The blog of author Dennis Cooper

31 notches in The Fall’s big belt *

* (restored)
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Absolute basics

1. The Fall are an English post-punk band, formed in Manchester in 1976. Named after the English translation of Albert Camus’ novel, La Chute (The Fall) (1956), they are notable for their idiosyncratic and innovative music, leader Mark E. Smith’s enigmatic lyrics and drawling delivery, and for their subtle influence on several generations of musicians. Formed during punk rock’s rise, The Fall never quite fit into that movement or its post-punk/new wave offshoots. For over a quarter of a century, The Fall have continued to produce music which varies richly in both character and quality. The abrasive lyrics and instantly recognizable half-droned, half-ranted vocals of frontman Mark E. Smith provide the one consistent note through more than three prolific decades of dizzying personnel changes. An interview with Smith in May, 2004 reported “49 (band) members, 78 albums and 41 singles,” and also quoted the opinion of their longstanding fan, the legendary English DJ John Peel: “They are always different, they are always the same.”
2. Mark E. Smith sculpture

3. Acknowledged influences from: The Monks, Link Wray, The Seeds, Can, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, The Residents, Van der Graaf Generator, The Velvet Underground.
4. Acknowledged influence on: Sonic Youth, Suede, Wu Tang Clan, Pavement, Radiohead, Buck 65, DJ Shadow, Mobb Deep, Nick Cave, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, LCD Sound System, Clinic, etc., etc.
5. Official Fall Website
6. Unofficial Fall Website
7. The Pseud Mag: The Fall Fanzine
8. The Fall Gig Repository
9. Drawing by a 13 yr old Fall fan

10. Watch Mark E. Smith receive the NME Godlike Genius Award

11. In January 2005, The Fall were the subject of an hour long BBC 4 documentary, The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith

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Five explanations for #10

‘Smile / 2×4’ live on The Tube, 1983

‘Bombast / Cruisers Creek’ live on The Tube, 1985

‘I Am Damo Suzuki’ live at the Hacienda, 1985

‘Mr. Pharmacist’ promo clip

‘A Lot of Wind’ on MTV’s 120 Minutes, 1991

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Extracurricular

17.I Am Kurious Oranj’ (1988) Music: The Fall. Choreography: Michael Clark

‘The last thing most Fall fans expected the group to do in 1988 was provide music for a ballet, but in fact this is what they did. Of course, it helped that the Michael Clark company of dancers were some of the most avant-garde at the time in Britain and were inspired originally by the Fall’s “Hey! Luciani” single. The concept, very loosely, centers around William and Mary of Orange, and finds Smith arranging William Blake’s “Jerusalem” for the band, adding his own lyrics (“It was the fault of the government,” providing ironic contrast to the self-sufficiency espoused in Blake).’ — Answers.com

Watch a scene from ‘I Am Kurious Oranj’ (1:55)

Watch a clip from ‘Hail the New Puritans,’ Charles Atlas’s documentary about the Michael Clark/Fall collaborations

18. ‘Hey! Luciani’ (1986),  Mark E. Smith’s play

“‘Hey! Luciani’ lasts about 100 minutes and features new Fall music themes for each of the play’s main character, ‘Have Found Boorman’ (for the all-girl Israeli commando group who appear as a mysterious but vital connection in the thickening plot), ‘Sleep Debt Snatches’ which has a reggae atmosphere, a machine heart and spine cracking drumbeat, and ‘Informant’ which, fittingly in view of posthumous revelation of the cheeseburger being a narc is “the Elvis Presley type number.” Apart from The Fall, there’s Trevor Stewart as The Pope, Lucy Burgess as the ballet dancer and Pope’s right hand girl, Michael Clark has a brief role and Leigh Bowery, star of the excellent Smith-directed video for ‘Mr Pharmacist’, is head of accounts at The Vatican. ‘The play is a simulation of the conspiracy theory around Luciani Albino, Pope John Paul 1, says Smith. ‘The middle bit splits up other things – South America and Britain, for instance. No way is it a factual indictment of Catholicism or even The Vatican. People think when they hear it’s about the pope that it must either be a ‘rock musical’ or anti-religious statement or something. Which is a sad reflection on the way the theatre is viewed in this country. I chose the setting because the characters appealed to me and hopefully it makes good drama.'” — from NME, December 13, 1986

