came out of the woodwork.
Closet Stooges fans, rabid Captain Beefheart fans
began to touch base with one another,
and start making their own groups.
In hindsight, they turned out to be Joy Division,
The Fall, Morrissey.
They turned out to be all sorts of interesting Manchester groups
that didn't think they had it in them to be musicians, to be a group.
# Anarchy! #
Everybody went to the gig. But I mean, I did, so fucking what?
# Psycho, psycho. #
Well, we got involved in this North West Arts thing.
It was like a musician's collective. It was like brass bands and...
bird noises - there was a feller, did symphonies out of bird noises.
Anybody could get up and do a performance.
So, it really suited what The Fall were about at that time.
We thought we'd just do what we were doing in the bedroom,
like reading out poetry over a bass and a guitar.
We got a drummer and it kicked off, y'know?
After The Sex Pistols' gig, lots of strange things happened in the basement clubs in Manchester.
Obviously, The Buzzcocks had started up
and if you went to see Buzzcocks, there would be interesting support groups.
# Spitting on the streets Numb heads and feet... #
That was the big break, Richard Boon offering us support to The Buzzcocks.
That's when we started doing regular gigs.
# ..And the Psycho Mafia I'm talking about love... #
They were startling.
They had the thrift-store styling, totally anti-fashion,
with the threadbare sweaters and the awful shirts.
They were totally a garage band and they obviously had it.
Incredibly exciting if you knew Iggy Pop, Can and Captain Beefheart,
cos it seemed to have the same thing going on -
this crunching together of strange rhythms and odd shafts of sound,
sort of cutting against it like bits of glass and a really peculiar guy at the front, ranting away.
# ..I used to believe everything I read
# But that's all changed and now I'm stepping out... #
Once Spiral Scratch had been released
and we'd been working with The Fall on a live, occasional basis,
I thought it was important that their work was recorded too.
Well, actually, you gotta say this, The Buzzcocks paid for our first recording.
God bless 'em.
I would have loved to have put it out myself,
but things around Buzzcocks got commercially chaotic
and I was distracted, so I gave them the tapes.
Good evening! Welcome to What's On for World Cup Plus.
I think Richard must have mentioned the band,
and I certainly remember getting a copy of Bingo Master's Breakout,
thinking this sounds bloody weird, like part of the explosion
and I remember taking a film crew up to a basement in a house in North Manchester, in Prestwich.
# Numb heads and feet
# Got nowhere to go
# Won't let us in the shows
# We talk about love
# And the Psycho-Mafia
# I'm talking 'bout love... #
Our music is offensive to a lot of people and coming from the North,
you've got this inoffensive cap-touching attitude,
which we're trying to break out of.
I always think it was more attitude than music.
I think that's what The Fall brought to Manchester.
Again they brought this great oppositional thing, which is...
They loathed wankers like me from South Manchester,
and Mark E epitomised that.
-Is it more than just the songs you're playing?
-It is more than the songs,
cos the music is secondary really.
The music scene does not communicate to people.
We try to, that's where we fall down.
# Well you started here to earn your pay
# Yah, yah Industrial estate
# Clean neck and ears on your first day
# Yah, yah Industrial estate... #
To this day, I'm not quite sure whether I like The Fall's music.
But I like The Fall.
I mean, just a song called Yah Yah Industrial Estate - fantastic!
Originally, I thought...and I think everybody else would agree with this,
we were just all equal members of a band.
-Do you not get tired of being poor, though, lads?
To not make a living out of it is...
-And you don't make a living out of it, do you?
Please give us some money(!)
I think as The Fall evolved, it emerged as Mark, as very definitely, the voice of The Fall.
It was a solo act, but it needed everybody around him.
So it had a weird dynamic - that he couldn't have done it on his own.
# Round, round Tapping feet to formless sound. #
Give me your name, then. Well, give me your name, then.
I met Kay through a friend. She worked at Prestwich hospital,
the same time that I did and when she split up with her partner,
she came to live with me.
At that time, me and Mark were drifting apart -
we were splitting up, really.
And...they got together and she became The Fall's manager.
What do you mean you want money? You're pirating my bloody stuff, Tony. What you talking about?
I've paid for your equipment!
Kay was the tough, abrasive one.
She was the boss then.
"Kay Carroll. Hello, love. Hello, lovey."
Kay would get very drunk, and was even tougher than Mark
and would jump on you, attack you and go on about the money,
or generally act in a ridiculous way and one could be quite fond of her,
but I was quite scared of Kay Carroll,
in a way I've never been scared of Mark.
