It would be easy to assume that The Fallout Club was Thomas Dolby's band, the answer to the question, what was the "She Blinded Me With Science" guy doing before he embarked on a solo career? This is certainly how the band is best remembered, but The Fallout Club began as Trevior Herion's effort to break into synth pop.
TSM has already blogged about Herion's early career here. Following a spell with power pop combo The Civilians, Herion and drummer Paul Simon formed The Fallout Club as a duo, securing a one-off release through Secret Records, the label that had released The Civilians' first release. "Falling Years" b/w "The Beat Boys" cast a restrained Herion vocal against a cracking, drum machine-like backbeat and little else, save the faintest hint of a bass line. Stark and minimal, the effect owes a notable debt to The Normal's groundbreaking "Warm Leatherette" and "T.V.O.D.," but fails to make suitable use of Herion's greatest asset, his talent for gorgeous melodies.
That would change the following year, as Herion and Simon hooked up with Dolby and Matthew Seligman. The keyboardist and guitarist were on the run from Bruce Wooley and the Camera Club, Wooley's failed effort to capitalize on his writing credit for The Buggle's "Video Killed The Radio Star," a breakout hit in 1979. Herion and Dolby were a match made in heaven. Dolby brought not only his battery of synthesizers, but his burgeoning talent for lush, dramatic arrangements, and Herion dug down deep and found a voice to match, towering and romantic. They cut a deal with fledgling indie label Happy Birthday Records, and released the second Fallout Club single in May, 1981.
"Dream Soldiers" b/w "Pedestrian Walkway" is one of the most perfect synth pop singles of the period. The b-side was a Dolby composition, the repeated refrain of the title offering a cheeky variation on the New Romantic affinity with vehicular traffic scenes, from underpasses to autobahns. It was sharp and clever, a clear indication of the the playful but somehow still heartfelt songs to come on The Golden Age of Wireless. The a-side, one of Herion's own compositions, was a more serious affair, a swirling, pulsing, synth ballad, with the vocalist's plaintive cries rising up over the keyboardist's fluttering arpeggiators, drawing favourable comparisons with the dreamier, darker moments of OMD, Numan, or John Foxx.
The best was yet to come, however. "Wonderlust" b/w "Desert Song" was released five months later, in October of 1981. A clear step forward from "Pedestrian Walkway," the Dolby-penned a-side opens with a bold, "Bolero"-like trumpet before the synths and drum machines come shuddering to the fore, Herion's mighty vocals trading off with Dolby's theremin-like counterpoint, and the verses building to one of the most achingly poignant choruses in synth pop. And the b-side, written by Herion, was scarcely less impressive, with a grand T.E. Lawrence vibe summoning up images of riders sweeping across the desert dunes. Dolby adds the muscular backing vocals, while Simon and Seligman get to showcase their skills on drums and lead guitar. The single may not have disturbed the charts, but in retrospect it is one of the great achievements of the period.
By late 1981, however, Dolby's evident talents were starting to take him away from his collaboration with Herion. Lene Lovich asked him to write and produce her next single, the brilliant "New Toy." And then top forty hit machine Foreigner asked him to sprinkle some of his fairy dust on their IV album. A solo career beckoned, and Herion too thought it was time to strike out on his own, but one cannot help but wonder what might have been had they stuck it out as The Fallout Club. An album's worth of tracks like "Wonderlust" would have been very welcome indeed.
Gathered here are all three Fallout Club singles, newly ripped from our own vinyl copies. As a bonus we've included the instrumental version of "Kiss of No Return," the b-side of Herion's debut solo single, and his last collaboration with Dolby, who arranged the track.
--Crash the Driver
01 Falling Years
02 The Beat Boys
UK 7" Secret [SSH 104] 1980
03 Dream Soldiers
04 Pedestrian Walkaway
UK 7" Happy Birthday [UR 3] 1981
05 Desert Song
UK 12" Happy Birthday [UR 127] 1981
"Kiss of No Return"
07 Kiss of No Return (Instrumental)
UK 7" Imperial [MPE 1] 1982