November 3, 2003

Wasting time in numbers and rhymes

the guardian on Mark E. Smith:

It all began one wet night in Rochdale, during the late autumn of 1993, at a dingy recording studio called Suite Sixteen. I had come to visit Mark E Smith - the ex-communist, former docker, and founder of one of the most innovative groups to emerge in contemporary music, The Fall. With an engineer, he was mixing a new album, Middle Class Revolt, and he looked as though he'd been up for days. He was, in fact, unconscious when I first arrived - stretched out on the kind of broken-down sofa that you might see outside a minicab office on a warm summer evening. Waking, he had seemed immediately to pull together all the strands of himself, acquiring a coherence - like the shards of a cubist portrait suddenly shooting back into their figurative state - that somehow denied that he'd ever been asleep.

A class warrior, dandy and intellectual, Smith is one of nature's aristocrats. Born and raised in Salford, he is now resident in Prestwich, north Manchester. His performances with The Fall - delivering the elaborate code of his lyrics in explosive, spoken bursts from the corner of his mouth, across rigid, relentless repetitions of rock chords - can seem virtually shamanic. He is Beuysian in this respect. He is also famously acerbic.

Example: a music paper once decided that it would make an interesting story to have various rock celebrities take a train journey together, their wit and conversation being noted down by a journalist. Smith arrived carrying two plastic bags filled with cans of lager, and settled in for the duration. Some hours later, one of the assembled stars was attempting to prove that he had the ability to read a stranger's personality simply by studying their face. Smith sat in silence throughout the demonstration. Had the amateur analyst been more accomplished, he might have noticed that Smith's eyes had narrowed a fraction - always a bad sign. But, at first, all seemed well. "I can do that, mate," Smith announced, amiably enough.

"OK, Mark," came the bright reply, "tell me all about myself!"

"You're a cunt."

Continue reading the article [via TMFTML].


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