He's being an arsehole and he's calling me, y'know what I mean?
The idea of a manager seemed to be against the original ethos of The Fall, so that was a bit problematic.
And Tony left. I left.
And then a whole new Fall emerged.
# Right Noise
# We're gonna get really speedy. #
Finally, Bingo Master's Break-Out was released,
much later than anybody had intended.
But there was a certain amount of redemption involved.
Some critics got where The Fall were coming from.
Well, it was my producer, John Walters, who first heard them
and I think they were a support band at a gig in Croydon,
and Walters heard them at that.
And wrote a letter.
John Walters wrote me a letter and said, "You are the worst group I've ever seen...
"in the history of mankind."
He was good like that, John Walters. Did you ever meet him?
He was fucking fantastic.
He said "You were the worst, tuneless rubbish I've ever heard.
"Even worse than Siouxsie and the Banshees."
This is what he wrote, "You're even worse than Siouxsie and the Banshees."
I didn't believe it was possible, y'know what I mean?
Ha ha ha! He's a gem. What a gem!
He said, "Please do a session." Ha ha!
Can you get 'em to start again, Geoff?
-Can you get 'em to start again?
I thought it was really good, this.
-They get going...
-They're really having a really good groove.
-Nah! Do it again, I say.
-Let me have a word.
Can we do it again, kids, with a bit of...? Hit it a bit harder.
Rhythm section and the keyboards.
Steve, you've gotta play a bit harder. You gotta be in tune and you gotta do it on the changes.
You heard a taster of this earlier on.
It'll be slightly louder now, I think. The Fall and Blindness.
# I am losing my feet
# Everywhere I look I see a blind man
# I see a blind man. #
To be realistic, you barely need anything else, do you?
The 24th session for the programme as far as we know.
The very first of them was recorded at Maida Vale on 30th of whichever the fifth month is,
in 1978 and broadcast...
The Fall were on their way to do a John Peel session
and the bass player at the time, he'd had a few ups and downs, a guy called Eric Ferret
and I think the point at which Eric was thrown out of the band
was he decided he didn't want to come along to a Peel session.
I was going along to help 'em with the gear and when we got back,
I got a phone call from Mark asking me if I wanted to join.
Now, bearing in mind, it was my favourite band, I was happy to be a roadie,
and I was asked by Mark Smith to join The Fall and I was still 16 years old,
and I didn't have to think long and hard before saying yes.
Like, my granddad used to stand outside prisons and that,
and then when they were released, say, "You work for me!" Ha ha!
He's a bit like me.
You know what I mean? "Oh, you play bass? Right, you're in."
Don't have auditions or anything. Usually comes off right, actually, touch wood.
I remember once we went to record Live At The Witch Trials - we ended up recording the album in a day.
So, we were wandering around London, particularly Martin, Karl and I,
and I remember them saying to me, "You're Mark's puppet, aren't you?"
And I'm like, "What?"
They're saying, "You'll do anything that he tells you, that's why he got you in."
"We wanted our mate in." I'm going, "Oh, I'm sorry, but what can I do?"
I think they were the seeds of the split in the band and it becoming
not a load of mates, all pulling together and working together,
but Mark wanting to foist his own intentions on everybody else.
There's a matter of control, of direction, where they were going,
and Mark had a fixed idea of how he wanted it to be portrayed.
A year after I joined, Steve and Craig joined.
And again, we were all in the same situation.
We were there and happy to be Mark's foils and his backing band, really.
Whereas Martin had already got disaffected with the whole thing -
him and Mark being the core and the real creative force behind it.
Martin had realised he was being sidelined,
so he just had enough and went.
It was a drastic old fucking time. I shit my pants.
Not literally, when... I was scared to death.
# Frightened... #
The guys who I'd seen carrying the equipment on to the stage were suddenly playing.
Cos Steve suddenly went onto bass and Craig Scanlon became a guitarist and Marc moved on to guitar.
So there was this ever-changing movement of The Fall.
I don't know how we ended up with them,
just these really strange people from the other side of Manchester,
who seemed to be really into the music.
-Is there anybody there?
Dragnet was like...
It was three nineteen-year-olds, y'know?
Not even that, it was like fucking...
Half the group wasn't even allowed to work, apparently.
In them days.
They were too young.
At the time, we didn't know how young they were, because he would add years to the ages of the group.
Cos they couldn't play in the pubs they were playing in, cos they were so young.
