Remembering The Fall’s Mark E. Smith

mark e smith the fall

Mark E. Smith, frontman of iconic cult UK post-punk band The Fall, died yesterday at the age of 60. He had been battling health ailments that forced him to cancel U.K. shows in November 2017 and a U.S. tour earlier last year.

News of Smith’s passing was announced via a Facebook post from the Fall’s manager Pam Vander: “It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mark E. Smith. He passed this morning at home. A more detailed statement will follow in the next few days. In the meantime, Pam & Mark’s family request privacy at this sad time.”

Smith, a cantankerous figure known for drinking and fighting, formed The Fall in 1976. Amid an ever-changing line-up — the band had more than 60 members — Smith churned out over 30 albums.

The Fall’s poetic mix of Smith’s rambling talk-sing vocal style, dirgy basslines and cutting guitar lines railed against every musical trend he encountered. Though commercial success eluded the group, the band influenced a generation of artists, including  LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.

1993’s Infotainment Scan is my favorite Fall album. Smith’s musings are in top form and the band dabbles with dance music throughout the record, offering up a brilliant cover of Sister Sledge’s disco gem “Lost in Music.”

I had the good fortune of interviewing Smith over the phone for Ray Gun magazine while he was promoting the album. He was witty, confrontational and cynical. At the end of our chat he said we should tour together. It turned out Mark thought he was talking to a member of the Chicago band Naked Raygun. I couldn’t have made up a better ending.

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