logo-a-go-goFall News - 17 May 1998


Live To Air in Melbourne is turning up in the US; apparently there are UK marketing and promo problems, hence the delay with this release and Smith on Smith.


Jeff Higgott, Keeper of the Holy Fall Discography, is running the fabulous I Ludicrous site at:



Pete Conkerton:

>> Dr. Doom fresh from Salem
>> And the witch trials
>> The lathe of heaven
>> Time mistaken
>> Three places at once.

As I assume you're all aware, this bit refers to a Marvel Comics story in which Doc Doom, the arch-nemesis of the Fantastic Four, steals their time machine & goes gallivanting off through, er, various times, including a stop-off at the Salem witch trials, with Spiderman in hot pursuit. Can't remember the reason for it all, but if I remember rightly it was written by Gerry Conway so perhaps there wasn't a reason. The story is in Marvel Team-Up #s (I think) 42-46, which should be > cheap > & easy to find in any decent comic emporium.


Michael Bracewell from England is Mine. "Lucifer over Lancashire" p 179-186 (apologies for spelling mistakes etc, but it was scanned in and I find it too unreadable to correct; I pity Bracewell's editor)

....This mixture of beauty and suffering, never too distant from a pharmacological background of cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. casts Cooper Clarke as the Rimbaud of Salford - a poet for whom the argot of Manchester is just as rich as the street slang of Paris. In terms of defining the northern sensibility, Cooper Clarke's subject is the fate of vulnerable humanity at the hands of advanced consumerism in a depressed or archaic region; his particular balance of comedy and protest is drawn from the increased vulgarity of cut-price . glamour in a local culture weighed down by economic collapse and a redundant industrial heritage.

Within the first generation of Mancunian punks, Howard Devoto the man who invited the Sex Pistols to Manchester, co-founder of the Buzzcocks and subsequently frontman of Magazine revealed himself to be a lyricist and performer of barbed literary accomplishment, paraphrasing emotional experience with an accuracy that was intensified by the simultaneous commentary, within the songs, of accusation and confession. Having written two of punk rock's classic songs, 'Boredom' (which shared with Richard Hell's 'Blank Generation' the assertion that dumb was smart) and 'Orgasm Addict', Devoto had laid the blueprint for his developing themes of the fragility of identity and the violence of love. With Magazine's first two LPs, Real Life and Secondhand Daylight, Devoto's performance and lyrics put forward an attitude of displacement which would survive the conversion of punk rock into social clich6. Simultaneously awkward and menacing, witty and reserved, he seemed to represent the lucidity of the lost philosopher as pitted against the classic nervous boredom of the English punk, and provided a rallying anthem for this condition in 'Shot By Both Sides' and 'A Song From Under The Floorboards'.

Devoto delivered aphorisms ('1 know the meaning of life and it doesn't help me a bit', for example) which suggested the ambiguous arrogance of supreme intelligence and the pain of self-awareness. Unlike most of his Manchurian peers, he had no interest in regionalism as either style or content; Magazine were less a Manchester group than an idea that originated in Manchester. The perception of the north as a willing dumping ground for the sophistry of southern fissionability was central to Mark E. Smith's conception of his group the Fall. The Fall have used the rock form as a vehicle for Smith's unique recounting of lucid dreams that double as a form of mass observation; they are both the unencumbered sound of a regional sensibility, and, in Smith's seemingly refracted but wholly focused use of language and narrative, as important to the history of English pop as Cubism was to the development of European painting. And, as genuine innovators in a medium too used to graceless mavericks, they have remained within a largely marginalized sphere of influence.

