Mark E Smith — Blackburn King George’s Hall, 22nd September 2002
It has been a few weeks now since Mark E Smith’s death and to most seasoned Fall fans it can’t have come as much of a surprise. His lifestyle and work ethic indicated a short but highly productive life. During the last 35-odd years I’ve spent much of my waking life proselytising to all and sundry about the brilliance of Mark E Smith and The Fall to a largely unresponsive, apathetic audience and with limited success. This was highlighted when, in the hours after the announcement of his death, my social media feeds went crazy with messages from people whom I’d had no contact with for years. Many said they thought of me when they heard the news. Some said they remember the Fall mixtape tape/CD I had made them that they still hadn’t played. Or the long and tedious chats I had with them about The Fall, generally down the pub, but still remained unconvinced and perplexed as to why I liked them.
I suppose it is not surprising that Mark Smith was frequently misunderstood or dismissed as unfathomable. What many people failed to notice was that there was, hidden behind the abrasive northern English vernacular, an intelligence and literary self-education that informed his lyrical style and vocal delivery. A common misconception of non-believers was that his lyrical content was one of unremitting misery and misanthropic fervour. Often overlooked is his comedic observations and humorous comment on a ludicrous world. He was first and foremost a writer not a musician, although he understood the music industry better than most musicians.