"Annoying and incomprehensible"
That was Stewart Lee's first impression of The Fall, as revealed on Friday's BBC2 documentary 'The Wonderful And Frightening World Of Mark E Smith', originally screened on BBC4 in January 2005. Of course, Lee nevertheless found himself strangely compelled by the racket he heard, and now counts himself among their fiercest devotees.
I say "they" and "their", but, as the programme title suggests, The Fall are Mark E Smith. Certainly he's the only surviving original member and has orchestrated more line-up changes than Rafa Benitez - though "orchestrated" may be the wrong word, suggesting as it does a modicum of planning, organisation and forward-thinking... Lest viewers of 'DiG' might think spectacular onstage fall-outs and fisticuffs are the sole preserve of Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the documentary featured footage of The Fall's infamous 1998 gig at Brownies in New York when the band imploded in acrimonious and very public fashion.
Paul Morley was very honest in saying that, during Smith's lowest ebb in the 1990s (when he was REALLY fucked up on booze and speed), Morley came to question whether the man he'd been hailing as a genius was actually a drunken tramp, and he'd merely been investing far too much meaning in his shouted rantings. Thankfully, though, Smith pulled out of that particular nosedive and managed to carry on (even though his status as a cantankerous old curmudgeon is now set in stone).
I've said it before, and I'll no doubt say it again: what possessed the BBC to invite him to read out the football results in 'Final Score'? A very risky business indeed...