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Watch Mark E. Smith’s comical guide to writing

@TomTaylorFO

When Mark E. Smith staggered onto the music scene in 1976, he was a breath of fresh air—foul, horrible, festering fresh air. That putrid wind he breathed with ease is now as influential as ever. As he seemed to prognosticate himself, “When I’m dead and gone my vibrations will live on in vibes on vinyl. Through the years people will dance to my waves.”

The scene was slowly becoming stilted, and Smith smashed its shackles with sheer individualism, in truth, he was also so singular that he barely had a choice in that matter. As Nick Cave said, “There was so much shit that was happening at that time. Terrible, boring kind of stuff. And Mark E. Smith’s lyric writing was just incredible, so they had a huge impact.”

Often the sound of The Fall and the influence of members like Brix Smith, Martin Bramah and others is understated as people focus on Smith’s autodidactic mantra: “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.” Nevertheless, Smith’s snarling, singular poetry was the backbone of the band.

Phrases like, “Can I come back to you on this? Hitler lost his nerve on it,” and “Roads had forgot what others still try to grasp,” are witticisms that could only have come from Smith. His stinging maelstrom of words is something that never failed to weave originality and dodge cliches throughout the 31 studio albums and further 51 live records that The Fall produced between 1976 and Smith’s death on January 24th, 2018. 

Therefore, you might think that his style is too unique to form a guide – it would be like Michael Schumacher writing a DVSA manual – and you’d be right. Nevertheless, his hilarious ways will always be worth a listen. His classic ‘guide to writing guide’ is no different, and of course, it involves the pub. His own wordplay had the scent of beer on its breath so you certainly couldn’t accuse him of being insincere with his advice. 

As he humorously declares in a Greenwich Sound Radio piece from 1983, “Day 2, decide lack of inspiration due to much isolation and none fraternisation—go to pub. Have drinks. Day 3, get up and go to pub. Hold on in there as style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness talk to people in pub.” As is typical, a fair chunk of his writing guide involves no actual drinking at all, as he focuses more on making sure his inspiration bank is full before he dips into it. 

All of those and more is in store in the wondrous writing guide below. 

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