I SHOULD have been doing my homework.

Instead, I was in a sweaty club in Nottingham, as whey-faced young Northerners created an unholy musical racket, the singer declaiming on dead end jobs, valium, and surreally blighted lives.

Memory has this scene late in 1978. Online records suggest it was April 1979. Whenever, I was 14 and this was among the first gigs I attended by choice.

The scrawny ruffians playing as if their lives depended on it were The Fall, the singer and leader Mark E Smith.

The photo reproduced here is latter period Fall, Smith much older and gnarlier than on our first encounter.

Hip Priest (a classic Fall song) of an alternative musical universe, Smith died this week aged 60.

Many have wondered, aloud and no doubt in secret, how he managed to survive that long. Many too, including your correspondent, are eternally grateful he did.

The consensus seems to be that the quality of the music he and his band produced over umpteen albums and singles diminished somewhat in later years.

Or perhaps it is simply that the world finally became comfortable with what was initially a highly unorthodox rock 'n' roll roar, born out of the cauldron of punk but scurrying away from it as fast as Smith's and his bandmates' skinny legs could carry them.

Where did they run to? Low budget recording studios and whatever downbeat live venues would have them, at first in and around Manchester, then further afield.

Which is why I was in Nottingham, drinking in Smith's unhinged diatribes for real, having first heard them on the radio show of The Fall's greatest champion, John Peel.

Occasions like this can shape a life, and if the following is a cliche, it is also true.

Music, no matter how primal or sophisticated, can keep you smiling and optimistic when it feels like - as Smith himself yelped a few years later - "there's no-one here but crooks and death."

So yes, I should have been doing my homework. I should have been studying too three years later, A-Levels looming, when I saw The Fall again, in Derby.

So it goes. Life duly shaped. Thanks Mark. RIP.