On the sleeve of the Falls first live LP, Totale's Turns (1980), there is an acerbic note entitled 'Call yourselves bloody professionals?', penned by one of Smith's many alter-egos, Roman Totale. The note describes the hostility with which the Fall were met by their local audience on the working-men's club circuit. Rather than the 'northern white crap that talks back (as Smith introduces the Fall), 'cast out, cast out as if from Heaven', the local youth, according to Totale, believe that 'Everyone knows best groups come from't London'. In short, the Vorticist violence of Mark E. Smith's Fall was initially rejected by the very culture that it was articulating with such force, oblique lucidity and mordant humour. Smith remains a regional visionary and exponent of political surrealism; his writing combines the malevolence of Wyndham Lewis's satires on the Bloomsbury Group with the polemicizing of a revisionist historian. Indeed, the Fall could be seen as a vorticist Blast against the design-professionalism and Mancunian elitism of Anthony H. Wilson's Factory Records. Smith wrote in 'Cash and Carry':

Even in Manchester. There's two types of factory there. One makes old corpses. They stumble around like rust dogs. One lives off old dying men, One lives off the back of a dead man. You know which one. You know which Factory I mean. You know ... You know ... Psychedelic brain mushes offers the alternative. They're all good boys, regular wages. The boss does the covers. They are OK by me. They just don't talk to me.

Smith keeps the Fall at arm's length, because, he claims, 'that's our mentality'. A former communist and ex-dock-worker, Smith named his group after the novel by Camus. This was his first and last engagement with self-consciously 'intellectualized' pop culture. In what could he seen as an act of Class War, Smith, as the 'prole art threat', would reject or ridicule all attempts by cultural pundits either to appropriate or to deconstruct the Fall. To this end, Smith added a pointed note on the reverse sleeve of the Fall's Slates 10-inch mini-LP (1981):

'Academic thingys ream off names of books and bands.'

This hostility towards bourgeois critiques is as pronounced as Roman Totale's disgust at a would-be fashionable northern audience who hide their conformity beneath 'straight leg Lee Coopers'. Smith. like Lewis, has adopted the artistic persona of the Enemy of one and all. He has described his artistic project - which is laden with wit, as well as bile - as a product of the 'dock mentality': an insular bloody-mindedness which doubles as an epic vision of England (and Europe) beset by corruption, decay, absurdity and hypocrisy. Backed by the disciplined repetition of his group ('Don't start improvising, for God's sake', Smith barks on 'Slates, Slogs etc', 1981), Smith could narrate or sermonise in a semi-codefied language that made philosophical comedy out of intellectual short-hand. He assumes various characters within these narratives: Riddler, the Man Whose Head Expanded, Carrier-Bag man, the Hip Priest, Wireless Enthusiast, Roman Totale - to name a selection; these characters are both his fictional puppets and his alter-egos. Smith, like Fellini, sub-contracts different aspects of his vision to a cast of personal representatives who can explore states of being in a succession of lucid dreams. And, as with Fellini's dreams transcribed to film, it is often difficult (and unnecessary) to distinguish these dreams from reality. There is always a plausibility which makes the seemingly illogical or absurd make poetic sense. From their first LP, Live At the Witch Trials (1978), the Fall were committed to an unvarying course through dreams, protest and paranoia. In literary terms, Smith has been compared with James Joyce as an innovator within the English language, but he remains protective of his gifts, as he hints in 'Room To Live':

Foreigners and experts go in And through my place Turn my home into a museum And like the murder squad They scan the room for the well of inspiration. They don't tolerate ordinary folk And folk look at me strange; But I'll give them this at least They pay for what they eat.

As this lyric suggests, surveillance is a major theme in Smith's writing, positing him as both sleuth and criminal, but always in possession of suppressed information. There used to be a statue of Cromwell outside Victoria Station in Manchester,' he said' during an interview with Frieze magazine, 'but they moved it and put it behind some fucking bush in Wythenshawe.' Smith, as a reactionary republican, describes evidence of hostility the opposition as ubiquitous. English and Scottish history (to say nothing of Dutch, German and Italian history) becomes a sinister source for Smith's open file on treachery and corruption. In his experiments with theatre and ballet, Hey! Luciani and 'I.Am Kurious Oranj' (1988), Smith has tackled murderous plots in the Vatican and over the Dutch succession respectively. In some ways, these historic dramas were extensions of Smith's primary metaphor of England in decay. In Kurious Oranj, sharing a song-writing credit with William Blake for 'Dog Is Life/ Jerusalem', he narrates:

I was walking down the street when 1 tripped up on a discarded banana skin, and on my way down I caught the side of my head on a protruding brick chip. It was the government's fault. 1 was, ah, very let down by the Budget. 1 was expecting a one million quid hand out. 1 was very disappointed. It was the government's fault.

