Mark E Smith

In recent years I always went to The Fall gigs with the assumption that it might be the last time I’d ever see the band. And then suddenly it was.

When the news broke of Mark E Smith’s death yesterday, I was still carrying in my bag a ticket to the Koko gig from November that was cancelled because he was too ill to perform.

Unused The Fall ticket for cancelled Koko gig

Unused The Fall ticket for cancelled Koko gig

So it turned out that the last time I ever got to see them was at the Transformer Festival, appropriately enough in Manchester. You never got a greatest hits set with The Fall. There was no succumbing to the heritage or nostalgia act market. That night they played loads of stuff off a then yet-to-be released album, plus stuff from the last couple of years. I was massively heartened to see a mosh pit there that included a few old-timers like myself, but also loads of teens and twentysomething, who seemed word perfect on tracks from 2015’s Sub-Lingual Tablet album.

The Fall live

The last time I ever saw The Fall

Like many men my age, I first heard The Fall listening to John Peel. “DKTR. Faustus” was the first Fall track I can remember. I then gradually picked up a hotch-potch of albums, taped things off mates, and embarked on being a Fall fan for over thirty years of my life. I first saw them live in the supertent in Finsbury Park in 1987, supporting Siouxsie & The Banshees. And then saw them again and again many times over the years.

The Guardian’s photo gallery in tribute to Mark E Smith includes a brilliant photograph of the band in 1988, at a record signing at HMV on Oxford Street, that I was at. Typically obtuse, they played a few songs, including one brand new track that wasn’t actually on the Frenz Experiment album that they were promoting.

The Fall at HMV in 1988

The Fall at HMV in 1988

Lots of people will write more interesting things about The Fall than me, but just to say this. What’s gradually dawning on me is not that we’ve lost the music – we’ll always have that incredible back catalogue – but that I’ll never get to see The Fall live again. And after 30 years of watching them, through good times and bad, both theirs and mine, through all those line-up changes, and through Mark’s deteriorating health, I realise I’m going to miss that terribly.

“A small alteration of the past. Can turn time into space…”