“I met Mark in 1973. We shared a passion for books, politics and music. We read Orwell and Huxley; he introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut. He took on board things like sexual equality, which was unusual at the time, certainly for a 16-year-old. He seemed wise for a young man. Back then he was my best friend. I prefer to keep those memories, rather than the insanity that was to come.”
Una Baines was a founder member of The Fall and played about 20 gigs with them between 1977 and ’78. She was originally going to be the drummer, but switched to the more affordable option of playing keyboards – that was the way things worked in 1977 when the four friends Mark E Smith, Martin Bramah, Tony Friel and Una Baines decided to form a band after seeing the Sex Pistols perform in Manchester.
It’s easy to identify with the impact that a well-read, committed left-winger druggy creative type could have on a young girl. Back then, Smith and Baines were close, and the blueprint for The Fall was established. With punk, art-rock and experimental mind-music as a background, the concept of the band seemed to owe quite a lot to those American authors and the snarly fuck-psyche of Norman Mailer, Hunter S Thompson et al.
In interviews, Smith would confuse, attack and distract. Martin Bramah describes him as ‘ like Flashman crossed with Billy Liar.’ Smith’s feasible-sounding put-downs and sweeping negativisms served to make himself someone grand. Many fans adored him and worshipped over endless Fall tours and releases. There’s a belief that madness and genius go together which somehow excuses terrible behaviour, be it continual rudeness, physical violence or prejudicial abuse.
But enough about Mark E. Smith, the narcissist, R.I.P
Una Baines’ contribution to The Fall’s recordings includes playing keyboards on ‘Repetition’ and writing the music for ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ and ‘Mother/Sister’. The lyrics for ‘Dresden Dolls’ were also written by Baines.
In understanding Una Baines’ experience in The Fall, the fact that she left after 8 months says a lot. Her role as partner, ‘muse’, nanny and target was done. Mark E Smith had a new girlfriend – Kay Carroll – who became the band’s manager. Bass player Tony Friel left after conflict with her and in March a drug overdose and subsequent breakdown resulted in Una Baines leaving The Fall. Martin Bramah, who later partnered Baines in The Blue Orchids blamed the dissolution of the original line-up on Smith’s style of leadership, together with manager Kay Carroll’s favouring of her partner: “The break-up wasn’t so much about the music, though; it was more how we were being treated as people on a daily basis.”
The new band allowed Una Baines to be in control and be free:
“I was in a band called The Blue Orchids. I felt I was developing my writing and music in a different way. I could add melodies to songs in an uninhibited way. It was very creative and exciting, like the Fall, but different. I felt we were a good musical team. I had a much bigger input lyrically and musically than I had had in the Fall. I was also in a women’s band called the Bad Habits who did funk, reggae, and soul. Quite political.”
The Blue Orchids signed to Rough Trade and had success with John Peel sessions and in subsequent links with Nico. Una Baines continues to be involved in music – mainly with women in the collective Poppycock.
In 2015, Una Baines collaborated with artist Keith McDougall to produce a comic about her early days after meeting Mark E. Smith.
A very enthusiastic punkgirldiaries salute goes out to Una Baines. There are lots of great articles and interviews online. Keep on playing, Una!