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(Credit: Garry Knight)

Music

Watch Jarvis Cocker’s psychedelic cover of The Fall

@TomTaylorFO

You’ve got to be careful covering The Fall, there are people out there who’ll cut you down for it and the autodidactic ghost of Mark E. Smith to contend with. Of all the hardy few that are likely to receive a nod of approval, the gangly figure of Jarvis Cocker is likely to rank highly. He might not be as manic as Smith but something about his lassez faire demeanour somehow hints at a kinship between the two.

Perhaps this mystic affinity boils down to the fact that both frontmen seemingly don’t care what anyone thinks—and not in the faux façade way that every other so-called iconoclast puts up. Where they differ, however, is typified by the following quote from Cocker: “The main thing I don’t like about myself is an absurd level of self-consciousness that makes any sort of social encounter an ordeal for me.” Smith, on the other hand, made it his steadfast goal to make every encounter an ordeal and it was probably the thing he liked most about himself.

One such ordeal occurred in Chicago, and it helped to shape the future sound of The Fall. “We saw in the Chicago Reader that The Fall were coming to play,” Brix Smith once recalled. “I was waiting in line to get beer and as I got my beer and I turned around – BAM! – I smacked into the singer who had a bottle of beer in each hand and a line of white powder coming down his nose, which should’ve been a red flag but hey rock ‘n’ roll.” 

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When Smith later invited Brix to an after-party, she played him a CD of her band in the taxi. “Who wrote these songs,” Smith mused midway through the ride. “I did,” Brix meekly answered. “You’re a fucking genius,” Smith bluntly replied, using the G word for the first and last time in his scathing life review of anything and everything. Smith soon found herself married to the scallywag and a new force for a shade of light within the band. 

At the height of her influence came the anthemic track ‘New Big Prinz’ in 1988. This almost danceable epic represented a new commercial edge amid the endless shrouding of punk heathenry applied by the meshuga Mr Smith. This style suits the eternally almost-danceable Cocker down to the ground. And with his cover, he lends the heady brew his lemon-twist of whimsy, not to mention the giant condiments and gargantuan café grub that surrounds the star. 

Cocker’s cover of the darkly brooding anthem is one of a number of covers that he embarked upon with his JARV IS band at an exhibition about the dancer and choreographer Michael Clark at the Barbican in London back in 2020. You can check out his befittingly effortless interpretation below.