The Chameleons

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The Chameleons
Also known as The Chameleons UK
Origin Middleton, England
Genres Post-punk
Years active 1981–1987, 2000–2003
Associated acts
  • Years
  • The Cliches
  • The Politicians
  • Magazine
  • The Sun and the Moon
  • The Reegs
  • Invincible
  • Bird
  • Bushart
  • The Messengers
  • Black Swan Lane
  • Red-Sided Garter Snakes
  • ChameleonsVox
Past members Reg Smithies
Dave Fielding
Mark Burgess
Brian Schofield
John Lever
Martin Jackson
Alistair Lewthwaite
Andy Clegg
Kwasi Asante

The Chameleons (known as The Chameleons UK in North America)[1] were an English post-punk[2] band formed in Middleton, Greater Manchester in 1981. The band originally consisted of singer and bassist Mark Burgess, guitarist Reg Smithies, guitarist Dave Fielding and drummer John Lever (replacing original drummer Brian Schofield). They released six studio albums and one EP before disbanding in 2003.

Burgess alone continues to play Chameleons songs live under the name ChameleonsVox.


Early career[edit]

The Chameleons were formed in Middleton, England in 1981 by Burgess, Smithies, Fielding and Schofield. Burgess previously played with the band the Cliches; Smithies and Fielding with the band Years. Schofield was soon replaced by Lever (from the Politicians).[citation needed]

After performing several radio sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel,[3] the Chameleons were signed to Epic Records and in 1982 released their debut single, "In Shreds".[4]

Their contract with Epic soon ended, and the band signed to Statik Records and released their debut studio album in 1983, Script of the Bridge. Their second and final album for Statik, What Does Anything Mean? Basically, was released in 1985. Following this, the Chameleons signed to Geffen Records, releasing their third studio album, Strange Times. Following the sudden death of the band's manager Tony Fletcher, the Chameleons disbanded.[4]


In 1990, the Chameleons posthumously released an EP, Tony Fletcher Walked on Water.... La La La La La-La La-La-La, with the title paying tribute to their former manager.

Burgess and Lever formed the Sun and the Moon, who released an eponymous studio album on Geffen in 1988.[2] Smithies and Fielding formed the Reegs, who released two albums, Return of the Sea Monkeys (1991) and Rock the Magic Rock (1993). Lever later joined Bushart, who released the album Yesterday Is History (2008). Burgess released his debut solo album in 1993, touring America the following year,[4] and also worked with Invincible, Bird, the Messengers and Black Swan Lane.


ChameleonsVox performing at Rock in den Ruinen festival in Dortmund, Germany

The Chameleons reconvened in January 2000 to prepare for a May tour of England, which was followed by further, international tours.[4] 2000 also saw the release of the album Strip, featuring older material reworked in an acoustic format. After a final studio album, 2001's Why Call It Anything, another unplugged album, This Never Ending Now, and a reunion tour which took them across Europe and the United States, the band dissolved once again in early 2003.[5]

In 2009, Burgess and Lever reformed to play Chameleons back catalogue material, under the name ChameleonsVox. They issued an EP, M+D=1(8), in November 2013.[6]

In 2014, Lever and Fielding reunited to record an album as Red-Sided Garter Snakes. The group's album, Endless Sea, also featuring contributions from vocalist James Mudriczki (of Puressence) and Andy Clegg, was released in July 2015.[7]

Lever died on 13 March 2017 at the age of 55.[8]


The Chameleons[edit]

Main lineup[edit]

  • Mark Burgess - vocals, bass (1981–1987, 2000–2003)
  • Reg Smithies - guitar (1981–1987, 2000–2003)
  • Dave Fielding - guitar (1981–1987, 2000–2003)
  • John Lever - drums (1981, 1983–1987, 2000–2003) (died 2017)

Other members[edit]

  • Brian Schofield - drums (1981)
  • Martin Jackson - drums (1982)
  • Kwasi Asante - percussion (2001–2003)

The core quartet were augmented by keyboardists Alistair Lewthwaite and Andy Clegg for live shows in the 1980s, and by percussionist-vocalist Kwasi Asante during their reunion period. Former Magazine drummer Martin Jackson also briefly replaced Lever during 1982–83 while the latter was on sabbatical).


  • Mark Burgess - vocals, bass
  • Neil Dwerryhouse - guitar
  • Chris Oliver - guitar
  • Yves Altana - drums
  • Roger Lavallee - guitar (stand-in at The Wick, Brooklyn, 8 October 2015)[9]


Studio albums[edit]



  • "In Shreds" (1982, Epic Records)
  • "Up the Down Escalator" (1983, Statik Records)
  • "As High as You Can Go" (1983, Statik Records)
  • "A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days" (1983, Statik Records)
  • "Singing Rule Britannia (While the Walls Close In)" (1985, Statik Records)
  • "Tears" (1986, Geffen Records) UK No. 85
  • "Swamp Thing" (1986, Geffen Records) UK No. 82

Live albums[edit]

  • Tripping Dogs (1990, Glass Pyramid)
  • Here Today... Gone Tomorrow (1992, Imaginary Records)
  • Live in Toronto (1992, Imaginary Records)
  • Here Today... Gone Tomorrow/Live in Toronto (1992, Imaginary Records)
  • Aufführung in Berlin (1993, Imaginary Records)
  • The Radio 1 Evening Show Sessions (1993, Nighttracks)
  • Free Trade Hall Rehearsal (1993, Imaginary Records)
  • Live Shreds (1996, Cleopatra Records)
  • Recorded Live at the Gallery Club Manchester, 18th December 1982 (1996, Visionary Communications)
  • Live at the Witchwood (2000, self-released)
  • Live at the Academy (2002, Paradiso)
  • Live at the Hacienda (2017, Radiation Reissues)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Fan and the Bellows (1986, Hybrid Records/Caroline Records)
  • John Peel Sessions (1990, Strange Fruit Records)
  • Dali's Picture (1993, Imaginary Records)
  • Dali's Picture/Live in Berlin (1993, Imaginary Records)
  • Northern Songs (1994, Bone Idol)
  • Return of the Roughnecks: The Best of The Chameleons (1997, Dead Dead Good)
  • Acoustic Sessions (2010, Blue Apple Music)
  • Dreams in Celluloid (2013, Blue Apple Music)


  • Live at the Camden Palace (1985, Jettisoundz)
  • Arsenal (1995, Jettisoundz)
  • Recorded Live at the Gallery Club Manchester, 18th December 1982 (1996, Jettisoundz)
  • Resurrection Live (2001, Paradiso)
  • Live at the Gallery Club & The Hacienda, Manchester (2002, Cherry Red Films)
  • Live from London (2004, Demon Vision)
  • Singing Rule Britannia – The Chameleons Live (2004 Cherry Red Films)
  • Ascension (2006, Scourge Productions)


  1. ^ Palmer, Robert (15 October 1986). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "Sun & the Moon | Music Biography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Blocksidge, David; Clarey, Tina (1 June 1984). "The Chameleons". City Fun. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "The Chameleons UK | Music Biography, Credits and Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "The Chameleons – News". The Chameleons. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "Mark Burgess' ChameleonsVox debuts video for 'Sycophants' — first new music in 10 years — slicing up eyeballs // 80s alternative music, college rock, indie". 21 November 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Red Sided Garter Snakes - Endless Sea". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  8. ^ "The Chameleons' John Lever has passed away". Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "ChameleonsVox The Wick, Brooklyn, October 8". The Agit Reader. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2017. 

External links[edit]