Credit: Alamy

The most savage putdowns of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith

There’s misanthropy, and there’s whatever you’d call Mark E. Smith. If the late Fall frontman gave any less of a shit, then he’d be in dire need of a colonic. He was a monolith of sadism tearing down the icons of all the filthy Bolshevist and backstabbing bastards that he perceived to be in his merry way as he went slashing through the norm like some demented daemon of the demimonde.

Alas, he was also a genius, and those aren’t just my words; the great Nick Cave is in firm agreement. When Nick Cave arrived in London with The Birthday Party, a pariah clan of junkie loons, Mark E. Smith and co, were the only ones to go near them.

“We were friends with The Fall, and we were friends with The Pop Group,” Cave said. “These were great English bands and particularly at that time they were the saviours of the music scene because there was so much shit that was happening at that time. Terrible, boring kind of stuff. And Mark Smith’s lyric writing was just incredible.” 

The pertinent point that he touches upon is that Mark E. Smith was anything but boring. He was perhaps simultaneously the funniest, most volatile and inscrutable bastard in music. As you’ll see below, often in equal measure.

Sometimes his humour can be a bit too caustic for the faint-hearted, and his incendiary ways are not particularly PC, but for one reason or another, he ensured his words were always heard.

Let’s brace ourselves for his acerbic tongue and delve into the maelstrom of mayhem below. 

Mark E. Smith’s most savage insults:

On the music business…

When asked for his thoughts on the current shape of the music industry back in the late 1990s, the finger to the pulse frontman responded: “The trouble with the music biz is that it’s become so bourgeoise. A middle-class executive business like the police force.”

On the rest of his Fall bandmates…

When asked about his continually fired and rotated backing band, declared: “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.”

On hating musicians…

Discussing the many firings of The Fall once more, he stated: “The thing with me, is I can’t stick musicians. I’ve thought about this. I can’t stand them, and being stuck in a studio with them I think that’s my strength, I can hear what they can’t. 

On being labelled a Luddite…

Mark E. Smith was debating whether he was being left behind by the technological age and accused of misunderstanding the status quo, he then responded: “He told me I didn’t understand, that we were from the bleak industrial wastes of North England, or something, and that we didn’t understand the Internet. I told him Fall fans invented the Internet. They were on there in 1982.”

On Pavement…

When asked about the influx of noise pop bands in the early nineties, he posited: “It’s just like music when you reckon it up. It’s like listening to Pavement it’s just The Fall in 1985, isn’t it? They haven’t got an original idea in their heads.”

On the occupants of Manchester city centre bars…

Asked about the Manchester social scene Smith said: “It’s just accountants from Cheshire who only drink two pints even though they’re not driving.”

On James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem…

On James Murphy’s homebound ways: “I don’t like him, he didn’t leave his house for 30 years”

On Morrissey…

According to the writer Jason Heller, Mark E. Smith once professed that the following verse from ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ was about Morrissey: “He reads books; of the list book club / And after two months—his stance a familiar hunch / It’s that same slouch—you had the last time he came around / His oppression abounds, his type is doing the rounds / He is a scum-egg; a horrid trendy wretch.”

On security guards…

When discussing fame and whether he is ever mobbed, he mused: “I don’t want security guards. I don’t think security guards are particularly good for your writing.”

On the state of the British press…

Discussing the noted degeneration of media, Mark E. Smith offered up this analogy: “You open a newspaper, it’s like, Jordan on page one; Chelsea players on page three; page six – 100,000 Iraqi women and kids have been bombed by accident.”

On mobile phones…

When discussing technology once more, he elucidated the inherent rudeness of mobile phones: “The manners thing’s got worse. People think they can just text you if they’ve got bad news for you. It’s not on. And as for people taking pictures at gigs on their phones, that’s just weird.”

On celebrities who join bands…

In discussion with comedian and Fall fan Frank Skinner for the BBC Culture Show, Smith discussed wanting to legislatively put a stop to actors in groups: “It irritates me all these actors in groups. Their actors and they form their own groups, as though that’s what they always wanted to do – I think that should be banned!”

On the modern age…

When discussing the current state of culture, he thought that enlisting the opinion of Colonel Gaddafi might help out his cause: “I agree with Colonel Gaddafi. Too much laptops, too much Nescafé, that is what he said you know. It’s quite biblical actually, it was predicted in the Bible.”

On Kate Bush…

Asked by the Manchester Evening News for his opinions on the new Kate Bush album in 2014, Smith snarled: “Who decided it was time to start liking her again? I never even liked her the first time round. It’s like all these radio DJs have been raiding their mam’s and dad’s record collections and decided that Kate Bush is suddenly cool again. But I’m not having it.”

On Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Sheeran…

When asked about Jeremy Corbyn attending the famed Glastonbury music festival, he somehow managed to club Ed Sheeran in with his disdain: “Going to Glastonbury is so clichéd isn’t it? I’ve seen it with groups once they get a scent of fame. He’s been waiting 25 years for it. He’s got aftershave on. It’s like Ed Sheeran. I think Sheeran and Corbyn are evil twins.

“See Corbyn in Europe the other day? He’s started wearing what they’ve asked him to. He’s like ‘oh it’s my first hit record’. He’s turned into Rod Stewart.”

On playing a festival with Mumford & Sons…

Frankly, asking Smith’s opinion on sharing the bill with folk band Mumford & Sons back in 2010 was never going to be pretty: “We were playing a festival in Dublin the other week. There was this other group, like, warming up in the next sort of chalet, and they were terrible.

“I said, ‘Shut them cunts up!’ And they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them. The bands said, ‘That’s the Sons of Mumford’ or something. ‘They’re number five in charts!’”

On Suede…

When asked by Richard Skinner in a radio interview whether he liked any current bands like Suede who had just supported The Fall for the entirety of their recent tour Smith replied: “Never heard of them.”

On the music industry in 2017…

Pushed on what music he was listening to by the Guardian as he suffered health issues in 2017, he replied: “The standard of music these days is fucking terrible. Being poorly you have to watch shit like Jools Holland. A lot of it sounds like when I was 15 and I’d go round to a long-haired guy’s flat to score a joint and they’d always put on some fucking lousy Elton John LP. That sounds like Ed Sheeran to me, a duff singer songwriter from the 70’s you find in charity shops.”

On adaptations of Philip K. Dick

Although he was slight on praise for just about anyone and anything, he had an often-covert passion for literature and admiration of the works of sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick, when the Guardian asked his opinion on cinematic adaptations he replied: “I think the original Blade Runner is the most obscene film ever made, I fucking hated it. The Man in the High Castle is one of my favourite books; how they fucked that TV show up I don’t know.

“The only good Philip K Dick film is Total Recall, it’s faithful to the book. Arnie gets it. I was physically sick watching A Scanner Darkly, it was like an episode of Cheers painted over except they all smoke dope and imagine women with no clothes on.”

On people from the north and fellow Manchurian musicians…

When speaking to Noisey UK reserved special disdain for his own kind: “I don’t like Northern people, I don’t like Manchurians. There’s something about Manchester musicians that’s particularly fucking irritating. They have this sort of God-given right, which Londoners used to have I suppose. They think they’re superior, but they’re not. Manchester’s only got Freddie and the Dreamers.”

And lastly, what he’d do if he was Prime Minister…

Asked during a mid-1980s interview with Smash Hits what policies he would adopt if he became Prime Minister, he declared: “I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France.”

Comments