The fall also, in mythological terms, refers to the expulsion of Lucifer Morningstar from Heaven after his rebellion against God.

Most variants of this myth have Lucifer refusing to bow to God's will in light of one development or another, usually involving humanity. One interesting variant of this muth has Lucifer rebelling not out of pride but out of love. When ordered to leave Heaven, and God's presence, for all eternity in order to serve humans, Lucifer finds that his love for God is so great that he cannot comply, and so was cast out.

Here, again, there is a divergence of stories. In some myths, other angels simply packed up and left Heaven with Lucifer. In others, Lucifer lead a revolt against God, and the War divided the angels, with Lucifer still losing.

After leaving Heaven, Lucifer fell for a very long time. Hell's existence prior to this is another cloudy subject. Either it pre-existed (God being omniscient) or Lucifer's Fall caused it to spring into existence. In any event, it was a highly unpleasant place, but he was rather stuck with it.

According to most Christian theology, Lucifer, now Satan, the Enemy, will reign in Hell forever. Of course, that kind of puts the kibosh on the idea of an infinitely forgiving God, but perhaps Lucifer will become Morningstar again.

The Fall is a lesser-known novel by Albert Camus, who also wrote The Stranger and The Rebel. This is my favorite among his various works that I have read, though I have only absored it in English because ...well... I know neither common nor philosophical French (though I really should try to learn it sometime). It is written in the 2nd person, detailing a conversation between oneself and the character Camus assumes, namely Jean-Baptiste Clamence, which follows the events in the life of this former Parisian lawyer. He confesses the secrets of his existence and his past life. The tension builds throughout the novel as one becomes more and more curious about the solution to the dilemma he has encountered in his life, his fall from the state of immunity to the judgement of his fellow men.

This book is basically an existentialist allegory on judgement of all forms. Camus packs the book to the bursting point with odd personal anecdotes and little sophisticated revelations to help further his point: every triumph reveals a failure, every motive a hidden treachery. One gets the feeling that he is battling against one's preconceptions like some sort of swordsman, jabbing at one concept after another, parrying all retaliations, going in for the kill.

It's an exhausting book to read, and it takes a little effort since it is written in both an uncommon form and has been translated from French. But, it is certainly worth the effort, and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in existentialism.

The Fall are an incredibly prolific and influential group founded by Mark E. Smith in 1977.

Over the years they have been consistently challenging with Mark's surreal lyrics and heavy repetitive but funky rhythms and have always maintained good quality control in their characteristically rough edged style.

Recommended albums to start with include This Nation's Saving Grace, Extricate and Perverted By Language but any are good.

The following is a selected discography (by no means exhaustive since it omits most of the numerous live and compilation albums released). Unfortunately, there has never been a definitive compilation and I'm not sure if it's possible given the volume of work.

"Do you know what it is that I like about The Fall? I suppose it is that, like with the best of lots of other things, you know, like films and literature - not that I know much about films, or indeed literature if it comes to that, or painting, or whatever it is, you know; the very best work contains, without seeming fussy or cluttered or anything like that, but there's so much detail in there, that every time you look at it, or listen to it, or whatever it is you do with it, you see something or hear something that you had not observed previously. Is that a little pretentious? I think it's true, though, nevertheless."

That was John Peel, there. Talkin' 'bout The Fall. I'm a-gonna talk 'bout The Fall too.

Some people have the crossword gene. When they read "He rations the port among those who want it (15)" their minds churn like a washing machine and, without conscious effort, they visualise the word "Harbourmaster". They look at the word craunched but they do not see craunched, they see dhune crac. People who have the crossword gene tend to lead unfulfilled lives because their special talent has no place in modern society, and few people have more than one special talent. The crossword gene is a curse. It is only useful for people who make a living compiling crossword puzzles, but the world does not need many crossword compilers, and I am sure that most crosswords are nowadays compiled by computer.

Nonetheless a few of these freaks thrive, if they survive beyond childhood. One of these gifted individuals is Mark E Smith, who has used his genetic abnormality to create and conquer a small part of popular culture. He is The Fall, a modern pop music band. Birds take flight when there is a sudden noise, but it is not the noise itself that shocks them, it is the suddenness. It is the unexpected transition that shocks them. Birds that have grown up in a noisy environment become restless when there is quiet. Perhaps one day they will take flight at the unexpected sound of silence, and deafen the world with their wings.

I am not a fan of The Fall. I despise fans. They are blind to their obsession. Their minds are filled with facts, but they cannot see the big picture, unlike myself. You might suppose that I am not the right man to write about The Fall, but you would be wrong. One does not illuminate darkness with more darkness. Instead, the darkness is lit with light. When the light has passed, the darkness returns.

The Fall is a band, a British band from Manchester, a town in the north of England, which is to say that it is in the middle of Britain, if you are looking at Britain on a map. It is between England and Scotland, to the right of Ireland. Manchester has a reputation. It is a city where children stab and shoot each other, and it is only a few hours' drive from most other cities in England. It is also a hotbed of pop culture. There are ninety eight million Google search returns for Manchester, almost forty for every person who lives there.

Mark E Smith's middle name is Edward, but nobody calls him Mark Edward Smith. Nineteen years and fourteen days from now I will be as old as he is today, and he will probably be dead. It is hard to write about The Fall without writing about Mark E Smith. He is an arty man who reads arty books, but he dresses in plain clothes and he was born of a working class family. He has modest tastes. He did not go to university, and yet his band is named after a novel by Albert Camus, a French intellectual. When he gives interviews he seems like a clever but inarticulate teenager, despite the fact that he is a grown man. He is a cruel master, but people flock to him like sheep to a flame. He is a thin and weedy, but he is mentally tough. He is a drinker, a cynic, a lover, and a sinner. He gets his loving on the run. To date he is childless, despite having been married three times in the space of twenty years. Perhaps he does not have penetrative sex. Perhaps he is scrupulous when it comes to contraception. Perhaps he is infertile. Perhaps he has developed a special breathing technique that prevents fertilisation. I do not know. I dare not find out. He is very much like a grasshopper, I envisage him rubbing his front legs together, clicking, with inquisitive eyes that dart left and right. He has flickering little antenna things that come out of his forehead. With his own two hands he has felled trees, carved wood, made a boat, and set sail, over the horizon, beyond sight of land.

