Mark E Smith, the singer and poet who led The Fall for over 40 years, has died. Emily Edrosa, solo musician and member of Street Chant, remembers playing and drinking with The Fall in 2010.
The first time I ever saw Mark E Smith he was sitting in front of me on a plane snorting something and watching Mr Bean.
It was 2010 and Street Chant were coming back from an Australian tour to play support for The Fall at the Powerstation the following night. For three hours we sat delayed on the runway watching him, obsessing over how he could so blatantly take drugs in public (turns out it was snuff, for nicotine withdrawals).
Street Chant had just won the critics choice award and released our debut album Means. When [Arch Hill label boss] Ben Howe asked me if we wanted to support The Fall, of course we said yes. Apparently, it was between us and an all-male white dude punk band, you know the one. Since it was 2010, people were still loving the fact that you could anonymously comment on music and musicians. When word got out that we had been chosen to support The Fall, everyone had an opinion. My favourite comment was “You don’t even like The Fall”, which I repeated a lot that night on stage. I did and I do and for one night, we got to party with Mark E Smith.
I can’t really remember our set except for the indifferent reaction from the mostly white middle-aged male crowd. It really felt like we didn’t “deserve” this spot. Were we too young? Too pop? Too female? Whatever. Afterwards, we went back to our support-act-sized green room and ate our rider of lollies and chips. I think we argued over who had already consumed all of our allotted 12 pack of beers.
After watching The Fall, Billie [Rogers] and I got so excited that we followed Mark E Smith off stage and into his dressing room. The promoter was incredibly angry and dragged us out. He said something about “making it in this town” or probably “show business etiquette”.
We returned to our green room deflated and embarrassed that we could have broken show business rules. Would we ever play in this town again? Luckily we weren’t left feeling stink for long, as two minutes later Mark E Smith walked in the door with a bottle of Moët for us, apologised and called the promoter a “twat”.
Earlier in the year we had toured with The 3Ds and had become close with a few of them. We brought Denise backstage to meet MES along with my best friend Roberta. For the next few hours, we sat around drinking and attempting to communicate. He said our accents were completely incomprehensible and we couldn’t understand him really either. While Roberta grilled him on whether he was a unionist (he was, and either cursed or praised Billy Bragg – not sure which), Billie and I talked to his wife and keyboardist Eleni Poulou, who was really friendly. I had earlier been impressed by her numerous handbags which she took on stage and hung on her stand while she played.
She laughed at the idea that we would be ineligible to play support and said she herself had chosen us because we were women and would do something different than the hundreds of wannabe Fall support bands they had played with in the past.
We went back to their nice dressing room and MES forced his touring band to sign my copy of Grotesque – some of them weren’t even alive when it came out. Weirdly not one photo was taken, and due to the collapse of some gig photography sites from the time it’s hard to find any evidence of us playing at all. At some point one of us was told “alright nice to meet you, we are off to do hard drugs” and we left.
Despite a reputation for being a huge asshole, I found MES to be kind and also weirdly charming. He and the band were very hospitable in sharing their snack rider although were sort of prickly about some of the alcohol. Obviously, an alcohol rider for The Fall wouldn’t be lackluster but I realised why they had been withholding as we were leaving, when I saw them loading all of their undrunk booze into a suitcase, even the loose bottles of beer. They had collected all their riders from their Australian tour and told me they took them all home in their suitcases to drink in England.
I was thinking about this recently when I tried to bring a mere one bottle of tequila in a suitcase from the US and it smashed everywhere. I have to take my hat off to Mark E Smith for not only his music and his hospitality but also his packing finesse.
It was a great night. Special thank you to that twat* promoter for letting us to play.
*Mark’s words, not mine.
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