Monday, March 05, 2018

Birth Mark: The Fall Guy

It's about time to continue the March to oblivion, and what better way to do it than to tribute one of the all-time iconoclasts?
He suddenly split the scene in January, but if you know him you know he wasn't interested in overstaying his welcome here on Planet Neon Gulag Cheeto Wars.
He was born this day in 1957 and spent most of his lifetime ranting into a microphone about sighting Lucifer Over Lancashire and the Arms Control Poseurs turning the world into a Realm of Dust.
He started the band he led until his death at the age of 19, after witnessing one of the first UK Sex Pistols gigs. As he progressed he became even more legendarily uncontrollable than those guys.
The basic thrust he claimed to be after was to combine the most primitive music with the most abstract, literate and brilliant lyrics for which he was famous. 
Those words, though. I debated just transcribing one of his songs word for word here today, as I sometimes do when I can't think of what to say, but I decided he deserved a higher quality of attention than the merely regurgitive.
The closest I can get to explaining his approach might be to say he seemed like a channel or conduit to the unconscious chaos of the Universe, and filtered that connection through a misanthropy so intense it could barely be contained through 40 years and over 70 (!!!!) erstwhile bandmates,
He often produced songs using the cutup methods of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, tearing sheets of lyrics to bits and reassembling them at random into finished screeds. He also came up with some of the best titles of any composer I can think of.
He was possessed of a declamatory vocal delivery somewhere between the slurred speechsong of the knottier John Martyn tracks and the jagged, broken glass snarl of an Iggy Pop. Yes, I meant to make an analogy that ridiculous.
There isn't much else to say except that Mark E. Smith was a bandleader and a writer and a singer like no other anyone's seen in the last 50 years.
The likes of his seminal, indescribable postpunk group, The Fall, will never be seen again, and although he only made it to 60 because of the requisite lifestyle issues, he leaves a mark that won't ever go away.
To commemorate the life of this stalwart maniac I have admired since the early 1980s when I first heard The Fall, I have spent the last few days constructing a miniature bootleg box collecting a couple of their greatest performances, dating from what many hold to be their pinnacle in the late 1980s and the start of the 1990s.
The Fall
European broadcasts, 1987-90

Hamburg, Germany

01 Fiery Jack
02 U.S. 80s-90s
03 Terry Waite Sez
04 Living Too Late
05 C.R.E.E.P.
06 Lucifer Over Lancashire
07 Haf Found Bormann
08 Mr. Pharmacist
09 Hey Luciani
10 I Am Damo Suzuki
11 There's a Ghost In My House
12 Realm of Dust (fades out)

Total time: 51:07

Mark E. Smith - vocals
Brix E. Smith - guitar, vocals
Craig Scanlon - guitar
Steve Hanley - bass 
Marcia Schofield - keyboards, vocals
Simon Wolstencroft - drums

master cassette of an FM capture of the complete original German radio broadcast

European Broadcasts, 1989-90

01 intro synths, crowd & and tuning
02 Tuff Life Boogie
03 Fiery Jack
04 DJ announcement/Sing! Harpy
05 Kurious Oranj
06 DJ intro and interview
07 The Littlest Rebel
08 I'm Frank
09 Popcorn Double Feature
10 White Lightning
11 Hit the North
12 Bill Is Dead
13 Black Monk Theme
14 British People In Hot Weather
15 Tuff Life Boogie/DJ announcement and interview
16 Telephone Thing
17 Dead Beat Descendant

Total time: 1:03:18

Tracks 01-05: Philipshalle, Dusseldorf DE 11.28.1989 1st gen FM cassette, remastered by EN
Tracks 06-17: Dolce Vita, Lausanne CH 4.12.1990 2nd gen FM cassette, remastered by EN

Mark E. Smith - vocals 
Martin Bramah - guitar
Craig Scanlon - guitar
Steve Hanley - bass
Marcia Schofield - keyboards, vocals
Simon Wolstencroft - drums

two incomplete broadcasts from European radio, sourced from low gen cassettes and combined and remastered by EN

both shows zipped together
I worked on the 1989 and 1990 segments to get them sounding similar enough to almost seem like they are from the same capture, and fixed some dropouts and issues along the way. These are marvelous tapes and really provide a fantastic window into what MES was all about for the uninitiated as well as the familiar.
I shall be back in a few days with even more ridonkulous tributes and anniversaries, but for right this minute I recommend pulling down this two-hour voyage into the marvelous madness and mania of Mark E. Smith, 61 today and not particularly forgettable by any meaningful metric.--J.
3.5.1957 - 1.24.2018