The Fall is Marky Smith plus a backing group that backs him. The band writes the music, and Mark Smith directs them, and writes and sings the lyrics. There have been at least four or five or six or seven completely different line-ups; sometimes individual members drop out, and are replaced, until the entire line-up has changed, but on at least two occasions the entire band has been sacked and Mark has reassembled The Fall from scratch, usually without a pause. The Fall has never lain dormant, it has never split into two different groups, it has never lost its lead singer. Mark Smith once said in an interview that The Fall would still be The Fall if it was just himself and your grandmother on bongo drums. It would not be The Fall if it was just Mark E Smith, he would still need your grandmother to play drums. There is something that prevents him from going it alone. He is not like John Lydon or Morrissey or David Bowie or any other prolific musical star who bills himself as a solo artist, but relies on hundreds of different musicians to write music for him. Mark Smith has no innate musical talent and cannot play an instrument. At the same time - and unlike John Lydon, for example - he craves live performance so much that he is unwilling to simply hole up in a studio with some session musicians. He needs to have a real band behind him. The Fall came into being in 1976, and until 1979 or thereabouts it was theoretically a roughly democratic band of brothers; in the late 1970s Mark Smith was billed by the NME as "the band's singer" and The Fall was written of as a group, rather than Mark Smith's backing band. In that same NME feature an unidentified member of the band is quoted as saying that "it's a standing joke in Manchester that The Fall are very deep and always arguing about things, and it's true. There's never a common agreement within the band. Instead there's a tension that makes us stronger", which is ominous in retrospect. Within six months half of that line-up had left or been sacked, and the purges have continued thick and fast ever since.

In 1977 Mark brought in his girlfriend, an aggressive lady called Kay Carroll, to manage the band. She was a hard taskmaster. Musicians are a weak and cowardly bunch, and she whipped the band into shape. Only Mark Smith could channel her aggression, and by the time she left the band, in 1983, Mark did not take orders from anyone anymore. He was the boss. He was The Fall. When the music press of the early 1980s ran features about The Fall they wrote about Mark E Smith. The rest of the band were usually not mentioned by name, except for Brix Smith, Mark's wife, who was very photogenic. Mark had become the living embodiment of the Nietzschean ideal. When I read the writings of Mussolini, I see a little bit of Mark Smith, or at least the younger Mark Smith. He is aggressive and idealistic, working class. He did not inherit power, he built it. He dreamed of conquests beyond his means, and ultimately he did not achieve his goals, although he remained in power. The Fall has outlasted the reigns of Mussolini and Hitler and Stalin. Mark Smith has been famous longer than Martin Amis, and he has sold more records than Martin Amis.

The Fall's first single was recorded in 1977 and released in 1978. It was called "Bingo Master's Break Out" and it was about an aged entertainer who was wasting his life.

"A glass of lager in his hand
silver microphone in his hand
wasting time in numbers and rhyme
one hundred blank faces buy

The first album came out in 1979. It was called Live at the Witch Trials. The second LP came out later in 1979, it was called Dragnet. Neither disc reached the charts, although they attracted lots of attention in the hip music press, which at that time consisted of the NME, Melody Maker, and Sounds magazine. The group has kept up an aggressive release schedule ever since, putting out more than twenty-five studio albums, and several non-LP singles. The Fall's release schedule has sped up over time, with archival live albums, compilations, rarities collections, specially-recorded radio sessions, the works. The Fall has produced hundreds of songs since 1978, and they are all of a piece. Mark E Smith declaims fragmentary poetry in his own unique way whilst the backing band plays oppressive post-punk twangy guitar surf music, or relatively slick dance pop, or relatively slick jangly guitar pop, or contemporary industrial-influenced rock, or drivel, depending on the era. The guitarist almost never solos, the drummer plays a steady beat, none of the players have more than a moment in the spotlight. Sometimes there are instrumental sections, but they are grooves rather than a backdrop for the star guitarist or the star drummer. The Fall's lead instrument is not the guitar or the keyboard, it is the voice of Mark E Smith. On the first album or two it was sarcastic and bratty. He spoke-shouted, like Rex Harrison with a temper. He did not try to sing in a conventional way, and there is a sense throughout Mark E Smith's career of a man who is not trying hard at anything, or at least wants to give that impression. He affects boredom with the world. Perhaps this is Mark Smith's biggest legacy; loudly and aggressively affected laziness.

Mark's voice reached a peak of uninterested sarcastic authority during the mid 1980s, on songs such as "Cruiser's Creek" and "Hit the North", where it commanded attention. I imagine he practised behind closed doors, where no-one would be able to hear him making an effort. He did not mumble, unlike most other indie vocalists of the 1980s. Mark's voice was was loud and clear. It yelped, it swooped and dived, it was a uniquely stylised and affected thing. It resembled a sabotaged imitation of Gene Vincent's voice, as if Gene Vincent had been born and raised in Manchester, and had grown up as a market trader, or a holiday camp announcer, instead of being the rockabilly pioneer who sang "Be-bop-a-Lula". Although individual words and phrases of Mark Smith's lyrics were comprehensible, even catchy, his lyrics taken as a whole were hard to focus on, and did not make much sense. Written down, they were often clever and witty, but delivered in the context of a song they were a verbal wash of sound, catchy meaningless phrases. "Hit the north! Ninety-five per cent! Guaranteed!", "Bazdad! Space cog! Analyst!" (from "Guest Informant"), "Bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah!" (from "Kurious Oranj"). At his peak, Mark Smith had a vocal range of a note, which he could bend up and down by almost a semitone. Nowadays a non-singer with a desire to express himself would rap, but Mark E Smith was born of a time and place that eschewed the music of the black man. British indie music of the 1980s was whiter than a unicorn. The Fall remains a white band today; it has never flirted with black music. No ska, reggae, jazz, rap or drum'n'bass for The Fall, no hip-hop for The Fall, n.b there are other genres of black music, and of course music transcends race. Would a black person playing the mandolin be less of a folk musician than a white mandolinist? The answer is no. Mark's voice eventually deteriorated, and today it is a slurred growl that barely sounds human.

I shall now describe the history of The Fall, from 1977 until the mid-90s. You can skip it if you want. It's just a lot of names and dates. Unless you are a fan of The Fall, it will not interest you, because the names are meaningless outside the context of The Fall. If you are a fan of The Fall, you already know all of this information, and will probably spot lots of mistakes. I shall begin now. I have already told you that The Fall emerged in 1976, or 1977, I am not sure. At that time the band was based around Smith on vocals, muscular Martin Bramah on guitar, man-mountain Karl Burns on drums, and the lovely Una Baines, a lady, on keyboards. The group went on to have several lady keyboardists, and indeed the current line-up features Mark Smith's wife in this role. On at least two occasions The Fall has been reduced to Mark Smith on vocals, and his current wife/girlfriend on keyboards, and whoever he could find to play drums. The Early Early The Fall did not survive until the 1980s, with all the aforementioned leaving before 1979, but The Classic The Fall that emerged remained relative consistent throughout the rest of the decade, and into the 1990s. It was based around Mark Smith on vocals and thoughts, handsome Steve Hanley on the bass, and wise old Craig Scanlon on the electric guitar. Karl Burns continued to play drums and other instruments on an occasional basis, and did not leave the band for good until 1998. Marc Riley, who I will mention later on, played guitar from 1978 until 1982, bridging the gap between the old and new versions of The Fall.