I like to get 'em and tutor 'em, as if they were, I suppose, your own son.
# Is quester psykick dancehall. #
It's amazing what you can get out of them.
It is incredible.
To be honest, it wasn't till about the second or third record,
or perhaps even the second or third session,
that I started to think, "Actually, this is really something fairly astonishing."
# Uh - containers And their drivers
# Uh - containers And their drivers
# Containers and their drivers. #
It fitted in to the John Peel show, because it was made out of the John Peel show.
It was a soundtrack that was based on listening to the John Peel show -
the strange sense in the early '70s of listening to a show at night
that would play things from around the world that were so exotic and strange.
I first heard The Fall in about 1981 on John Peel.
You listened to it in bed in the middle of the night,
and I remember not really liking it.
I just thought it was annoying and incomprehensible,
but that itself became fascinating as you get exposed to it.
It's fascinating - this superficially ugly music and these incredibly well-thought-out words.
Mark uses language extraordinarily well and in such a way
that you're perhaps made to think more deeply about something that you may have taken for granted,
as a poet or a painter would - he just makes you think, "Actually, I never thought of it like that."
He has an amazing eye for the mundane,
and at the same time for the complete strangeness and otherworldliness of things.
They were all caught up together, and seemed to come from some other place.
Politically, he's neither left nor right.
He sometimes espouses views you might think were right wing,
but then he'll come out with something that's extremely radical.
He's neither one or another.
He's critical, essentially, of everything and perhaps suspicious of everything as well.
I don't understand it -
which I think is the best way to write.
I'm still like that. I don't know what I'm writing about...
half the time.
I don't want to give my secrets away to these fucking idiots on the BBC. You understand that?
# We are all living leg-ends
# So close, my brain is imploding
# But everything is all right
# I am a rabbit from Germany
# I was very happy
# I could frolic around all night
# By the Leipzig station. #
Tonight of course, is a night for The Fall and this is What About Us?
# What about us? Shipman!
# What about us? Shipman!
# What about us? #
I am tempted to say this is possibly the best Fall session we've ever had,
but I probably say that about all of them. That was called What About Us?
Well, this is the lecturing part of the concert.
He likes to have a dominating influence, like a paternalistic influence over you,
very much like an old Victorian paternalistic boss.
Most of the time we just got on with it and pretty much did as we were told, didn't we?
-Yeah. At the beginning, yeah.
-At the beginning.
Gonna fucking put the monitors up for Christ's sake?
-It were like a matter of death, a Fall gig, wasn't it?
-You couldn't be seen to enjoy yourself, could you?
I've never been in a room that so crackled with malevolence,
I mean we had our backs to the wall at the far end of the room,
extraordinarily grateful to have done so.
There was so much hostility and rancour.
I remember we did one gig, only a little club, but it was that low,
we couldn't hear what was going on the other side of the stage.
I couldn't hear Steve and Craig. They couldn't hear me, so me and Craig swapped sides.
# Up in a room, There's a cloud of smoke. #
Will you fucking get it together, instead of showing off.
We got a right bollocking when we got off.
"What you doing? Who do you think you are? You're not in a big rock combo.
"You're not in U2, swapping sides and messing about."
Mark's got a different idea. I don't think the guys grasp it.
Marc Riley's from a different background, his culture's different.
He thinks in terms of a conventional group, writing nice songs.
I don't think Mark Smith wants to be a pop artist or a rock star.
My relationship with Mark Smith started off brilliantly
and ended... not so brilliantly, really.
You could kind of see it coming, I think.
There'd been various arguments and fallings out,
and there seemed to be a lot of difference of opinion on how things should be done.
I was probably a bit more vocal about it, still not very vocal,
certainly not fist-flailing and fingers-pointing,
it'd be just like, "Excuse me, but we're not quite happy about that."
Mark Smith was quite critical of Marc Riley's playing and his attitude.
Marc Riley, he wanted to do stuff his way and I think that clashed.
He wanted to do the hits every night and that's not the group.
It was like, there's only one leader in The Fall - Mark, and I suppose Marc was a bit of a challenge.
He said we're going to Europe in a month. I went "All right, OK" and he says, "I don't want you to come."
I was like, "What?!" and he said "We're gonna do it without you."
I said, "Oh, right. OK."
He said, "If it don't go very well, we'll call you when we get back and you can rejoin the band."
And I'm like, "Right, OK" - in a daze, y'know?
The next thing I knew, it was about a month later, they were going to Europe.
