Mark E Smith of The Fall by Montecruz Foto

WHERE TO BEGIN WITH… The Fall (music band)

A guide to the music of The Fall is much needed once the novice is confronted to the dizzying immensity of Mark E. Smith’s prolificacy.

Smith’s quote “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s the Fall” is quite close to reality, and if the result can be sometimes confusing, Mark’s art is never deprived of interest. That’s why we asked the members of the Facebook group Mark E Smith & The Fall: It’s not Repetition, it’s Discipline to write a few lines about their favorite songs, in their own words.

Alexander, Erik, Steve, Andy, thank you very much for your time and generosity of soul. Main picture courtesy of Montecruz Foto.

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The Fall: the essentials

Alexander - "Garden" (Perverted by Language)

“Garden” was the first song by the Fall to truly hit home for me, and it’s still my favorite. It’s like an anthem for when everything goes wrong, and is therefore highly appropriate to the now. The song’s multiple allusions (which have been elucidated on the website dedicated thereto) allow for many interpretations. The title alludes rather visibly and immediately to Eden, but one which, in the song’s context, has been made filthy. Similarly, a few rich, filthy hogs have thoroughly made foul our common pigpen.  

– Alexander Dickow, academic and author of Appetites

Eric - "Eat Y'self Fitter" (Peel Session)

I had read about The Fall but had never heard them. What I had read I found intriguig, the repetition, the anit-image, their stubborness etc. When one cold day early 1984 I was cycling to my girlfriend in the next village here in the middle of The Netherlands, my trusted Walkman radio was tuned to Dutch VPRO Radio. All of a sudden they played Eat Y’self Fitter. I was overwhelmed. Never did I hear such an odd song before. It was so different from what I heard so far (straight forward top 40, punk and wave etc.) and in it’s rawness and driving rhtythm lay something new I contacntly loved. Still one of my favourite songs. And a key song, you instantly know if you can appreciate the group or dislike them. No inbetween.

– Eric Vonk

Steve - "Dropout Boogie" (Glastonbury 2015)

A cover of a song from Captain Beefheart’s debut album Safe As Milk that made it onto the set-list three times in the summer of 2015. Two of the three are on YouTube. The Birmingham one suffers from camera-phone standard sound quality and is also a bit sluggish and a little under-rehearsed sounding in places. The Glastonbury version is a completely different kettle of fish though. Obviously, the sound quality is far better, coming from a BBC broadcast. Smith is relatively focused and gives a pretty ‘straight’ but effective rendition; the group sound tight and aggressive, bolstered by the double-drum Melling/Garratt assault. It builds into an impressive wig-out climax, featuring some impromptu vocals from Eleni and one of MES’s trademark keyboard solos. Good stuff.

– Steve Pringle, blogger and archivist for The Fall in Fives

Andy - "Slates, Slags etc." (Slates)

It was the first song by the band that registered in my memory. I was just discovering Peel and all the bands seemed wonderful and frightening, but the name The Fall, and MEs’s voice had registered. Then Peel played this. I remember telling a school mate about it the next day, ‘It goes on for about 10mins, he says the same thing over and over, slates, slags or something, and every line ends ‘ah.’ It’s great.’

– Andy Green

Marc - "Put Away" (The Complete Peel Sessions 1978 - 2004)

I discovered The Fall a few weeks before graduating, and a few days after watching the excellent movie that is 24 Hour Party People. I strongly needed some wildness before entering the “adult life”, and I’m glad that songs like “Put Away” and “Fibre Book Troll” taught me that wildness is forever once it’s digested.

– Marc Louis-Boyard, author for Slow Culture.

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