The Charlatans (English band)

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The Charlatans
The Charlatans performing at the Eolica Festival in Tenerife, Spain, 2007. L to R: Martin Blunt, Jon Brookes, Tim Burgess, Mark Collins
The Charlatans performing at the Eolica Festival in Tenerife, Spain, 2007.
L to R: Martin Blunt, Jon Brookes, Tim Burgess, Mark Collins
Background information
OriginWest Midlands, England
Years active1988–present
Past members
  • Rob Collins (deceased)
  • Jon Brookes (deceased)
  • Jon Day
  • Baz Ketley

The Charlatans are an English rock band formed in West Midlands, England in 1988.[1] As of 2000, their line-up consists of lead vocalist Tim Burgess, guitarist Mark Collins, bassist Martin Blunt and keyboardist Tony Rogers.[2]

All the band's thirteen studio albums have charted in the top 40 of the UK Albums Chart, three of them being number ones. They have also had 22 top 40 singles and four top 10 entries in the UK Singles Chart, including the hits "The Only One I Know" and "One to Another".


Formation (1988–1989)[edit]

The band were formed in the West Midlands by bassist Martin Blunt, who recruited fellow West Midlanders Rob Collins (keyboards), Jon Brookes (drums), Jon Day (Jonathan Baker) (guitar) and singer-guitarist Baz Ketley. Ketley left the band and was replaced by singer Tim Burgess, who had supported the Charlatans with his previous band, the Electric Crayons.[3]

Although the Charlatans would later become popularly associated with the Madchester scene, the band's early demos recorded in 1988 in Birmingham and Dudley already evidenced the sound that the band ultimately became famous for, dominated by Collins's Hammond organ but underpinned by the driving rhythm section of Blunt's powerful running bass and Brookes's drumming.[4] With their sound – fusing 1960s soul, R&B and garage rock – inherited from Blunt's earlier 1982 band Makin' Time, the band saw themselves firmly in the West Midlands tradition of hard-edged soul and R&B that included Birmingham bands The Spencer Davis Group and early Dexys Midnight Runners.[5] Blunt has characterised the band's early influences as including the Stranglers, Stax Records, Joy Division and the Doors, but has also credited the band's formation during the explosive growth of the acid house scene as contributing to their sound, so that they "suddenly sounded like the Spencer Davis Group on E".[3]

Although the name The Charlatans was already being used when the original members of the band were still located in the West Midlands, many sources state that they formed in Northwich, Cheshire.[6] This is because the band relocated to the home town of new lead singer Tim Burgess (who was born in Salford, but lived in Northwich from an early age) before the 1990 release of The Charlatans' debut single "Indian Rope" (on the band's own Dead Dead Good Records label, after they failed to obtain a record contract).[7] Thus based on the definition of hometown used by Guinness World Records the band was formed in Northwich, and consequently Northwich is recorded as their home town in such publications as British Hit Singles & Albums. One of the band's earliest known live performances was supporting The Stone Roses at the London School of Economics on 2 December 1988.[8]

Early years (1990–1993)[edit]

The Charlatans during their early days.

The debut single "Indian Rope" proved to be an indie hit and the group soon found a major label in Beggars Banquet offshoot Situation Two in time for the release of "The Only One I Know", which reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart.[9] A further single "Then" and their debut album Some Friendly were released later that year. Around this time The Charlatans were forced to add UK to their name for an American tour due to competing claims by an American rock band also known as The Charlatans.[2]

Day left the band after 1991's "Over Rising" single to be replaced by Mark Collins (no relation to Rob). The band brought in producer Flood for their second album Between 10th and 11th (named after the address of the New York Marquee, the site of the group's first US concert). Released in early 1992, the album failed to reach the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart,[9] but the Top 20 success of lead single "Weirdo" and a double weekend of gigs ('Daytripper') in Blackpool and Brighton together with Ride would keep them in the public eye.[9][10]

The band suffered a major setback later that year, when Rob Collins was charged with armed robbery after a friend had robbed an off licence while he was waiting in the car outside.[2] Collins claimed to have no foreknowledge of the robbery until he heard a gunshot inside the shop and his friend exited, although he later admitted that he should not have picked up his friend after he had realised what he had done. In court he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of "assisting an offender after an offence" and served four months in prison.[2]

Mid-nineties fame (1994–1997)[edit]

Their third album Up To Our Hips (1994) reached number 8 in the UK Albums Chart.[9]

In 1995 the release of the band's self-titled fourth album saw them become major UK stars again, topping the UK albums chart and spawning the Top 20 single "Just When You're Thinkin' Things Over".[9]