'The Fall', in Blakeian terms, could be regarded as Smith's perception of England's fall from grace and descent into self-pity or fashionable liberalism - two sins of equal gravity in Smith's writing. His theatrical projects saw Smith working with Michael Clark's ballet company and the late Leigh Bowery, an Australian eccentric who elevated going to nightclubs as a reconstructed art-work (through elaborate costumes and make-up techniques) to a form of performance art which hailed the absurd and the transgressive as its primary aesthetic. But the metropolitan fashionability of these projects could not have been further removed from Smith's defiantly northern stance, and of the two works it was the less grand Hey! Luciani that was the most effective, and the most faithful to Smith's clever appropriation of amateurism and arte povera. The Fall had always made use of a Luddite tendency to reverse the slick professionalism of pop as product - hence their artistic opposition to the luxurious minimalism of Wilson's Factory artefacts. Each Fall release was sleeved wit "h cover art (designed or directed by Smith) that extended the marriage between Blake and Blast in the graphics of an underground samizdat (best realized, perhaps, in the art-work for This Nation's Saving Grace, with its implication of chariots of fire riding over the Mancunian cityscape), replete with dry wit.

Throughout the early i98os, as the Fall grew in reputation while confounding the heavily produced and brightly packaged pop culture of that period, their artistic vision was unyielding to fashionability. From Hex Induction Hour (i982) to This Nation's Saving Grace (i98,5) and Bend Sinister (i986), Smith appeared to be working on an epic diagnosis of his times, relating the dispossessed.to a delight in contrariness which.said as much about the failure of socialism as it did about the effects of fad-led consumerism. Hence, perhaps, his eerie revival of The British Grenadiers' on Bend Sinister. As removed from the ground-breaking house and techno scene that would develop from the Factorys club, the Hacienda (and Factory's imprint on an era with New Order's best-selling 'Blue Monday') as they were from the later consolidation of rave and independent pop that became the proto-laddism of 'Madchester' (despite Mark Smith's occasional sorties into the world of dance music), the Fall maintained a fierce independence with a smouldering hatred of the high-riding aristocrats of pop fashionability.

Smith's twisted comedies and perverse visions saw a landscape of deliquescing precincts, portakabins, blank British countryside and lurid psychological interiors. These were the dreams of Branwell Bronte as self-inflicted time-travel, touched by the arcana of local journalism. Smith's writing was peopled with social misfits, mutants and autistic enthusiasts; their first-person narration, more often than not,. played with lunatic conviction as cock-eyed shamanism - delivering accounts of fantastical or disturbing occurrences between the pub and the Post Office, the High Street and the hotel. Writing from the point of view of an anxious victim of hostile forces, recounting his strategies for psychic self-defence while pronouncing judgement on the enemies, Smith became the hero of his own allegorical comedies. We are not that far, in fact, from an apocalyptic view of Billy Liar's Ambrosia. If we take Smith's writing and his plosive, side-of-mouth delivery to be the underground press (or local paper) of his own psychological vision, we can see that he is Editor, Chief Correspondent and full cast of most of his stories. In 'Village Bug', for instance: 'I cannot account for this village bug/ Smoke hangs like clouds of slugs/ Gossip spreads.'And in 'Wings' we find Smith as time travelling historian and as psycho-journalist:

1 ended up in the eighteen sixties. I've bin there for one hundred and twenty five years. A small alteration of the past can turn time into space. Ended up under Ardwick Bridge. With some veterans of the US Civil War. They were under Irish patronage. We shot a stupid sergeant, but 1 got hit in the cross-fire ... ... So now 1 sleep in ditches. And hide away from nosy kids. The wings rot and feather under me. The wings rot and curl right under me. A small alteration of the past, can turn time into space.

