Fall News - 22 February 1998


A message from a Mr Mark E Smith of Manchester - Masquerade is out, available in three formats. It got to No. 59 in the official UK charts after the first week: so buy, buy, buy! 

The Masquerade single comprises a 10" (Masquerade Mr. Natural Mix, Masquerade PWL mix, Masquerade album mix), CD1 (Masquerade single mix, Ivanhoes two pence, Spencer must die (live), Ten Houses remix) and CD2 (Masquerade single mix, Calendar, Scareball, Ol' Gang live). Each version somes with a tasteful cover sticker: Winner of 1998 NME Godlike Genius Award.

New Peel session to be aired on March 3rd.

The Peel Sessions album looks like it's still due out on the 23 February. Room To Live and Palace of Swords Reversed reissues seem to have been put back to 16 March. Perverted by Language has been rereleased on Cog Sinister, including lyrics... 


The recent MES interview in NME is below.

The Biggest Library Yet

For those unaware of it, issue 10 of the excellent fanzine TBLY (on real paper) came out a few weeks ago, put together by Graham Coleman. For details have a look at the TBLY pages at http://members.tripod.com/~GColeman/index.html - some back issues (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10) are still available for the bargain price of £1.00 cash/chq/PO (overseas send 3 IRCs or $3US). Any enquiries to spleen@valise.com

The equally excellent Rob Waite is taking over management of the TBLY from issue 11, so submissions for the next issue should go to Rob, 19 Wellington Street, Retford, Notts, DN22 6PR, UK. I'll put up the order details once they're finalised.

Recent news....

980215 Destroy punk covers exhibition, Masquerade single details
980207 Brats award transcript
980130 Bits on NME Award, POSR/RTL reissue details
980125 Shanley i/view
980118 Time Out interview w/pics, Melody Maker review, Oh Brother press release, Oxford review
980111 Dutch Opscene interview
980104 Melody Maker interview
971221 Not much
971211 Portsmouth, London, Cambridge, Norwich, Bristol reviews
971203 Oxford, Stoke, Leeds, Liverpool reviews; Esquire interview
971125 Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stoke reviews
971116 Manchester reviews, Loaded interview
971112 Band back together, teletext interview
971110 NME report, various Dublin/Belfast disaster reports
971109 First Dublin/Belfast reviews


NARKY MARK (NME 7 Feb 1998, p50-52)

Mark E Smith - arsey old curmudgeon or indefatigable godlike genius-ah? Answer: Both! Why? ‘Cos we’ve just given him an award to prove it! And, after 20 years as head honcho of the gloriously off-kilter and highly influential beat combo The Fall, he’s still a grouchy get! E Heads: John Robertson (words) David Tonge (photos)

Narky MarkSafe to say it's not been his day.  Arrived this morning and couldn't find the studio he was meant to be working in, because the cab had dropped him off at the wrong place.  He looked around for a bit, then went to a garage to ask for help, and said I'm desperate here, d'you know where this place is?  Bloke who had been stood there talking in cockney five minutes ago starts claiming he can't understand.  Must've been Russian or something.

Could just be Camden, he supposes. You ask people something and they deliberately give you wrong directions: you know they know damn well where the place is you're looking for, and they're just not civil enough to bloody tell you.  Even went to another studio to ask and they didn't know, and it was only three doors down.  Where you from?

Right.  Anywhere near Haverstock Hill? He spent about six weeks there ten years ago, and nearly went f-ing crackers.  On his own, typing out his play.  That's right - Hey, Luciani!  Ran for about eight weeks at the Riverside Studios.  Play was really good, it was just that he had to stay near bloody Hampstead in a hotel.  Wasn't so much being on his own as the people.  Opened his eyes a lot, he'll tell you.

He clatters down the stairs of the mixing suite where he's been sorting out the cut of his new single, plonks himself down in the photographer's hastily assembled setup, and begins to whistle.  He does this - like he drums his fingers when he's bored, but is still scrupulously polite, enquiring after the collective wellbeing.  He understands that the photographer has another appointment and will have to leave shortly.  That's right, says the photographer.  In Waterloo.

"What? in Belgium?"

An air of slightly comic discomfort descends.  Him not quite sure if we get it, us not quite sure if we should laugh or not.  A condition that he and his band  have thrived under for the past 20 years. The band are The Fall, and this is Mark E Smith.  Now we're going to the pub to discuss it.

THERE HAVE, OF LATE, BEEN stories about the man currently at the bar buying himself a Hoisten Pils.  The last time, for instance, he met someone from NME, he attempted, albeit playfully, to strangle him.  When interviewed for an associated publication, meanwhile, he tried to  extinguish a cigarette in the writer's face.