Watch Mark E. Smith discuss ‘Hey! Luciani’ with Jools Holland on The Tube, 1986

The Fall ‘Hey! Luciani’, promo clip (1986)

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 Sans music

19. In 1989, the NME decided to host a ‘Rock Summit’ for their end-of-the-year issue.’ So they put Mark E. Smith, Nick Cave, and Shane McGowan together in pub, plied them with drinks, and recorded their conversation.

Nick Cave “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.”
Mark E. Smith “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lst that now. Your work’s good though.”
Shane McGowan “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?”
MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.”
SM “Can’t afford to.”
MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.”
SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?”
MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.”
SM “It’s a democracy our band.”
MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?”
SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.”
MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.”
SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.”
MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.”
SM “I said high-brow loonies.”
(read the rest)

20. Watch Mark E. Smith read out the classified football results on the BBC

21. Selected quotes

‘Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines. Why are students not informed about this?’

‘I’ve done all these scripts for a science fiction series, actually, a British science fiction series, worked me fucking balls off on them. Six stories, really short. Did the music, everything, made it all tight as fucking fuck. 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 fucking burned them.’

‘You should read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, that’s proper journalism. I mean, he followed fucking Goebbels around, stayed up all night doing stuff, listening to tapes of broadcasts. Nowadays, they can’t spell, they can’t fuckin’ paragraph for a start and that puts ’em right out in my book. You want to know what I read? The Daily Mail. You want to know why? Because everything is spelt correctly. I know it’s a load of fuckin’ bosh, but at least you understand it.’

‘I used to be psychic, but I drank my way out of it.’

‘Pre-cog is a Fall word.’

‘English people will go to Africa and work out all the different tribes, but they won’t look at themselves. It makes me laugh, this ashamed of being English thing, cos it’s the most tolerant fucking country in the world. We went to Wales with Super Furry Animals, and it was like the fucking ‘Wicker Mari – end of the night, they’re all pissed, singing Welsh songs, running around outside. The bouncer’s going ‘You’re English, you’d better stay in the van; and they’ve all got Welsh flags and stuff. We go back to the van and there’s like 3,000 Welshmen with fucking torches going ‘Adoobedoobedoo’. Imagine if that was fucking Germans or something!’

‘John Walters wrote me a letter and said, you know, ‘you are the worst group I’ve ever seen in the [laughs] in the history of mankind’ [laughs]. He was good like that, John Walters was. You ever meet him? No, he was f**king fantastic. He said, ‘you were the worst, tuneless, rubbish I’ve ever heard’, you know, ‘even worse than Siouxsie and the Banshees’. This is what he wrote ‘you’re even worse than Siouxsie and the Banshees. I didn’t believe it was possible.’ You know what I mean? [laughs] He was a gem, what a gem.’

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Recent, rare, special guests

23. ‘White Lightning,’ rare biker movie promo clip, 1991

24. The Fall with Coldcut ‘Telephone Thing,’ live in 1990

25. ‘Blindness,’ live at The Hammersmith Palais, 01/04/2007

26. ‘Wings,’ rare promo clip, 1985

27. Inspiral Carpets feat. Mark E. Smith ‘I Want You,’ 1994

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Misc.

28. Renegade: The Gospel According to Mark E. Smith (Penguin, July, 2007)

The first autobiography by the legendary leader of The Fall. Still going after thirty years, The Fall are one of the most distinctive British bands, their music — odd, spare, cranky and repetitious — an acknowledged influence on The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, Nirvana and Franz Ferdinand. And Mark E. Smith IS The Fall. For the first time we get to hear his full, candid take on the ups and downs of a band as notorious for its in-house fighting as for its great music; and on a life that has endured prison in America, drugs, bankruptcy, divorce and the often bleak results of a legendary thirst.

