Tim Burgess of The Charlatans on His 31 Years, His Famous Twitter Listening Evenings, and His Mom’s Lost Song Search | Ents & Arts News
When Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess was spending time browsing the band’s catalog for ideas to mark their 30th anniversary, a gem was discovered in the unlikely setting of his mother’s CD collection.
Sandwiched somewhere between Queen’s A Kind Of Magic and Abba’s Arrival, Burgess found a long-forgotten Charlatans demo, premiered around the time of the seventh album Wonderland in 2001, which had gathered dust for nearly two decades. The CD had a few rough mixes of familiar songs, then a track Burgess didn’t recognize.
“I was like, okay, well, it’s going to be an instrumental, but it’s still a great find,” he told Sky News. And then he heard his own voice come in. “I started to sing [on the demo] and I thought, I don’t even remember doing that. It’s kind of like, so long ago and probably at a time when we were also quite frantic and exhausted “,
The song is C’mon C’mon, a once-lost track that was included in a special vinyl album box set, the group’s “Archival Restoration Project”, which was released to mark the 30th anniversary of the first. album, Some Friendly. Or rather, 31 years old now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the celebrations. In addition to the biggest hits, it includes live performances, never-before-seen demos, remixes of The Chemical Brothers, Norman Cook and Sleaford Mods, and never-before-seen photographs. There will also be a tour, with the group visiting 18 cities across the UK and Ireland in November and December.
“A lot of people over the past year they have celebrated [special occasions] on Zoom, ”says Burgess. “We therefore organized a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the Charlatans on Zoom. [We’re] super excited to do the upcoming shows in November and December for the 31st anniversary. It’s very charlatans to do something a little weird, you know. The 31st guy sounds better with our group. “
C’mon C’mon was one of the few “‘Why didn’t we release this single as a single?’ moments, ”Burgess said, sifting through the archives. “It was a hell of a find but it’s been there, you know, since probably 2001. When you make an album, let’s say you put out 10 songs, you normally write at least 16 and then some songs, you know, can sound. kind of like something else and you have to decide on the spot which one is your favorite, or in some cases we didn’t finish a track in time for an album, but we made it one of the best B-sides yet. that we ever did. But in this case with C’mon C’mon, we just, no one … I don’t remember at all. “
The box set, titled A Head Full Of Ideas, is a career-long collection that sums up the journey of the Charlatans, from young independent hopefuls to a veteran group that released 13 albums among the top 40, including three topped the charts, always also strong after more than 30 years. But The Charlatans could have so easily become another victim of rock, with the band on the verge of bankruptcy at first and indulging in the excess drinks and drugs typical of rock ‘n’ roll life. They have also experienced tragedies; Keyboardist Rob Collins was killed in a car crash in 1996, drummer Jon Brookes died of a brain tumor in 2013. Both were founding members, which brought Burgess into the band.
“We always have memories,” says the singer. Looking back over 30 years has brought them to the fore. “Tracks of modern nature [the band’s 12th album, released in 2015], which fill the genre with the second half of the box office release’s greatest hits element … you know John died right before he did that, but we always thought he was a big part of this album. That even though he was dead, he was still talking to us, I don’t know, from another realm. And with Rob, we talk about him every day, anyway, you know. “
Burgess remembers his first rehearsal after joining the band in 1989. “They had three instrumental songs and I just thought they were the best things I had ever heard,” he says. “I just wanted to be involved right away. And, you know, in six months we were playing our first shows. The music scene in the UK was just amazing. [at that time], probably the best he’s ever been. “
The singer was alive for the moment. “I was kind of in it thinking it was the right thing to do at the time,” he says. “Obviously I was a huge music fan and that was what I really wanted to do. But I had no idea [how long it would last]. I didn’t really think it would last more than a year, maybe. Maybe we could do an album. And I had no idea what to do after that … But it was so good. We had all been in bands before and we all knew we had chemistry, something unexplained and something we all believed in. “
Although only Burgess and bassist Martin Blunt remain of the original Some Friendly lineup, the sound of the Charlatans – the signature Hammond organ combined with Northern Soul and house-influenced beats – is still instantly recognizable. They are older, but “certainly not wiser,” jokes Burgess. “Well, I grew up a bit.”
In addition to The Charlatans – and the release of a solo album – Burgess has spent a lot of time on Twitter over the past 18 months. Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties, something he had done with Charlatans albums before, became something of a phenomenon of social networks during the first confinement in March 2020.
The idea was for fans to play an album, while starting at the same time, with the artist or important people behind that album providing comments and answering questions on Twitter. This was the response that soon listening parties were organized for the Blur, Oasis and New Order albums, and finally for megastars such as Paul McCartney and Kylie Minogue.
By the end of the month, Burgess will have hosted Listening Party 1000 – with Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein returning to the 1978 album Parallel Lines. In a time when people around the world were isolated from their friends and family, it was a positive force in a small corner of the Internet. “Together, apart,” as Burgess put it.
“It became a kind of sharing community between a lot of people who really needed something during the lockdown,” he says. “I had no idea how big it was, but I think it’s just an amazing thing that people can all listen to an album with a major player in making these records.”
Burgess cites receiving a simple thumbs-up emoji from McCartney in response to his invitation to participate as one of his highlights. “But there are so many … Iron Maiden – amazing! Spandau Ballet – amazing! All New Orders, Kylie’s … all.” And if Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel wanted to do one, he adds, “that would be incredible.”
What about the highlights of The Charlatans? After more than 30 years, there have been a lot too. Most recently, the band playing an assault set at the last Glastonbury Festival in 2019, having been brought in at the 11th hour, are up there.
“We were intervening for Snow Patrol at the last minute,” says Burgess. “We only knew we were playing like the day before and I think we broke it. I think that says a lot about the group I’m in, really.” He’s laughing. “We are like the A team.”
The Charlatans A Head Full Of Ideas box set is now available and the group’s UK and Ireland tour begins in Belfast on November 22