The Fall's most significant and unusual personnel change took place in late 1983. Whilst on tour in North America, Mark Smith met and fell in love with an American lady called Brix. He took her back to Britain and made her his wife and guitarist. Or perhaps she saw Mark Smith as a means of becoming famous, and latched onto him like a blood-sucking mosquito. Perhaps Mark Smith is easily led by women. I do not know. Brix Smith was the opposite of The Fall. She was good-looking and glamorous. The Fall has never been a good-looking band. Brix looked like a stereotypical mid-80s rock chick, with a big guitar and big hair, and big bright lipstick. She added a little bit of the B-52s to The Fall, a little bit of glamour where before there had only been dourness. She had a pop sensibility, and the Fall's music quickly became beatier and hookier and more tuneful. By the middle of the 1980s The Fall was a surf guitar experimental riff rock band, with Brix Smith doing her thing on guitar and backing vocals. Her backing vocals were often out of tune. It seemed as if the band was mocking the quirkier side of commercial rock music, whilst simultaneously giving commercial rock music a tobacco-flavoured French kiss. Brix Smith was not quite Kate Pierson, but she was not quite Kim Gordon either. Some fans of The Fall have a soft spot for Brix Smith. Some have a moist patch for her. Some fans hate her, for transforming "their" band into an indie version of The Bangles. It is impossible to know what The Fall would have become if Mark and Brix had never met. Her membership of The Fall coincided with its greatest commercial success, and some of its most memorable songs, such as "Cruiser's Creek" and "L.A.". The marriage did not last, and Brix left the The Fall in 1989 to concentrate on her own project, a band called The Adult Net. It is okay if you have never heard of The Adult Net. She came back for a couple of years in the mid 1990s, but left for good in 1996. She now runs a fashion shop. I don't know whether the failure of the marriage had an effect on Mark Smith. He did not show it in interviews, and the histories of the band that I have read tend to gloss over it. Perhaps Mark was devastated and cried like a baby; perhaps he decided that, from then on, if people would not love him, they would fear him instead.

Craig Scanlon left in 1995, after sixteen years in the band, supposedly sacked by Mark Smith because of his slovenly appearance. The Fall slowly crashed and burned after that, with sackings and rehirings, and the band blew up in April 1998 during a gig in New York. The show turned into a pushing match between Mark Smith and Karl Burns, at which point Burns and Hanley left for good. Smith then muddled along with backing tapes and various makeshift line-ups, based around Julia Nagle on keyboards and guitars. Nagle had the terrible misfortune to join The Fall and become Mark Smith's girlfriend just as the band was collapsing, but she was made of tough stuff, and survived into the twenty-first century. Mark Smith assembled a new band of younger people, and although at first The New Young Fall was a sad joke, with force of will Mark Smith brought the group back from the dead. The group's 2000 album The Unutterable was very good, with three great songs and no bad songs. Subsequent albums featured a new guitarist called Ben Pritchard, who was younger than The Fall itself. Are You Are Missing Winner (2001) and The Real New Fall LP (formerly "Country on the Click") (2004) and Fall Heads Roll (2005) were of a consistent standard, with a few good tracks and no real stinkers. They attracted mostly positive reviews from the press. You might have seen the reviews yourself - the critics tended to write about the history of the band, with very little about the music itself. This is because The Fall's music had become superfluous to the Legend of The Fall in the same way that Paul McCartney's music became superfluous to the Legend of Paul McCartney. It is easy to write a review of a modern The Fall album. Simply write four hundred words about The Fall, and then say that the new album is a return to form, or that it is a disappointment compared to the previous album.

The New Young Fall fell apart in 2004, but Mark Smith huffed and puffed and the band pulled together again, surprisingly without any major line-up changes. During this period the group had established a reputation as the most erratic live act on the planet, alternating gigs where Mark E Smith would fall over or walk off after fifteen minutes with gigs where the band rocked out like a magickist. The Fall was starting to attract young new trendy fans, but it all fell apart again in May 2006. The band was touring America, and had just reached Phoenix, en route to San Diego. An altercation developed between Mark Smith and the lead singer of the support band, at which point The New Young Fall lost its patience with Smith and went back home to the UK, leaving Mark E Smith on his own again, with his lovely new lady wife Elena Poulou on keyboards. The band says that Smith had become impossible to work with, being abusive, erratic, dictatorial, drunk, and generally unpleasant. Smith maintains that the band were lazy and wet and ungrateful. In a magazine interview published a few months later, Smith was proud to reveal that he been paying each member of The New Young Fall one hundred dollars a day, with free food, free drinks, and free lodgings in a hotel, although they had to share rooms. I do not know how much Mark Smith paid his band when they were not on tour. Musicians are usually cagey about money. Assuming it is true that each member of The Fall earned a hundred dollars a day in 2006, that was a decent wage, but less than many graduates. As I write these words, a hundred dollars is worth fifty pounds, which is a handy sum to have in one's wallet, especially for ninety minutes of work starting at nine o'clock at night. I cannot think of any other incentives to be a member of The Fall. It is not a glamorous band, in fact its image is deliberately glum. I cannot see the band attracting many groupies. There is free travel, but it is free travel in vans and cheap aeroplanes. There is no time to sightsee, and the boss is a tyrant. And when The Fall comes to an end, a wage of fifty pounds a day will not have been enough to buy a house, or a pension plan, or to retire. There is a certain amount of glamour in being a former member of The Fall; it is like being the survivor of an aeroplane crash.

Still, The Fall continued. A Newer Younger Fall was assembled in the space of two days, with Mark coaching his new guitarist, bassist, and drummer by playing them old Fall records. The tour resumed immediately, to a mixture of good and bad reviews, and the band put out a new record, which was terrible. Today The Fall is Mark E Smith, plus his wife, and some other people, and a second group of other people who are there to stand in for the first group of other people (this is true: I am not making it up). I imagine that they are all sweaty, nervous men who smile nervously whenever Mark Smith hoves into view. I do not know how much they are paid. The Fall no longer has full time members, it is an amorphous collective. Mark Smith is the only constant. He is like Charles Manson. He has never killed anyone, or at least he has never been convicted of murder.