There followed an extraordinary story about an abortive gig in Belfast.  Mark E Smith sacked The Fall, reinstated them againi and then re-sacked them before offering to perform with an acquaintance of his - a 50-year-old one-eyed poet and some backing tapes.  His comment?  "if it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig." What looked once to have been his exemplary command over a highly disciplined band seemed to be degenerating into amire of erratic and paranoidal fits of temper. Yet he is unstoppable.  For 20 years The-Fall have existed as a splendidly isolated and original adjunct to popular music, marshalled ruthlessly by Smith into perpetuating and refining a vision he still insists is only three-quarters there.  Seen and rendered by him, England is never incomprehensible but sinister, grotesque and funny, its population seen through an always critical lens.

Which makes this task rather difficult, because we come to praise a man unsentimental about his past achievements.  Soon to be a recipient, though he does not yet know it, of an NME award for Godlike Genius, an elaborate plan has been hatched between his press officer and band member Julia Nagle to lure him unsuspecting, to the awards ceremony.

"He used to go to those all the time,"   Julia confides.  "But he used to go up to all the people from his old record companies and demand money. She smiles. "He doesn't really go any more."

In a musical climate where reverence for the musician overrides a pride in invention, Mark E Smith is all the more vital.  He...

He's back from the bar. "You give musicians space, and trust them, then you come back and everything's in complete bloody chaos,"  he says. "That's what happened in Belfast. Someone kicked a guitar stand over at rehearsal, and it was like... open rebellion! And I was very poorly at the time, I had the flu badly. Which they all got a week later, which says something But I couldn't hear what anyone was saying, and the moment you relax they're all going, 'We want this, we want that'. People smell a bit of weakness.

"What it is," he says, "is there's a lot of people with bollocks for brains. I think a lot of it's an age thing, when you get to your mid-30s. Like all those ex-NME writers doing these soccer programmes and film programmes. They're not men."

Not men?

"Not in my estimation, no. But the bastards that used to call me a sell-out, they're all writing for The Guardian doing these crappy, shitty programmes on soccer. The same guys that took the piss out of me for writing 'Kicker Conspiracy', which is about soccer violence. That was the problem with the band, they're getting f-ing grey hairs, like a mid-life crisis or something, once you start getting close to 40 you start sweating.'

How so?

"Because you're dealing with people, in the main, who think they're in 0asis.  Think you're a millionaire.  Think you’ve got a harem upstairs.  Think you're drugs all the time.  And they start to think: 'What am I doing in The bleeding Fall playing drums to I,000 people in f-ing Wales?'

"You're never going to be on Top of The Pops every week if you're in The Fall, that's not what The Fall's about says Mark finally. "The Fall's about hard work." 

SITTING ROLLING HIS EYES, drumming his fingers, Mark E Smith is hard work. Doesn't like to think about being influential (though he obviously is over, say, the likes of Pavement or the Happy Mondays). Doesn't keep trophies or mementoes of past successes, and hates the idea of being interviewed on a vaguely retrospective basis.

He keeps alert, redirecting questions that he feels are beneath him. Go on, ask him: Does he feel that The Fall are an extension of his personality? Is it something he can stop doing?

Dunno," he says. "You're the one sitting there in your round glasses and trendy leather jacket on. You tell me what you think it's an extension of.


Are you still attracted to the idea of being the hardest-working band in showbusiness?

He drums distractedly and stares into space. "You're failing into that NME thing of trying to be like a tabloid newspaper, but you're not very good at it. If you want Jim Davidson, you've come to the wrong bloke."

And so on.

What Mark E Smith has is taste, see. He's the man for whom nothing simply washes over. It accounts for his prickliness, wary perhaps of being just a colloquy of bitterly stated opinion, and it helps to understand his vision: under his direction, the world seen through his songs is radically transformed, from early gothic fantasies to later, dryer commentaries, this is his world. The satisfaction, he says, is in getting it down, and knowing you've got it down right. So many thought slip through your head in a day that to have faithfully recorded any of them is a victory.

There's one favourite Fall song from 1985 called 'My New House'. In it, Mark simply buys a new house, but the it's described is beguiling in the extreme. "According to the postman,' for instance, "it's like the bleeding Bank Of England.

"Was thinking about that one the other day, actually," he says.  "Because what I've been doing recently is trying to get me bloody house back together again.  There's been big gales round Manchester recently, and I was stood in me back yard thinking, "My New House'?  Better off tearing the f-er down'."

Is it still the same place you lived in when you wrote the song?

Mark touches his nose twice. "Mind your own business."

