The Fallen Leaves – Top Ten Influences: A book, a film, a painting, three 45’s and four Live LP’s…

The Fallen Leaves, London purveyors of Punk Rock for Gentlemen have just released Maximum Minimum -Live at the Hope & Anchor which we reviewed here and is available to buy here – on vinyl only. 

To celebrate its release we asked the band to choose a Top Ten of influences on their work and instead of just music suggested they pick a film, a book and a painting or work of art maybe, as they are cultured gents after all.  As their latest is a Live Album – we asked if they could each choose their favourite Live LP’s and some good old traditional 7 inch 45’s.  Here is what they came up with between the four of them.

(Book) 
 J K Huysmans. “A Rebours” ( Against The Grain) chosen by Rob Green

So good, we wrote a song about it. Repeatedly described by The Fallen Leaves as “a very dangerous book”, it tells the story of one man’s withdrawal from all human contact, and how he stimulates all his senses within the confines of his house. A decadent existentialist masterpiece, which like other French literature, pops up in Fallen Leaves lyrics.

(Film) -Billy Liar    Chosen by Rob Symmons

Billy Fisher invents his own private utopia, Ambrosia. A world where he plays all the major parts. Just like Billy, The Fallen Leaves also live in our own invented world, where everyone is noble, likes the best music, wears the best clothes, appreciates the best continental films and loves all things existential.

The Fallen Leaves are the champions of the underachievers and Billy Fisher is the ultimate under-achiever.

Together we are daydreaming layabouts. But we are also the best group in Ambrosia.

Now if we can just get to the end of the street without opening our eyes, everything will be alright….

(Art)  Edvard Munch – By The Death Bed (1896) Chosen by Buddy Ascott

“Illness, madness and death were the black angels that watched over my cradle and have since followed me through life” wrote Edvard Munch. As I fled my own black angels in 1992, the first town on my world tour was Bergen in Norway. I chanced upon the Rasmus Meyer Collection of Munch’s artworks and sought solace in the The Scream. But it was a lesser known painting that has most stayed in my mind, By The Death Bed. In an age where mortality and death are the last taboos for polite discussion, here was an image of unimaginable grief and sadness. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Over twenty years later I was asked to become the latest in a long line of Fallen Leaves’ drummers – and as this drummer is one who plays along with the singer (yes, we do exist) I thought it important to examine the lyrics as well as the arrangements. Illness, death, sadness and grief – all present and correct and I knew I’d found my natural habitat. Thank heavens there is also a lot of humour – albeit often a little skewed – in those lyrics too. Munch – “What is art? Art grows from joy and sorrow, but mostly from sorrow. It grows from human lives”.

(Single)  19th Nervous Breakdown  -Chosen by Matthew Karas 

Picking one single is impossible. Picking one mid-60s Stones single is hard enough. They recorded a run of songs which just don’t sound like anything anyone else has ever done: “The Last Time”,  “Satisfaction”,   “19th Nervous Breakdown”.  “Get Off Of My Cloud”, “I’m Free”,  “Have You Seen Your Mother….”, “Out Of Time”, “Paint It Black”

However, this review is about influence, and I have stolen Bill Wyman’s dive-bombing bass more than once, so “19th Nervous Breakdown” wins the day.

(Single)  13th Floor Elevators. “You’re Gonna Miss Me”  chosen by Rev Rob Green 

I first heard this on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation, a much overlooked influence on UK Punk. They were the first group to use the word psychedelic to describe music, before it became overblown by others. Much the same was to happen to Punk a decade later, which turned into shouting and no songs within a couple of years. The Fallen Leaves have utilised simple chord structures with melody and the right sound in a similar way to The 13th Floor Elevators. Fortunately, none of us have been committed to an asylum yet, unlike poor Roky Erickson.

(Single)  The Suburban Homes – Conformity in the UK  – Chosen by Rob Symmons

Spiral Scratch was like a bolt out of the blue in 1977 and this is the perfect update across the decades… There isn’t the anarchy in the UK we were hoping for back then but this is the ageless cry of the idealistic teenager trapped inside us all. Boredom, frustration and the futility of everyday life distilled into some of the spikiest , tinniest guitar and basic melody I’ve ever heard. Hits the nail on the head. Dead.

(Live LP)   The Ramones. It’s Alive   chosen by Rev Rob Green

A group caught at their best, playing in London, a crowd who understood then better than their own countrymen. The classic line up of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy, doing what they do best, punk pop perfection, a description also given to The Fallen Leaves by Stewart Lee.

The combination of raw power with proper songs is simply irresistible.

(Live LP)  The Who – Live At Leeds (1970)  Chosen by Buddy Ascott

Following an exhausting tour of North America to promote 1969’s Tommy, The Who returned to the UK with the aim of releasing a live album to fill a gap between studio albums. But faced with the prospect of listening to a  mountain of live tapes from the tour, Pete Townshend decided to make a bonfire of those vanities and set up a couple of shows in Leeds and Hull in early 1970. The former concert proved to be the only one fit for public consumption and after much whittling down (to a mere six tracks) The Who released what remains to this day the greatest live record of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll group.

The clarity and separation of the mix allows us to hear three musicians at the apex of their playing careers, as Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwistle display near-telepathic communication in their competitive but complementary styles. The icing on the cake is Roger Daltrey’s never-better vocals, confident and dynamic – his time to be truly centre stage had arrived.

The riffs, the percussive rolls, the rolling bass provide a template for everything from proto-punk to heavy metal but still sound timeless and ridiculously exciting. The Fallen Leaves, working with the same lineup of three instruments and a voice, could only aspire to emulate this sonic assault on our “Live At The Hope & Anchor” album, but we hope we captured the same essence of spontaneity, power and dexterity. “The best group in England”? You be the judge.

(Live LP)  Orgasm – John’s Children  –  Chosen by Rob Symmons

John’s Children were the first group of non-musicians who revelled in the fact that they couldn’t play: it didn’t matter, they looked great and had their own look, dressed completely in brilliant white.

Because no one else would have them they ran their own club, The John’s Children Club, where they put on groups that they liked and played themselves. We followed their example by setting up the Parliament Club.

It was so hard to find their records, which added to their mystique.

They weren’t a manufactured group – they were friends and they played for fun.

I was originally tempted to pick either The Kinks – Live at Kelvin Hall or The Rolling Stones – Got Live If You Want It. Both LPs are great in their own right, but they have guitar and vocal overdubs to clean them up and ‘improve’ the real live playing. John’s Children didn’t bother with any of that fake trickery nonsense. They did the opposite and simply overdubbed audience screaming to camouflage the playing. Genius.

My dream is to hear the LP one day without the screaming. The tapes must be out there somewhere…

Live LP   1969: The Velvet Underground Live –  Chosen by Matthew Karas 

If you’re a fan of the slower songs from the third and fourth albums, “1969” provides an hour or two of bliss. “Sweet Jane” is so much better than the studio original, that it has become the canonical source for cover versions. But, how has a loose, chilled out masterpiece influenced The Fallen Leaves’ tight, frantic “failure as art”? From the Monkees to T-Rex, we are all fans of perfect studio pop songs, but we will never have the time or resources for that approach to recording. “1969” shows that timeless recordings can be made without overdubs or studio trickery, and even without setting out to do anything other than perform as well as we can, whenever we play.

The Fallen Leaves Website

As told to Ged Babey (who says) ‘many thanks to the Fallen Leaves’

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