Richard Lowe, "Fall Out"

The Hit, ca. September 1985, pp. 15-16


It's hard to imagine a more unlikely combination than the Fall on Motown. The group's cacophony of jarring noise and the haywire ranting of Mark E. Smith nestling alongside Lionel Ritchie in the catalogues; the Mancunian misfits enrolling at Berry Gordy's charm school and taking lessons in deportment and choreography.

But Mark E. Smith insists that it very nearly happened.

"It's true. The Motown office in Britain were going to sign all these English groups, all the 'hot' ones they'd read about in the papers. I had a letter and everything but it was vetoed by the big fat cats in L.A. I think they heard that track on 'Hex Enduction Hour' with the line about obligatory niggers.

"It was hilarious. They gave me this LP from Rare Earth, this ecology group, first white group on Motown and were going on about how we were going to be the second. I just thought it was so funny. They did us a favour really because loads of companies started chasing us when they heard Motown were interested."

All this happened as recently as 1984. The result for the Fall was a contract with Beggars Banquet.

"The Beggars thing came out of the blue. We were at a very low ebb and massively in debt, because I was determined never to record for Rough Trade again. I'd rather starve.

"Nowadays you have to be part of this smug independent music scene or part of a big corporate group. I think we're somewhere in the middle. The great thing about being on Beggars is that you can get stuff out when you want it out, which is what independent labels never do.

"A lot of these indie labels are just hypocrites. They make out they're doing you a big favour but really the groups are starving and they're just making money out of them. They're like a very communal hippy organization."

What about this idea that The Fall have become "an institution," releasing the same old stuff for the same audience?

"I don't think that's true at all. I think every record we do is different. The Fall only look like an institution because most groups only have a span of about two or three years before they die or go solo or whatever. But I set out to be a writer, long term, and The Fall never were going to be a novelty group.

"Our audience changes all the time. We got rid of all the trendy Rough Trade types by a fine, deliberate process. I used to go out of my way to annoy these people. Like when the Bunnymen came along with all that raincoat stuff, I went out of my way to be very proletarian, very anti-student. The Fall always react to what's going on and take the opposite avenue."

Are you trying to appeal to a more poppy audience?

"No. We don't try to appeal to anyone deliberately, but we are getting a younger audience. I'm not sure if our stuff should be heard by people under 13--I don't think it's fair on them. It's a bit dangerous really, you're playing around with very young heads there.

"Like when I was 12 I didn't even have a record player in the house--I never use to listen to records at all. When you're nine or ten you don't need to be listening to Culture Club, which is what's happening now. I think that's a bit wrong.

"Like they've got rid of that Junior Showtime where they used to play Nellie the Elephant and all those novelty records. All that's gone now and kids are listening to pop music when they're bloody nine.

"It makes me laugh though to see all these groups taking themselves so seriously. Like that Boy George reckons he's dead culturally important when all his record buyers are like eleven.

"We're not going for that audience. I don't care if we don't get played on daytime radio--there're a lot of homos on their now, it's no great triumph, an easy victory. Fall records don't get played because we use feedback and swear words, which is fair enough really."

Swear words or not, Mark's due to appear on Saturday Live ("the earliest time The Fall have played on Radio 1") for a cosy tea-time chat with Richard Skinner about the new LP, "This Nation's Saving Grace."

He looks a frightening figure in his long leather trenchcoat as he hovers in the Radio 1 foyer pulling hard on his ciggie and draining a can of lager.

In fact, he's friendly, charming and polite, but a sharp-tounged commentator on today's pop.

"We don't really fit into the current music scene and we never have. We're outsiders, but we're survivors,. We wouldn't want to fit in anyway because the music scene now reminds me very much of what it was like in 1972. It's very similar, all musos and machines.

"Like Frankie Goes To Hollywood for example. That song they've got's alright but it's just faggot disco. If you go into any faggot club in Liverpool or in Manchester you'll hear the same thing played by a black group. And it's all done on bloody machines anyway. I wouldn't mind if they made out like they were Jonathan King or some pop group, but they make out like they're so bloody clever.

"Now Wham, I think they're really good. Whatever you say about them that guy's a really good singer. His voice is great and he's dead handsome and all that. Like when he goes on TV everyone screams, I think that's great. I'm surprised at how good their stuff is.

"What I really hate more than anything is people pretending to be credible when they're not. Like that magazine The Face, it's a joke. I mistrust glossy magazines that go on about equality and oppression and all that shit--it's just such a paradox. The Face wouldn't cover us for years because we didn't have an image, because I wore a bloody anorak. They only cover fashion people and that to me is prejudice. Cocktail socialism I call it.

"The trouble with rock and roll is that the middle class took over in about 1960 and it's never been the same since. Once everybody started wearing check shirts we were all doomed. All this shit's coming back now: Genesis, folk groups, middle class people with pullovers, British vaudeville folk groups like Terry and Gerry, they're the enemy.

"Lloyd Cole's the worst though. He's an animal, a real A-level sixth form product. His new single's a total copy of Street Hassle by Lou Reed, exactly the same tune and everything. What's so offensive about it is he thinks he's really good. He was on Roundtable when they played one of our singles -- CREEP -- and he just piles into us, says we've never made a good record. I don't mind being slagged off by someone really good but not by some little ponce who can't write his way out of a paper bag.

"They said the song was about The Smiths, which it wasn't. I think that was just Morrissey's paranoia -- it comes from not eating meat. It's very bad for you being a veggo, it makes your brain go funny because it's not getting any protein.

"It's like all those angels in the desert in the olden days who use used to reckon they saw angels and things [sic]. It's only because they weren't eating proper food. That's why veggos are a bit funny; all they eat is potatoes and coleslaw.

"The Smiths are nice lads though. I wouldn't slag them off in a million years. But Lloyd Cole is a complete charlatan -- he ought to be kicked to death.

"We started the Fall to combat people like him and that's why we're going to continue.