I've still not had the phone call.
We just carried on, really. Kay was still the manager and she'd set this American tour up,
so we went and did that and Kay - I don't really want to say that, do I?
That Kay left Mark and then he met Brix, all on the same tour,
but that's how it happened!
# The man whose head expanded. #
She came up to me and said, "I don't like your records much,
"but what are your lyrics about?" We just got on. We got married.
-That's not what I said. I said...
-It's not exactly what you said.
Well, I thought you guys were brilliant,
but I can't understand your lyrics and they irritate me
because I can't understand them - is what I meant to say.
The story of The Fall and Mark E Smith over the last 25 years
has so much it's got to have a soap element,
it's got to have the Elizabeth Taylor and Burton element,
the Paul and Linda McCartney element.
It's gotta have that weird, odd sexual thing going on.
Again, it was the last thing you would have expected Mark E Smith to get involved in,
having his wife in the band.
# Kicker, kicker conspiracy
# Kicker, kicker conspiracy
# J Hill's satanic reign
# Ass-lickers King O'Team. #
It was like Fall's one of them things - always on the verge of splitting up, really.
So, Brix sort of brought a bit of new life back into it, I think.
Different ideas and y'know, it wasn't just miserable blokes from Manchester involved.
-# What's a computer?
-Eat y'self fitter
-# What's a computer?
-Eat y'self fitter. #
She brought a particularly different, American work ethic into the equation,
which is, "Get some money!"
"Try for a hit!"
I actually sacrificed my principles in order to get The Fall on television.
I wanted to pick somebody, a favourite of mine for years,
and funnily enough, they've never done national TV in this country before.
They've done local things, but never national TV,
which seemed to me to be shocking.
I quite wanted to go down in history as the man who put them on TV.
When they said, "How much do you want for coming on?"
I said, "Nothing, if I can pick a band to be on the programme."
It's The Fall.
I think Brix's impact on the band was one, sartorial - you can see they suddenly smartened up
and they look like a proposition that could get in the charts.
# There's a new fiend on the loose On the back of the exhaust clip... #
Secondly, I think she brought a more overt American rock'n'roll sensibility to it,
which softened up a lot of the rough edges of the sound.
# There's a party on down around here Cruiser's Creek yeah
# See the people walking down the street
# Sidewalk running... #
That was great, that whole thing, when they were suddenly on TV
and they would have champagne in the dressing room.
It was great! And Mark would wear those cool suits.
The best thing was meeting Bo Diddley.
He was on this all rock'n'roll tour, and he said it was the biggest load of crap he'd ever experienced,
and he said, "But I did see you on that Tube show.
"I was watching that in the hotel...
"I saw Elton John and Paula Yates. What the hell's going on there?
"There was only one good rock'n'roll group and it was you!"
He goes, "And it was you!"
I'm like, "It's Bo Diddley!" cos I love Bo Diddley.
# Cruiser's Creek, yeah Cruiser's Creek. #
Just for a little bit of time, they were like Mr and Mrs Rock'n'Roll.
Or Mr and Mrs Strange-Deranged- Rock'n'Roll. It was great!
-How long can you carry on, though, because...?
-What do you mean? Would you like us to break up now?
-If you're in a business mode, it's all in pursuit of novelty and that's fair enough, that's cool.
But, we're not, you know?
He doesn't want to be in a rock band and I don't think he sees The Fall as a rock band in any sense.
So, I suppose, he's always been wanting to take it into other artistic dimensions.
When I was working in Edinburgh during the summer,
lots of arts lovers were dribbling the claret down their cravats
and getting very excited over a young dancer, Michael Clark.
When it comes to dancing, I'm a bit of a philistine.
Although I did have to sit up and take notice
when I heard this lad was dancing to music by The Fall.
He has a genuine desire for an artistic expression.
That's not false.
It may be naive or primitive, in the sense of the artists which he likes, who are primitive artists,
but it's a genuine desire.
# Kerb-crawlers of the worst order. #
All the group stayed up to watch The Old Grey Whistle Test, not that I would, personally.
But you couldn't see the group. That was the funniest bit.
They stayed up to watch it with all their parents!
And all you can see was like, Michael Clark baring his arse on the fucking screen, y'know?
Fucking great! It was dead funny!
When a group keeps going as long as The Fall have done,
and they have a sound that, fundamentally, is actually a commercial sound...
