Sunday, 5 June 2011

A brief guide to - THE CHARLATANS

If I like a band or artist enough, then they will be inducted into my personal hall of fame, and they will get one of my 'megaposts' dedicated to them. The posts will feature plenty of videos, my memories and opinions of the music, and some history and facts nicked from Wikipedia. Since I am a very busy man, more in depth articles about these bands and artists will appear on this page over the course of time. However, if you're looking for a good introduction to an artist's music, you've DEFINITELY come to the right place.

Today we have indie legends the Charlatans.

The Charlatans were launched into musical success rather quickly when their 1990 debut single 'Indian Rope' attracted the attention of Beggars Banquet, who signed them and released their next single 'The Only One I Know', which was to be a huge hit. The debut album 'Some Friendly' is a good album and without a doubt a sound of the time, but compared to their mid 90's output, it does lack strength and consistency. The album scored them a UK number one, not even a year since releasing their first single, and the album and its singles proved successful in the American Billboard rock chart. 

Two non-album singles were released, both reaching the top 30 in 1991. The second album 'Between 10th and 11th' followed in 1992 and disappointingly failed the reach the UK Top 20, despite the success of the single 'Weirdo', which was especially big in America, reaching #1 on the Modern Rock chart. Since I only bought a copy of this album a few months ago, I haven't listened to it as many times as their other albums, but I have still played it as many times as it usually takes for a Charlatans album to grow on me, and still it doesn't sound like their best work. 

The group returned in 1994 with the 'Up To Our Hips' album, signalling a progression in their style and proving more successful than its predecessor, reaching number 8 in the UK album chart. Again an album I haven't owned for long, so the singles still sound better than the others, despite playing it a lot over the past few weeks.

The self titled album they released in 1995 IS an album I'm familiar with, and brilliant it is too. The public must have agreed too, as it went straight in at number 1 in the UK album chart upon its release. It spawned three top 40 hits.

But for me it was 1997's superb 'Tellin' Stories' album that turned me into a Charlatans fan. The single 'North Country Boy' was the first single of theirs I bought after I saw it on the ITV Chart Show, and I bought the album on cassette shortly afterwards from Woolworths in Melksham. The album was the last to feature keyboardist Rob Collins who tragically died in a car accident before the album's completion, leaving the band to finish the album with Primal Scream's Martin Duffy. I also bought all the singles from the album on CD, and they all had excellent B-sides too.

After becoming hugely fond of 'Tellin' Stories' I began exploring the band's previous work, and was pleased when I found out that they were to release a new album in 1999. On its week of release I bought the new album from the old MVC shop in Bath, and remember my listening to it being delayed by my Mum's car breaking down on the way back (and back then cars didn't usually have CD players). 'Us And Us Only' had some stunning moments, and is only let down by its occasionally bad production and a couple of tracks that wouldn't have been missed..... Still it stands out as one of the best albums of 1999

A couple of years later and 'Wonderland' was released, marking a change in direction and influenced heavily by funk and soul. A few very good moments indeed, but essentially a flawed album littered with filler. However, the tracks that were good were amongst their very best. 

In about 2003 I'd become majorly into punk rock, and the indie bands I loved all took a back seat for a few years, which meant I didn't follow the Charlatans for quite a while. 'Up At the Lake' came out in 2004, and I ended up buying it six years later. Does it sound like a good album? Yes. But again, this album is one I need to explore more before deciding how much i like it....

The next album 'Simpatico' arrived in 2006 and remains one of the two Charlatans albums I do not yet own (at the time of writing). However I definitely want to own it, due to these two singles from it being rather good, particulary the Clash-esque 'NYC'....

'Simpatico' and its singles failed to take off commercially, and the next album 'You Cross My Path' was released as a free download via the XFM website.....

In 2010, with myself once again listening to all the old indie bands I used to love, The Charlatans returned with a new album 'Who We Touch'. The record was noticeably influenced by punk rock and sounded absolutely brilliant. Still one of my favourite albums of last year, 'Who We Touch' was a real return to form.....

A few of my favourite B sides....

The Charlatans (known in the United States as The Charlatans UK) are an English alternative rock band. The band's line-up currently comprises Tim Burgess (vocals), Mark Collins (guitar), Martin Blunt (bass), Tony Rogers (keyboards) and Jon Brookes (drums and percussion).[1]
Former members of the band include guitarist Jon Day (Jonathan Baker) (1989
–1991), vocalist Baz Ketley (1989) and keyboardist Rob Collins (1989–1996), who died in a car accident during recording of their fifth album.
In the UK, all of the band's eleven studio albums have charted in the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart, three of them being #1s. They have also achieved seventeen Top 30 singles, and four Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart.

Formation (1988-1989)

The band originally formed in the West Midlands by bassist Martin Blunt, who recruited fellow West MidlandersRob Collins (keyboards), Jon Brookes (drums), plus guitarist Baz Ketley, who left the band to be replaced by Tim Burgess and Jon Day (Jonathan Baker) (guitar) .
Although the name The Charlatans was used when original members of the band were located in the West Midlands, many sources state that they formed in NorthwichCheshire.[2] This is because the band relocated to the home town of new lead singer Tim Burgess (who lived in Northwich) before the 1990 release of The Charlatans' debut single "Indian Rope", on the band's own Dead Dead Good Records label. This means that, based on the definition of the hometown used by Guinness World Records, the band formed in Northwich and consequently, Northwich is recorded as their home town such publications as British Hit Singles & Albums.

