Somewhat bemused by all the MES obituaries, partly as one suspects the man himself would have found it all too fawning, but also because I doubt many who claim to care so much can name any of last 10 Fall LPs. Not that I can, this isn’t a “I’m a real fan and own the grief” routine, but rather the social media outpourings suggests that MES represented far more than his music, which high points such as Elastic Man aside was intensely repetitive. Yes saint John Peel thought the Fall were the bees knees, and there are many amusing (as long as you were not on the receiving end) tales about him firing band members at service stations, or pouring beer over a coach driver’s head as they hurtled along at top speed. The appeal of all this is the notion that MES never sold out, he was the keeper of the post-punk flame, he just kept on, drinking, playing live, making an album a year, firing band members, getting hitched up with new ones (and wives), drinking, getting into fights, playing live, firing and hiring band members, and so on. This drum pattern of a life is it seems intensely appealing to many a middle class male soul. I was surprised when separately a couple of people I knew admitted to being not just Fall fans but having been for a while some British version of Dead Heads. They had in their early twenties after university (of course) not just attended the odd Fall gig, but followed the band round for whole tours, sleeping rough and hitching, begging and stealing, whatever it took to get to the next gig. This went on for months at a time and then one day this post college right of passage over they progressed on to proper jobs. Whatever dues they then paid in the coming years selling out to the man and the mortgage company, compromising on their once held beliefs, they had at least in some way ‘lived the dream’ and could sleep sound at night in the knowledge that MES was keeping the flame alive, drinking, playing live, making an album a year, firing band members, getting hitched etc, etc.
What a nightmare. To imagine that not deviating from the same riffs and barroom taps for all those years is an achievement, something to be applauded is to misunderstand both the misery of the alcoholic and the mind numbing tedium and lack of imagination in repetition. After thousands of gigs any soul not steeped in drink would cry out to do something different. Even ABBA were insightful enough to sing “All I do is eat and sleep and sing. Wishing every show was the last show”. Turning MES into an updated whisky priest feeds into the dubious concept of there being authenticity in grinding yourself into an early grave, of some goodfella blokey truth in getting plastered night after night. Believe if you like that MES lived the dream/nightmare so you didn’t have to, but I will mourn instead for all the things he could have done.