0n the level

In the last five years The Levellers have emerged from

the free festival circuit to become the chart voice of the travelling community. Thorn Dibdin covers the ground.

DON’T BELIEVE ALI. you read. Not even when it comes from the offices of the ultra-correct " and egalitarian Levellers. Mark Leveller, he of guitar and vocals, may have tom the top of his finger, requiring four stitches and the re- arrangement of The Levellers’ forthcoming tour to the extent that their two Barrowland dates have had to be brought forward a week, but the Press Office version of the incident is simply not correct.

‘The official story is that he did it lifting stuff, but that’s not true at all,’ says Jeremy Leveller on the phone from Levellers HQ during a break from playing bass in rehearsals. ‘He did it when he was pissed at a festival. He was taking the top off a bottle when it smashed and cut his finger. I’ve done it myself like, but luckily I didn’t have to play a gig afterwards. Anyway, he was well gutted.’

The truth is something dear to The Levellers’ collective heart, as readers of Melody Maker will already know from the band’s recent and unprecedented feature in that music weekly. Seriously pissed-off by their treatment in the music press since they emerged from Brighton

in 1988, the band agreed to do a feature for The Maker only if their words of wisdom were transcribed by a freelance journalist and published verbatim. Unfortunately, this made for a confusing read which didn’t do the band any favours.

A major carp was that the music press ignored the whole crusty and traveller phenomenon except when they were slagging it off. Which, on the face of it, appears a mite disingenuous, as The Levellers have actually done rather well out of being ignored and slagged off. They have assiduously built up a loyal following of people willing to shell out for enough T-shirts, records and gig tickets to put them at the top of the best sellers lists on all three fronts. This is no pop-bubble phenomenon, blown up to be burst by the media, but founded on a solid basis of people who quite simply like the music and want more of it.

It started with the now legendary two-year tour (1988—90), which gave the band as big a following of students as festival-goers, then the younger audience who heard the record in the charts got into the act. Now The Levellers are reputed to be the top touring band in the country. ‘1 try not to think about things like that really,’ says Jeremy. ‘People say it to us and we

12 The List 24 September—7 October 1993