Mark E. Smith

By: Tor Aarestad
March 5, 2012

“Manchester has produced many men of this kind. Hard men with hard livers; faces like un-made beds.” MARK E. SMITH (1957–2018) cofounded The Fall in 1976 while living in a musician’s collective, beginning merely with the idea of “reading out poetry over a bass and a guitar.” “We are Northern white crap that talks back. The difference between you and us is that we have brains.” For over thirty-five years Smith has been reading, chanting, growling, and spitting out his poetry (but rarely singing). “I tell ya, the Dutch are weeping/In four languages, at least.” He rejects the title of musician, despite being the leader of one of independent music’s most revered bands, claiming to disdain musicians, a claim borne out by the exodus of more than sixty Fall members since the band’s inception. (“I like to push people, till I get the truth out of them. Get them drunk or whatever. Then discover what they really think. Push them and push them and push them.”) His ear, though, is superb. And his voice is instantly recognizable — sibilants drawn out beyond reason, and unnecessary schwas inserted at the ends of phrases. Smith’s lyrics are only occasionally comprehensible and when comprehensible, generally inscrutable. (“Goddamn the pedantic Welsh.”) His intelligence is vast and his commitment to reflect the world, transmuted and ugly as he sees it, is unshakeable. “A lot of it is just driven by misanthropy….It gets worse as I get older.” Smith claims to hate Manchester, but has only left it for a two-year stint in Edinburgh. Other cities seem too comfortable; Smith needs the raw material of Manchester for his craft. “Keep it simple, cock.” Smith’s merciless prodding and churning of his musical backers has been effective, it seems; the most recent of the over fifty Fall albums (maybe a couple of dozen fewer if you don’t count the live albums) are among the band’s strongest. On his birthday, raise a pint to Mark E. Smith (he certainly will) and the Mighty Fall, whoever they may be. “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, then it’s [the] Fall.”

“Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide. Day by Day Breakdown.
Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper.
Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternisation. Go to pub. Have drinks.
Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there a style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.
Day Four: By now people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.
Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation.
Day Six: If possible, stay home. And write. If not, go to pub.”


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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Rosa Luxemburg.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954-73).


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