The Hip Priest

M.E.S. left us yesterday. I couldn't post this last night. I hoped that if I refused to accept it then it wouldn't be true. Unfortunately, it was still true this morning.

I was 13 years old when I went to a mate's house ... his much older brother had bought Live At The Witch Trials and we sat there listening. I'd never experienced anything like it. I hated it and loved it, I was scared shitless but felt joyous and left the house utterly confused. I was the boy who's head expanded. Literally nothing was true any more ... it hit me like a hammer and turned the world inside out ... changed my life forever. Immediately.

I'm from North Manchester and you have no idea what that was like then unless you were there. Unremittingly bleak. ... and there is this person who sings, squeals and slurs in my accent ... a few miles from me Mam's front door? The world suddenly opened up in front of me and unveiled itself. It still looked like shit, but there was a future after all! The future was The Fall!

I used to go to Prestwich regularly with childish dreams that I would just bump into him. It didn't happen then and on reflection I should have checked out the Joey Holt's boozers. Later in life, I got to meet him several times. Without exception, it was not a pleasant experience. He was a cantankerous bastard ... but he was my cantankerous bastard!

To echo Mr Peel: The Fall have given me more pleasure over a longer period of time than any other band ... the band by which, in our house, all others are judged.

The archetypal awkward git who got away with it because he was a fucking genius. The Northern white crap that always talked back. A true poet. I utterly adore him and I always will!

R.I.P. M.E.S.


kingpossum,  25 January 2018 at 17:25  

Please tell me you are fucking kidding me. Fuck. Being American it took me ages and many tries to get into the Fall. It seems to me he came from a decidedly and resolutely English place. But Mark E. Smith's words kept pulling me back. I'm blessed and glad they did. I decided once to approach it as spoken word supported by music. And that did it for me. Opened up the whole world of MES and the Fall. I don't think I listened to it as that afterward, but it doesn't matter. It got me in. And now Mr. Smith is out. We're blessed to have had him with us. Thanks for the post.

badgerstump 25 January 2018 at 17:37  

I can't even begin to tell you how much I wish I didn't have to say it.

He did come from a decidedly and resolutely English place but it was a bit more than that ... he came from a decidedly and resolutely Salford / North Manchester place. We have a very particular flavour of bile over here and he encapsulated and articulated it quite beautifully!

Anonymous,  25 January 2018 at 18:01  

damn, i didn't konow that until i read your post.
mark was one of the finest intelligence in europe.
a terrible loss.

jonder 25 January 2018 at 22:09  

I have no concept of what Manchester was like then or is now, and only a small grasp of the significance that Mark E. Smith and The Fall have in their homeland, but you put their impact into words so well. Just as Mark conjured visions of his city (and The North of England) in the minds of listeners from around the world.

mountain 25 January 2018 at 23:42  

Fan of 30 years here. I can't think of another band which has produced so many albums which have had at least one brilliant song on them. I thought he'd outlive us all. RIP MES.

Plague 25 January 2018 at 23:50  

A massive loss.
thankfully, I got to see The Fall many, many times.
And only walked out once.

Anonymous,  26 January 2018 at 00:29  

Holy smoke!

He wasn't really sound and fit these last times, several concerts were cancelled. But still I didn't think it would happen this year.

Anonymous,  26 January 2018 at 11:17  

This one really hurts... took me years to get into The Fall, but there was no getting out of 'them' after that. Was actually in the middle of a month-long Fall listening binge when I heard about this. What's left for us now?

Anonymous,  26 January 2018 at 13:21  

Holy shit... just reading about this for the first time and I'm utterly lost for words. Despite all the weird and wonderful music I listen to nowadays I always find myself coming back to The Fall. M.E.S. and his pearls of wisdom have been one constant through some of the best and darkest times of my life. Very sad news indeed...

Fiery Lizard Johnny,  26 January 2018 at 23:07  

who, now, on our behalf, will point the haggard finger and direct the withering glare at all the shite bands relentlessly prostituting themselves in the pell mell to grab our attentions?

we are smothering in an avalanche of shit, verily.

Sekhmet 28 January 2018 at 03:32  

I remember meeting The Fall in Wellington on their first tour of New Zealand back in 1982. My flatmate was a member of the support band Riot 111 so he took me backstage to meet them before they went on. Mark commented on my Dragnet t-shirt, saying "we didn't get any money from those". I said "I made it, and when my mates all wanted one I told them to piss off and make their own". I think he appreciated that. He said he thought New Zealand is like a psychedelic Yorkshire, which we took as a compliment.

The venue was the student union hall at Victoria University, the stage only about 2 foot high, so not much separation from the audience. Right at the front were all of the local skinhead bovver boys and their girlfriends, big lads and gals, scourge of the city at the time who had as much come for Riot 111 as they had to see The Fall.

Mark was not a man of large physical stature but once they launched into 'Who Makes The Nazis?' he took the skinheads on, touching each on the shoulder or grabbing by the collar with his spare hand and singing it right in each of their faces, add-libbing with lines like "jazzed up punk shits". He totally won over the folks in the front rows who ofttimes would simply be cruising the streets looking to create trouble.

Essentially he absorbed all of the aggression, reprocessed it and fed it back to them as art. Takes a strong and courageous man to do that and it takes a grand artist to do it as art and contain the whole business without it all collapsing into chaos.

Respect to the inimitable Mark E. Smith, I bet he's coming up with some fair commentary on imperfections of the afterlife as I write.

kingpossum,  28 January 2018 at 16:28  

Hearty thanks for the post. Just reading it is life-affirming. I've no idea what it must feel like to have experienced it. Regards.

@Fiery Lizard Johnny:
Thanks for the post. Indeed.

What's left for us now? For me, the opportunity to listen to Hex Enduction Hour every day all day if I please, at the very least. Cheers.