[edit]Early years (1990-1993)

The Charlatans during their early days
The debut single, "Indian Rope" proved an indie hit and the group soon found a major label, Beggars Banquet off-shoot Situation Two, in time for the release of "The Only One I Know" which reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart.[3] A further single, "Then", and debut album Some Friendly, were released later that year. Around this time The Charlatans were forced to add UK to their name for an American tour due to competing claims by a 1960s rock band also known as The Charlatans.[1]
Baker left the band after 1991's "Over Rising" single to be replaced by Mark Collins (no relation to Rob), and the band brought in producer Flood for their second album Between 10th and 11th (named after the address of the New York Marque, site of the group's first US concert). Released in early 1992, the album failed to reach the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart.[3] However, the Top 20 success of the lead single "Weirdo" and a double weekend of gigs ('Daytripper') in Blackpool and Brighton with Ride kept them in the public eye.[3][4]
Later that year, the band suffered a major setback when Rob Collins was charged with armed robbery after his friend had robbed an off licence while he was waiting in the car outside.[1] Collins claimed to have no foreknowledge of the robbery until he heard a gunshot inside the shop and his friend exited, although he later admitted that he should not have picked his friend up after he realised what he had done. At court, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of "assisting an offender after an offence" and served four months in prison.[1]

[edit]Mid-nineties resurgence (1994-1997)

The follow-up album, Up To Our Hips (1994) reached number 8 in the UK Albums Chart.[3]
In 1995 the band's self-titled fourth album saw them become major UK stars again, topping the UK albums chart and spawning the Top 20 single "Just When You're Thinkin' Things Over".[3]
But, just as things seemed to be going well for the band, keyboard player Rob Collins was killed in a car crash during the recording of fifth album Tellin' Stories on 22 July 1996. The Charlatans decided to continue, and the Primal Scream and former Felt keyboardist Martin Duffy was drafted in, particularly for The Charlatans support slot with Oasis at their Knebworthconcerts in summer 1996, until a permanent replacement for Collins could be found.
Tellin' Stories was released in 1997 featuring contributions from both Rob Collins and Duffy and in the singles "One to Another", "North Country Boy" and "How High" the group had their biggest UK hits to date.[3]

[edit]New record label/new keyboard player (1998-2004)

After releasing the career-spanning compilation Melting Pot the band's contract with Beggars Banquet was up, and they signed to Universal Records.[1] Relations with 'Beggars' remained strong however, and the band helped put together the B-sides collection Songs From The Other Side and DVD Just Lookin' 1990 - 1997, showcasing all their promotional videos, and a selection of live recordings from that era.
Us And Us Only saw the start of a new era for The Charlatans. Their first release for Universal saw new keyboard player Tony Rogers make his Charlatan's album debut[1] (he had previously toured in support of Tellin' Stories and contributed to b-sides "Keep It to Yourself" and "Clean Up Kid" from the "How High" single) and the band took on a slightly countrysound, heavily influenced by Burgess's love of Bob Dylan. The soul influenced Wonderland followed in 2001, before Up At The Lake was released in 2004.

[edit]The Sanctuary years (2005-2007)

The band released their ninth full-length album on April 10, 2006, their first for new label Sanctuary Records. Titled Simpatico, the reggae and dub tinged album featured tracks like the fan favourite "NYC (There's No Need to Stop)", first single "Blackened Blue Eyes", and was produced by Jim Lowe.[1] The single charted at number 28. The album reached the top 10 in its first week of release, but dropped out of the charts shortly after.[3]
Their follow-up to Simpatico was the career-spanning singles compilation entitled Forever: The Singles which was released on CD and DVD on November 13, 2006. It was preceded by the re-recorded (remixed by Youth) song "You're So Pretty We're So Pretty" which appeared originally on their 2001 album Wonderland. The band seem in a good place now, happy with their level of success and keen to record their next album in 2007, as they told STV in this interview in November 2006. In an interview for their Simpatico album, the band mentioned lack of shower facilities and bad bus drivers as the worst aspects of touring. "[Bus drivers] get so bloody moody. They don't want you on the bus, yet you're paying them a fortune to drive you. They'd rather drive around the whole of the country with nobody in the back".[5]
The band played a number of high-profile supporting gigs during the summer of 2007, including for The Who and The Rolling Stones, at venues including Wembley Stadium andTwickenham Stadium in London, as well as the Bingley Music Live event, Nass festival 2007, and at Delamere Forest in Cheshire. A recording of Live At Delamere Forest was released as a download only via the official website in five parts for a limited time only.

[edit]On an independent label (2008-present)

In an October 2007 issue of the NME, the band contributed the song "Blank Heart, Blank Mind" to the magazine's free Love Music, Hate Racism compilation CD. Later the same month, the new single "You Cross My Path" was released as a free download exclusively through the XFM website. On the 3 March 2008, The Charlatans teamed up with Xfm again to become the first UK band to release an album completely free to download via a radio station. This was preceded a week earlier by the second single from the album, "Oh! Vanity". The album, titled You Cross My Path, is The Charlatans tenth studio album and received a physical CD/LP release on 19 May 2008 on the Cooking Vinyl label, coinciding with a full UK tour.
On 1 June 2010, the band announced details of their eleventh studio album, Who We Touch, which was released on 6 September that year. The first single release was "Love Is Ending". The album charted at #21 in the UK Albums Chart.
On 15 September 2010, Brookes collapsed during a performance in Philadelphia. A few days after that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.[8

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