Order it here

29. My 10 favorite Fall songs (in no order)

1. ‘Cruisers Creek’
2. ‘Hep Priest’
3. ‘Oswald Defense Lawyer’
4. ‘Bremen Nacht’
5. ‘C.R.E.E.P.’
6. ‘My New House’
7. ‘Carry Bag Man’
8. ‘Hey! Luciani’
9. ‘I Am Damo Suzuki’
10. ‘Terry Waite Sez’

30. Read ‘The Fall in Concert’ by Luz



















31. Mark E. Smith turned 50 on March 5th, 2007


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*

p.s. Hey. ** Misanthrope, George, Do those projects. It’s raining here too, but I’m cool with it. David sounds like a disaster-in-progress. Or like a wild oats sewer who’s going to need a lot of luck. I wish you (and him) all the positive and sobering vibes possible, man. Really stressful. ** Ferdinand, Hi. Me either: obsessiveness, not needing much to. Yeah, I listened to Chris’s Wake Island deal yesterday, and that reference was very cool. Cheers back from a rain-surrounded spot in Paris. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, I was friendly with Lucille LaSueur. In fact, here’s a polaroid I took of Lucille in 1984. ** Bill, On the … menu? Urp. You’re wild. Where do you hear about all these books I’ve never heard of, i.e. Isabel Yap’s? I’ll go hunt it. Thank you, B. ** Sypha, I’m probably showing my age in saying that I have no idea who Krang is and have never watched any incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Golem there looks like a very tough boss, no? ** Dominik, Hi, hi!!! I looked to see if there were any stray videos or anything online from that piece of Ishmael’s and mine (‘The Undead’) that Sherry/Keith was in, and I found a very short, kind of blurry excerpt from part of it. Sherry/Keith is the boy with dyed blond hair kissing and hugging Ishmael stage center. Here. Oh, I did a post about ball-jointed dolls here years ago. I should find and restore it maybe. Thank you! Love being such a sloppy kisser he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, G. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, I’ve seen the term ‘elevated horror’ around. I think ‘coopted horror’ would be more accurate. I would definitely like to see a documentary that accurately portrays David W. as the complicated, great guy he really was and not more things coopting select aspects of him with the goal of creating a queer saint. That’s tough with your friend. I guess just let him know you care and are available and hope? Unless you think it’s so serious there needs to be an intervention or something? ** Jack Skelley, Oh, man, you just murdered me, mouth-first, in the most humane possible way. Jesus. Congratulations! ** Okay. Today you get a really, really old restored post from about 14 years ago that I originally made to mark the occasion of Mark E. Smith’s 50th birthday. So he was both alive at the time and still running on all cylinders or whatever they say. There are some dead links in there, but a surprising number of them still work. Anyway, a slightly cob-webbed tribute to the great and powerful Fall. See you tomorrow.

9 Comments

  1. Ferdinand

    Shared this to the relevant friend and facebook group. Still cloudy. Back to perpetual clean up.

  2. _Black_Acrylic

    The Fall will always be relevant and wonderful! I need to get into more of their late period stuff, which I’m reliably informed is where the real action is.

  3. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Thanks for that. Yeah, the struggle is real, as they say. Just keeping on keeping on.

    Kayla and I are going to my friend’s house Saturday evening. It’s supposed to be a really nice day. It’ll be good to get away for a bit.

    I need to listen to more of The Fall. I’m very aware of them but have never really sat myself down and listened to them. I know Brett Anderson and the Suede boys were huge fans. You’d think that would’ve made me get more into them, no? Well, not yet. Today’s a good starting point obviously.

  4. David Ehrenstein

    Neat pic of Lucille!

  5. Sypha

    This is one of those acts I’ve never really investigated all that much, probably due to being daunted by the large discography. I do have a few of the early albums and the “greatest hits” though. I do love the song “New Face in Hell” and used it for the soundtrack to my chapbook THE MAN WHO MURDERED HIS MUSE.