There have always been other people, and the same is true of The Fall. Many other people have been briefly captured by The Fall's gravitational field, dozens of people. None of them are even remotely interesting, and they are just names. It is a fact that Craig Scanlon was once a member of The Fall, but it is a meaningless fact. Craig Scanlon does not mean anything to anyone outside his circle of friends and family. He is not a lesson for us. It would be a feat, to memorise the names of the men and women of The Fall, to remember the names of all The Fall's albums, and the dates when they came out, and so forth, but it would be a meaningless, pointless feat. Fans of the band have fond memories of Craig Scanlon, and Steve Hanley, and also of Ben Pritchard, although he did not remain with the band long enough, during a significant enough period in the band's history, to really become part of the legend of The Fall, but none of the men and women of The Fall have possessed greater fame and glory outside The Fall, either before they joined, or after they left. It is as if The Fall was a giant plant that gave off an irresistible scent, and when its victims fell in, the plant sucked them of everything. Craig Scanlon now works for Britain's Department of Work and Pensions, where he controls the people of Britain. Greater power, perhaps, but no greater glory. Steve Hanley is a caretaker in a school. I can think of few jobs that are more melancholic than being the caretaker in a school. No-one is sure what happened to Karl Burns. Only Mark E Smith has thrived as a member of The Fall, but even he has achieved no success outside the group, although he has tried his hand at acting, spoken word poetry, and he also wrote a play. The few famous people to have interacted with the fall, such as Damon Gough or Michael Clark, were not proper members of the band. And Michael Clark is not really famous outside of the world of dance. Damon Gough co-wrote and played guitar on one of the B-sides of the second of a two-CD single release of a song from the band's 1998 album Levitate. He is nowadays famous as Badly Drawn Boy, winner of the Mercury Music Prize in 2000. I am proud of the sentence "Damon Gough co-wrote and played guitar on one of the B-sides of the second of a two-CD single release of a song from the band's 1998 album Levitate"; it is factually correct, it is precise, it is ridiculously baroque, in such a way as to make it clear that it is supposed to be ridiculous, and most of all it encapsulates the insignificance of Damon Gough's interaction with the band. He bounced off them like a bat flying into the side of a stealth bomber at night.

I forget. There is an exception, Marc Riley, who I mentioned earlier. He fell out with Mark Smith a year or so before Brix joined the band Many years later he became a disc jockey for Radio One, where he did a double-act with fellow DJ Mark Radcliffe. Riley was the stupid one (he used the name "Lard"), and Radcliffe was the smart one. The two of them were very popular, and Marc Riley is still broadcasting today, buried away somewhere on Radio Six. The only other famous person to have been a member of The Fall is the late DJ John Peel, who was not a member of The Fall. I will write about him later on.

The Fall also worked with Leigh Bowery, a camp fat man who hung out at clubs, met a lot of trendy famous people, and then died. Mark E Smith wrote a play called "Hey! Luciani" which was about Pope John Paul the First, and the play had Leigh Bowery in it. I have read a transcription of this play and it did not impress me. Perhaps it only works in performance. The reviews in the NME and Melody Maker were poor. I imagine that Mark E Smith must have been thrilled to have written a play, because playwrights are proper artists whereas pop musicians are not. Perhaps he aspired to write a novel, but could not sit down long enough to do so, and settled for something that was a bit like novel-writing, but easier. Artists dabble in obscurity because they are afraid to expose their limitations, indeed they are afraid to expose the fact that they have limitations. All people have limitations, but artists do not want to be people, they want to be more than people, they want to be eternally infallible.

The Fall also wrote the soundtrack for a Michael Clark ballet called "I am Kurious Oranj", which was released as an album, I am Kurious Oranj, in 1988. It is one of their most accessible records, recorded at the very end of The Fall's mid-80s pop period. The ballet was about William of Orange, and Britain, and history, although it is in an abstract style, and could be about anything, which was probably the intention. There is no need to make excuses to dance. If you want to dance, then dance. If you want other people to dance according to your wishes, then catch them when they are in a dancing mood, and let them dance. There is no need for a storyline. Everybody likes to dance, and can relate to other people dancing, just for the sake of dancing. "Oranj" featured dancers dancing in front of The Fall, and Brix Smith was moved around the stage on a giant plastic hamburger whilst playing guitar, and wearing a ballet suit. I have seen this on YouTube, it is both powerfully erotic and memorable. Ordinarily I like to look at ballet dancers, because they are attractive, but it is hard to tell which of Michael Clark's company are women and which are men, and so I am left frustrated by "I am Kurious Oranj". The word "letch" probably dervies from the old German word for "lick". It has been a very long time since I licked something, with all of my heart. Also on YouTube there is a video clip of Gordon the Gopher being eaten by a dog. Gordon the Gopher was a hand puppet from British children's television in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the clip he is attacked by a dog whilst the human presenters laugh and laugh. I respect the puppeteer's discipline. He did not cry out, even as his hand was being mauled. He did not withdraw his hand, he continued to act. This is doubly important on children's television, because children believe that puppets are real, and it would be cruel to shatter their illusions. Cruel, but necessary. I wonder if Mark E Smith has considered puppetry as a means of expression.

"Lloyd Cole's brain and face is made out of cowpat / we all know that" (from the Peel Session introduction of "L.A.")

John Peel was a disc jockey for BBC Radio One. Radio One is Britain's government-organised mainstream radio channel. It plays pop music. In the daytime it plays the same twenty or thirty pop music records on repeat. The disc jockeys are paid to fill up the space between the records so that Radio One doesn't play too much music. They read out competitions, and implore members of the public to telephone them and say something funny. They are very cheerful all the time. Radio One started in 1967 and has been broadcasting non-stop ever since then. Britain had lots of radio before 1967, but it was split into two very different worlds. The government-organised radio did not play pop music. If people wanted to listen to pop music on the radio they had to listen to pirate radio stations that operated without a broadcasting licence, usually from ships moored off the coast, sometimes from microscopic insects that lived underground.

John Peel was born in 1939, several miles south of Liverpool. He was eighteen years older than Mark E Smith. He went to pubic school and was a bit posh. During the middle of the 1960s he was off DJ-ing in America, where he was called John Ravencroft. His real name was John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, you see, but that was an inappropriate name for the radio, and so he changed it to Ravencroft without an S, and then when he came back to the UK he called himself John Peel. He kept the name John Peel even when he went back to America on holiday etc. Never again was he John Ravenscroft, except on cheques and legal documents. Peel was quickly hired by Radio One and was part of the station's first batch of DJs. He was the rebel, the outsider, the Manchurian candidate, the bearded hippie oddball freak. He was given his own show, called Top Gear, although after 1975 he called the show The John Peel Show, perhaps because he still loved his new name. By the time John Peel died he had become an institution, loved and respected by the public and the industry alike. The vast majority of British radio listeners did not listen to his show, but they knew what it was like, and what kind of music he liked to play, and they knew that he loved The Fall, although The Fall did not love him, or at least pretended not to love him. I am baffled as to why John Peel loved The Fall. He loved other music, stranger music, louder and more complex music, but The Fall was special to him.

