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The Fallen: Life In and Out of Britain's Most Insane Group Paperback – 6 Aug 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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  • The Fallen: Life In and Out of Britain's Most Insane Group
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (6 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847671446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847671448
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 182,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Riveting stuff ****" (Q magazine)

"Three decades of personal stories, of social change, shifting cultural landscapes and musical minimum wage slavery, seen through the eyes of a random collection of people whose only constant is that at some point, for some reason, they were members of The Fall. A Canterbury Tales for the MP3 generation." (Stewart Lee)

"A tremendous read. I warmly recommend it." (Stuart Maconie Radio 2)

"A great book - a fucking amazingly great book . . . a simple but excellent concept . . . Absolutely brilliant. It has made me race back to all 554 Fall songs and put them on repeat." (Everett True)

"The best book yet on a band that have evolved into a cross between a large Victorian family and a rehab unit." (The Times)

"A right riveting read." (Simon Reynolds Blissblog)

"I hate that f***ing t**t! I just f***ing burned it!" (Mark E. Smith)

"Brilliant and bloody awkward. Just like its subjects." (The Word)

"A British, provincial take on Apocalypse Now! where Kurtz (Smith) is encountered by Capt. Willard (Simpson) before the latter gets on the boat" (John Doran The Quietus)

"Hilarious... horror stories... Dave Simpson's written the book we've been waiting our entire adult life to read." (Peter Wild Bookmunch)

"The Fall are my favourite band. I also hate my favourite band. With a passion...I vow never to go to another Fall show and yet somehow always end up at the next one. I am sick." (Julian Cope)

"An amusing study of what is without exaggeration Britain's most uncompromising band." (Sunday Herald 2009-08-09)

Book Description

'The best book yet on a band that have evolved into a cross between a large Victorian family and a rehab unit.' The Times

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark E Smith has been fairly derogatory about this book - his boast of having burnt it appears proudly on the front cover. And yet it's an intriguing idea: With the largely unmusical Smith consistently producing authentically Fall-sounding albums regardless of line-up (he famously said "if it's me and your granny on bongos, it's still The Fall") what exactly does he do to his musicians to help them hit what many regard as their creative peaks and what insights can they offer into the fascinating mind of this bizarre and somewhat other-worldly character?

Simpson tries to combine this worthy musical odyssey with that most recent phenomenon, the jaunty but pointless quest. It's not quite Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, but his structuring of the book as a journey towards a largely unlegendary drummer is rather contrived. The text is further 'enhanced' by an unwelcome commentary on the disintegration of his love life. These laboured narrative devices are there to serve a purpose, which is to distract the reader from the pond-skimming depth and repetition of each interview. Simpson seems so overwhelmed at having tracked down somebody who played the kazoo for one night in 1983 that he has forgotten to prepare any questions and by comparison, he makes Jools Holland look like Jeremy Paxman.

All this is a great shame, because his research is excellent and his dedication unswerving. He formulates some interesting theories along the way as to what drives Mark E Smith, but whilst many of his interviewees are legendary to Fall fans, we quickly realise that talking to the monkeys rather than the organ grinder can only yield so much. Sad to say, but if it's funny, legend enhancing MES anecdotes you're after, I'd check out Stuart Maconie's Cider with Roadies instead.
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Format: Paperback
This is definitely not just a book for Fall obsessives- although it could be the start of a perilous journey in that direction...as it was for the writer himself, whose capering escapades in search of the numerous ex members of the post punk band are relayed in the book.

I do like the Fall but it was really the personal stories that drew me in. All human life is here- including Brix Smith Start, now more famous for helping us choose what to wear, to people whose daily lives are equally distant from the Fall days, now as likely to be spent in salesrooms, farmyards and academia as the recording studio.

The book surveys the huge diversity of people that have been drawn into Mark E Smith's orbit, and captures their reflections on what have been mad, intense, and for many, the most important, time of their lives. They, and the author, describe how their lives have been changed, turned upside down, or for the spared few, enlivened for a few hours or days, by their connection to the infamously idiosyncratic group.

A unique perspective on a band then, but also a quirky and touching collection of human stories which captures much about modern britain, life in the north, and the importance of making and hearing music.
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Essential reading for any Fall fan. Dave Simpson writes in an informal style as he goes about the not inconsiderable task of tracking down 'The Fallen' ex members.

Mark E Smith is such an enigmatic and spiky character; fiercely creative and controlling and yet despite being difficult to work with/for is mostly still revered many years later by those whom he has discarded and upset along the way.

Interesting to see quite a few have tried to slot back into fairly normal quiet lives following their intense stint; although many are clearly still somewhat shell-shocked by it.

Mark seems to use the people in his group as an artist uses tubes of paint and raw materials to create work. He squeezes them out and creates a masterpiece with them then chucks them away. But the legacy of that creation and their part in it, be it large or small, is usually a source of well deserved pride by the Fallen even if the creative process at the time was painful.

I did feel a bit confused in places. There is a lot of detail in the book, but not always the kind you need to understand what's going on. Being a Fall fan rather than a Fall obsessive with an encyclopedic knowledge, I could have done with a wider picture and more information about the people concerned. Something like a Fall family tree would have made things clearer instead of the hard to read 'roll call' at the beginning of the book. And sorry, but the photos were awful and didn't really help me see who we were talking about.

So although the book was good, I think it could have been so much better if there had been more meat to it. It comes across as the interesting, but nonetheless rough notes/research for a more polished and fulfilling piece of work.
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Dave Simpson describes The Fall as "insane": and mental health metaphors commonly crop up both within Fall lyrics and in commentary upon the band. I remember reading an article by a former flatmate of Mark E Smith, who claimed that the murmurings and mutterings of out patients at a nearby clinic for the mentally ill had inspired Mark E Smith's lyrical style.

Is it an act?

Simpson's thesis is that Mark E Smith created a band which thrives on creative tension. To that end, he appears to have set about creating a frightening and unpredictable world, one which saw over forty musicians come and go, sacked by note - in the manner of Morrissey - or ejected following an on stage punch up. As a creative technique, it evidently works. As a strategy for incentivising your work force, you wouldn't expect the Human Resources department to sign off on it. Yet, astoundingly, the majority of ex-Fall members have nothing but affection, if not for Smith himself, certainly for the band. Many say they'd rejoin in a moment.

Ah well. There's no teaching some people.
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