At it's most fluent, for all its experimental and avant-garde edges,
it's a commercial sound, because it's about the attack of pop and the attack of rock,
and the way that a good lyric has a catchy chorus.
# Hit them all 95 per cent. #
Mark E Smith has never really, even at his most peculiar, obstinate and strange veered away from that notion
that he wants to reach the masses, and I think that they kept going for so long, that...
Fashion does weird dips, and definitely at the end of the 80s, it hit that time. People noticed them.
# It was bad Called obscene
# And the rich Were so mean. #
They'd become fashionable and they started to have bigger audiences.
He'd never been fashionable. He'd been anti-fashion.
For a short period, he was fashionable.
# ..was my queen Victoria! Victoria! #
I was so glad when we got very popular.
I remember the time that my mother told me
that Elton John was on The Tube and said he liked The Fall,
because it was rock'n'roll.
# Victoria! #
I thought we were doing something wrong, actually.
# Victoria! Victoria! Victoria! #
An email from Sean Cordell, "My youth can be tracked through the development of The Fall."
A good way to have spent your life, I think, Sean.
-# Wrong place... #
Because you have to walk through the vegetarian, organic shop in Maida Vale.
Ha! One. One.
-There's the first take.
-C'mon. The first take, you can that?
One, two, three, four.
# Wrong place, right time
# I used to think I could do what I wanted to
# Right time for me alone
# I walk the streets of complete full homes
# I can't dance I can't sing #
WORDS DROWNED OUT
# Mike Clark Said I'm a bastard
# He is deranged I am William of Orange
# Go insane in Holland
# I can't wait to taste anthrax turf again. #
Well, nobody could believe it with Curious Orange that we would dare to put it on in Edinburgh.
What was interesting about the idea of being associated with a ballet
was that it seemed one of the few moments of utter logic in the history of The Fall, in a way.
A series of clashing illogicalities, constantly, here was something that was quite logical,
as if there was a narrative development of The Fall.
This is the moment where they're deemed to be quite artistic, really.
# From a can a Shepherd's Bush man
# You're cabbing it uptown, uptown. #
I remember going up and just overseeing
the recording of it in Edinburgh,
and seeing the play and it was great. It was really good!
Mad! Brix on the hamburger! And it just was... She smiled all the way through it.
You have The Fall fans at the back in the cheap seats
and the ballet fans at the front with their fingers in their ears.
# I drink the long draught band Drink the long, drink the long... #
I thought it was hysterical. It was wild. It was free.
The group played really well.
Some of the dancing was fantastic.
Michael runs a mean troupe...
in a similar way to Mark running a mean band.
It was good doing ballet...
..because there's a discipline there, y'know?
You know, you have to be there at 7pm for half an hour,
then you've gotta get on stage at 9 o'clock
and you've gotta get fucking off at 10.30, and that's fucking it.
And if you don't get it right, you're fucked. It's different.
# They were curious, orange... #
It took Mark to a new level of audience. It made him a favourite.
He suddenly became of interest to the chattering classes -
the very middle class and bourgeois crowd
that he doesn't like, if the truth be told.
Just as it was going really well, I think Mark just said, "Y'know, I'm not really what you're saying I am.
"I am not this thing. I'm Mark E Smith. I am not your pet."
And just veered off in another direction.
It was a difficult time for Mark.
# Goodbye, my dear! #
I think she was looking for fame and Mark, I'm sure he doesn't mind fame,
but he's not looking for it in the same way.
He doesn't value fame and he doesn't really value the opinion
of a load of famous people, who don't particularly care for him.
Mark's personal life was always entangled with The Fall.
# Last week, after Dynasty
# I had crow's feet under my eyes
# Paid two days for getting high. #
People felt dead sorry for me, y'know, blokes on the dole in the pub going, "There's a pint, Mark."
"It happens to us all, lad", and all that. "It's all right!"
# These are the finest times of my life
# This is the greatest time of my life. #
Mark just seemed to keep working through things,
whenever things happened like that in his life,
he just seemed to keep working through it, you know?
There was never like, "I'm gonna take a break for six months" or anything like that.
This is Craig's tribute to Frank Zappa.
Now, we can all laugh about this, but this is his tribute to Frank,
and so it's called I'm Frank.
Just about to do our first album for Phonogram and Brix left,
and Martin Bramah came back for Extricate.
I mean, we all liked Martin anyway, cos he was the original guitarist.
We were quite chuffed to have him back in the band, I think.
# Gimme gimme gimme it slowly baby. #
Even with Mark, the strangest things you take for granted.
