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on 20 April 2017
MES has a good ghost writer that helps out a lot but there is a lot to be said about Smith's astute character evaluations amongst other things. Towards the end especially with the NY event you get a real taste of associating with a hard core alcoholic but overall I'd say it is an interesting read, lively, lots of anecdotes but he does keep repeating himself about making sure band members got paid their wages and they were paid fairly, at least 5 times I recall that being mentioned. Must be a sore point. He must do a bit of exaggeration of course and I am lax to accept that he has been absolutely skint.
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on 15 March 2017
Two words. Unreal.
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on 3 December 2010
One thing I'd never expected from this book was to be bored, but in the end it was a real struggle to finish it. There are of course plenty of interesting bits amid the repetitive rambles, but overall its a wearying read. As other reviewers have noted, it's rather like getting trapped with a stoned drunk - ok at first, until you realise you're being talked at rather than talked to, & then start to feel, "Yeah, you've already told me that 3 times".

It's a real shame, because there's obviously a fantastic story to be told here, but we just get a few erratic fragments. This makes the book all the more frustrating - there's some great stuff about "Hex Enduction Hour" & "Grotesque", but when we get to "Saving Grace" & "Bend Sinister" - many people's favourite Fall albums - he dismisses them abruptly, saying they've been talked about enough (tho imho it seems to have more to with antipathy for Brix Smith). But all too often a couple of interesting pages trail away into a lot of vague grumbles about how the young musicians aren't up to it these days, Guardian-reading liberals, & an increasingly boring contrariness (e.g praising Bernard Manning & Mel C/ putting down David Bowie & Iggy Pop).

I'm not sure whether the book's flaws are down to the publishers or the co-author being too much in awe of his subject to impose any direction on the material. Whatever, it's drastically in need of editing - there's a good magazine article in there somewhere. As someone else says here, some of the book's best parts come when Mark Smith talks about reading, books & ideas - so its a pity that most of the book feels so lazy & shapeless. The chapters are vaguely themed around various topics - Manchester, alcohol, drugs, That Stage Fight, bankruptcy, Edinburgh, football, for example - but they're interspersed with some pretty pointless cut-up passages (ironic in view of his lack of enthusiasm for Burroughs) & some dire scraps of lyrics/poetry.

There are times when the book does develop a bit of a rhythm, & you can feel the spirit of the Fall coming thru, & the book even starts to seem a bit like a Fall album. What I've always loved about the Fall is that for all the diversity of their many albums & personnel, it's always instantly recognisable as music that couldn't have been made by anyone but the Fall. In some ways, I feel that if Mark Smith was an American eccentric auteur type (think Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, for example), rather than a prickly Manc, he'd be a lot more acceptable to the liberal arts media he so despises.

All in all the book's probably required reading for serious Fall fans, for it's not without merit & does contain the odd nugget, but really it's a frustrating missed opportunity & frequently dull read. I'll stick with the music from now on.
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on 4 June 2014
First bear in mind im a massive fall fan and I find everything Mark e smith does totally hilarious, but that being, since 50% of the book he spends moaning about people he'll proberly never see again, it gets preety tedious. BUT the other half is great, he talks all kinds of bollocks. actually a lot of its very intresting particulary about his early life and working on the docks. I imagine if youre not a Fall fan you'll just be amazed it got published at all, but it does have the ramshackle charm that youd expect.
Why they called it "Renegade" though I cant imagine. I suppose Hip Preist was taken
I gave 5 stars in the end as im nice.
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on 23 July 2010
There is something of the Bennett monologue about Mark E. Smith. Perhaps the easy familiarity with his listener that comes from recording your own self-important observations, or perhaps simply the fact that our narrator is one of the most unreliable imaginable; in any case the tone and dry humour are alluring, and give this exercise in pub-philosophy and scattered memoir all the readability it may have. Unlike Bennett's men, however, Mark is no so downtrodden and beset by wolves as he likes to believe, (Renegade is a synonym for turncoat) and part of the amusement to be found here is deciphering when he is and is not simply adopting his one-man-against-the-world shtick. Flawed? Sure, as an "autobiography", the text has massive failings, lacking the self-honesty and introspective personal analysis that marks (ahem) the best of the lucrative memoir genre, but you weren't really expecting honesty from Mark E. Smith, right?

