As The Charlatans announce a takeover of their hometown Northwich, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley looks back at the band’s almost 30 year long stint in music and picks ten of their best tracks.
In the late 1980s, Manchester was churning out some of the best music we’ve ever heard. The city was in its prime, and was a pilgrimage for music fans across the country. One band that made their name within that scene were The Charlatans.
Although many a fan will point out they aren’t actually a ‘Manchester band’, they very much belong alongside the likes of The Stone Roses, who released their debut album that year, as present on every Manchester playlist, at every Manchester club night, and in the folklore of venues in the city.
One song that kick-started a career now closing in on 30 glorious years was The Only One I Know. Released as the second single from then upcoming album Some Friendly.
The album would go on to top the UK chart, and it remains one of its’ era’s defining records. Still, final track Sproston Green is the bittersweet set closer, while first single Then often plays as the band take to stages across the globe.
From then, the 1990s were Charlatans territory. But in 1996, tragedy threatened to stall the progress of a band at their peak. During the recording of Tellin’ Stories, keyboard players Rob Collins was killed in a traffic accident.
He, Mark Collins and Jon Brookes formed the band before headhunting Tim Burgess, but suddenly the band were halted. Aside from being the biggest commercial success in the history of the band, the album, with contributions from Rob Collins included served as a fitting tribute.
The album featured Martin Duffy, who stood in for the late Collins, and feautured tracks How High, One To Another, and father-son favourite North Country Boy. The career-spanning Melting Pot compilation album followed the year after, a gem to have in any record collection featuring a corner cafe in no other place than Northwich. The 17-tracker serves as a halfway point, as there was much more to come.
Tony Rodgers joined the band for Us and Us Only as the turn of the millennium loomed, a new era for The Charlatans as they explored dub and soul in Wonderland and returned to their popular alt-rock sound in 2004 with Up At The Lake.
They remained prominent on the live scene throughout experimental stages, and hairstyles, an army of fans only grew.
Chart success with single Blackened Blue Eyes came from album Simpactico. The opening of Wembley Stadium brought supports slots with The Rolling Stones and The Who as they released Forever: The Singles.
Throughout their career, The Charlatans and Tim Burgess have been innovative with their work, and they released their tenth album for free with the now re-branded XFM.
But when Jon Brookes, the band’s drummer, collapsed during a performance in Philadelphia it was the beginning of another tragedy for the band. In 2013, Brookes died from a brain tumour, his death was met with an outpouring of support from bands across the country where names including Liam Gallagher played a gig at Royal Albert Hall in Brookes’ name.
Burgess launched Tim Peaks’ Diner, originally based at Lake District festival Kendal Calling. The diner is a wood cabin and has played host to guest appearances from members of bands playing the festival including Elbow’s Guy Garvey and a super-group including The Verve‘s Nick McCabe and Pete Salisbury.
Modern Nature was released in 2015, featuring the work of Brookes and also of Salisbury, it was their biggest commercial success in over a decade and gave the band the platform to continue to produce what was some of their best music to date.
That was also true with 2017’s Different Days, the record that now marks an era of Northern Quarter takeovers and the launch of the band’s very own app. So after thirteen studio albums, countless tours and a coffee or two, we pick the top ten Charlatans tunes.
Earlier this year the band announced a 10-day takeover in their hometown of Northwich, during which they’ll play 4 nights at the Memorial Court. Read our preview here.
10. Oh! Vanity from You Cross My Path (2008)
2008 XFM freebie You Cross My Path opened with Oh! Vanity, a popular live track both in its full glory and as an acoustic number.
9. Here Comes A Soul Saver from The Charlatans (1995)
Despite not being released as a single from The Charlatans, Here Comes A Soul Saver makes the list. It features a riff from Pink Floyd’s Fearless.
8. Jesus Hairdo from Up To Our Hips (1994)
Featuring a brilliant intro, Jesus Hairdo too has a brilliant title. The track was the third single on 1994’s Up To Our Hips.
7. Plastic Machinery from Different Days (2017)
The most recent track on the list, Plastic Machinery comes from the bands most recent studio album and is now a mainstay in their setlists.
6. Just When You’re Thinking Things Over from The Charlatans (1995)
Another setlist highlight, Just When You’re Thinking Things Over also comes from their 1995 album and is always a crowd-pleaser.
5. Impossible from Us and Us Only (1999)
Burgess tried to explain his toil to please women in 1999’s Impossible. A gentle track with the wonderful added touch of a harmonica.
4. Tellin’ Stories from Tellin’ Stories (1997)
In many ways the bands’ headline track from their tenure, it was chosen as the title of Tim‘s first book.
3. A House Is Not A Home from Us and Us Only (1999)
A wildcard entry, this is a song rarely played live but one that holds a lot of emotion. The fade-out before the track crashes back in is a masterstroke.
2. North Country Boy from Tellin’ Stories (1997)
The aforementioned, father-son favourite comes in a close second, released in 1997.
1. Sproston Green from Some Friendly (1990)
The traditional set-closer takes the top spot, a track that can pass the ten minute mark as it closes any Charlatans show.