You'd just think, he needed some kind of replacement for Brix.
Maybe best to go back to the very beginning.
Maybe some strange notion that he could get a bit of a formula back.
# How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you?
# Sorry to be so short with you... #
It didn't really work out, him rejoining, I don't think.
Cos when they formed, it was probably equal, you know?
It was probably as much his band as Mark's,
but when he rejoined he had to take a back seat.
# I hear you telephone thing... #
.the 24th session for the programme as far as we know.
The band have recorded sessions, pretty much every year,
the exceptions being '82, '89, '97 - not sure how that happened,
and then for some reason, there were no more sessions after '98 until 2003.
"John, can you tell us why this was?" it says here.
Breakdown in communications - the best reason I can give you.
I wrote this script, which... You're like I come in and start shouting at you cos you haven't done the tracks.
So why have you done the fucking tracks, then?
Well, we just thought, because you'd gone to the pub, we'd better...
Don't say that to me!
Don't you say that to me!
He's been working hard.
"Sorry, boss." What kind of word's that?
You are only a drummer. I am Mark Smith - big shot.
When we think of The Fall as a group, this is one of his more brilliant illusions.
He's kept that idea that The Fall has been going for 25, 30 years,
but in a funny sort of way, there's been about 30 or 40 groups that Mark E Smith has had.
There've been so many of them, I mean... Go out and do a straw poll.
You could go outside now and probably bump into someone who's been in The Fall.
# Don't call me darling. #
I've got this thing, a reputation as like a sack master,
keep firing people and all that. It's like common knowledge, now.
Anywhere I go now, people on the street go, "You're the one, who's had all them group members."
I don't see what the problem is.
Obviously, it's become almost a kind of joke, except for the people concerned.
You know, the passage through The Fall, and then, by and large,
people then disappear without a trace after they've gone,
which seems... I don't know whether he's killing them.
You have to be a fairly strong person, I think.
There was quite a few musicians and people around the band who didn't last very long.
It's not like an ordinary group.
People do it cos they love it.
They do it for nothing, or they do it for money,
but they will fucking do it, y'know?
I noticed in the '90s what was happening with Mark E Smith was
what had once been sympathetically registered in a certain area as the old curmudgeon or whatever,
or the old fart, but you know, what a genius...
He suddenly became...a fucking asshole, I guess, is the phrase.
He's suddenly become... You realised there were large parts of Mark E Smith that were not very nice.
I don't think he's made his behaviour any better by his use...
tremendous use of drugs and speedy drugs,
speed and various things that would make his nerves worse,
but he's a tough, tough character.
It shows on his face, that he's a hard-line drinker.
It shows on his face that he's a tough guy.
There came a moment when it turned,
and that abuse that we'd put down to him just living on the edge,
and the speed and the booze, it started to be something
that was clearly affecting him as an individual.
That was the moment, when you kind of thought, "Oh, my God!",
"What if he wasn't a genius, he was just an old drunken tramp that when he got really drunk,
"spouted phrases that made a kind of sense and we read too much into it?"
Just a little bit of that started to come into it, you know?
# Feeling numb, now
# The grist that curtails will make us strong
# And you'll be dead before I'm born. Pah! #
I don't think an award like Godlike Genius or Lifetime Service Award is relevant to them,
cos it suggests that it's stopped and it doesn't look like it ever is gonna stop.
The point where everybody thought it would end was the mid '90s,
when he didn't seem to be able to hold a line-up together,
he looked terribly ill and you really felt you were living in the last days.
He was turning into a bit of a shambles by this time, I think everybody would admit that.
There was a lot of financial trouble the band were in, which was affecting everything.
Gigs got cancelled. We'd row in the sound check
and we wouldn't get to the gig.
The writing was on the wall, really, by then.
But I don't know why we went to America. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
My last gig was at Brownies, which is pretty well known as a disaster.
A lot of aggression on stage, and I think the odd microphone being thrown about and kicked over.
Well, they started on me, and I started on them. Fair, isn't it?
By this time, I'd had enough, I think, you know,
and I maybe should have got out of it a couple of years before.
That band had just run out of steam, and yet because it was Steve,
because it was Karl, I think he had a loyalty to those people.
All the equipment was pushed over and Mark was fighting with Karl and trashed the drum kit.
So he attacked me as well.
I ended up in jail, but at the end of the day, I think it was probably the best thing that ever happened,
that scrap on the...stage.
I felt like I was carrying these old fellers around all the time.