Most DJs have to play a certain amount of a certain type of a certain kind of certain records at a certain time, but John Peel was allowed to play whatever he wanted to play. He had an eclectic taste in music, and a huge record collection. He kept abreast of the cutting edge, but was not afraid to play old rock and roll from the past. His show was never very popular, but it was very useful for the BBC, in the same way that The South Bank Show is useful for ITV television; as long as John Peel was allowed to play his eclectic mixture of punk, indie, G L Crockett, turntablism, demo tapes, the Aphex Twin, and unclassifiable indie oddness, the BBC could always claim that it was committed to the artistic betterment of the people of Britain. Peel's show was a continual fixture of Radio One, and in its latter days it functioned as a less stuffy, more personality-driven counterpart to Radio Three's Mixing It, which played odder and more obscure music from further afield than Peel, but without a sense of humour. Peel was not particularly committed to world music, or the deliberate avant-garde, and he occasionally hosted wholly mainstream shows during daytime hours. I have downloaded his "Festive Fifty" of 1990 from the internet, and it is a snapshot of the kind of music an average white British teenage indie kid of 1990 would have loved - the Sundays sing "Here's Where the Story Ends", and there is Morrissey, The Orb, The Happy Mondays, two records by The Farm, The Pixies (four times), Nirvana, the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Sonic Youth, Ride, and also The Fall (four times). Many of the guitars jangle. None of the records are unlistenable noise. The first time The Fall appeared on John Peel's Festive Fifty was in 1980, and the band was rarely out of the chart thereafter. Peel's Festive Fifties charted the man's changing musical taste, and that of the public, because the chart was sometimes based on public votes and sometimes based on John Peel's whim. The list from 1976 has Led Zeppelin on it. It has Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", and clearly belongs to another age. The list from 1977 has The Sex Pistols and John Cooper Clarke and Ranking Trevor. Then there is Joy Division, and The Cure and New Order, and The Smiths, and The Wedding Present. In 1987 there is M/A/R/R/S with "Pump up the Volume", quite near the bottom of the chart, and then there is Morrissey and The Pixies, and The Stone Roses and The Inspiral Carpets, and Nirvana and P J Harvey, and Stereolab and Pulp, and Cornership and Bis, and Bonnie Prince Billy and Cat Power, and The White Stripes and Cinerama and The Delgados. And Shitmat. And then there was no more.

Expressed in such a bland way, it seems as though Peel was a calculating dilettante who knew how to muscle his way onto a lifeboat, and perhaps he was. He was a man, and so am I, and I know what it is like to be a man.

Peel had a pleasant voice that mellowed over the years. In the 1960s and 1970s he sounded like a posh person trying to sound as if he was from Liverpool, whereas in the 1980s and 1990s he sounded like a genuine Liverpool person who was not posh. His brother, Alan Ravenscroft, does not sound as if he is from Liverpool. John Peel had a reputation for playing vinyl discs at the wrong speed, or pressing the wrong buttons, although he always managed to keep the show going. He could talk without pause whilst cueing up records, and everybody liked him, or at the very least respected him, because he seemed to love music, a rare attitude in modern radio. In the 1990s he hosted television programmes, and he was in demand for commercial voice-overs, but people still loved him despite his growing ubiquity, and no-one accused him of selling out, because there was a sense that he deserved the money, like Alec Guinness when he was Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Laurence Olivier in "Marathon Man". Peel was Radio One's longest-running DJ. He outlasted all the other DJs that had joined in 1967. He outlasted their successors, who were swept away during the middle of the 1990s, and he outlasted Marc Riley of The Fall. Physically, John Peel aged a decade at a time. He looked exactly the same throughout the 1970s, and then throughout the 1980s, and he seemed to reach his final state some time in the mid 1990s. He never grew up and never grew old, and remained of a youthful mindset. There are other aged survivors of the distant past who still entertain us today, such as Bruce Forsyth or Rolf Harris, but their appeal is sustained with irony. Some people respect Bruce Forsyth for his incredible professionalism, for his ability to generate entertainment from nothing, consistently, for an arbitrary period of time, seemingly without preparation; but most people think of Forsyth as a overly slick throwback to a bygone age. It did not take irony to admire or even love John Peel. He was the real thing. He remained modern and contemporary. As I have said, but it bears repeating, he loved music. The only other broadcasting professionals who seem to love their field are weathermen, and the technical people who run the cameras, who restore Dr Who episodes etc, but we never hear from them.

It seemed that John Peel's show might go on forever, even as Radio One was abandoning all pretence at public betterment, but it was not to be. He died in 2004, in Peru, aged 65, and it was terrible news. His show died with him. Mixing It, which I mentioned above, was killed in early 2007. "We weren’t to make a fuss of it on air - other than towards the end mention it in a factual way", says the co-presenter of the Mixing It. "We recorded our final show yesterday a few hours before it was broadcast. A BBC Senior Editor sat through the whole thing. I can’t ever remember that happening before". John Peel's position at Radio One seemed unassailable, but things change. I prefer not to know how the BBC would have got rid of him, if he did not retire. I don't know what Radio One plays instead of the John Peel show nowadays. Looking at the schedules this week, in the small hours there is a punk show, a rock show, a dance music show, show that plays hip hop, a show that plays Asian music, and there is Mary Anne Hobbs' experimental show, which might be fantastic, I'm not going to cast aspersions on something I have not heard. I cannot see John Peel fitting into Radio One's modern schedule.

I do not know what was going through John Peel's mind in 1978, apart from punk. I do not know what kind of mental or chemical imbalance drew him to The Fall. His musical tastes formed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but judging by his record collection - which was auctioned after his death - he was more interested in Arthur Alexander than Elvis Presley. He had a thing for Captain Beefheart, and so did The Fall, and there was also a retro 1950s thing going on with The Fall, so perhaps that goes a little way to explaining the attraction. Whatever it was, the smell was strong.

John Peel had a thing whereby he would invite bands into the BBC's recording studios to record a session, which usually consisted of three or four songs that Peel would broadcast later on, during his show. As a child I imagined that the bands actually squeezed into Peel's control room, and played live, with John Peel tapping his feet quietly, but this was not the case. The band instead went into a recording studio, although they were presumably encouraged to play as live as possible. I'm not sure how Altern8 and A Guy Called Gerald got on (they also recorded sessions) but it seemed to work out. Peel started arranging sessions in the 1960s, as part of his Top Gear show, and went on to put his name to hundreds of sessions with hundreds of different groups, but the group with the most sessions was The Fall, who recorded 24 of them. Their first and second were recorded in 1978, and their last session was recorded in August 2004, two months before John Peel died. It was not the last ever Peel session - there were nineteen more, including one from Half Man Half Biscuit (another John Peel favourite), and the last was done by the band Skimmer, in October 2004. You must know Skimmer. The Fall's twenty-four Peel sessions were compiled together and released as The Complete Peel Sessions in 2006. It is a compilation, an introduction, a rarity, a live set, and an obituary all rolled into one six-CD boxed set, and it is a great way of learning about The Fall. It does not really explain what John Peel saw in the band, though; the recordings do not include Peel's introductions, and it is a poor way of learning about Peel. Perhaps someone will release a Complete Peel Session Peel Sessions box that compiles every Peel Session ever. That would tell you a bit about John Peel. There is an MP3 file floating around the internet that compiles hundreds of sentences that John Peel spoke on air about The Fall, from the late 1980s onwards. It is forty minutes long, and I listen to it occasionally. It is the source of the quote at the top of this article. I still cannot understand why he loved The Fall. He played more extreme music by less popular bands; he played more conventional music by more popular bands. Perhaps something about Mark E Smith clicked with him. Perhaps he wanted to be Mark E Smith. I have many strange fetishes of my own, and I can understand where they come from, but they are deeply personal, and impossible to communicate. Perhaps The Fall was John Peel's fetish. Perhaps when John Peel was still a boy, his mum liked to dress up as The Fall, or perhaps he experienced The Fall during PE lessons with girls. Perhaps, when he was young, John Peel was scared by Quatermass on the television, and somehow this made him love The Fall. There wasn't much on the television in Britain when John Peel was young. Perhaps the attraction was genetic. Perhaps John Peel coveted Mark E Smith. Perhaps John Peel was Lennie and Mark E Smith was George.

