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Leon Paternoster

Head of digital and marketing at Suffolk Libraries

Sickness in/as The Fall and Mark E Smith

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Mark as a lyricist on sickness: Fit and Working Again, Dedication not Medication, Dr Buck’s Letter, Everything Hurtz, Sleep Debt Snatches, Blindness, Bill is Dead. Probably more.

Mark as a vocalist, ill-sounding: The death rattle at the end of Hittite Man, the wailing in Dedication not Medication, the gurgling at the start of Remainderer R, the post-chest infection wheeziness of Barmy, the craziness of “Lost the plot” repeated six times in Mad.Men-Eng.Dog, the breathless whispering at the end of Weather Report 2.

Mark was often ill, so illness became a part of The Fall, and the creation of the artist known as Mark E Smith… The group exhorts us to remember Mark the artist rather than the fact he left his teeth in Badly Drawn Boy’s Audi, and this is one of the many things unique about Mark’s work. I can’t think of any other musician with the talent or sheer will to be able to transform modern, everyday experience into some form of timeless art.

In the midst of the agony of a headache which lasted three days accompanied by violent nausea I was possessed of most singular dialectical clarity and very cold-bloodedly I then thought out things for which in my more healthy moments I am not enough of a climber, not sufficiently subtle, not sufficiently cold enough. — Nietzsche, Ecce Homo