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‘We all have a story’: Biz pays tribute to Mark E. Smith

Figures from across the live music industry have shared their memories of Mark E. Smith, the late frontman of UK post-punk pioneers The Fall, who died yesterday after a period of illness.

“Name a promoter you know and we’ve all got a Fall story,” says Crosstown-concerts Conal Dodds, who relates his own. “My gig was 1992 I think, Bristol Victoria Room: Mark E. Smith barging out of the dressing room, beer can in hand, mid-afternoon, moaning, ‘Why is there always a racket going on every day when I’ve finished soundchecking? I want some peace and quiet… I’m not fucking having it!’”

‘That,’ replied Dodds, ‘will be the support band, Mark.’

Tim Hornsby of York venue Fibbers says that “you get warned about doing a show with Mark E. Smith: Late on stage, short sets, pissed, cantankerous…”

Conversely, Hornsby says on the “many times” he promoted Smith (pictured), while “he was very definitely pissed”, Smith “was also a model of good temper and co-operation, performing long sets and even encores. Unbelievably, in recent years, he once stood at the front door shaking hands as people came in.”

“He was a mad, brilliant, intense, horrible genius, and the world was a better place with him in it”

He continues: “Yes, a man with immeasurable man-of-the-people lyricism, oft-impenetrable logic but always with his singular independence, total and undisguised disdain for self-proclaimed authority and the only man to appear on Jools Holland’s show with the stipulation, ‘as long as he doesn’t tinkle along with us on the joanna’ [piano].

“In an era of committee-composed music weak as maiden’s water, little or no imaginative vocabulary or delivery, and samples, samples, samples, Mark E. Smith’s urgent and angsty guitar indie almost entirely stood alone.

“I’m going to miss him getting tangled in mic leads, fiddling with the amps and generally rambling around looking confused, but always in total control of yet another packed house.”

“When I finally met him, sometime in the late ’90s, he was in one of his phases where he was sacking the band on a nightly basis,” recalls Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust and co-owner of the Tunbridge Wells Forum. “After an hour and a half waiting, he finally took the stage and proceeded to rant over some improvised rockabilly performed by a drummer he’d met yesterday and a keyboard player who he’d handed a bass to. The show lasted 40 minutes. No one asked for their money back. It was The Fall.

“Name a promoter you know and we’ve all got a Fall story”

“We ended the evening together in a romantic fashion, him chasing me round the dressing room trying to hit me with £3,000 in cash. At least a dozen other promoters could tell you a similar story.

“He was a mad, brilliant, intense, horrible genius, and the world was a better place with him in it. Thanks, Mark.”

Enter Shikari manager Ian Johnsen says he was “13 years old when I accepted Mark E. Smith into my life. Like most fans, I have stories. Some of them from my own first-hand experience – others legends passed down from those that came before me.

“I saw The Fall countless times. No matter what, I never left disappointed. (Though last time I saw them I left halfway through as it upset me too much, but that’s different to disappointment, yeah?)

“I hope Mark E. Smith is remembered for what he actually was, not the caricature that is so easy for people to fall back on. A fantastic life.

“‘Ours is not to look back. Ours is to continue the crack…’ And this, always…”

“I hope Mark E. Smith is remembered for what he actually was, not the caricature that is so easy for people to fall back on”

Finally, paying tribute to her ex-husband, Brix Smith-Smart, The Fall’s guitarist from 1983 to 1989, says: “Mark defied convention and definition – he was a true artist. When I arrived in Manchester – a young American – he introduced me to pickled onions, pubs and punk. He was my music mentor, my cultural anchor and my first love.

“I feel deeply saddened by his passing but I feel a greater joy for having shared his journey. He never once compromised; how many others can leave this life with such a singularity of vision?

“‘Check the guy’s track record, he is not appreciated’ – now at last he is…”

 


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