They're all about my age and they're shit.
There's no two ways about it, y'know. They're crap.
..a fucking animal on drugs - a fucking idiot!
WHISTLING No fucking singer, man!
Where's the fucking singer? You cock.
-I've been assaulted in public...
-..by two people.
Or three people. You've been witness to this. Bear witness, laddies.
He'd let it go too far. He'd fallen out with his group.
He was drinking too much and he was gradually losing contact.
They had no management and no friends were working with them.
I couldn't get any work. I couldn't get any jobs in Europe...
Or America or anything. Zip! Britain even.
The point about him is you've gotta play the game a little bit and he knows that.
You can't completely ditch everything and expect your fame to carry you through.
# You dissolute singer. # RADIO: At Brownie's tonight...
I think it was after that low point, he realised that you have to have a band, that he was known.
He went back to the basics of his success.
When you think, "He's too drunk, he hasn't got a band, he's forgotten his lyrics, who the hell is he?"
He'll end up putting together a set that's mesmerising and you realise what a great artist he is.
What he produced was rather good. He came up with one or two incarnations of The Fall that were very talented.
There were so many people that would love to be in that band, great musicians that could join it.
And often you think, "Just get someone in, and sort it out!"
People would contribute to this that are brilliant. But that'd be the wrong thing to do.
Don't want Fall fans, y'know? Cos you get...I've had fill-ins, blokes who like The Fall,
filled in on bass or guitar and they play like they think The Fall is and it's rubbish.
First time I met Mark I was about 15 years old.
Cos he came drinking in the same building that used to be my youth club.
And I kinda saw him on and off for about four years,
and then I got a phone call from a friend of Mark's,
asking if I wanted to do a day's work for The Fall in Manchester.
We went down, recorded some tunes off The Unutterable album.
And I think on the strength of that performance I did on that day, he kind of offered me the job.
Everybody who works for The Fall is um... They're very regular people,
and I wouldn't pick 'em otherwise.
He's got Elena now in the band and that has really focused down.
Another very strong woman, knows exactly what she wants to do.
# Pumpkin soup and mashed potatoes. #
I didn't want to join for obvious reasons, being the wife and so.
But I found it quite easy to play with them.
And, you know, I just stuck with it.
I treat Elena completely different, when she's in the group. It's not like...
I treat her like everybody else. A bit hard sometimes, y'know.
I don't think it's important to Mark.
He doesn't differentiate between women and men - as humans, as people
and certainly not as musicians, so it makes no difference.
No, women are a lot better actually, at a lot of things.
Musically, they just take it up. You can just give them an idea...
A lot of fellers want to know the mechanics of it all the time, which I can't explain to them,
because, believe it or not, I still don't know a D from an E or an F from an A.
I know an A and an E, sort of.
And this email says, "Play a Fall track for Mike in Frome and Ben in London, arsehole saddos,
and to all the young Fall fans - big up and Spencer is a top Fall drummer.
GUITAR AND DRUMS
-See what I mean?
-He's playing! Shut it!
All I'm saying is, we could improve on that. It could be a lot tighter.
We don't have to do Wrong Place again?
Creatively, it's the best band to be in, it really is, cos the songs are written that...
Some are written by individuals and some are written by the entire band.
He gives you a lot of leeway.
Can you pick my guitar up for me?
I just give them the freedom, which they don't get in...
Y'know, like rock bands and all that.
At the end of the day, you know, once you hand that song over and he's sung over it, it's his song.
It's his tune, you know. And he'll put his nice little...
He'll do his thing to it, that makes it that little bit special.
I love the way he reduces the basic idea of The Fall to being raw sound with weird singing over the top.
He's not a singer, but he's one of the greatest rock singer's there's ever been
and his whole way of turning the drunken karaoke singing,
with 'uh' at the end of everything has become unbelievably powerful.
My singing's getting very good, actually. It's all about...
I'm getting really good at singing, after twenty-fucking-five years.
No, I really am.
# See the people all in line What's making them look at me?
# Can't imagine that their minds Thinking the same as me
# Cos I can hear the grass grow I can hear the grass cry
# I see rainbows in the evening
# And I can hear the grass grow I can hear the grass grow
# I see rainbows in the evening. #
This has been just magnificent, I think and thanks Mark and the others for making an old man very happy.
Two tunes from The Fall -
Wrong Place and The Move's I Can Hear The Grass Grow.
C'mon, one two two.
The latest band now is just fantastic.
