Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mark Edward Bear, Globetrotting Teddy...

The reputation that Mark E. Smith usually enjoys is that of a spiky outsider.
His time as founder and frontman for The Fall has been an ongoing battle with various elements.
Clashes with bandmates, record labels and interviewers have established the idea of Smith as a monstrous figure, whose contrarian attitude has lead to constant friction with those around him.
On more than one occasion he has come to blows with members of his band.
A tour of Australia in 1982 was almost derailed when Smith saw two of his bandmates dancing to 'Rock The Casbah' in a club after a gig one night.
Smith ran onto the dancefloor and began to punch the pair of them, claiming they were 'embarrassing the band' by dancing to the work of The Clash.
In 1992 Smith ended up having an onstage punch-up in New York with the rest of The Fall and woke up the next day in a jail cell to the news that everyone else, except keyboardist Julia Nagle, had quit the band mid-tour.
That would have left Smith more prepared for the situation that arose in California in 2006 when he ended up fighting the lead singer from the band supporting them in the middle of a set. Smith had been arguing with the man for a few days and matters escalated when Smith had a banana or plantain (reports vary) thrown at him mid-set.
He immediately left the stage, removing his jacket and folding it neatly on the floor and pursued his assailant to the parking lot where a scuffle ensued.
He returned to the stage to find that everyone except his wife, keyboardist Elena Poulou, had quit the band, exasperated by Smith's attitude.
For some reason keyboardists seem to find Smith a lot easier to accept...
Smith was furious at what he saw as his betrayal by the rest of the band, particularly as he felt he was the injured party following the fruit-based assault.
He said afterwards:

'A lot of people laughed off what happened because it was a banana that was thrown at me. All I know is that at that point I felt threatened. How was I supposed to react? If that banana had landed an inch lower I'd have lost an eye...'

Smith famously quit Rough Trade Records after not seeing eye to eye with the label on a number of points.
Smith outlined some of the issues that the label had:

'They'd go, the teaboy doesn't like the fact that you slagged off Wah! Heat in this number... They had a whole meeting over the us mentioning guns in a song.
And I'd go, What's it got to do with you? Just sell the record you fuckin' hippy.'

His relationship with the music press has also been tempestuous with interviews ending with Smith getting slapped by Caitlin Moran and attempting to put out a cigarette on James Brown of 'Loaded' magazine.
When asked by Brown how he felt his fans would respond when they read what would be published in 'Loaded' after their scrap Smith, accurately, pointed out to Brown 'Fall fans don't read your magazine...'
However it would seem there is a softer side to Smith as well.
Legend has it that one day, walking through the streets of Salford, Smith saw a little girl crying. He went over to see what was the matter and the girl's mother told him that her daughter had lost her teddy bear.
Smith assured the girl her teddy wasn't lost. He'd seen her teddy the other day and he explained to the little girl that it was actually travelling all around the world.
The teddy had been meaning to write to her but he'd lost her address.
Smith took the girls address and assured her if he saw her teddy he would pass it on so he could get in touch.
Smith then proceeded to write to the girl from all around the world as he toured with The Fall.
He signed the postcards 'Mark Edward Bear' and sent a card a week until the girl was 28 years old...

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