50+ band members. 40+ active years. 30+ Studio albums. 20+ Live Albums. 20+ John Peel Sessions. 1 ringleader.
Last week, Mark E Smith of The Fall turned 60 years of age. I wanted to use this as a chance to personally wish the man a belated Happy Birthday, and showcase the work of The Fall to those unfamiliar (you’re all welcome in advance. I hope you despise it, initially).
I remember first hearing The Fall. I was 15. It was 'Hip Priest' from Hex Enduction Hour, their fourth studio album from 1982. It was a tense, nauseating, and repugnant listen. It confused and offended me in equal measure. And I loved it for that reason alone.
Here, I’ve selected one track from each of my ten favourite Fall albums. This was a really hard list to put together (let alone picking a top 10 records before filtering it down again), and a lot of rash decisions were made. For every ‘Kicker Conspiracy’, there’s an ‘Eat Y’Self Fitter’. As for some albums, I can’t fault a single track. I forced myself with every inch of willpower not to just put Hex Enduction Hour down in full. Astonishing record from start to finish.
It’s a running joke that everyone has been in The Fall at some point. But secretly, everyone wants to be. But that’s the beauty of it; there’s an entire legion of talented musicians who’d kill to be in that band. But Smith will only pick the reluctant, the barely-trained, people who almost have no desire to work with him. He know’s that they’ll produce the right feel in their playing, one that can only be associated with, as John Peel used to call them, ‘The Mighty Fall’.
Anyway, here’s a raised glass to the elusive maverick that is Mark E Smith. Long may he continue doing his horrid, noisy, grumpy thing. Whatever the hell it is he’s trying to do. Just keep doing it.
[EDIT: A personal tribute to Mark E. Smith has since been posted following the news of his passing. You can read that here.]