The Wire

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Mark E Smith 1957–2018

The Fall frontman died aged 60 on 24 January

Mark E Smith died at his Greater Manchester home in Prestwich on 24 January. He was 60 years old. The Fall founder and frontman had been struggling with health issues for a number of years. Smith was born in Broughton in Lancashire on 5 March 1957. In June 1976 he attended the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall alongside future members of Buzzcocks, The Smiths and Joy Division, and soon after formed The Fall with his friends Martin Bramah, Una Baines and Tony Friel, the first of numerous line-ups that would see some 60 musicians filter through the band. Their earliest recordings – represented by 1978 debut EP Bingo-Master’s Break Out!, the following year’s Live At The Witch Trials and Dragnet, 1980’s Grotesque (After The Gramme) and 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour – established many Fall trademarks: dogged repetition, clanging guitars and Smith’s unique lyricism, drawing as much on daily mundanity as the weird fiction that had inspired him while growing up, barked in a working class Mancunian accent. From 1978 onward The Fall maintained a work ethic that saw them release studio albums at the rate of roughly one a year. Most recently, they released New Facts Emerge in 2017.

In spite of the misanthropic outlook which made his interviews required reading, Smith frequently collaborated with other artists, including Michael Clark, Edwyn Collins, DOSE, Gorillaz, Coldcut and Inspiral Carpets. He also worked with Mouse On Mars on the project Von Südenfed. In addition to The Fall, Smith released two solo spoken word sets, 1998’s The Post-Nearly Man and 2002’s Pander! Panda! Panzer!.

The Wire’s first interview with Mark E Smith was published in August 1986 (issue 30). Over the next three decades he and The Fall were covered extensively in the magazine: he was interviewed at least seven times, appeared on the cover three times and twice sat the Invisible Jukebox test (Smith being the only artist to take this honour).

For more on The Wire’s Fall coverage, see our online Archive Portal.