Stephen Dalton, "Notebooks! Lout! Plagiarists!"
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, September 12, 1992, p. 23
[MES interviews I, Ludicrous]
Which scabrous, sarky interviewer could give Fall-derivatives, football-obsessive and all-round smart alecs I, LUDICROUS a good going-over as their 'Idiots Savants' LP sneaks out? Naturally none other than MARK E SMITH, their crabby, caustic and, erm, slightly opinionated guru. STEPHEN DALTON referees from the sidelines.
Preposterous tales in the life of Mark E Smith, chapter 372. Over copious beverages at a plush hotel in Notting Hill Gate, the stooping Lord of scabrous spleen-rock is speeding through scurrilous anecdotes about conspiracies within the monarchy, parties celebrating Freddie Mercury's demise, sociopathic ex-Fall associates and much more. Quite extraordinary.
Smith could yak all day in this random mode, but to the task in hand: interviewing his most favoured fellow travellers and Fall acolytes -- I, Ludicrous -- for the NME. That, at least was the original plan.
On a lavishly embossed coffee table before us lies the justification for this grot-pop superpower summit. The third I, Ludicrous album, 'Idiots Savants', brims with brilliantly bucolic witty observations about weather, football, macho cretins, daytime TV celebs, Carter USM and other festering symptoms of our national malaise.
Having built their cult reputation four years back on a rib-tickling broadside against bar-room self-aggrandisement called 'Preposterous Tales In The Life Of Ken McKenzie' and the hilariously deadpan 'Three English Football Grounds', this South London duo now augment their tinny beatbox-plus guitar formula with throbbing moodscapes as in current single "We Stand Around," the most unnerving to paean to soccer obsessives ever recorded.
When I, Ludicrous -- vocalist Will Hung (you're killing us! -- Save Our Sides Campaign) and musical brain Brian Proctor -- shamble into our interview room it immediately becomes five times more untidy. Top geezers both. Mark poses alongside them as a theatrically seedy rock hack for the all-seeing lens of Kevin Cummins. Having toured together before both bands join forces again on September 15 for Not In The City at the Manchester Ritz, Smith's two fingered salute to his hometown's official music seminar week.
So does Mark see any similarity between The Fall and these sarcastic southern pretenders? Yes. "They pinch our tunes, but doesn't everybody?"
More importantly, both groups wittily peel back the scabs of modern pop until they form into mottled bruises. Both pick the nose of rock credibility and flick rolled-up bogies at its established figureheads. Both simultaneously revile and embody all that is crabbed and cankered about the shaggy fag end of English culture. And both are ace.
So the Mark E Smith Interview Masterclass splutters into grouchy go-mode, stumbling across several more shared concerns between I, Ludicrous and The Fall along the way...
NOTEB00KS OUT PLAGIARISTS
JOHN: When we started we just wrote Fall songs all the time.
MES: Nah, you're under-rating yourself there, only "Three English Football Grounds." I thought, this is really good this tune. Then I thought, "Oh yeah, I fucking wrote it!"
JP: "Next time it's released we'll give you a credit."
MES: "Naah, you're alright. It's an old Northern Soul riff anyway."
IP: "We didn't nick the riff from "Elves" because The Stooges had already done that."
MES: "Ha ha bastard, actually Brix wrote that and she'd never even heard The Stooges."
Will: "All this nonsense about us sounding like Half Man Half Biscuit. We'd never even heard anything by them when we started. Carter are the latest thing people compare us to, every bloody review of them you read -- two South Londoners with a drum machine singing about pubs and football, you think, Are they writing about us again?"
MES: "They haven't done anything. They haven't written an original word, or vowel. ha ha ha! It's The Clash backwards."
WH: "They really are appalling. No, the boys done well really. They've worked at it and we haven't, that's the difference. It's a parallel universe. We inhabit the universe where Carter made it and there's another one where we made it and they're getting pissed off about us.
JP: "I wrote to them and said 'I can't afford to buy your records, so will you take a couple of ours and swap!' They did, so I'm sure they must be bloody good blokes. I don't suppose they'd ever heard of us. I mean, me and Will met in Carter Lane ..."
The Ludicrous lads may lambast Carter for "boldly going where we've already been" on their new album, but another track, 'Bloody Proud' bristles with blatant Fall references, including a riff suspiciously akin to "Couldn't Get Ahead".
MES: "Ah now I understand Steve. I thought they were looking a bit shifty."
