I just finished reading a book called The Fallen, by British journalist Dave Simpson. On the surface, it’s the story of Manchester post-punk band The Fall, but it’s told in a unique way, with Simpson going on a mission to track down and interview each of the band’s 45 ex-members (referred to as The Fallen).
At the center of The Fall story is singer Mark E. Smith, the group’s only consistent member (as Smith said “If it me and your Granny on bongos, then it’s The Fall”), and perhaps one of the maddest front-men of all time. Although Simpson tries to answer the question “What kind of lunatic fronts a band that goes through 45 members?” the answer is not so easy to come by. After reading the ex-Fall members’ reflections on their time in the band, you’re not sure whether Smith is some kind of genius, a lunatic, or just a speed-addled alcoholic with a sick sense of humor and bizarre ideas of how to run a band. Neither is the author.
Speaking of the author, Simpson himself becomes a pivotal character in The Fallen, as he spends a large chunk of his waking hours compulsively trying to track down everyone who ever played with the band, some as briefly as one gig. Some of The Fallen are easy enough to find, but many vanished into obscurity long ago, requiring Simpson to play the role of private investigator; scouring internet message boards, calling random phone numbers or visiting shadowy addresses abandoned years ago, all in hopes of crossing another name off his lengthy list. The whole process starts to become an obsession, and eventually leads to the breakup of a long-term relationship! I guess women don’t like it when their boyfriends devote all their free time to tracking down someone who played bass in The Fall for three weeks in 1981.
It’s a great read, and the best part is that The Fall are still active, so there’s always the potential for more chapters to come.
Also, you can check out Dave Simpson’s blog on The Fallen over at: http://thefallenblog.blogspot.com/