Mark E. Smith.
"Hey there fuckface, hey there fuckface!"
—from "The Classical"
"Always different, always the same"
The Fall are a 'country and northern' Post-Punk
band from Manchester, England. The favorite band of legendary BBC
DJ John Peel
, The Fall were formed in 1976 by iconoclastic weirdo Mark E. Smith
, and since then the band has had more lineup changes than perhaps any band ever
, with Smith being the sole constant member
. Other than Smith, the band has had a handful of members that are beloved by fans and spent long tenures with the band, but bandmembers often quit or are fired with almost every album (in fact, after the release of Fall Heads Roll
in 2005, the entire band quit on Smith (excluding his keyboardist wife Elena Poulou) in the middle of the night while the band was staying at a hotel in the American Southwest).
Despite the constant lineup changes, the band is extremely prolific (for most of their career, they released an album annually) and have recorded a staggering 30 studio albums since 1979:
- Live at the Witch Trials (1979)
- Dragnet (1979)
- Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980)
- Slates (1981)
- Hex Enduction Hour (1982)
- Room to Live (Undilutable Slang Truth!) (1982)
- Perverted by Language (1983)
- The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (1984)
- This Nation's Saving Grace (1985)
- Bend Sinister (1986)
- The Frenz Experiment (1988)
- I Am Kurious Oranj (1988)
- Extricate (1990)
- Shift-Work (1991)
- Code: Selfish (1992)
- The Infotainment Scan (1993)
- Middle Class Revolt (1994)
- Cerebral Caustic (1995)
- The Light User Syndrome (1996)
- Levitate (1997)
- The Marshall Suite (1999)
- The Unutterable (2000)
- Are You Are Missing Winner (2001)
- The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) (2003)
- Fall Heads Roll (2005)
- Reformation Post-TLC (2006)
- Imperial Wax Solvent (2008)
- Your Future Our Clutter (2010)
- Ersatz GB (2011)
- Re-Mit (2013)
This band provides examples of:
- Cover Version: "Victoria" (The Kinks), "Lost In Music" (Sister Sledge), "Strychnine" (The Sonics), "War" (Henry Cow), and three songs by The Monks, among other varied choices.
- Deadpan Snarker/First-Person Smartass
- Driven to Suicide: The protagonist of "Bingo Master's Breakout", who "ended his life with wine and pills".
- Epic Rocking: Notable examples include "And This Day" and "50 Year Old Man".
- Humans Are Stupid: A favourite trope of Smith's.
- I Am the Band: Mark E. Smith. Not only is he the only permanent member of the band, he has also been known to put pressure on his bandmates to perform in certain ways - the reason Karl Burns was constantly sacked and re-hired was because, of all members of The Fall, he was the one who most easily challenged Smith's rule.
- Mind Screw: The vast majority of their lyrics from 1979 to 1984, especially on Hex Enduction Hour.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: All over the place. The Fall have recorded songs that go all the way from 2 up to 6 (or even 7), with 4-5 being (about) average.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There have at various points been two Marks (Smith and Marc Riley), two Simons (Rogers and Wolstencroft), and two Craigs (Scanlon and Leon) working with the band at the same time. Another Simon was also a member in the 2000s, and in a literal aversion of this trope, at least five Steves have worked with the band.
- Precision F-Strike: The page quote, which comes in about thirty seconds into "The Classical" just as the main riff starts to kick in. The line before it, "where are the obligatory niggers?" (a satirical line not intended to be racist) apparently scuttled an American record deal with Motown Records, who were looking to add more rock music artists at the time.
- Revolving Door Band: And how!
- A reporter once wrote an article about trying to find all of the ex-members (there were fifty). He subsequently turned his research into a book, The Fallen. That said, the dynamic duo of Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley held down the fort from 1979 'til 1995, which is damn impressive.
- In a quite surprising move for a band with so many lineup changes, the current lineup of Smith, Elena Poulou, Dave Spurr, Pete Greenway and Kerion Melling is now the longest lasting lineup the band has ever seen. There have been no additions to or departures from the band since Melling joined in 2007.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Who Makes The Nazis?" is a very strange, very subtle one.
- Self-Deprecation: One of the band's career retrospectives is entitled 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong (this is also a Shout-Out to and/or parody of a similarly titled Elvis Presley album which cited a thousand times as many fans).
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After Mark E. Smith and keyboardist/girlfriend Julia Nagle had a major falling out in the late 1990s, tensions between the two intensified, with the two first breaking up and then Nagle leaving The Fall circa 2001. Suspiciously Similar Substitute — and Smith's eventual third wife — Elena Poulou became The Fall's keyboardist in late 2002.
- Take That: Marc Riley (A member of The Fall from 1978-1982, now a DJ on Radio 6 Music) gets special mention as Smith wrote not one but two songs of personal attacks on him, "The Man Whose Head Expanded" (indie hit single, 1983) and "Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot" from the 1983 album Perverted By Language.
- "Mere Psued. Mag. Ed" from Hex Enduction Hour is an attack on an unidentified music journalist that Mark E. Smith hated for some undetermined reason (the fact that he was a music journalist may have probably been enough).
- "A Past Gone Mad" from The Infotainment Scan: "If I ever end up like U2 / slit my throat with a garden vegetable."
- "Mask Search", from Ersatz GB: "But I'm so sick of Snow Patrol..."
- Verbal Tic: Mark E. Smith is known for adding an "-ah" at the end of lines. It's not quite after every line, and generally seems to be his way of emphasizing certain lyrics. It's particularly rampant in "Repetition" - "Ah-we dig-ah, Ah-we dig-ah repetition-ah!".
- If you heard "It's a Curse" without knowing the title, you'd have a hard time knowing what "It's a Kyass-ah!" meant.
- Word Salad Lyrics
- Word Salad Title: Too many songs (and albums) to list.
- Yoko Oh No: Averted. The years when Mark's first wife Brix was the band's guitarist corresponds with the release of some of the band's most popular and acclaimed albums.
- This also seems to be the case with his current wife, Elena Poulou, who has seen the band through a bit of a resurgence since 2003.
- Younger Than They Look: Mark E. Smith is only in his mid-50's, but even in his 30's, he looked like he was far older (say, late-60's). The fact that his hair started to gray early didn't particularly help. Nor the stupendous quantities of amphetamines he's taken all his life.