    Dennis, nah, Golem isn’t that tough, he’s usually just the first boss in most of the games in that series, ha ha.

  6. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Ah, I love The Fall (well, a lot of their work, at least), and Mark E. Smith had the kind of very intense presence/charisma that always touches me deeply when I discover it in someone. Thank you for this post!

    And thank you so much for the excerpt from “The Undead” too! My two main thoughts/feelings were: it must’ve been a very intense piece, and I wish now more than ever to go back in time and see it, AND Sherry/Keith was definitely a boymuse. Halfboy-muse. Any kind of muse they wish to be.

    I’ve been tempted to buy a ball-jointed doll since forever because they are so incredibly beautiful to me. But they’re also incredibly expensive, and it’s a bit tricky to order them since everyone says it’s only safe to do so directly from Japan or Korea, and the main doll websites are not too big on English. I’d be more than happy to read your post about them anytime!

    Have you ever read anything by Édouard Louis?

    Awh, what a sweet love! I love him. Thank you. Love giving a lengthy, slightly embarrassing TED talk about his marriage to an inflatable sex doll, Od.

  7. Steve Erickson

    This post brings back a Proustian memory of somehow stumbling across the import 12″ single of “Hey! Luciani” at my local mall’s record store, getting hooked on the band’s vision and walking around small town Connecticut listening to “Totally Wired” and “The Classical” on my Walkman when I was a teenager. Up to the point where they signed to a major label, their singles box set is perfection. By coincidence, I began reading Brix Smith’s memoir yesterday. Have you? Her opening chapter, which refers to her childhood experiences at Disneyland, seems like it might click with you.

    I get the sense that it’s much easier to finance a horror film for $3 or 4 million these days than a drama about family life, therefore many directors who don’t have any real interest or passion in the genre are turning to horror as a way of establishing or maintaining a career. Also, “torture porn” and slasher movies did so much to destroy the genre’s reputation with people who don’t watch it that movies like GET OUT or THE WITCH were enormous revelations to them because they had never heard of Larry Cohen, THE WICKER MAN or GANJA & HESS (or known that Carl Dreyer was making “elevated horror” in the 1930s.)

    RIP Bertrand Tavernier. I interviewed him in 2016 and found it such a stimulating conversation that I wish it could’ve lasted much longer. I’m not crazy about all his films, but DEATH WATCH, CAPITAINE CONAN & THE CLOCKMAKER are some of the best French cinema of their period, and I plan to watch A SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY tonight. He was a very intelligent critic of both French and American cinema.

    I’m not sure that the Wojnarowicz doc turns him into a queer saint – for one thing, one gets the impression he was a step away from acting on the violent rhetoric he often used – but things must play very differently when you personally know the subjects of this kind of work.

  8. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis – Thoroughly enjoyed this Fall post. Gives a nice swath of their formidable career. Wish I could’ve seen that piece they did with Michael Clark. Love the poster and the visuals from it. Did you see it — or know anyone who did?

    And did you ever read the Mark E Smith autobio? Always been curious about it, but worried he was too far into crank/soused mode to care enough to make it the singular thing it deserved to be.

    Adored the Jordan Belson post a few days back. Swoony. Surprised there was so much of his work to see on the web.

    You asked about about Bruce Chatwin — each of his five books are really different from each other, in terms of content and style. I don’t think he’s great, but I find him fascinating. The minimalism of ‘Utz’ might appeal or the hyper-compressed lush prose of ‘The Viceroy of Ouidah,’ which Herzog adapted for ‘Cobra Verde.’ I could also see you hating him, too. Caveat emptor.

    Glad to hear ‘The Jerk’ filming went well after all. Will you be involved in the editing at all?

    I’ve been getting ready for Stephanie’s upcoming surgery, which will hopefully be routine. But more navigating of the broken healthcare system…

  9. Jack Skelley

    1 😎 You have good taste! 2. Lawndale opened for The Fall at the I Beam in S.F. I still have the poster. Mark E Smith was very nice. So was Brix. 3. May your weekend be Totally Wired !

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