The only band that John Peel seemed to like more than The Fall was T Rex. He was a big fan of T Rex during its early, folky period, when it was called Tyrannosaurus Rex. As the 1970s progressed, and T Rex became commercially successful, John Peel's love of the band ceased to be part of the John Peel legend, and was forgotten by the time of Britain's punk explosion. Marc Bolan seemed on the edge of a comeback when he died, in 1977. Perhaps John Peel had a hero-worshipping gene, and needed someone or something to admire, while he himself was a hero to millions. Peel was also a big fan of The Undertones, a Derry-based punk band that formed in 1976, and split up in 1983, just as The Fall was going pop. He once claimed that he had burst into tears when their biggest hit, "Teenage Kicks", reached number one in the charts. It is a classic song. Radio One broke its usual playlist and put on Teenage Kicks when the station learned that John Peel had died. The Fall has produced a lot of music, but you wouldn't cry to any of it, and they have never recorded a single anthemic hit that will live on after them on the radio. When Mark E Smith dies, Radio One will not mark the occasion by interrupting normal service to play "Kicker Conspiracy" or "How I Wrote Elastic Man", or anything by The Fall. In fact, Radio One will not mark the occasion at all, or if it does, it will do so with interview footage of John Peel talking about The Fall.

John Peel himself was not a musician, and did not play a guitar, although he briefly ran a record label, which was called Dandelion Records, during the early 1970s. The electronic lady Delia Derbyshire used his voice on a song she wrote for a compilation album John Peel put out in 1969.

Peel was an avid fan of The Fall, and played their records whenever he had a chance. He called them "The Mighty Fall". They were a regular fixture of his Festive Fifties, taking up seven spots in 1986, although they were equalled that year by The Smiths, and beaten by The Smiths in 1987 by eleven songs to three. Peel's solitary advocacy of The Fall eventually became an in-joke. He affected surprise that no-one else in the media loved them as much as he did, or loved them at all, or indeed mentioned them at all. I imagine his listeners must have been exasperated by having to listen to The Fall once or twice per programme, the musical equivalent of having to clear the plate of parsnips before having pudding. I hate parsnips. John Peel was the only person on Radio One who played The Fall's records, and he was invaluable free publicity for the group. I except that The Fall would have carried on if John Peel had never been born, because Mark E Smith is a driven man. But I would not be writing about them, and you would not have heard of them. They would be just another obscure long-running indie act, like Half Man Half Biscuit, or Fred Frith, or Kevin Ayers, or one of the other long-running obscure acts that has been around for more than twenty years. It's not a long list.

Despite his obsession with The Fall, Peel apparently never socialised with Mark E Smith or the rest of the group, and whenever Mark E Smith was asked, in interviews, about John Peel, he pretended not to care. After Peel died, Mark Smith appeared by satellite on an edition of the BBC's current affairs programme Newsnight. He was interviewed alongside one of the men from The Undertones, as part of a small tribute to Peel. Throughout the interview Mark Smith looked baffled, and spoke in halting, five-word sentences. He made no sense, he pouted, he sucked his teeth, and he looked exactly like the kind of person you would avoid in the street, the kind of bus passenger that would make you thankful to have an MP3 player, so that you could block him out of your world. The presenter of the programme, Gavin Esler, was immensely stylish, in a linen suit by Mario Valentino and a cotton shirt by Gitman Brothers. The man from the Undertones looked like every former punk musician, which is to say that he looked like the well-off people who shop at Waitrose, perhaps you are one of them yourself. When asked later about his performance, Mark claimed to have been confused by the satellite link-up. The performance has subsequently become infamous.

"Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are, from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty, while all the time real sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces."

There is a film about Mark Smith, done by the BBC, in 2004. It is called The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. It is not about The Fall, it is about Mark Smith. An interview with Mark E Smith runs throughout the film, but he has nothing interesting to say. He is like Morrissey in this respect, except that whereas Morrissey can talk articulately at great length without saying anything of substance, Mark Smith's few words are outnumbered and outgunned by pauses and ums. He has run out of things to say, and fills the gaps in conversation with vagueness and obfuscation. In the film, his former bandmates praise his intelligence, and his current wife seems impressed with his vision, but I saw nothing to convince me that the Mark Smith of today has anything going for him as a person. The film consists mostly of interviews with Marc Riley, who is good at talking, having done so professionally, and Steve Hanley, who is a meek mummy's boy. And there is Paul Morley and some other people, I think Tony Wilson, who have nothing to do with The Fall except that they are in The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith.

Mark E Smith is from Manchester. He was born in 1957. He wears shirts, without a tie, sometimes pullovers, rarely if ever jeans. He must be a nightmare for photographers. The best recent photographs of Mark E Smith were taken by Chris Terry and Gino Sprio. I wonder what Ian Curtis would like like today, if he had lived. Curtis was a year older than Mark Smith. He was born and died in Macclesfield, although he is nowadays indelibly associated with Manchester. It is fascinating to imagine how badly a meeting between Mark E Smith and Ian Curtis would have gone, how disastrous it would have been. Up until the 1990s Mark Smith was comprehensible in interviews, and articulated coherent positions on political matters, but this gradually dried up as the 1990s progressed, until interviews with Mark Smith became pointless recitations of the band's history followed by mumbled drunken small talk. Reading through the band's press, I have a sense that Mark Smith achieved or sated his ambitions during the 1980s, or came to realise that they were unattainable, and the group's continued survival is now a matter of stamina and inertia. The Fall has produced some great music over the last fifteen years, but the pattern has solidified. Nowadays Mark Smith looks terrible, thin and wasted, in an unpleasant way, like Peter O'Toole, the actor, except that Mark Smith is twenty-five years younger than Peter O'Toole. O'Toole has drinking anecdotes, Mark Smith does not, and he cannot be coached or prompted or guided by an interviewer. He no longer has any teeth. Some of them were punched out, and the rest fell out, or jumped out, perhaps because they were frightened of falling into the back of his throat. I would not want to fall into the back of Mark E Smith's throat. He is a warning to others.

