Categories
Experimental Literature Post Punk

The Mark E Smith Guide to Writing Guide (Video & Transcript)

What follows is a short spoken segment which Mark E Smith, reluctant Working Class Autodidact & erratic frontman of The Fall, recorded for Greenwich Sound Radio in 1983. Smith was already becoming respected for the poetic & eccentric content of his band’s lyrics (see The N.W.R.A below), which he whittled down from huge blocks of prose written with a similar methodology to Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose technique.

Here we hear Smith not only giving an insight into his writing process (about 50/50 chance of being serious) but also some poetry. Please enjoy the audio & the transcript I have provided below. The section which describes the process was taken from here, while the poetry & prose which follows was transcribed by myself.

Hello I’m Mark E. Smith and this is The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide To Writing’ Guide.

Day-by-day breakdown

Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper.

Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternisation. Go to pub. Have drinks.

Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there a style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.

Day Four: By now, people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.

Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now, guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation. To write out of sheer vexation.

Day Six: If possible stay home. And write. If not go to pub.

Using this method, this is a poem I wrote called London.

(Mock American Accent) I’d just got over to London, get me a pint of your fine old British ale.

London.

Decadent backbone of former empire.

Spittle chinned Southerner looking forward to next holiday.

Digitale Croydon, fourteen pound per hour.

An immigration backlash type situation here

And there’s an Indian clerk in the backroom with a literature degree,

His boss is a roofed architect over-bathed, intense.

Project Victoriana Punish,

His clothes are flapping United Nations:

Japanese pants, odd boots, Euro shirts.

Is no shirt, his mind is Parisian

Fifties situationist

and ‘neath his designs you have no choice,

Stay where you are.

He is looking down on you from his tech drawing board.

Take the chicken run, run to the bog

You can do it

Do not

Warning! rumours of grey cancer builders greatly exaggerated

Manchester.

Dear TV Times,

Your majesties, I have concocted, through the noble invention and the blarney craft of the humble Northener, a system where by constant annoyance by the telephone can be erased. This entails explosive charges, left to me by a dead sailor from Bury, being wired up under every windowsill, close proximity to my ears. When phones ring and are inconvenient to the ears I just press table lamp-like what next to my bed and they blow up. I got the idea from a book.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Reg Varney.

Please note: all herbs is available from P.O. Box 935 GTV Manchester. Once you get a bit of pain I was splitting myself, them hilly-billies.

Manchester is

Manchester ship

cringing for punishment

As promised above. It’s good to read the lyrics as you listen. The Annotated Fall also has some great notes on them.

When it happened we walked through all the estates, from
Manchester right to, er, Newcastle. In Darlington, helped a large
man on his own chase off some kids who were chucking bricks and
stuff through his flat window. She had a way with people like that. 
Thanked us and we moved on.

‘Junior Choice’ played one morning. The song was ‘English
Scheme.’ Mine. They’d changed it with a grand piano and turned
it into a love song. How they did it I don’t know. DJs had
worsened since the rising. Elaborating on nothing in praise of
the track with words they could hardly pronounce, in telephone
voices.

I was mad, and laughed at the same time. The West German
government had brought over large yellow trains on Teeside docks.
In Edinburgh. I stayed on my own for a few days, wandering about
in the, er, pissing rain, before the Queen Mother hit town.

I’m Joe Totale
The yet unborn son
The North will rise again
The North will rise again
Not in 10, 000 years
Too many people cower to criminals
And government crap
The estates stick up like stacks
The North will rise again X4
Look where you are
Look where you are
The future death of my father

Shift!
Tony was a business friend
Of RT XVII
And was an opportunist man
Come, come hear my story
How he set out to corrupt and destroy
This future Rising

The business friend came round today
With teeth clenched, he grabbed my neck
I threw him to the ground
His blue shirt stained red
The north will rise again.
He said you are mistaken, friend
I kicked him out of the home

Too many people cower to criminals
And that government pap
When all it takes is hard slap

But out the window burned the roads
There were men with bees on sticks
The fall had made them sick
A man with butterflies on his face
His brother threw acid in his face
His tatoos were screwed
The streets of Soho did reverberate
With drunken Highland men
Revenge for Culloden dead
The North had rose again
But it would turn out wrong
The North will rise again

So R. Totale dwells underground
Away from sickly grind
With ostrich head-dress
Face a mess, covered in feathers
Orange-red with blue-black lines
That draped down to his chest
Body are a tentacle mess
And light blue plant-heads
TV showed Sam Chippendale
No conception of what he’d made
The Arndale had been razed
Shop staff knocked off their ladders
Security guards hung from moving escalators

And now that is said
Tony seized the control
He built his base in Edinburgh
Had on his hotel wall
A hooded friar on a tractor
He took a bluey and he called Totale
Who said, “the North has rose again”
But it will turn out wrong

When I was in cabaret
I vowed to defend
All of the English clergy
Though they have done wrong
And the fall has begun
This has got out of hand
I will go for foreign aid
But he Tony, laughed down the phone
Said “Totale go back to bed”
The North has rose today
And you can stuff your aid!
And you can stuff your aid!

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