Keyboard player Rob Collins was killed in a traffic accident on 22 July 1996, during the recording of the band's fifth album Tellin' Stories. The Charlatans decided to continue, drafting in the Primal Scream and former Felt keyboardist Martin Duffy until a permanent replacement for Collins could be found, particularly for The Charlatans' support slot at Oasis' Knebworth concerts which were occurring in less than three weeks time on August 10 and 11. Tellin' Stories was released in 1997, featuring contributions from both Rob Collins and Duffy. The group had their biggest UK hits to date in the singles "One to Another", "North Country Boy" and "How High".[9]

Line-up and label changes (1997–2004)[edit]

After the release of the career-spanning compilation Melting Pot the band's contract with Beggars Banquet was up, and they signed to Universal Records.[2] Relations with the Beggars label remained strong however, and the band helped put together the B-sides collection Songs From The Other Side and the DVD Just Lookin' 1990–1997, which showcased all their promotional videos and a selection of live recordings from that era.

Us and Us Only was the start of a new era for The Charlatans. Their first release for Universal saw new keyboard player Tony Rogers make his Charlatans album debut,[2] having previously toured in support of Tellin' Stories and contributing to B-sides "Keep It to Yourself" and "Clean Up Kid" from the "How High" single. The band took on a slightly country sound, heavily influenced by Burgess's love of Bob Dylan.

The soul-influenced Wonderland followed in 2001;[11] that year the band performed at V Festival in London.[12]

The album Up at the Lake was released in 2004.

The Sanctuary years (2005–2007)[edit]

The band released their ninth full-length album on 10 April 2006, their first for new label Sanctuary Records. Titled Simpatico, the reggae- and dub-tinged album was produced by Jim Lowe and included fan favourite "NYC (There's No Need to Stop)" and first single "Blackened Blue Eyes".[13] The single charted at number 28, whilst the album reached the top 10 the week it was released before dropping off the charts shortly afterward.[9]

Their follow-up to Simpatico was the career-spanning singles compilation entitled Forever: The Singles, released on CD and DVD on 13 November 2006. It was preceded by the single "You're So Pretty We're So Pretty", remixed by Youth from its original version on Wonderland (2001).

The band played a number of high-profile gigs in mid-2007 supporting The Who and The Rolling Stones at venues including Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium in London, the Bingley Music Live event, Nass Festival 2007, and at Delamere Forest in Cheshire. A recording of Live at Delamere Forest was released as a five-part download for a limited time via their official website.

Cooking Vinyl, nostalgic performances and Brookes's illness (2008–2012)[edit]

The band contributed the song "Blank Heart, Blank Mind" to a Love Music Hate Racism compilation CD which came free with the October 2007 issue of the NME. Later that month, new single "You Cross My Path" was released as a free download exclusively through the XFM website. A second single "Oh! Vanity" emerged in March 2008, as The Charlatans teamed up with XFM once again, becoming the first UK band to release an album (their tenth studio album You Cross My Path) as a free download via a radio station. The album also received a physical CD/LP release on the Cooking Vinyl label on 19 May 2008, which coincided with a full UK tour.

Their eleventh studio album, Who We Touch, was released on 6 September 2010 on Cooking Vinyl Records and included the single "Love Is Ending". The album charted at No. 21 in the UK Albums Chart. 2010 also saw the twentieth anniversary of the band's debut album Some Friendly, which they played live at Primavera Sound Festival 2010.[14]

On 15 September 2010, drummer Jon Brookes collapsed during a performance in Philadelphia. The remaining US tour dates were postponed, as Brookes was diagnosed with a brain tumour[15] and was flown back to the UK for an operation and course of radiation and chemotherapy treatment. The Verve's Peter Salisbury acted as a stand-in drummer for the remainder of the Charlatans UK dates. Brookes returned to the stage for the band's Christmas and New Year Eve's gigs in 2010.

On 28 March 2011 Universal Music re-released a deluxe edition of the band's 1999 album Us and Us Only, featuring a collection of bonus tracks including B-sides, live recordings, radio sessions and rare remixes. In March and April 2011 Tim Burgess and Mark Collins played an acoustic tour of the UK, to coincide with which they released an EP Warm Sounds, which featured six stripped-down and reworked versions of Charlatans tracks including "North Country Boy", "The Only One I Know" and "Smash The System". In December 2011 the band announced they would be performing Tellin' Stories in its entirety at London's HMV Hammersmith Apollo, O2 Apollo Manchester and Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom in June 2012.