If he had always been unpleasant to the eye, his current unpleasantness would not be remarkable. There are plenty of ugly people in the world, people who have been ugly all their lives, and no-one pays them much attention. Mark Smith's tragedy is that he was not always ugly. He has never been conventionally handsome either, but during the 1980s he had a look. His face had character. It was the face of a puzzled child, a boyish face. He used to have floppy hair, a volume of floppy hair, it fell over his eyes. So far he has been married three times, and has had several girlfriends. He has a way with women. Mark Smith has always had a vulnerable air, which may be why women flock to him, and why creepy fat man want to mother him. Smith is vulnerable in the same way that a new-born lamb is vulnerable, and women love lambs. Of course, there are different kinds of vulnerability. A ninety-year-old man is also vulnerable, but women do not flock to ninety-year-old men, unless they are extremely rich. Mark Smith probably has a bit of money tucked away, but not much. The Fall gigs furiously each year, but their albums come out on little independent record labels, and in the United States the band plays bars and clubs. Some of the group's records have gone out of print, even relatively recent ones from the 1990s.

Mark Smith broke his hip in 2004, and performed some gigs in a wheelchair, and then he performed some gigs sitting down at a table, with a pint of beer. Now he stands up. I know a little bit about fractures, and ailments of the joints, and I imagine that he is in constant pain and discomfort from his injury. His smoking and alcoholism will not have helped the fracture unite. He may one day require a hip replacement. His life from now until he dies will be one of constant and increasing pain and discomfort, which will never go away. It will make him angrier and more irritable, and he will smoke and drink to drive away the pain, and he will deteriorate and die in pain. I urge you, all of you, if you are fans of The Fall, do not be a fan of Mark E Smith, be a fan of the music. Learn to spurn the man, he has nothing to teach you about life. Do not follow the example of millionaire suicides. I urge you to refute Mark E Smith and remember him when you feel weak, just as you should remember Kurt Cobain whenever a woman pretends to be your friend. Whatever lessons Mark E Smith can teach about living life are wrong, and he is the proof. There is tomato in my belly.

It is easy to forget that The Fall is a musical band, and that the legend of Mark Smith is really just an adjunct to the band's music and live performances of same. The Fall's music has consistently been interesting, although it is frustratingly hard to describe, because so much of The Fall's effect comes from Mark Smith's vocal style. Not so much his lyrics, which are often hard to understand, but his vocal delivery. It is easy to imitate, a deliberately slurred splatter of syllables, delivered in a sarcastic, mocking tone, with certain words ending in "ah", so that "it's a fine day / people open windows" becomes "it's ah fine-ah day-ah / people-ah open-ah their windows-ah".

In the early 1980s the band's music was neither punk nor goth nor disco nor reggae nor anything that was trendy at the time; the guitarists did not use distortion, and although the beats were conventionally rocking it was not really dance music, and it was hardly easy listening music either. It sounded surprisingly normal, and is often described by the critics as rockabilly, or sped-up country music, but without the steel guitars and synthesisers of country music. The early music is surprisingly professional, with tight playing and simple keyboards and organs. Songs such as "Like to Blow", "Jawbone and the Air Rifle" and "New Face in Hell" are hybrids of punk and 50s-style rock'n'roll.

The Fall's music is hard to describe, in the same way that it is hard to describe the early music of Elvis Costello, which is to say that it is conventional and familiar, but strange. Costello's music was not far removed from early rock'n'roll, but it seemed different and fresh and new because of its contemporary cultural context, and because Costello's attitude was an integral component of his art. Costello was a complete unit combining catchy music, a powerful visual style, and an attitude. The Fall's early music was also similar to 1950s rock'n'roll, filtered through the dissonant sensibility of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, but it was transformed by the affectations of the band's creative spokesperson. Even in those periods on a Fall record when Mark E Smith does not sing - during the gaps between verses, or during the pauses between songs - The Fall's music is touched by his id, it is filtered through the echo of his interventions, or the expectation of interventions to come. Mark Smith is the musical equivalent of garlic, in that he adds a strong wash of colour to a meal that would otherwise seem bland. His flavour has spread beyond the confines of The Fall into the wider musical world, where his influence has been subtle, but tangible.

On the surface, it seems that The Fall has not had a significant influence on popular culture, or indeed any influence at all. Popular music has not followed The Fall. There are no bands quite like The Fall. Young people do not talk like Mark E Smith, or dress like him, or quote from his lyrics. Some bands cite The Fall as influences but it is nonsense, they sound nothing like The Fall. The Dresden Dolls are named after a song by The Fall, but they do not sound like The Fall and furthermore they have nothing to do with the song or with Dresden. Perhaps the only band that resembled The Fall in its totality was Pulp, although the resemblance was slight and brief, and their music was totally different. Jarvis Cocker of Pulp wore the same kind of threadbare, thrift-store clothes that Mark Smith favoured, but from what I have read this was just coincidence, brought on by the fact that Smith and Cocker were both unashamedly poor at one point in their lives. Mark Smith nowadays dresses in a "smart casual" style common to employed forty-something British men. His outfit is anti-fashion to such a degree that it is genuinely and thoroughly unfashionable - none of The Fall's fans dare to dress like Mark E Smith, because they are frightened of being thought of as genuinely unfashionable, rather than being fashionable in a less obvious way. Mark Smith demands that his band dresses smartly, and acts professionally, and with sobriety, at all times. The Wedding Present is nowadays a bit like The Fall, in the sense that it is one man plus some other people, and The Wedding Present was a big favourite of John Peel.

And yet, paradoxically, however, this seeming lack of influence is actually proof of The Fall's influence, for The Fall is so distinctive that no band would dare imitate them; and for that to be universally true, it must either be the case that The Idea of The Fall is so unusual as to have not occurred to another musician - which is unlikely, as we will see - or that all subsequent musicians are aware of The Fall, and choose not to imitate them. A negative influence is nonetheless an influence.

Whilst you ponder that, I have written an erotic poem:

"Languishing liquid

It is interesting to compare The Fall with John Cooper Clarke, the punk poet. On a conceptual level they were very similar, although Clarke did not use a band name. They were both from Manchester, of working-class stock. Mark Smith's father worked as a docker, and Clarke's dad was an engineer. Clarke was born almost ten years before Smith. He was of the same generation as David Bowie and Robert Plant. Clarke had jet black frizzly Bob Dylan hair, and he wore large dark sunglasses and a dark suit that was too tight for him. He was a thin man. He made a name for himself in Manchester, in the mid 1970s, as a performance poet. Clarke's poetry rhymed, and made a lot more sense than Mark Smith's poetry, and he delivered it in a clear and comprehensible manner, albeit with a thick Salford accent. He did not sing, he declaimed. Each of his poems explored a single subject, and they all sounded the same. He was like a stand-up comedian who delivered bleak rhythmic jokes that rhymed and were not funny. His debut album came out in 1978, on an indie label. Such was mood of the times that he was quickly snapped up by Epic Records, where he became labelmates with The Clash, the Electric Light Orchestra, and Judas Priest, and Meat Loaf. Perhaps Epic thought that Clarke would be the next Ian Dury. It is interesting to compare John Cooper Clarke with Ian Dury, because they were conceptually similar, but very different. I digress. Mark Smith's lyrics have always had a distance sense of transcendence, as if they were about something more than everyday life, whereas John Cooper Clarke's words were firmly of the here and now, about domestic issues and drunken street fighting and dead-end youth etc.

