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The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon: the soundtrack of my life

Brian Fallon
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

The news, delivered in March, that The Gaslight Anthem have returned to “full-time status” after a hiatus of almost seven years was greeted with widespread delight. And a certain amount of surprise too, given that frontman Brian Fallon has enjoyed a successful solo career as a singer-songwriter, releasing four albums in that time, most recently 2021’s Night Divine, a selection of hymns he recalls hearing his mother sing during his childhood. Which brings us neatly to…

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The first music I remember hearing

That would be my mom singing hymns in the house. But in terms of secular music, maybe Under The Boardwalk by The Drifters. For some reason there was a big 1950s revival in the eighties, so fifties songs were on the radio all the time.


The first song I performed

I think it was maybe Just Like Heaven by The Cure, at some coffee house in New Jersey, when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen. I can see myself there as I’m saying this. Probably an open-mic night.


The greatest album of all time

Good god, that’s an impossible question! But I’m gonna say that the best album for my generation is Nevermind by Nirvana. I wasn’t there for The Beatles or Bob Dylan, but I do remember how earth-shattering and life-changing Nevermind was. Me and my friends used to get made fun of for the clothes we wore – ripped jeans and flannel shirts – and all of a sudden we didn’t any more!


The guitar hero

John Frusciante from Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m excited that he’s back in the band. That’s everything to me. My wife says that I play the Chili Peppers and U2 more than any other bands at home, and he’s been my guy for years. 


The singer

For a male vocalist, I’ll say Eddie Vedder. He’s got the best voice I’ve ever heard live. For a female singer it’s Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine, who in my opinion is the best singer alive. I’m a massive fan, since Lungs.


The songwriter

I feel trapped here, but I gotta say Bob Dylan. Beyond the acknowledged masterpieces, there are a whole lot of albums he made in the seventies and eighties that are really good. There’s an album called Infidels from 1983, which Mark Knopfler co-produced and plays guitar on, and, to me, that’s a very underrated classic.


The best record I've made

I really like The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten album. I don’t know that it’s the best record, but that might be my favourite. It was a very exciting time for the band. We were getting bigger, and we learned a lot from [producer] Brendan O’Brien making that record. It felt like we were all moving in the same direction.


The most underrated band ever

Well, as much as I know that they’re rated, I feel that Dinosaur Jr. are extremely underrated. There’s a couple of albums, Where You Been and Without A Sound, which were released in eighty-three and eighty-four, and that’s my favourite Dinosaur era. J. Mascis is an incredible guitar player, and I’ve been trying to figure out some of his solos now that I can play a bit better.


The best live album

This is easy. Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. It’s a perfect representation of everything that they do. They were the best and tightest live band in the world at that time, and they took all the good parts from other bands and made them better. If a Martian came down and said: “What is rock’n’roll music?” I’d hand them that record and say: “This is it.”


The best cover version

That’s a good question! One I’ve always loved is Tori Amos’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. I don’t think anyone else in the world needs to cover I’m On Fire again, ever, it’s been done too many times, and people need to stop, but Tori Amos’s version is better than ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of them.


My Saturday night party song

I truly love Sabotage by the Beastie Boys, from Ill Communication. The Beastie Boys were always part of my life. They were such an influential band in the nineties.


My 'in the mood for love' song

There’s a jazz song that I love by Julian Lage, an instrumental called Nocturne, and I love the live version of that on Live In Los Angeles. That version is incredible.


The song that makes me cry

One by U2. Nevermind, Ten [Pearl Jam], Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Red Hot Chili Peppers] and Achtung Baby [U2] all came out within a few months of one another in 1991, and when I got those four records I stopped listening to Guns N’ RosesUse Your Illusion albums and went in a different direction, checking out Jane’s Addiction and Hüsker Dü and Black Flag and whoever. U2 always connected me back to my musical roots – the hymns, the soul music, Springsteen – and One is a masterpiece.


The song I want played at my funeral 

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2. I think that’s my favourite song of all time. I was like, seven years old when that came out, and I remember it came on the radio when I was sitting with my mum in our car outside our apartment, and it was the first time I ever said to my mom: “Don’t turn that off, I need to hear this song.” I felt like something was coming alive inside of me when I heard it.

The Gaslight Anthem play Wembley Arena on August 18. Get tickets (opens in new tab)

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.