I was 11 years old and feeling jealousy for the first time. It wasn’t about some dumb boy I might’ve had a crush on seeing someone else. I was pouting and brooding because my dad took my older brother to see Mark E. Smith.
When my brother returned he was awestruck. Sure, Mark E. Smith, though probably only in his late 40s or early 50s at the time, looked like he was already a thousand years old. But his presence was something I wanted to feel.
Smith’s uniquely cavalier voice backed with a blend of post-punk, garage punk and electronic, mixed with beats from different cultures is a sound you can’t find anywhere else.
I heard The Fall for the first time when I was seven or eight years old. My mom and I were sitting parked outside of our house. She had put on The Fall’s “Lay Of The Land.” This song starts with distorted/ echoing guitar strums and people eerily chanting the word “lay.” Mark E. Smith eventually comes in with a very low voice talking smoothly about armageddon. Then everything stops for a split second, just enough time for your heart to drop before the hook begins and the drums hit hard and fast. The guitar stays fuzzed out, but keeps the melody eerie and catchy while Mark E. Smith sings in his casual, heavy-accented way.
I remember my mom telling me to stay in the car to listen to this song with her because it’s just “one of those songs,” no other song could compare. The only other two songs I can remember her doing this with are Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “I Put A Spell On You” and The Gun Club’s “She’s Like Heroin To Me.” Whenever she would do this I knew to pay attention and let myself completely go. After hearing a song that way, something in me would change.
After that, The Fall became one of my favorite bands. I know I was too young to really understand what any of the songs were actually about, and to be honest I’m not sure I fully understand what they’re all about now, but that doesn’t make them any less amazing.
I remember being a girl scout and driving up with my mom and a few fellow scouts to go camping and screaming along to “Kicker Conspiracy.” or “Cyber Insect.” Picture that: three little girls in green berets and sashes covered in patches for “helping the elderly” or “selling cookies” screaming about police brutality, alcoholism, political corruption and whatever other absurdities that song is about.
As I got older I went through a few more phases, with The Gun Club eventually taking over the spot for favorite band. But I never stopped listening to The Fall, even during my Chingy and Nelly phase. The mixes I would make for friends and myself would have “Right Thurr” by Chingy and then The Fall’s “Totally Wired.”
When I was finally allowed to get a Facebook (because in my time you had to at least be in high school to be allowed on Facebook) I made my intro simply “C R EE P” in honor of the song “C.R.E.E.P.” Which, it still is to this day.
Is it weird that I was exposed to such an intense band at such a young age? Their songs are about politics, the end of the world and drugs. And there’s even a study out there that says kids who like “unconventional” music are more likely to become “delinquent.”
Well, I did end up being a music journalist, but I think overall I didn’t turn out to be a “delinquent” (though I may have dabbled in being one while I was a teenager …) The thing about The Fall is that even though their songs deal with an array of intense subjects, you can really let loose to them under any circumstances. If you don’t think I roared along to “C.R.E.E.P.” after my first heartbreak, you’d be sorely mistaken. My parents would put on “Rollin’ Danny” whenever we were getting ready to go somewhere—I guess you could call it our family pump up song.
The Fall were scheduled to play seven nights at Baby’s All Right next month. It was initially an earlier date, but Mark E. Smith fell ill and canceled. The rescheduled event, however, was still a big deal. Come February the sold out nights were going to be the highlight of my year, my family was even going to visit.
Now, I look at the canceled event page as a memorandum to the late Mark E. Smith, one of the greatest punk rockers to ever have existed. People leave comments saying “my heart hurts,” “RIP Mark—we’re all gutted” and “there is no Fall without Mark E. Smith.”
Everyone goes through different musical phases, but a music phase with The Fall changes your life.