1989. Manchester was in the ascendant, Indie bands were being collected like trinkets by major labels, and The Fall (formed by ex-dock clerk Mark Edward Smith in 1977) were the subject of an improbable bidding war.
Ever unpredictable, Smith rewarded the courageous victors, Fontana, with what many would have least expected from him: three albums of The Fall at their most economical and accessible.
Fall albums – like Bond actors and Bowie haircuts – bring out every armchair philosopher’s opinion about which is the greatest. Smith’s musical magpie-ism and unconventional lyrical matter, combined with enough line-up changes to instigate a fallreunited.com website, guarantees that the cognoscenti (and a whole lot of students) will continue to flock to them.
In fact, there is no such thing as a truly disposable Fall album – even relative clunkers like 1988s The Frenz Experiment had Bremen Nacht and The Steak Place, and 1997s Levitate had Masquerade.
The band’s revolving door policy hasn’t exactly lent itself to the words “amicable split” but matters took a turn for the ugly during their US tour of spring 2001 when – midway through a New York gig – drummer Karl Burns leapt out from behind his kit and attacked Mark E Smith.
The incident prompted bassist of 19 years, Steve Hanley to desert the ranks. Smith and his then girlfriend/keyboard player Julia Nagle then topped off the bill back at the hotel with a right royal punch-up. Smith was arrested and charged the following day with assaulting Nagle.
Mark E Smith