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Madchester stalwarts fronted by Tim Burgess
For all they lacked The Stone Roses mercurial brilliance or Happy Mondays sheer insanity, The Charlatans had the considerably more valuable facets of consistency, adaptability and longevity in their corner.
Plugging the psych leanings of the Madchester baggy sound into a range of classic rock influences and wielding Rob Collins’ organ as secret weapon, The Charlatans climbed the charts quickly. Rob Collins (keys), Jon Baker (guitar), Martin Blunt (bass), Jon Brookes (drums) and Tim Burgess (vocals) self-released their debut single Indian Rope, enjoying enough success for Beggars Banquet to sign the band. Their first release for the stalwart indie label was the single The Only One I Know, which gatecrashed the UK Top Ten and helped their subsequent album Some Friendly to the No.1 spot. Even decades later, the song remains a definitive Madchester anthem.
Early success quickly turned to strife as the band was seemingly hit with one challenge after another. A ’60s outfit by the same name forced them to append UK to their name for all American activities, while Martin Blunt’s struggles with depression and Jon Baker’s departure from the band stymied work on their second album. Mark Collins stepped in for Baker but Between 10th And 11th was met with an indifferent response upon release in 1992, leading to the band being unfairly written off as one-hit wonders.
Further problems surfaced when Rob Collins was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to eight months in prison as an accessory to armed robbery. Upon his release in 1994, the band released Up To Our Hips and the resurgence was in full swing.
Burgess’s appearance on The Chemical Brothers’ single Life Is Sweet helped boost the band’s reputation further and was a possible catalyst for The Charlatans’ move towards a more dance-influenced sound on their fourth album The Charlatans.
Again tragedy struck, this time in the death of Rob Collins in a car crash. The band resolved to continue, drafting in Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy to replace Collins for 1997’s Tellin’ Stories. The album was a huge success, debuting in the UK album charts at No.1.
The band continued to record at a consistent clip, rounding out the ’90s with Us And Us Only and averaging a new album every two years throughout the next decade – including the B-side collection Songs From The Other Side and the live album Live It Like You Love It – right up to 2010’s Who We Touch. Following the album’s release, Jon Brookes was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died in 2013.
While the band went relatively quiet following 2017’s Different Days, frontman Tim Burgess continued to be a prominent presence, either via his solo career (I Love The Sky came out in 2020) or the welcome lockdown distraction of his Twitter listening parties.