Missing winner - #RIPMarkESmith

Mark E. Smith

[Qualche anno fa scrissi per la fanzine inserita nella versione in vinile di Vicious degli His Clancyness un piccolo ricordo della mia prima volta a un concerto dei Fall. In questa serata triste, mentre ascolto un po' a caso i video e le canzoni che un sacco di gente sta postando su facebook e twitter, lo voglio ricopiare qui, per dedicare un ultimo brindisi a Mark E. Smith. Non è molto, ma posso dire che è sincero.
Una versione italiana di questo pezzo era uscita sulla rivista Plenum, che purtroppo non esiste più ma che ha un archivio su Medium. Grazie a Jonathan Clancy per la traduzione, oltre che per l'invito.]

The first man I see coming into Covo Club's courtyard is a 50 year old figure, his hair is almost completely white and he has a black eye. He’s sitting on a bench, clinging onto his jacket and figuring out how to stay warm. He’s staring at the cigarette in his hand, his hand is on his lap. His other hand is holding his bloated cheek. They tell me that it’s The Fall’s tout manager, and that the black eyes comes complimentary directly from Mark E. Smith over a discussion at the previous night’s soundcheck. I wonder if it’s true.
How old is Mark E. Smith? Is he still capable of getting into a fight? Or with someone like him are you willing to accept everything, even a blow to your lower cheekbone? They say the tour manager asked that a bouquet of roses be delivered to the dressing room to be forgiven. I don’t believe this, come on.
Lets go in, they’re about to start.
Nope, the club is half empty. It’s a February night with no snow and no fog. Where is everyone? It’s one of those winter night where the cold seems to have sucked away all the city’s air. Life is somewhere else. These things don’t just happen without a reason.

I have a beer. In the venue there are characters I’ll get to know years later. I take a look at flyers of the following shows and I wait to figure out what exactly I’m doing here. When Mark E. Smith passes through the crowd to reach the stage I almost don’t notice. He’s wearing a blue shirt or maybe a grey one, I can’t tell under the stage lights, his pants are too big, high waist, and his jacket almost looks like it’s gonna fall off his shoulders. He looks exactly like the representation of the expression “a bag of bones”.
What disturbs me the most are his excavated cheeks, stripped by the years passing by: it’s funny how for a man like him, that has made words, and the way he pronounces them in songs his most well known trait, time seems to want to steal his mouth, like if it wanted to silence him.
In his eyes the light of obsession and when the band kicks in, he tightens his fist and stuffs it with rage in his jacket’s pocket. He strikes the microphone and his voice is here. Not on a cassette, or a book, or in the NME. Carried by the electricity along the lines of the PA system to the speakers chained to the walls: Mark E. Smith’s voice is with us.

That winter The Fall were touring Are You Are Missing Winner, that I think no one would define a memorable LP. But that was not important. Like the webzine Perfect Sound Forever had written, “There's never been and never will be a 'perfect' Fall record but that's part of what's made the group so vital - they still fuck around a lot and take chances”. There, I did not know that but I sensed that it wasn’t really necessary to recognize those songs, for sure they would not have played their old hits that I had in that only cd, the A Sides compilation. What was important was to stand there and just be in the blaze. The band accompanying him showed a depressing coldness and distance. The sounds were glacial, hard and mechanical. The guitars screeched and the drums crushed all other possibilities. A team of hitters on a mission.
From the new album I’m almost sure they played My Ex-Classmates Kids, that mocking reiteration, exasperated, that left you speechless. Maybe they played the entire thing, who knows, but every note seemed twisted that it was hard to tell with certainty.

I still remember quite well two things: the nerve wrecked crowd that in little groups starts exiting the room after about an hour of the show where every song seems the continuation of the previous one and you can't foresee any ending; and Mark E. Smith’s obstinacy in being Mark E. Smith.
The battle he was fighting, there on the stage with his proclamations, his falls, it was not against us, nor romantically against himself. All his ferociousness mixed with sarcasm was targeted towards music, the only opponent worth still fighting. A wall of music that he tried to take down and rebuild, he’d smash into continuously, without letting go even for an instant. The scornful dash with which he looked at his mic, as if he was compelled to sing, it was a surprise attack. All the chewed up and incomprehensible words were a way of confusing the opponent. He stayed there, attached to the music, with his bony fingers, badly keeping himself on foot and not going down. Music in the end would have won the fight, but Mark E. Smith, on that stage that he seemed to never want to leave had to fight tooth and nail.
Almost everyone has left. The people that have stayed have jumped into the first hall to dance, to forget the labor of the last hour. I go and take down the show’s poster from the wall. It’s a huge bright red sheet of paper and in the middle it just has the letters
T H E  F A L L.