Thursday, January 25, 2018


So I guess your granny and her bongos are just going to have to go solo now.

I won't pretend to be a massive fan of The Fall, but I've very much enjoyed every time I've seen them live - most recently in February last year, my first gig since moving back to Cardiff. There was, I gather, a sizeable portion of hardcore aficionados who felt that recent tours should be boycotted on the grounds that they were endangering Mark E Smith's health - but I don't regret seizing one of the last opportunities to catch him performing.

In any case, he's not looked like a remotely well man for a long time now and he was perfectly capable of endangering his health himself - he'd been doing it for years, often in illustrious company. One anecdote I've read tonight told of how his rider for one gig in Oxford not untypically listed two bottles of quality white wine and a wrap of speed; when presented with the speed, he promptly tipped it into a pint glass, filled it to the brim with wine and then took it onstage for the show.

Smith had a trademark slur and vocal delivery, and a deserved reputation for being cantankerous and difficult; even someone who would go on to love him, Stewart Lee, initially found him "annoying and incomprehensible". And yet Smith could also often be very funny. More than any specific song, to be honest, my abiding memory will be of him reading the classified football results in November 2005 and sparring with Ray Stubbs.

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