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on 9 June 2017
Bit of a slog to get through, so much fake tension involving "missing" Karl Burns inserted every few pages. I don't think this book needed a plot, as such. Still a good book, if one has an interest in indie workhorse band The Fall.
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on 21 August 2017
It's almost like I was there. Again and again and again. And again.
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on 3 August 2017
I-ah have-ah to-ah say-ah that-ah this-ah is-ah a-ah great-ah book-ah - entertaining-ah, funny-ah and-ah worth-ah it-ah-ah.
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on 10 November 2009
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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on 13 August 2012
I bought this book on the strength of a good review (Q Magazine) then bottled out of reading for a while.
Why?

Well I really LIKE The Fall but I'm not an obsessive (Dave Simpson thinks there are only two types of people - those who have not heard of the band and those who obsesed with them ... sadly I'm here to disprove that). I feared it might be a dull read for hyper-fans only!
I knew of Smith's reputation for being something of a grumpy Northerner and I was aware of the constantly changing band line up but it was not until I started reading the book - which started life as an article for The Guardian Newspaper - that I realised just HOW MANY folks have passed through the band's ranks. Seems that almost anyone who knows roughly how to hold a drumstick or a guitar is a candidate for band membership (just don't reveal to Smith that you are a fan of the band and for goodness sake don't get TOO good on your instrument ... or expect to have your instrument dismantled on stage mid set!).

I found this book a really funny read, and most importantly, I learned lots about the Fall's album's that I never knew before - lets face it you only hear about 50% of what MES is singing on most albums.

I already owned dozens of Fall albums before I read this book but (other than names like Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon and the Hanley brothers) I'd never taken much interest in the band members - OK I did notice Brix Smith!! - becuase I just assumed that the band IS Mark E Smith.

Hearing the amazing tales of life in this band gave me fresh respect for the whole band (all 40+ members!) and I've now actually added to my Fall CD/Vinyl collection having been inspired by what I learned here (who knew, for example, that the excellent American band 'Darker My Love' are (or rather inevitably WERE) members of the Fall? Not me)!

Also the majority of 'The Fallen' still say they'd willingly play in the band again (despite Smith's antics) which gives you fresh respect for the man too.

Imagine never having played Bass (just lead guitar) before then - with no rehearsal - finding yourself on stage in front of thousands of Fall fans playing one of the band's classics!! Car crash stuff: Scarey and bloody funny.

Give this excellent ('wonderful & frightening') book a read ... and then treat it as a warning to yourself as to what to do in the event that ever a drunk Manc in a scruffy coat and 'hard shoes' approaches you in a pub and asks if you can play Bass! The speed the band gets through members it is only a matter of time before YOU are on stage with MES.

An electrifying, informative and amusing read - which only failed to get a 5 star rating due to the author occasionally forgetting that the book was about ex members of The Fall and instead indulging in a bit of personal therapy in respect of his private life.
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on 12 November 2009
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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on 19 September 2016
The book is excellent. I already have it and bought it as a present. But the first delivery got lost so the book was late. And the second time the book is damaged on the back. so...a bit crap but that's amazon's fault. buy this book elsewhere!
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on 12 May 2012
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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on 13 March 2013
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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on 13 October 2009
I enjoyed this book - who could play Mark E Smith in the film version?

As a moderate (rather than obsessive, as the author enthusiastically is) fan of The Fall, I've been inspired to re-visit some of their stuff, and have even added to my CD collection. So, according to the author, I'm clearly falling out of favour with Mark E Smith by becoming more of a fan. Or does that only apply to prospective group members? Either way, I'm contributing to Mark E's pension fund so he ought to be glad to see the book published, rather than burning it page by page, if that's what he did!

I think the inclusion of the author's own biographical detail makes for a more interesting read - in the way that a good novel will often have plot and sub-plot. But, without getting too Lit Critty - this book is just entertaining - I reckon plenty of people who know little or nothing of The Fall would enjoy reading it - it's not a crime thriller, but it is a thorough piece of investigative journalism, and I was drawn into that process. So for any non-Fallers who might get it in their xmas stocking, and are moved to invest in a soundtrack to the book - I'd personally recommend starting with any of "the Brix era" CDs. (Note to Amazon: have I earned a commission on music sales?)
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