'Right.  But why, according to the postman, was it like the bleeding Bank Of England? "it's a running joke where I live," Mark explains.  "Like, y'know, you hear lads in Salford, they'll go: 'You'll never get in my house, it's like Fort Knox'.  Someone tried to break into my house, actually, and the keyboard player said, 'Anyone that tries to break into your house, Mark, they must be insane.  Must have a suicidal death wish'." 

Wondering what is the nature of the disrepair to Mark's house, we ask: Is his roof going?

"No need to be condescending,' comes the reply.  "You're not talking to Paul Heaton or Paul Weller, you know."

Certainly not.  Among other reasons, neither of them could conceivably have written 'Wings', one of the finest Fall songs, whose plot revolves around buying a pair of flabby wings, and taking to doing some hovering.  The song is cluttered with messy images.  Rather than a polished, shiny science fiction, it concerns the time lapses that propel Mark through the ages when he loses the stuffing from his wings: 'I shot dead a stupid sergeant, But I got hit in the crossfire, the stuffing lost made me hit a time block".  In the tradition of great English mysteries and science fiction, it draws from familiar things and makes them seem bizarre beyond all imagining. Rather than a difficult, Anthony Burgesslike future argot, Mark E Smith speaks a language we understand. "That's a compliment," he says.  "People think I get annoyed about people ripping me off, but I get more annoyed about people saying things like that.  It's a good song.  Thing about it now, it would be some big Hollywood Picture, like The X-Files or something.  "I've done all these scripts for a science fiction series, actually," he continues, "a British science fiction series, worked me f-ing balls off on them.  Six stories, really short.  Did the music, everything, made it all tight as f-ing f-.  And they said it was complete crap.  Then The X-Files comes on.  Same company, they want to see me scripts, because The X-Files is running out of ideas, or they want to use the music or something. I said send 'em back, I just need to look through them, and I f-ing burned them."

Your thing is a very English weirdness... "

And the Yanks base themselves on all that British stuff," says Mark.  "Did you ever see that film Dead Of Night?  It's like five horror stories, one of the best horror films I've ever seen. It’s from about 1945 and every story in that has been ripped off about 90,000 times.  You talk to a Yank, they'll freely admit it...

"Whereas British people prefer to watch..." Mark smirks. "Funniest story I've got about that sort of thing was when a meteor came over my house about six months ago.  Halley's... whatever.  And it stopped still over the part of Manchester where I live and it went into the black hole, so it stands still.  It was f-ing amazing, right at the top of my street.

"So I ran round to my mother's house, ran down her street and everyone's inside watching telly, so I said, 'You've got to see this'.  And I went round my sister's house and said: 'Come and have a look, you've got to see this'." He cackles. 

"And every door I knocked on, they said: 'Nah, we can't come out, The X-Files is still on for another ten minutes'.  Ahahahahahahahahaha!" 

WHEN HE LAUGHS, MARK E Smith laughs at other people. English proletariat idiots.  Cops who can't catch criminals.  Dopey baggy casuals.  Suede.

He saw The Verve and concluded: "God help us if there's a war." At the Phoenix Festival the other year, he looked on as his band were introduced to Lou Reed, and he just thought: sad.  What Mark E Smith does is move on, away from the past.  You should just get over it.  Recently, he went to an exclusive do at the Kensington Roof Gardens, and while the rest of his party mingled, Mark went over to the fountain and began bowing and paying homage.  Someone asked what he was doing, and so he told  them: this was the very spot, in 1972,  where Lou Reed kicked the shit out of  David Bowie.

He recalls this and laughs again.

Fall albums are rooted in contemporary things, and sound like opinionated almanacs of each succeeding year, the scourge of nostalgia.  Even the way he sorts out his ideas for songs - mumbled observations  into a cassette recorder - is rigorously modern. "I've had about eight cassette recorders like that," he says, pointing to the one currently recording him, "and they all keep breaking.  It's funny, the last couple of years - some are bloody possessed.  Every CD player I get breaks, every bloody record player I get breaks.  Someone's trying to tell me to pack it in.  And all my lyrics have been stolen, all my new lyrics for the new album were stolen at the London show.

"There's a reason for things like that though, isn't there?  In a way, it's quite good. I just keep throwing things away.  I'll probably regret it later in life.  Like I see all these old fellas who used to be in rock'n'roll bands and they say to me, 'Keep your old cuttings'- I've thrown them all away.  You go round some old pub singer's house and they've got all these old photos: 'This is the time I met Gene Vincent.  This is the time John Lennon stood with me'.  They go: 'You should keep all these things that you get'. I go: 'They're all gone!"'

Mark likes Americans, because they're not like this, he thinks.  You say to an American that it's 20 years since Elvis died, and they'll say, "Who's Elvis?" Everything in their culture is geared towards the new, never undermined for a reverence for how things used to be.

