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THE CHARLATANS. What keeps them going?
Words: Alastair Mabbott
STAYING POWER. YOU can be a great rock ‘n‘ roll band without it. but only those who have it in them to stay together. come what may. get to reap their just rewards. explore their friendship and wade ever deeper into the barrel of their own creativity.
The Charlatans are such a band. still flourishing a year after their world was rocked by keyboard player Rob Collins‘s death in a car crash near Roekfield Studios in Wales. where their current album. Tellin’ Stories. was being recorded.
Many bands would have been finished off
by what The Charlatans had already been through. Before Collins‘s death. he had been imprisoned for driving the getaway car in an armed robbery; original guitarist John Baker had quit The Charlatans and his replacement Mark Collins (no relation) developed alcohol-
8 THE lIST 27 Jun-~10 Jul 1997
The Charlatans will be Teliin' Stories in the Park
related problems after a month in the band. At around the same time. bassist Mark Blunt suffered manic depression and was hospitalised. On top of that. they even had the stress of being arrested at JFK airport on charges of lewd behaviour.
Yet. after seven years in the limelight. they‘ve outlasted most of their contemporaries.
And that‘s not even taking into account their
initial fight to be recognised as more than just opportunists jumping on a baggy/Stone Roses
with what they‘ve done. ‘You love the stuff and a year later you think you can offer more or do better. Same as yourjob. innit‘?‘
There‘s more to it than that. The Charlatans are a particularly strong. mutually supportive unit. a fact Burgess reflects on when asked if the music business has been quite an education for him.
‘lt has. I think,‘ he says. ‘But I‘ll probably know more about it when it stops. really. and have time to reflect. I think it‘s like going through smooth times and rough times with John. Mark and Martin. and Rob as well. I think that‘s been more of an education. really. I wouldn‘t be the same without knowing. them and us supporting each other and giving each other new ideas and stuff. I think that‘s been most of the key. really. God bless ‘em!’
it‘s sad Collins didn‘t live to see The Charlatans deliver their most fully-realised album to date. With influences ranging from Bob Dylan to The Wu-Tang (‘Ian and The Chemical Brothers - but sounding like nothing so much as The Charlatans — Tel/in ' Stories has already been described as ‘a definitive 90s record‘.
Burgess agrees that this. their fifth album. is something of a breakthrough for them: ‘I think people who liked the last LP really wanted it to be like this. That‘s the general vibe that I‘ve got from fans. ()ur fans thought we'd got it right last time. but thought we‘d got it even righter this time.‘
Primal Scream‘s Martin Duffy filled in temporarily. and though Rob Collins could never be replaced in the eyes of the band or the fans. new keyboard player Tony Rogers — described by Burgess as ‘an excitable spirit‘ — seems to be fitting in just fine. When he was brought into the band. it was unclear whether Rogers was to be there on a permanent basis or retained on a session fee. The band. Burgess says. hadn‘t a clue either.
‘We‘re not experts at it. y‘know what I mean'.’ But we got to make sure that we keep remembering Rob and stuff. and I think we got to move on as well. lfTony can help us out . . . It‘s up to him. really. He can take a session musician‘s fee or he can come down to a band fee. He‘ll earn more if he‘s a session musician. but it depends on what he wants to do.‘
His status as a full member doesn‘t necessarily depend on coming up with original material for the next Charlatans album. as
'You've always got to prove your worth. Even U2 still have to prove their worth. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes
you get it wrong.’ Tim Burgess
bandwagon. a process that singer Tim Burgess remembers as a prolonged struggle.
‘1 think it took a while convincing people.‘ he says. ‘I think we started convincing people with Up To Our Hips. especially Can't Get Out Of Bed. You‘ve always got to prove your worth. Even U2 still have to prove their worth. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong.‘ And if there is a secret behind how The Charlatans have lasted the course. he thinks it‘s the fact that they‘re never satisfied
Burgess explains. 'l‘d always written the words. but until Mark had been in the group for a year to eighteen months we just wrote one song together. Up 7}) Our Hips. and then on the second LP we wrote half of it! It‘s about building a relationship. It‘s not as if Tony has to get down on the next LP and come up with a load of songs. It‘s just a growth thing.‘
The Charlatans play The Main Stage on . Sat 12 Jul. L