Frontman of The Fall, Mark E. Smith, was confirmed dead on January 24th earlier this year. It has since been confirmed that the reason for his death was lung and kidney cancer.

A true maverick of the music world, Smith has been lauded as both a prolific and lyrical genius, as well as an irascible nightmare, with The Fall counting around 66 members over its 41-year existence. “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall,’’ Smith once said.

Born on March 5th 1957 in Manchester, to working-class parents, Smith’s interest in music began at fourteen after listening to Captain Beefheart, reportedly stating that The Beatles were too effeminate.

He attended Sedgley Park Primary and later Stand Grammar School for Boys, which he left at the age of 16. During the same year he left home, and moved in with his then girlfriend, and future keyboardist for The Fall, Una Baines. He did, however, take evening classes in A-Level English Literature. Prior to The Fall, he worked in a meat factory before becoming a shipping clerk.

After seeing The Sex Pistols’ notorious gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, Smith, along with Una Baines, Martin Bramah, and Tony Friel decided to create The Fall, named after Albert Camus’ novel of the same name. They performed their first concert on May 23rd 1977 at the North West Arts Basement, Manchester. They would release their first album Live at the Witch Trials two years later.

After many line-up changes, Steve Hanley joined the band on bass. His driving and melodic basslines came to dominate the sound of the band during his near-twenty years with The Fall, with Smith stating in a rare interview that Hanley’s bassline was the ‘most original aspect of The Fall…he is The Fall sound’.

Hanley’s introduction into the band began what critics call The Classic Period of The Fall, lasting from 1980-1982. Marked by singles like ‘Totally Wired’ (1980), which reached the top of the UK Indie Chart, it showed a general improvement in production and wider recognition.

This improvement would continue through the eighties – considered by many critics and fans to be the period where The Fall reached their zenith. The Brix Smith Years (1983-1989), eponymously named after Brix Smith, who joined the band on lead guitar in 1983 after meeting Smith at a concert in New York, and marrying him July of that year, marked a push towards the more musically conventional. Singles like ‘Hit the North’ (1987) ‘There’s a Ghost in my House’ (1987) and ‘Victoria’ (1988), a cover of The Kinks’ song, received critical acclaim and relative commercial success.

Brix remained a key component of The Fall until her divorce from Smith in 1989, during which she also left the band. This departure would mark the beginning of the Revival Years (1989-1998) of The Fall, which would see the band incorporate degrees of IDM and electronica into their music, due to the influence of Dave Bush, who joined the band in 1992.

While throughout the nineties The Fall continued to produce acclaimed singles like ‘Telephone Thing’ (1990) and ‘White Lightening’ (1990), it was overshadowed by events in Smiths’ life as his behaviour and drinking became more erratic and unpredictable.

This eventually culminated in an on-stage fight with his band members during a performance in 1998 at Brownies, New York. This lead to drummer Karl Burns shoving him off the stage and Steve Hanley leaving the band. Smith was then later arrested for assaulting his girlfriend and keyboardist Julia Nagle in their hotel. Smith was subsequently ordered to undergo treatment for alcohol abuse and anger management.

The next twenty years of Smith’s life never saw a decrease in musical output, despite illness and a constant change of band members. Even after being diagnosed, Smith refused to let his fans down, continuing to perform, regardless of the doctor’s advice. However, on January 24th he would eventually lose his long and hard-fought battle with lung and kidney cancer.

Mark E. Smith was an unstoppable Mancunian force in the music world, whose hacksaw wit can never truly be dislodged. Despite never reaching the heights of fame and commercial success we sometimes wrongly equate with good musicianship, he received a cult following in his time, of which the likes of John Peel, Edgar Wright, Pixies, Garbage and Lauren Lavine all proudly claim membership to.

He was a true original; an innovator who didn’t simply dust the cobwebs from the music world but rammed a loudspeaker up its derrière.

Whether you get him or not, his influence can never be overstated.

Cheers for everything, Mark.