Ra, ra, ra, ra!
Who can say that - 27 years and he's got a stunning band.
I saw them a week ago and there were like five new songs in the set
and they were the best five songs.
# We live on blood... #
One of the classic moves in the last five years on stage has been in turning up people's amps,
switching bits of kit off.
Mark does a lot of live mixing on stage, like he moves microphones, puts it in the bass drum or so,
and I think there's no other band that does this, like a live mix by the singer.
"What's he doing now?" He's messing with your amp - "I don't know what he's doing",
but in his head, he's "Right, I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do this."
It's to wake 'em up a bit, y'know, the group - not the crowd.
I'm not bothered about the crowd. I never have been, y'know?
They don't interest me.
# ..Cheap English man In the paper shop
# You mug old women... #
The experience of being in The Fall will give you the most fantastic time of your life,
that you would never have had in any other band,
but at the same time, you also get some of the most frightening experiences.
I mean, it's kinda like that. It's kinda like that.
# ..We have to pay for everything But some things are for free... #
It's easy to assume when you go to a gig and all these people have turned up,
that you're partly responsible for this.
That's when you start your slippery slope downhill, because once you start thinking that...
You've gotta come into this band and you've gotta know your role.
# ..English Chelsea fan This is your last game
# We're not Galatasaray We're Sparta FC
# I will tell you how it will change. #
There was a song on Hex Enduction Hour, Hip Priest, that they re-did on A Kurious Oranj soundtrack,
which has got this line, "He is not appreciated" and every encore for time immemorial now,
has involved him handing the mike out to a member of the audience,
who can then shout "He is not appreciated."
And I think that there's a kind of feedback loop, there,
of the audience flattering Mark E Smith, saying, "We know how good you are,
"but you're playing to these crowds at this level."
But there's also a bit of flattery, going the other way
It's one of those rare moments, where he is approving of the audience,
saying, "But you know. You know I'm really good."
# Because he's, he's fucking not... #
There's part of him that is so fucking furious with his obscurity and his poverty,
considering how brilliant he is and part of him that really, really wouldn't want it any other way.
I think there's a lot of deception going on, sometimes, with Mark.
He wants an audience... he wants to be appreciated.
He deserves to be appreciated, or feels he does... and some of it's just showbiz.
"I'm an anti-star, but I shine brightly."
He lives in his own weird little world and it's not a world I particularly want to be part of,
but it's Mark Smith - what he does is brilliant and you can never write him off.
# Check the record Check the record
# Check the guy's track record
# Check the record Check the guy's track record... #
It is to Manchester's glory, that, yes, we have Ian Curtis and Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown and...
Let's forget the Gallagher brothers, but without Mark E, that heritage would be a much, much poorer place.
And the fact that I'm calling him heritage he'll fucking hate, so I'm glad I said it.
# He is not... #
I respect Mark for continuing to beat his own path through the jungle that is life.
Even if there's a well-worn path, three or four feet to the left or right of him,
he's still gonna go down the middle and that's got to be good.
# ..He is fucking not Drink a long, drink a long draught
# Drink a long draught... #
I've got plenty to say, you know? I'm gonna carry on saying it.
# Check the record Check the record
# Check the guy's track record.
# Check the record Check the guy's track record. #
A profile of one of England's truly unique and underrated bands, The Fall. One of the most enigmatic, idiosyncratic and chaotic garage bands of the last 30 years, The Fall are led by the belligerent and poetic Mark E Smith and grew out of the fringe of the Manchester punk scene. By 2005, they had released in excess of three dozen albums, toured relentlessly, inspired two successful stage plays, recorded 24 Peel Sessions, and performed with contemporary ballet dancer Michael Clark along with various spoken word events.
All this has happened under the guidance of Smith with various line-ups totalling over 40 different members. They have never conformed to fashion or musical trends and when asked why they were his favourite band, John Peel replied 'they are always different, they are always the same'.
This is the first time that Mark E Smith has agreed to the story being told on television and he along with many of the major players take us through this unique English rock 'n' roll story. It is told alongside footage of their most recent and sadly now last Peel Session recorded in August 2004 at the BBC Maida Vale studios, and there is also film of John playing out the session at Peel Acres a week later.
Contributors include past and present band members such as Marc Riley, Una Baines, Steve Hanley, Ben Pritchard and Eleni Smith, plus thoughts from key fans/critics including Paul Morley, Tony Wilson, Stewart Lee, promoter Alan Wise, original Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon, and Franz Ferdinand.