Smith's subject is seldom love, but his writing leaves traces of tenderness among the surreal comedy and grape-shot philosophizing. 'This is the finest time of my life,' he admits in a tuneless croon on 'Bill Is Dead', while 'Mark'll Sink Us' comes closer to confession: A message mesmerised on all English breath The crux pretty grasped but. mostly misunderstood. Mark'll sink us! 1 am desolate. 1 live the black and blue of the night. Friend depression comes now and again. Once in a blue moon. It points backwards, thus: Mark'll sink us! Ultimately, perhaps, Smith's target is what he perceives as the failure of English pop to change anything:

All the English groups act like peasants with free milk;
On a route, on a route to the loot,
Five whacky English proletariat idiots.
Califomians always think of sex or think of death.
Five hundred girl deaths ...

Smith's hatred of pop nostalgia ('Vimto and Spangles were always crap-uh,' he pronounces on 'It's A Curse', 'Regardless of the look back bores') lends an air of caustic topicality to each record. Lampooning the re-emergence of open-air pop festivals in 'Bonkers In Phoenix', or baiting the music press in 'CnC Mithering', he resembles the later, solitary Lewis who was producing The Enemy journal more or less single-handedly. And yet Smith, S northern pop Blast, fed on the mutant landscape of north Manchester, is still underwritten by a sense of regional identity as cultural metaphor, 'Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul', 'Hit The North' and 'Lucifer Over Lancashire', with its acknowledgement of northern demonism, take the local and pronounce them universal, suggesting a prophet in Prestwich: '

I can see. I have dreams. And the secret of my life: Is ... Secretive' ('Cash & Carry').


Luke Beetham:

> This is in reply to Peter's request for information regarding
> MES's interest in the millenium, and chillinism and chiliasm.
> This is from the alchemist Fulcanelli's work "Le Mystere des
> Cathedrales" (1925):
> "...However, near the south transept there is a humble stone
> cross, as simple as it is strange, hiding amidst the greenery
> of the square... whatever its age [late 17th/early 18th Cent],
> the HEndaye cross shows by the decoration of its pedestal that
> it is the strangest monument of primitive millenarism, the
> rarest symbolical translation of chiliasm***, which I have ever
> met. It is known that this doctrine, accepted and them refuted
> by Origen, St. Denis of Alexandria and St. Jerome although it
> had not been condemned by the Church, was part of the esoteric
> tradition of the ancient hermetic philosophy [alchemy]."
> ***(Translator's note: millenarism, chiliasm, doctrine of
> belief in the millenium)
> On this cross are Stars, a moon, sun, and a shield (of sorts,
> denoting the 4 ages of the world). Included on the cross is
> a Latin phrase:
> It's in the form of a riddle that pertains to alchemical
> teachings. Of course, it would help to know Latin to solve
> part of the puzzle...

[>Well, just placing all the letters together, & adding spacing &
>punctuation, we get:
>O CRUX! AVE SPES UNICA!" (something like: "O Cross! Hail the only hope!") >

Or "aves pes unica", which would be close to "a single birds' foot" - precog of "crows' feet ingrained on my face" in Living too Late, of course]

> That's all I have.
> --
> -Luke

Pete Conkerton:
Thanks Luke. It's that man Fulcanelli again, a bloke with a heavy presence in 'The Morning of the Magicians'. I'll do a bit more reading & report back, he said to a chorus of audible groans from Fallnet...and so:

Evening all. Further to the millennium/chiliasm theme, here's what 'The Morning of the Magicians' has to say about Fulcanelli.

'Around midnight I asked him about Fulcanelli and he gave me to understand that Fulcanelli is not dead: "It is possible to live infinitely longer than an unawakened man could believe. And one's appearance can change completely. I know this; my eyes know it. I also know that there is such a thing as the philosopher's stone. But this is matter on a different level, and not as we know it. But here, as elsewhere, it is still possible to take measurements. The methods of working and measuring are simple, and do not require any complicated appuratus: women's work and children's games..."'

'He added: "Patience, hope, work. And whatever the work may be, one can never work hard enough. As to hope: in alchemy hope is based on the certainty that there is a goal to attain. I would never have begun had I not been convinced that this goal exists and can be attained in this life."'

