R.I.P. Mark E. Smith

R.I.P. Mark E. Smith

By Rod Moody

Must’ve been 1980-81 when I first fell for The Fall. I was 16-17 and like many teens of that time, I had developed a fondness for a certain green leafy substance that wasn’t quite legal yet. I heard through the grapevine that a couple of slightly older kids, who I knew from all the way back at Alki Elementary School, were living together in a house above Beach Drive. I was told they always had what I was looking for. So I began making regular treks up to the house on the hill, the last house on a short dead-end street, no other houses next to it. At this time, my world of music was made up of Rush, Pat Travers, Styx, Zep, Priest, Aerosmith…the usual suspects. But thanks to these two kooks and a pair of their friends, I was introduced to a new game. These four were among the very first West Seattle hardcore punks, and they would crank up 7” singles & LPs by Black Flag, Discharge, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, 999, while I waited for my “order" to be ready. I was blown away by the aggression, the speed, the power of this new thing called punk rock. Then they put on The Fall, and while the musician in me cringed when I heard the dissonant, jagged, out-of-tune guitar fragments, the vocalist, Mark E. Smith, was fascinating. This guy was definitely not singing, so what the hell was he saying? It was SO BAD, but yet….magnetic and addictive. Like nothing I'd ever heard. I discovered also that out of all the records that were played at the house on the hill, The Fall’s songs lingered the longest after I left there for home. I would zig-zag down the hill, happily stoned, singing an approximation of “Bingo Master’s Breakout” or maybe the perfectly titled “Repetition.” It was a time and a place, and for a while, it was good. Eventually, one half of that particular gang of four on the hill graduated to more serious substances and sadly, both fell victim to them. It was punk rock, I suppose. The Fall, however, were not punk rock…they would not be defined or pigeonholed, and they remained that way through 32 studio albums and countless line-up changes. The only constant was Mark E. Smith, a cranky, complex, difficult, hard-drinking, some would say asshole, who would not suffer fools gladly, or anyone else for that matter. This group interview with Smith, Nick Cave, and The Pogues’ Shane McGowan provides all the proof you need. However, Smith, who died today at age 60, was a true original, prolific as hell, and a hero to many. Rest-uh In Peace-uh