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Ed Blaney It's Like Reggae, But Backwards

The ex-Fall accomplice talks memorable gigs, super fans and trying out his first amp from Forsyths.

Here’s a lovely chat I had with Ed Blaney, erstwhile player/manager of the mighty The Fall back in the first lockdown when real men where hunting toilet roll with stone axes and some artists where hunting £50 notes with promises of togetherness - more of which later…

Easy first question, easy answer: First guitar?

“We was on tour with the Happy Mondays in Europe up to no good, making more money than the Mondays.”

I’m just gonna leave that there. Use your imagination, eh?

“Came back and thought fuck it, I’ll have a go at this. Went to Forsyths on Deansgate, bought a red left-handed guitar and a little amp, which I smashed up because I didn’t sound as good as I thought I would.”

Fuckin amps.

“I put bass strings on the 6 string and wrote songs on one string.”

This is how art is made.

So, as the lyrics of ‘Boogie Chillen’ say, 'If it’s in ya, it’s gotta come out' – family influences?

“Yeah, four older sisters always singing Diana Ross, Motown and that.”

Hmmm… upside down (?) guitar playing, perhaps a metaphor for for for…Forfar Athletic?

“Mum and Dad were big on the local music scene in Salford. Mum singing and Dad on the piano. They earned a right few quid.”

‘Good for them,’ is the answer to that statement.

“Windows open Sunday morning and Neil Diamond or The Carpenters blaring out.”

Let me catch a breath.

So the original line-up of The Fall included Martin Bramah, another lefty?

“No, to be honest, I didn’t know a lot of the old line-ups, but I’ve reached out to them after Mark [E Smith]’s death because it’s the right thing to do and – I say this a lot – fell out with a few, but truth is Mark loved ‘em all and if you’ve been in The Fall, everyone deserves their own bit of credit.”

Can’t say fairer than that. Here’s a tale for ya…

“There was a false alarm when the BBC said he died six months before he did. Auntie Beeb won’t publish this, but I dealt with it, and some young kid at the Beeb had made a mistake, so I said, ‘Look, we won’t take it any further so long as nothing happens to this kid and she doesn’t lose her job.’”

Stand up guys and I don’t mean like Michael fuckin’ McIntyre.

Mark E Smith caught the bus. Ed is one of those guys.

“Mark would always look out for local small bands, not like the Mondays or Oasis did, and I don’t mean Salford bands. It didn’t matter where we were, Belgium or San Francisco.”

Oooh, a segue! Fuck me, I’m like Oscar Joyce.

So, the weirdest Fall gig?

“Probably San Francisco, I booked the tour and said to the promoters, ‘Look, we’re comin’ over with no fuckin’ instruments. Get us a support act.’ So they hooked us up with Midget Hand Job.”

Yep, this is The Fall. Keep calm.

“We went in and everyone was sat down like a hippie commune and Midget was really, really good. Just spoken words and bangin’ pans, and then we went on great gig.”

How about Mark? Having a good time?

“Yeah, first time he’d been back there since his big bust-up and we sold it out.”

You wish you were at the Free Trade Hall for Sex Pistols? No, I wish I was at The Fall / Midget Hand Job gig in San Francisco.

Carry on Ed, the film that Sid James wished he’d made.

EVERY musician has played at weird venues at some point. Fill us with more, please, Ed…

“Austria, in a forest, a seven-foot tall Russian came up to talk to Mark and I stepped in front of him before he explained he was there to see his daughter. But he was a big Fall fan. Believe me, he was a big fuckin’ Fall fan.”

Now, the touchy subject – to some – about later incarnations of The Fall getting paid to be in The Fall. Certainly not touchy to me where I come from, but the dignity of labour and being fuckin’ paid for what you do, which, to me, is central to Mark Smith’s whole ethos.

“So in ’99-2000 was when we decided not to play for shit money, and a lot of people fell out with me. Like, the music I do now, some radio stations love it, but I’ve got a bad name.

“So why should people like Mark be fucked over? The big stars, why have they got 12 fuckin’ managers sat round a table?

“Mark got triple the money towards the end in London – and why shouldn’t he? – but some people didn’t like it, so that left me sort of blacklisted.”

The interview takes a bit of a detour here where we discuss my career in covers bands and Ed displays his good grace and humour.

Ed’s current music is done with the same work ethic as Mark’s: get in, do it and fuck off.

What do you want?

Hey, here’s a secret in the music biz: Ed isn’t liked because he wants to get paid? The fuckin’ cheek of this guy.

Ed sees this load of bollocks now as punk. Salford music festival is punk. Someone asks Ed, ‘can we play?’ Course you can.

Now we return to the W word: work ethic. Ed confirms that the driving force of the band was this, a Victorian blood that drove Mark and the industrial landscape he grew up in.

“You know you’ve gotta put a show on. They’re the ones who’s come to see ya, no slacking. Although Mark would always have me drive round the block before I picked him up.”

“This is how much we’re getting paid, how much do you want? This much, sound.”

What’s so fuckin difficult? But it’s The Fall.

History? The history of this country will never be told, but it’s there in The Fall.

Ed is part of that history, like it or not.

From his Salford Irish history and his Fall story and his writing songs on one string and his wanting to be paid for his labour?

End from the beginning, that’s what my imaginary English Lit teacher taught me, so here we go.

At this point in lockdown, we talked about how Mark E Smith might have dealt with Only Fans requests and, as you can imagine, someone who was very close to him dealt with it well.

“You know what – million dollar question – he would have done a lot more than these artists. They can’t get enough oxygen, they can’t breathe, man. Mark would’ve lapped it up and been super comical with it.”

Yep, pissing myself laughing at the ghostly words of Mark Smith

Send £50 to MES and hell call you a cunt.

Or walk around Prestwich and hell do it for free.

Last word to Ed:

“Mark would have put his fuckin’ foot through the computer.”

Long Live The Fall.

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