What you might have expected, however, given how often Smith likes to remind us how well-read he is, would be some prose originality. Not so, indeed this anecdotal tract is ghostwritten. I am disappointed, Mark. This could have been a wildly interesting experiment in writing, this could have been structured, intelligent storytelling. At the very least it could have been penned by its eccentric drunken subject. Rather it is a collection of transcribed and seemingly only slightly edited interviews, (almost certainly conducted in some drinking establishment or other) so scatty and jumbled you wonder why he even needed a ghostwriter. The only nods to "real" prose come in the form of intermittent "Voices" chapters that dot the text, but these are an extreme superfluity, adding nothing but a heightened sense of the subjects own poet-storyteller pose.

For all its failings, this does seem like the book Smith was always going to produce: a slipshod, bitter, unreliable, funny, readable, irritating and dishonest prose exploration of his own self-image. He is what he is, for better or worse, and so is the memoir he drunkenly pours onto the pavement for Fall-lovers to lap up. It is a testament at least to the overblown Dickensian nature of his own character-caricature that the book is also so compulsively enjoyable. Renegade is also an anagram of Near Edge, and it seems that is always what Mark E. Smith is; never quite close enough to fall, but surely too close for comfort.
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on 18 January 2010
Probably the most miserable man in the world writes probably the most self-serving and spiteful biography ever. Don't get me wrong, I am a massive Fall fan from Bingo Masters days on, and there is a lot to recommend Smith the lyricist and songwriter of Britain's most obtuse, anarchic and creative band of the last thirty years. But you have to say, this is not what it says on the tin. Reading this but is like being chained to a bar stool next to the pub bore for an evening as he rattles on about all those who have let him down and not lived up to expectations. What makes Smith a rightly revered musical icon is the music and lyrics of the Fall, but there is little or nothing about its meaning and origins in this extended rant of a book. That said, I rather enjoyed it!
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on 11 April 2015
I liked it. Interesting to hear views of the main man. I think other members of the band have contributed more than he gives credit for, but that's just the way he is. Funny, sad, compelling.
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on 29 July 2013
The Fall are my favourite band so this was a no-brainer for me.The book is funny,clever and even if your not a fan,I highly recommend it.Great Book.
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on 14 May 2008
Ive just come in from the garden on a particularly lovely May evening having finished both this biography and three bottles of Aspalls dry cider. (sorry if this lacks coherence)

I'm quite partial to both of them in moderation. Whilst the cider was very good but nothing new I must admit that I was hoping I gain something new fom reading this book.....a different insight and to world of the Fall and Mr Smith. Sadly that didn't happen.

Somewhere around the half way point I couldn't help reading between the lines about all the musicians he's sacked, voting tory, etc, etc. At this he starts to become the grating, misanthropic, reactionary drunkard in the corner of the pub strungling with his false teeth. This side of him soon wears thin and my subsequent interest in the book started to wain. However in the second half there are enough interesting anecdotes of him pulling himself out of impending oblivion and serious scrapes to keep most readers hooked. I also enjoyed his Lady Di, Beckham, Elton John, New-Labour bashing.

I can't forget that this is the man who has given us Sparta, Hit the North, Mr Phamacist and dozens of other stunning, witty, and insightful records over years and years. The over-riding power of this book is that M.E.S is rather like the character of Johnny in the film Naked: the down-trodden, intelligent, dissatisfied outsider looking in on society and commenting on the obvious broken mess around us that most people accept or don't even see. The Fall made really wonderful music. There's much about the tenacity in his life lived through the tough times pretty well described in the book that informs and often powers the music of the Fall.

No great revelations here but it will be a very sad day when he stops.
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on 13 April 2015
An interesting book about The Fall and Mark E Smith's perspective on his part in it. Very disjointed and hard to follow at times, but then so is The Fall! A bit more detail here and there would have been useful and I might have been inclined to give it another star. Perhaps he could try again in a few years, if any other parts of his memory recover?!
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