There’s always that sense of denial. “How could it be?” David Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson – living legends who were abruptly no longer living. Despite their general appearance of good health, they’d all apparently been battling more than they’d let on. Not Mark E. Smith. He wore it all on his face and in his bones; performing with black eyes, in a wheelchair, or fall-down drunk, he looked like a man who’d spent more time in the back of an ambulance than a tour van. He’d once resembled a young Beatle, all mop-topped and fresh faced, until he abruptly started aging in dog years. I mean, even his Manchester spirit brother Shaun Ryder took a break from the lifestyle and tidied up – Mark E. Smith left this planet on a four-decade bender. Their 2008 album Imperial Wax Solvent featured a song called “50 Year Old Man”; my reaction was, “holy hell, he’s only 50?” And yet they’d keep on chugging. New album after new album – what’s that, 30, 31, 32? Endless tours, supported by a long parade of energetic young men whose only dream was to play in The Fall and occasionally catch a right hook in the face. Last year it’d been reported that he was unwell; he actually cancelled some gigs, which is not a good sign, given the amount of illness and injury he was known for soldiering on through.