Mark Edward Smith (5th March 1957 – 24th January 2018)
“If you’re going to play it out of tune, then play it out of tune properly…”
It’s been just over a year since Mark E. Smith passed away, a man who was Manchester through and through. A man who didn’t compromise about anything. A man who many tried to imitate but never bettered. No chance of that.
Like Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, Smith attended the Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976. That gig defined what he wanted to do, and The Fall was born. He might not have realised it at the time, but one of the best post punk bands was also created that night.
Smith will always be remembered for his dry wit. Atacama desert dry at times. But without it, he wouldn’t have been the same. The interviews conducted were often turned into journalistic works of art. You never knew what he would say, but when he did, it was always worth reading again and again.
The Fall went through quite a few band members. Si Wolstencroft, Dave Bush, Marc Riley for example. Brix Smith became his wife when she was a member of the band, his subsequent two marriages after all had a connection with the band. Smith was always the constant though, the forefront. The reason people payed their money to see them.
John Peel championed The Fall. I mean really championed them. So much so that upon the passing of Peel, Smith went on Newsnight and was visibly shaken. Something that proved that Smith was human after all. Underneath that gruff exterior, he showed he cared. Watch footage of him reading the football results on Final Score, and the happiness it brought him.
The songs, though. The great songs. All sang in the Mancunian drawl that Smith never changed. Why should he? He was different to any other singer, his band was different to any other band and his influence was just as strong as the bands that were formed because of, or at the same time as, The Fall.
His health would become a battle. He drank and he smoked heavily, and in 2017, it would start to get a grip on him. Sometimes he had to perform in a wheelchair. Did it stop him though? Nah, of course it didn’t. Smith was too stubborn for that. This was a man who kept going musically for 42 years. 42 years. Some bands had started up and broke up in that time period.
Sadly, time caught up with him and he died aged 60. Lung and kidney cancer would bring his life to an end. A memorable life at that though, eventful, sometimes controversial. But when you ask anyone about the music that came out of Manchester, they will mention The Fall and they wi