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World Party

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World Party
World Party 80s lineup
World Party 80s lineup
Background information
OriginLondon, England
GenresAlternative rock, indie pop, folk rock, power pop, psychedelic pop
Years active1986–2015
LabelsEnsign, