“To please is a curse” A Tribute to Mark E Smith & The Fall

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.
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The Fall documentary: my (very minor) involvement

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith – closing titles

After the recent death of Mark E Smith, tonight BBC4 are repeating The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. I’m reminded of a fortuitous encounter in 2004 that led to my (very minor) involvement and credit for ‘archive’ on the documentary.

I was at the ResFest, a festival of experimental film-making at the BFI. I’d got talking to a woman about my favourite band, The Fall and mentioned I’d compiled and directed some videos and sequences for the Beggars Banquet VHS8489 video compilation. This had led to a couple of drinking encounters with Mark E Smith and subsequently the making of an unofficial promo for the White Lightning single I’d filmed from side of the stage at 1990s Reading Festival. I’d told her I’d also tried, unsuccessfully, to make a documentary about The Fall back in the early 90s. To my surprise she said her flatmate was working on a BBC documentary about the band and she’d introduce me to her but I thought this might be just merrymaking talk.
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