For a time John Cooper Clarke sold more records than The Fall, although not nearly enough for him to qualify as a mainstream success, and I imagine that Epic Records was disappointed with him. Clarke's albums are hard to find nowadays - his final album, released in 1982, is out of print entirely - and he is no longer famous, although "Evidently Chickentown", from his 1982 album Snap, Crackle, and Bop was used in an episode of the popular television gangster series The Sopranos. "Beasley Street" is the only other song that people remember. Musically, John Cooper Clarke was unlike The Fall, but in a way that is hard to describe. He ranted rhythmically over music, but the music was a lot more pleasant than The Fall's jagged shards of angular rockabilly. Some of the music on Snap, Crackle, and Bop is downright pleasant, a mixture of light rock and reggae and experimental electronic effects. Clarke was produced by Martin Hannett, who made his name producing Joy Division, whereas The Fall never had a star producer, or a "fifth member". Clarke was in Urgh! A Music War. He spent the 1980s battling heroin addiction, apparently cohabiting with Nico of the Velvet Underground. Mark E Smith apparently does not take drugs nowadays, and did not take many when he was young. Instead, he smokes and drinks, two addictions which cancel each other out. John Cooper Clarke is now approaching the age of sixty and I imagine he looks terrible, although I have not seen a recent photo of him. At the age of sixty it is too late to recover from the thing that felled you. It is too late to give up smoking, or to lose weight, or to learn to play violin, or to repair the damage to your kidneys. Even if you could do those things, it would be meaningless.

Mark E Smith could easily have gone the same way, except that he has drive, a work ethic, and he has never been under pressure to sell a certain number of records - or, if he has been under pressure, he has never paid attention to it. Perhaps it is because The Fall remained so odd and obscure in their early days that the band has survived so long, although it is odd to think of The Fall as having survived. There is no early one-hit-wonder for the group to trot out in concerts, and although the band had a commercial peak, it does not cast a shadow over the band's present. The pop audience that discovered The Fall in the middle of the 1980s discovered a new group, because The Fall has always been new, just as Pulp seemed like a new group in the 1990s, despite having been around for a decade. The Fall has a rich past; it has a trail of shed skin, but it is always a new band. The band does not generally play old songs when it goes on tour. Mark Smith is not afraid to cast away his band, his friends, his wives. The few new fans who have discovered The Fall during the 1990s and 2000s must have felt a waft of novelty, because The Fall is still a cult. It is the archetypal, stereotypical, most visible, longest-lived cult band in the UK, but it is still a cult.

As the mid 1980s became the late 1980s, The Fall was all things to all men; an indie-pop, pop band, with underground street cred, an avant-garde experimental band, an intellectual jangly band that was tight and professional, and hip. And catchy - songs like "Couldn't Get Ahead", "Hey! Luciani", and "C.R.E.E.P." would not have seemed odd on the radio, although the band never had much airplay. Brix Smith's American backing vocals and pop sensibility complimented Mark E Smith's louche qualities. The band's Brix Smith pop period lasted from The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall in 1984, although it did not really take off until This Nation's Saving Grace of the following year, right up until Oranj in 1988, all released on Beggar's Banquet records. The singles from this period were compiled on the excellent album 458489: The A Sides, one of the group's key recordings. The band also had a sideline recording covers of other people's songs, including The Other Half's "Mr Pharmacist", Holland-Dozier-Holland's "There's a Ghost in My House", and The Kinks' "Victoria". These three interpretations were released as singles in 1986-87-88, and thanks to their innate brilliance, and the marketing muscle of Beggar's Banquet records, they reached the pop charts. "There's a Ghost in My House" even reached the top twenty, and features Mark E Smith's most accurate vocal imitation of singing. It was not enough to get on one of the Now That's What I Call Music compilations though.

I have no overall opinion on the band's music of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The band had started to use synthesisers and drum machines by this point, and judging by the excepts on The Complete Peel Sessions, Mark Smith must have been impressed with rave-pop. The Fall's music at this point is poppy, but it grooves anonymously. Without Mark Smith it would be indistinguishable from any number of late 1980s/early 1990s indie bands. Even with Mark Smith it is sometimes hard to tell apart from EMF or the Inspiral Carpets or Carter USM or one of those forgotten bands from the past. "Free Range", a single released in 1992, was the band's last chart hit in the UK, but today it sounds very old-fashioned, with the late 80s chord progression that everybody used. Mark Smith went on to work with the Inspiral Carpets in 1994, on the single "I Want You". He appeared on Top of the Pops, reading the lyrics from a sheet of A4 paper, and it was very funny. This rave-pop period coincides with the latter half of disc four of The Complete Peel Sessions, and it is listenable but forgettable. Disc five is an improvement, covering the period from 1993's The Infotainment Scan - their highest-charting album in the UK, just nudging into the top ten - until The Light User Syndrome from 1996. "Feeling Numb" and "Spinetrak" from 1994 and 1996 resemble the band's mid-80s pop period, but louder. Brix Smith was back in the band at this point, doing her B-52's vocal thing. She was no longer married to Mark E Smith, and left for good after a couple of years. I wonder if they still think about each other. Like many bands that had been popular during the early 1990s, The Fall seemed to vanish from popular culture during the Britpop period of the mid-1990s. The band released an album a year and gigged steadily during the mid-1990s, but the music press was more interested in Teenage Fanclub and the Boo Radleys.

A few paragraphs ago I was talking about the band's sessions for John Peel. The Fall recorded sessions regularly until 1998, and then there was a break until 2003. The two sessions from 1998 are poor; the first one was recorded before the band's collapse of that year, and it sounds thin and dull and unenthusiastic. The second session was recorded after Mark E Smith had reconstituted The Fall, but sounds worse - the drums were recorded from the other end of a large room, and Mark Smith delivers his vocals as if he had suffered a stroke. "Antidotes" consists mostly of a dull drum pattern with Mark Smith gargling. The songs stop dead as if Mark Smith had fallen on the mixing desk. And yet the Peel sessions from 2003 and 2004 are very good. They begin with an entertaining version of "Theme from Sparta FC", probably the group's most notably modern-day song; in the session it starts off wobbly, but becomes triumphant. The last song the band recorded for John Peel, "Job Search", is a mish-mash of strummed guitars, a dub bass line, and muttered lyrics. It is very sad. The band gave it to John Peel as a 65th birthday present, but it sounds like music for a wake.

Onwards to Part Two

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