JP: "I knew I'd nicked it off somewhere. I just couldn't remember where. I thought it was "Container Drivers". As long as The Fall keep going we've got plenty of songs left. Plenty of riffs.
2) ADSPEAK BOLLOCKS
MES: "Your song, 'C2's In Vans' -- what are C2s? Is that from the Civil Service?"
WH: "Market research. It's a socio-economic grouping, they're skilled labourer."
MES: "I'm a B summat."
WH: "B is your professional classes, junior management."
MES: "Oh, I'm definitely not a B then. Although I am a professional."
WH: "C1 is sort of someone who manages their own business and D is an unskilled labourer."
MES: "So what are you beggars, E ? Ha ha ha!"
WH: "It's all for advertising. Lager companies aim their advertising at C2s."
MES: "You can see it, thematic C3 advertising. They have a violent film then they have a violent advert. These C2s are getting very clever, gradually taking over. That's why I dress like a policeman, so they don't come up to you. It's getting like that in Manchester -- I was brought up not to stare but they stare at you, these workmen. I've just had me house decorated and I'm seriously thinking of becoming a serial killer of bleeding workmen, I think they're a bleeding disgrace. Yelling at women all the time, that's encouraged by adverts.
3) CRAP BRITISH TV
WH; "We've got a new song called 'Hats Off To Eldorado' which has references to Woody Allen in it. If you know the plot of Eldorado, they've got this 17-year-old girl married to this 50- year-old bloke..."
MES: "There's a lot of middle-aged blokes around with nowt else to do, have you noticed! They've retired early, they're all about 50 and they hang around in leather jackets. I'm one of them. Eldorado, that's what it's all about, they're aiming towards that type. The B minus, ha ha!"
JP: "The thing is, everybody goes to Spain."
MES: "Who? Nobody I know. Who wants to go there? It's bloody living death, living boredom. Eldorado just reflects BBC producers, their lives, and adverts reflect what all advertising agents do. They're just advertising their own lifestyle. Eldorado just reflects the people who make the programmes, that's what I hate about it. It's not about real people, whereas Coronation Street is."
JP: "I never heard the word 'mithering' before except in one of your songs. Then I heard it in Coronation Street...
MES: "And now your life is enriched. It's a bit corny, but they've got the language down pat. You hear a slang word in a pub or shop in Manchester, you'll hear it in Coronation Street three weeks later. They're really on the ball, quite frightening sometimes. In Eastenders they're still saying 'Oh here's that nice Jamaican bloke... here's the yobbo with the short hair."
WH: "Our track 'Eastenders' is not about the TV show, it's about ... C3s! All that crap about family. Have you noticed whenever an Eastender talks about his mum, his lip starts quivering. I'm a bit worried about that song, if Chas 'n' Dave get to hear it they might declare a fatwah."
JP: "Our songs are just the conversations you have in pubs, put to music. All these bands who sing about women -- that's just not true to life is it?
MES: "So you're not going out with anybody at the moment?
MES: "Oh sorry. Ha ha ha ha !"
4) FOOTBALL SONGS
WH: "It's a subject which should be covered."
MES: "Getting a bit hip now, though. When 'Kicker Conspiracy' came out in 1983 no bugger wanted to know about soccer songs. You did it a long time before anybody else. 'We Stand Around' is good."
WH: "We took some of the more menacing lines out. It's about the menace you feel when you go to a football match."
MES: "I think it's quite sympathetic, compared to the glorification by people who know nowt about soccer. Better than 'The National Front Disco' or whatever by Morissey -- he's obviously never even seen a soccer ball in his life. I get people who I worked with ten years ago in the record business saying, 'Been down to see City lately?' -- but ten years ago if you'd have said to them 'How did City get on?' they would have said, 'I don't go to soccer, I'm into meditation'. Now they go 'I went to see City, or United -- on an E!"'
WH: "We're thinking of challenging Carter to a game, actually."
5) FAN WORSHIP (OR NOT)
MES: "Ha ha ha ha! I walk around the street like this (spreads arms into Messianic pose) with 'I'M FROM THE FALL' on me forehead, but they ignore me. Naaah, it's for the best... d'you wanna talk to these two? I'Il nip out, I'm going to get big-headed. I'll see you in the pub over the road -- first one you come to. With this, Smith abandons his nascent journalistic career and scuttles from the room, clutching a sack of fag packs and scrappy scrawl-notes. I, Ludicrous shrug knowingly and settle for being Britain's second-best band.
Preposterous, but true.