It's one of the reasons he thinks there are too many journalists.  Himself, he tries only to read books, but he can't help noticing the huge bulk of, just paper, to which journalists are adding.

"I enjoy saying this to journalists," he smiles.  "But for every bloke pulling a pint, there's about 10,000 journalists writing an article about it."

The England that he talks about is basically an England without taste, without any idea of what is good and bad within it or its past, written about by a press that merely documents without comment.  We are swamped by information, most of it just flannel.  We're talking about an early song called 'The Man Whose Head Expanded', and to illustrate his point, Mark points to a type d at the bar wearing glasses and a rugby shirt.  He is reading The Guardian.

"Him," he says.

"It's easy to slip into nostalgia," Mark begins.  "The '70s were crap.  The '60s were crap.  The '50s were crap, even though I was only two." He chuckles.

"Saw Tom out of lnspiral Carpets' new band the other day.  All the crowd was like of that era, like they've not been out of the house for five years.  Comin' up to me and saying, 'How's your missus?  How's Brix?'They had the baggies on as well, all with these Clint Boon haircuts, but with receding hairlines.

"Hilarious, isn't it?" he says.  "I'm obsessed with time, I find it really funny.  Julia said this to me, and it's true, how some people in films don't date, and some people just stick out like a sore f-ing thumb.  Like who in their right mind would want to watch a Carry On film? I never made it through ten minutes of a Carry On film when I was a kid.  You'd take the piss, and all the raincoat  parade would throw you out, because you were spoiling the dirty bits for them.  It's like The Guardian or something: 'Who Was Sid James?' l'll tell you who he was.  He was a dirty comedian.

"It's rose-coloured glasses.  There's a lot of fellas who won't grow up: 'Let's have a joint and watch a Carry On film'.  Rubbish.  It's the same people who vote Labour and say, 'Oh, women are oppressed'.  It's a load of sexist crap.  Nobody tells people, young people, that.  They've just got people telling them how good everything was in the past.  It's the f-ing death of culture."

We have reached the point where The Fall begin.  Is this why he still does it? "] still think English art is rubbish. I think English groups are rubbish, I think English books are rubbish, and I think English films are rubbish.  So what are you going to do about it?" Mark drains his Hoisten Pils. "There's got to be something good." He pauses.  "Alright if we stop now?" And he's gone. 

SOME HOURS EARLIER, JULIA Nagle is plotting revenge on her gentleman friend.  She looks up from her book, surveys the faces at the table, and explains why.  It appears he phones her late at night to discuss important business, you see, and sometimes the discussions become rather heated.  So she puts the phone down on him.  But this doesn't seem to be enough for her gentleman friend. "Then he phones my parents..." she winces, "...and says, 'Julia's being very unreasonable about this...... She smiles. "So I'm going to get him back." And so she has resolved to lure Mark E Smith to the NME Awards, and revenge will be hers.  But somehow you suspect that he who has already laughed longest, may also laugh last. 


From: Steve Beeho
Subject: PBL Reissue - Less than 100% Attention To Detail Shocker

Earlier today just for the hell of it I looked inside the booklet for the Cog Sinister Perverted By Language reissue. Whaddya know, it now contains the lyrics. On closer inspection, there weren't any lyrics for either Neighbourhood of Infinity or I Feel Voxish - as according to the booklet  they're both "instrumentals" (God knows what I'd been hallucinating all these years then).

But then I twigged that the lyrics have seemingly been downloaded straight from the Lyrics Parade, even down to replicating the uncertain transcriptions eg there's a passage in Tempo House immortalised as:

[Pro-rae, pro-rae] [Laurent/A law on]

And wouldn't you just know it, the Lyrics Parade has nothing down for either Neighbourhood or Voxish so whoever's co-ordinated the bleeding thing has just assumed that therefore they're lyric-less.


From: Rick Karr:
pil.gar.lic n. [fr. peeled garlic] 1. A bald-headed person. 2 : someone looked upon with humorous contempt or mock pity Irving Long, Eye on Long Island: A Weekly Look Behind the News Inside Long Island: Historic Roots The Hairiest of Political Cover-ups, Newsday, 12 Mar 1995. "Moving from pogonotrophy to pilgarlics, many politicians perceive that the voters won't go for a bald-headed candidate, according to John T. Capps III of (where else?) Morehead City, N.C., president and founder of Bald-Headed Men of America. Capps believes there is a cover-up in Washington where he suspects that many members of Congress are wearing rugs. "In these circles, a word like `pilgarlic' can come in handy.  Besides being a real word in the dictionary that means a bald-headed man, `pilgarlic' is to `bald' as `statesman' is to `political hack.'" This week's theme: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

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