There was a reason John Peel produced some 24 sessions with The Fall – as he put it “they are always different – they are always the same”. They were never boring and it was often said you never saw the same performance twice. One night they would be the worst band on the planet and the next night, or even next set, they were the most brilliant, awe-inspiring band on earth.
The key to the whole thing was Mark E. Smith, whose cryptic lyrics and dark humor prompted critic Simon Reynolds to describe Smith’s work as “a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn”.
Although The Fall never achieved mainstream success, they were one of the most influential bands to come out of the post-Punk era. Influencing groups and artists such as Pavement, Arctic Monkeys, Happy Mondays, Guided by Voices, Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand, Steve Albini, These New Puritans, LCD Soundsystem, the Long Blondes, Meat Puppets, Faith No More, Will Oldham, Hole, and the Kills and most likely countless others. Sonic Youth covered three Fall songs (and “Victoria” by the Kinks, also covered by the Fall) in a 1988 Peel Session, which was released in 1990 as an EP, 4 Tunna Brix, on Sonic Youth’s own Goofin’ label. The 1990s indie acts Pavement (who recorded a version of “The Classical”) and Elastica (Smith contributed vocals to their final EP and album) showed an influence of the Fall, while Suede parodied the band with “Implement Yeah!”, a song found on the cassette edition of their 1999 single “Electricity”. Suede’s frontman Brett Anderson subsequently described Mark E. Smith as a “huge, huge influence”.
In a year that has already seen more than it’s share of loss, the loss of Mark E. Smith is especially poignant because he represented the ones unwilling to compromise and to play it safe. Instead to do it on their own terms, maintain their own vision, to become what one critic described as “one of the most enigmatic, idiosyncratic and chaotic garage bands of the last 30 years”.
That’s what it’s all about – always was, and always will be.
A debt of gratitude for your vision Mr. Smith. You pointed the way.