Drink the long draught, for the Hip Priest : R.I.P. Mark E. Smith

People only need me when they’re down and gone to seed – Mark E. Smith

I can’t say I’ve been a Fall fan my whole life. I’ve really only gotten to know the world of Mark E. Smith the last 9 years or so. But in that time I’ve gotten to love this ever-curmudgeonly Brit with a snarl like a pissed-off stray mut and the tongue of a philistine poet. His willingness to just say f**k it and do as he sees fit on both record and on the stage is something to admire, really. From the sound of it, Smith wasn’t an easy guy to please, given the 60+ folks that have made their way through the hallowed halls of the Fall roster. But it seems that most that have played with the guy feel they’ve learned something(even if it’s that they never want to play with the guy again.)

I don’t feel I can comment a whole lot on the passing of The Fall’s ever present angry leader/poet/instigator, as like I said before that connection isn’t there as deeply as say someone who’s been a fan for the last 40 years. I will say this, when the mood struck there was nothing better than Hex Enduction Hour, but I had to be in the mood. If I made the mistake of throwing on The Fall when I wasn’t ready emotionally it was like a jackhammer migraine trying to bust out of my skull, with Smith as a stand-in for my subconscious screaming at me all of my life’s great disappointments and letdowns. But when I was feeling particularly self-destructive or going thru some serious existential turmoil, nothing felt better than hearing the line “Hey there fuck face! Hey there fuck face!”

Hex Enduction Hour and Groteque(After The Gramme) were the two albums that hit me the most. The mix of garage-y swagger, drunken spittle on the mic, and grimy poet laureate vibe was enough to keep me coming back. “C.R.E.E.P.” was great, and I adored their cover of The Kinks’ “Victoria”. The amount of artists Mark E. Smith influenced is endless, with standouts being Pavement. Protomartyr is another band as of late that seem to tip their hat to the world of Mark E. Smith and The Fall.

More than anything, I just want to acknowledge the massive body of work Mark E. Smith accumulated in his nearly 40 years of making music. I’d read where someone called The Fall’s discography “intimidating”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe the work. Both in the massive amount of albums and moods to try and get through when you’re first diving in, but even in the attitude each one reflected. It’s as if Smith and whichever crew he had assembled was egging you on; daring you to keep listening.

That’s as punk as it gets.


7 thoughts on “Drink the long draught, for the Hip Priest : R.I.P. Mark E. Smith

  1. Like you, I can’t claim to have a long standing love for The Fall, but I liked what I liked and I also happened to like Mark E. Smith a whole lot. I get that he was notoriously difficult to work with and whatever, but he was one of the last genuine characters in music. Certainly British music…

    I know a few folks who will be devastated. Dare say cause the influence of Smith and The Fall was wider than just music. I imagine there’s a whole lot of folks sticking their fingers up to the pricks (and Mumford & Sons) while listening to The Fall today.

    … now I’ll need to try chuckle a bit more at Noel Gallagher’s interviews.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I really liked the Fall – a guy I lived with at university was a massive fan of them and it kind of rubbed off on me. I used to have 20 Fall LPs on tape, only 4 on vinyl now though.

    I saw them play a brilliant gig once in Leeds and many years later I found myself stood between MES and Johnny Marr at a Godspeed! You Black Emporer gig in Manchester! Except, I had to be told afterwards that the guy on my left was Marr – I had no doubt at all who was on my right-hand side!

    I just loved his anarchic use of language and meter, he used the English language like a trampoline.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You were at a Godspeed show with Mark E Smith and Johnny Marr on either side of you? I think you won the internet today.

      I came late to The Fall, but I’m glad I finally arrived. I think my first experience with The Fall was from Silence Of The Lambs. “Hip Priest” plays at the end when Clarice is chasing Buffalo Bill. Of course I didn’t realize that till several years later, but still.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I exaggerate, my friend was between me and Marr (who I really didn’t recognise!). I didn’t dare say hello to MES, just sort of nodded.

        I saw Silence with that same friend who shouted ‘Bloody hell! It’s the Fall!’ Right at that point, much to a few folks’ annoyance.

        Liked by 2 people

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