Death of Jon Brookes, Modern Nature, Different Days and A Head Full of Ideas (2013–present)[edit]

The band returned to their Big Mushroom studio to begin working on demos for a new album in 2013. In May the Mountain Picnic Blues DVD was released, a documentary about their Tellin' Stories album from its creation in 1997 to the 15th anniversary of the album.

On 13 August 2013 the band's 44-year-old drummer Jon Brookes died from a brain tumour having undergone several operations and treatment for the condition since his initial diagnosis in 2010.[16] The band themselves paid him tribute in a special event, with Pete Salisbury playing in his place and bands such as Beady Eye, The Vaccines and Manic Street Preachers also joining the bill. Proceeds from the night went to The Brain Tumour Charity, of which The Charlatans are now patrons; the charity have set up The Jon Brookes Fund as a lasting tribute to the drummer.[17]

Tim Burgess confirmed that Brookes's recordings would appear on the band's next album, originally slated for sometime in 2014.[18]

The Charlatans announced details of their twelfth studio album Modern Nature, to be released on 26 January 2015 on their new label BMG Rights Management. Featuring eleven new tracks (including the recent limited edition 7" "Talking in Tones"), Modern Nature was produced by The Charlatans and Jim Spencer and mixed by Craig Silvey. The album features contributions from the band's temporary drummers Peter Salisbury (of The Verve), Stephen Morris (of New Order) and Gabriel Gurnsey (of Factory Floor), as well as producer Dave Tolan, backing singers Melanie Marshall and Sandra Marvin, strings by Sean O'Hagan and brass courtesy of Jim Paterson from Dexys Midnight Runners.

The group's thirteenth album, Different Days, was released on 26 May 2017.[19]

In July 2021, the group announced the release of A Head Full of Ideas: The Best of Charlatans, which was released on 15 October 2021.

On 1 June 2022, the group supported Liam Gallagher at his concert at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

On 16 July 2022, the group supported Gerry Cinnamon at his concert at Hampden Park in Glasgow.


Band members[edit]

Current members

  • Martin Blunt – bass (1988–present)
  • Tim Burgess – lead vocals, harmonica, percussion (1989–present)
  • Mark Collins – guitar, pedal steel guitar (1991–present)
  • Tony Rogers – keyboards, backing vocals (1997–present)

Current touring musicians

Former members

  • Jon Brookes – drums, percussion (1988–2010; died 2013)
  • Rob Collins – keyboards, organ, piano, backing vocals (1988–1996; died 1996)
  • Jon Baker– guitar (1988–1991)
  • Baz Ketley – lead vocals, guitar (1988–1989)

Former touring musicians

  • Martin Duffy – keyboards, organ, piano, mellotron (1996–1997, died 2022)



  1. ^ Melody Maker issue dated 3 December 1988 shows advert for concert of The Stone Roses at the LSE, London 2 December 1988 with The Charlatans as support.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Martin C. Strong (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 165–166. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  3. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (15 November 2021). "The Charlatans: how we made The Only One I Know – 'I'm still not sure which bit's the chorus'". Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  4. ^ Robb, John (2010). "First Rehearsals". The Charlatans We Are Rock. London: Random House. p. 18. ISBN 978-1409034391. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  5. ^ Robb, John (2010). "Shape up or ship out ... the band's sound comes together". The Charlatans We Are Rock. London: Random House. p. 18. ISBN 978-1409034391. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Helphire Group : Working and Living in Northwich". Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  7. ^ "The Charlatans Songs, Albums, Reviews, Bio & More". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  8. ^ Melody Maker issue dated 3 December 1988.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 100. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  11. ^ "CD REVIEWS: The Charlatans UK, Spiritualized, The Watchmen and many more". Chart Attack, 25 September 2001
  12. ^ "LIVE: V2001 FESTIVAL". Chart Attack, 24 August 2001. Review By Frank Walshe
  13. ^ "The Charlatans set to unleash new LP | News". NME. 12 January 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Ola's Kool Kitchen on Radio23 Charlatans live set Primavera 2010 : DJ Ola : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 10 March 2001. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  15. ^ Brown, Jonathan (24 September 2010). "". Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  16. ^ "BBC News - Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes dies age 44". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  17. ^ "Beady Eye, The Vaccines and The Charlatans perform at Jon Brookes tribute concert | News". NME. 19 October 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Late Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes to appear on band's new album | News". NME. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  19. ^ Maine, Samantha (20 March 2017). "The Charlatans announce new album featuring Paul Weller, Kurt Wagner and Johnny Marr". NME. Time Inc. UK. Retrieved 20 March 2017.


  • Wills, D. The Charlatans : The authorised history, Virgin Books, 1999. ISBN 0-7535-0194-5

External links[edit]