So, me and Jimmy The Goff were at The Coronet in Elephant & Castle, South London, waiting for The Fall to come on stage. It’s May 11.
I’m no huge fan. The two or three tracks I’ve heard I like, but somehow I’ve never taken the time to explore further. Jimmy loves ‘em though. And Mark E Smith is one of the few genuine individuals around so it was wrong not to see him in the flesh.
Anyway, we’re out back, supping on a pint from a plastic cup, talking about what-have-you when we’re interrupted by this guy who comes up swearing about the price of the beer. Not unreasonably, given it was £4.80 a pint.
Can’t remember exactly what he said, but there was a fair bit of ‘fucking’ in there and a liberal dose of the other. Seemed quite angry, but friendly at the same time. Kinda like The Fall.
From what I can gather, fans of The Fall can be quite a belligerent and enthusiastic tribe and this fella was somewhere approaching the archetype. Said he runs a pub in London called the Snooty Fox and he’d commissioned a Chester brewery to make him a Mark E Smith IPA. Or it might have been called The Fall IPA.
Either way, he said it was ‘strong and northern’ and that people had come to the pub from Sweden just to taste it. As far as knew, the main man hadn’t tasted it. Maybe one day.
We exchanged a bit of Fall banter — I say, we, I knew nothing, so it was largely Jimmy – and said our goodbyes. He was swearing as he left.
The gig itself was something else. Sonically challenging, the band stood still and played hard while Smith wandered from amp to amp changing everyone else’s bass and treble mid-song.
He was either rolling drunk or doing a very good impression of someone who was and dressed, as is his wont, in a leather, blazer-cut jacket and non-descript trousers and shirt.
He doesn’t so much sing as bark out slogans or commandments, at times through one microphone, at times two.
From time to time, he would toss one of the mics into the crowd. When he wasn’t singing, he was gurning. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. A riveting frontman.
I couldn’t tell you what songs they played, other than a cover of the Big Bopper tune White Lightning they released as a b-side many years ago as part of the encore, during which the keyboard player (his wife?) had her big handbag slung across her shoulder as if she was in a rush to leave.
Now I’m a fan and I’ve started reading his autobiography, Renegade, which is an entertaining account of life on the fringes of rock ‘n’ roll from the point of view of a singularly chippy and provocative raconteur. On Jimmy’s recommendation, I’ve also started listening to the album Hex Enduction Hour and this track, its first, is my new favourite song.