January 28, 2018 8:37 pm
‘life should be full of strangeness; like a rich painting’
Such rich, strange imaginings. Could anyone have lived so vividly, so fully? I can’t pretend to be a Fall completist, or have seen a lot of Fall gigs compared to an uber-fan (somewhere between 5 – 10 times). But the albums I do have, comprised of approximately the first 10 years from Live At the Witch Trials (’79) up till about I Am Kurios Oranj (’88) – are etched into my dna.
And I believe there is more urgency, magic, and surprising twists in one 3-minute Fall song than many bands can muster across a whole career.
In its haunted post-industrial remnants, supernatural damp pennines and crouched, violent pubs Manchester provided a perfect host for MES to channel his spooks and hobgoblins, tableaux and visions, carved out like scenes from Mystery plays, occult yet contemporary, regional – so recognisably about and of Manchester.
I can’t claim I knew him, nor did I, alas, ever work with him directly (though harboured a hope I might be drafted in as a temporary (what else) guitarist one day). I have been drinking in the same pub as him a few times, and felt how the environment became entirely charged with a mischievous crackle just for knowing he was nearby. But a handful of good friends were close to Mark, and by osmosis I was always aware of what he was up to. Updates would arrive via Mancunian Hobgoblin Intelligence; I would learn the latest activity, or sighting, and all was well with the world.
These are a handful of fragments and sightings, conveyed to me over the years via those City Hobgoblins;
In everyday life, MES was always on high alert for linguistically interesting things (used to notice idiosyncratic phraseology in things like local papers/shop signs/ bumpf that came through the post). Always scribbling shit down, usually literally on the back of the proverbial fag packet…
On a trip to a Tib Street newsagent to buy some cans, MES was spied, a plastic carrier bag full of records. He asked ‘’Excuse me young man (the man in question was 30 ) – can you tell me the way to Odd (pause, strange emphasis) ….Bar?’’
He always got fully dressed every morning (including shoes and socks) to work at his table at home (‘shuffling papers’, as he self-deprecatingly described it).
He adored Italy – the food, culture, people and travelled there for pleasure a lot.
The signage for new pub/venue The Peer Hat, Stevenson Square features a hat containing an eye. The discussion about this mysterious design took place in Gullivers, Oldham Street, subjects ranging from freemasonry to the symbolism of pyramids. On the next table was MES, clearly listening with interest. On leaving the pub, he gave a conspirational nod.
The most recent, and sadly last, report I received was that MES was recording new material at The Bunker, a small studio on the Salford/Manchester border – formerly home to my own studio HQ, and neighbour to The White Hotel venue. The goblins said MES was a delight to work with.
Manchester: kaleidoscopic visions of home
His voice and visions animate the spaces of Manchester; are present in momentary scenes in pubs, streets, under bridges, in back gardens and avenues, richly evoking the many facets of my home city, in a vivid, playful, heightened cutup reportage packed with allusions and associations… nursery rhymes, history, the supernatural and so much more. Each Fall song, a new adventure, ’’full of strangeness, like a rich painting’’.
A lot of hyped shite is written about people who don’t deserve it; but not in this case. MES was a coruscating magical visionary, unique and peerless. RIP Mark Smith, thank you for the spark inside, the illuminations that will continue to violently reverberate and inspire, always.
‘the spark inside’