Erstwhile members of The Fall reunite after reading Steve Hanley’s memoir
The publication of bassist Steve Hanley’s book – The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall – has been the unexpected catalyst to bring former band mates back to play together again. Tracing his time in seminal British band The Fall, Hanley’s book, praised for its novel-like narrative that puts readers in touching distance of the action, has vividly brought the band back to life for fans and former members alike, including Brix Smith-Start, the iconic Fall guitarist throughout the 1980s.
‘A lot of ex-band mates came to the book launch, some I hadn’t seen for over 20 years’ says Steve Hanley, ‘and there was talk afterwards of maybe doing something together again.’
A few meetings later and soon they were rehearsing old songs and new. Demand for a Christmas gig to celebrate the success of The Big Midweek provided the perfect opportunity to play live.
‘When we read Steve’s book, it reminded us how well it could work and how great those songs were,’ says Brix, these days famous for her role as a television fashion expert. ‘It feels so good to be playing again. I love playing with these guys and I’ve missed it. It’s exciting to see where we will go with this.’
The Fall has a reputation as a band with hundreds of ex-members, due to a revolving-door recruitment policy and cantankerous front man Mark E Smith hiring and firing on a whim. This is a stigma Hanley refutes. ‘If you count only the people who made a proper commitment to the band, rather than just playing the odd gig, there was less than a dozen significant members in my time.’
Hanley’s driving bass is synonymous with the band’s unique sound, Mark E Smith describing it as ‘the sound of The Fall’. He is the longest serving member of The Fall apart from Mark E Smith himself. Recruited at the age of 19, he was nearly 40 by the time he left in 1998 following an on-stage fight at a concert in New York. Many fans believe that the spirit of The Fall was lost that night.
‘Many of the ex-band members left The Fall in acrimonious circumstances, and that negative experience has tended to cloud their memories in a negative way,’ says Olivia Piekarski, co-author of the book. ‘This was certainly the case with Steve, but the more we dug away at the past, the more the good times started to resurface and he began to realise he’d had a much better time of it than he thought. The other band members report a similar feeling when they read the book. It shows how powerful the written word can be.’
‘I was twenty years in The Fall but it took writing a book to get interviewed for Bass Guitar Magazine, proof the pen is mightier than the string,’ says Hanley, reflecting on reaction to The Big Midweek. ‘The book is a gift that just keeps on giving, it’s like the Coronation Street version of Searching For Sugar Man.’
The Fall – still going with the only constant Mark E Smith at the helm – is notorious for seldom playing songs from their back catalogue, meaning some classic songs got their first airing for over 20 years when Brix and The Extricated made their debut at The Ruby Lounge, Manchester. With Brix Smith-Start on guitar and vocals, Steve Hanley on bass and brother Paul Hanley on drums (‘The greatest rhythm section in rock n roll’ – Luke Haines), Steve Trafford on guitar and vocals and Jason Brown on guitar, this is a dream line up for lovers of The Fall sound. The set celebrates music from The Big Midweek, including Fall classics, plus new material.
Set list: Brix and The Extricated, The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 13 December 2014