Tag Archives: Mark E. Smith

Mark E. Smith 1957 – 2018

Back in the late ’70s, I was still in the habit of picking up one of the weekly British music newspapers. I mainly picked up Melody Maker for many years and by the end of the ’70s, it would either be that or the New Musical Express. I can’t recall which one featured info about The Fall that piqued my interest back then. But, when I spotted the Canadian pressing of their debut LP Live at the Witch Trials at a record sop in 1979, I felt compelled to pick it up without having heard so much as one note.

Having already purchased many UK albums and singles through the preceding Punk Rock couple of years, I was quite versed in the sounds that had been coming out of England in recent times. However, The Fall seemed to be something different. It was the start of the Post-Punk era and The Fall seemed to represent something even more exciting and revelatory to these ears.

At the heart of this sound was the caustic, language-bending and often humourous words spewed by band founder, songwriter and vocalist Mark E. Smith. Over the years, Smith virtually WAS The Fall. He ruled the roost with an iron fist and the line-up of the group changed several dozen times over the many years of the band’s existence.

Dave Thompson’s essential 2003 book entitled A User’s Guide to The Fall covers the band’s history from their first line-up in 1977 up until their 39th(!) variation in 2002. Considering the fact that the band was active right until the latter part of 2017, I’m not even sure what number line-up that would be. 73rd? Dunno.

I followed the band with quite a bit of dedication until the end of the 1980s and still bought the odd release when I’d come across it over the subsequent years. During their long career, the band issued over 30 studio albums. I think that I’ve probably got about 20 or so. Plus live albums, compilations of singles and an impressive CD box set of all of their John Peel BBC Radio Sessions.

At the end of last year, The Fall played some gigs in the UK which featured Smith sitting in a wheelchair as he spouted his patented brand of vitriolic verbiage accompanied by the current line-up of the band.

Mark E. Smith was a one of a kind artist. For better or worse, a true original. You either got/enjoyed the sound of The Fall or you just simply could not stand them. For those of us who loved the sound, their albums will just have to keep us happy into the future. I have a feeling that there will soon be some archive releases in the offing as the years progress.


Brix by Brix

Brix Smith Start – The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise (Faber & Faber)

Laura Salenger was born in Los Angeles, California in 1962. Her father was a psychiatrist who divorced her mother when she was only two years old. Her mother would go on to get employment as a researcher at CBS Television on the programme 60 Minutes.

While growing up, her mother often brought Laura to work where she would sit in a studio and watch while people like Sonny and Cher did the rehearsals for their TV show. Not a bad life for a young kid.

Eventually, music started to become an important part of her life. When she heard The Clash, she was so taken with the song Guns of Brixton that her nickname soon became Brixton (or Brix for short). She also got an earful of a strange sounding band called The Fall.

After her mother decided to move to Chicago, Brix was not amused. She hated the environment and wished to go back to LA. However, her new location would lead to a drastic life change.

After seeing The Fall perform at a Chicago club, she would end up bumping into their leader Mark E. Smith. This chance meeting would develop into mutual attraction and it wasn’t long before Brix decided to move to the UK to be with Mark.

To call the move “culture shock” would probably be a gross understatement. But, before long she adapted to the situation. She would soon join the band as well as marry Mark.

So far, so good. However, trouble began brewing in paradise. A grueling tour schedule, shortage of money and Mark’s increasing intake of speed and alcohol seemed to aggravate things. Also, his constant mistreatment and seemingly random ousting of band members added to the problems. The camel’s back finally broke and Brix was compelled to split up with Mark.

This led to her next romantic coupling with classical violinist Nigel Kennedy. Kennedy was a superstar in the classical world. His fame was soon to shoot even further as his recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons crossed boundaries and pushed his profile beyond the classical world.

As time passed, Brix felt smothered and her own identity suffered. She had attempted a musical venture of her own with Adult Net but, the sales of her records were not satisfactory enough to keep on going. So, she basically quit music altogether.

At this point, Brix was once again in a limbo state of life. That is, until she met fashion entrepreneur Philip Start. This would open up the most recent phase of her life and change things around for her.

Brix married Philip and in 2002 and they started a very successful fashion store called simply START. This seemed ideal for Brix with her penchant for fashion. It was around this time that she also got involved in presenting fashion on television.

Most recently, Brix found her way back into music. This developed into her current band called Brix Smith and the Extricated (featuring former members of The Fall).

That’s the story so far. There are sure to be more twists and turns in the future… which, for now, seems quite bright.


The Fall – a documentary

Mark E. Smith started The Fall back in 1976. I had read about them in the British press and eventually tracked down a copy of their debut LP Live at the Witch Trials. Loud, aggressive, shambolic. I loved it.¬†Over the years, I’ve acquired lots of their albums and singles (many of which are quite rare these days).

If you love ’em, hate ’em or have never heard of ’em, here is a 2005 BBC documentary called The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith.

No, I can’t understand half of the things that he says, either. Does it matter?