Last week we went to see The Fall at the Astoria -
a warehouse of drunkenness, experience, harsh bass
that breaks apart Paolozzi's mosaics inside Tottenham
Court Rd station, a place where people meet to make
sensation mean something real to them - soon to be sold
to commercial developers - another turreted outpost
beneath the omphalos of CENTREPOINT. In the crowd
was Frank Skinner & the drummer from The Horrors.
In that tensile thrum before they came on stage,
the sense that something special is going to happen only once
like this - at our feet a stash of Red Stripe cans - we stood
on the top tier looking down at the moshpit & stage.
A man in a leather jacket & jeans, shaved head,
seething an undercurrent of repressed violence
and dissatisfaction - skin pitted through acne
and alcohol like a kind of hairy red lemon - tells us
he's called Des & starts talking at us. He says
The Fall could only happen in England, where
else would people pay to see a drunk take the stage,
offend us all & then leave when he's had enough?
He pours warm Guinness into a plastic cup
as he talks, makes clear to us he's from south
London & shows us his badge to prove he's
a Brentford fan. He says he doesn't know why
he comes to support them, he fuckin hates
Mark E. Smith, miserable bastard that he is.
Then quotes his favourite Fall lyric: "Hey there
Fuckface! Hey there Fuckface!". And sure enough
thirty or so minutes into the set Des throws his
plastic glass to the floor & walks toward the dark
stairwell to leave, the value of his ticket is to stay
true to the occasion - it's what Mark E. Smith
still might decide do at any minute himself.
I wonder if Des is the kind of person The Guardian
was talking about as 'minority working class',
the kind that should be spoken of with more respect
and helped along in some way. Des
is not lacking in basic intelligence but smells
of dinners only taken at drink's convenience,
survives to threaten & assumes he can enter & possess
anyone's living space. Staring at my wife's cleavage
as he talked, his eyes seemed to salivate.
And what do The Fall say of this : the moshpit
mixed with lads of fifteen & bald men in their forties,
as Mark E. Smith unlplugs his band's guitars,
ups the amp levels, leaves the stage. He strikes
me later as the first autodestructive artist in popular
culture, Gustav Metzger on meths & Tennants Extra,
a grouchy mumbling munchkin gurning & seething
as any 50-year old man who fees his life has come to nothing.
Neckless, arthritic, pissed, he swerves any attempt
at live perfection. Sarah said it was like watching
Faustus on stage with Lucifer in the wings too scared
to enter. As he built it up, let it come apart again,
destroying & creating just once, like this, for us -
a fin-de-siecle schoolboy on detention in his own attic
forever writing out the lines: Blind man, have mercy on me.