[the upshot of this is that the second-person speaker is Fulcanelli himself]

The works of Fulcanelli include, notably, 'Le Mystere des Cathedrales' and detailed descriptions of 'Les Demeures Philosophales' [lives of the philosophers]. Certain medieval buildings are believed to be examples of the age-old custom of transmitting through architecture the message of alchemy dating back to the remotest antiquity.

[at which point I can only point out the bizarre existence of a book on Venetian architecture co-written by an MES]

Fulcanelli believed that alchemy was the connecting link with civilisations that disappeared thousands of years ago and of which the archaeologists knew nothing. Of course no archaeologist or historian of high repute will admit that civilisations have existed in the past more advanced than ours in science and techniques. But advanced techniques and scientific knowledge simplify enormously the machinery, and traces of what they accomplished are perhaps staring us in the face without our being able to recognise them for what they are. No serious historian or archaeologist who has not had a very thorough scientific education could carry out the researches and explorations that would be likely to throw any light on these matters. The strict segregation of the various disciplines, necessitated by the fabulous advances in modern science, has perhaps concealed from us other fabulous discoveries of an earlier age. We know that it was a German engineer, engaged to build sewers for the city of Baghdad, who discovered amongst some bric-a-brac in the local museum, labelled vaguely 'ritual objects', electric batteries - manufactured ten centuries before Volta under the Sassanid dynasty. So long as archaeology is only practised by archaeologists, we shall never know if the 'mists of antiquity' were luminous or obscure.

[Fulcanelli: ''one can never work hard enough'. MES: 'work is the only pleasure'. Hmmm... There's also this list of claims for the alchemists, which perhaps the scientists among us would like to get their teeth into:]

Albert le Grand (1193-1280) succeeded in producing potassium lye, and was the first to describe the chemical composition of cinnabar, white-lead and minium.
Raymond Lull (1235-1315) prepared bicarbonate of potassium.
Theophrastes Paracelsus (1493-1541) was the first to describe zinc, hitherto unknown. He also introduced the use in medicine of chemical compounds.
Giambattista della Porta (1541-1615) produced tin monoxide.
Johann-Baptiste Van Helmont (1577-1644) recognised the existence of gases.
Basil Valentin (whose real identity is still unknown) discovered, in the seventeenth century, sulphuric acid and chloro-hydric [sic] acid.
Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604-68)discovered sodium sulphate.
Brandt (d.1692) discovered phosphorous.
Johann Friedrich Boetticher (1682-1719) was the first European to make porcelain.
Blaise Vigenere (1523-1596) discovered benzoic acid.


Line of the week:

"Snows almost did not remain :-) winter has bothered to death (so speak)"


Not strictly the place for it here, but anyway:

>Dear Fallnetters.
>ARK are online! As you will Know, Steve Hanley, Tommy Crooks and Karl Burns
>have started a new Band Called Ark. They have just employed a singer called Pete
>Nakamura. He was the Bass player for Mark Reilly and the Creepers. Come and
>visit our Web site for the latest news on our up coming tour, our new cd (which
>will be on sale exclusively over the net).Our Website Address at the moment is
>http://www.vweb.co.uk/chris/ark/ We will be running a competition next week
>where the prize will be a set of Karl Burns(the breathing Forests') used Drum Sticks.
>Ask us questions. We might answer them!

Recent news....

980510 Another NME report
980504 Dingwalls and Reading reviews; Guardian, NME articles; pointers to Fall pics and PSF's Fall tribute
980426 German Levitate review, Dee Pop's tour diary
980419 NME online report, Lathe of Heaven
980414 Wire Levitate review
980410 More Philly reviews, Black Cat DC, NY Brownies reviews. Loads of stuff on the Thule group. Select interview from January
980405 CIH, Loop Lounge, Middle East Boston, Plilly Troc reviews. Various press reports.
980331 Details of Live in Melbourne 82 CD, Smith on Smith spoken word CD, Nine Unknown Men, initial Coney Island High reports
980329 bollocks Smile comp details
980322 Vox interview, other stuff
980315 TBLY/Info service details
Peel session details; US tour dates
980227 a few bits & pieces, RTL, PoSR out
980222 NME interview
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

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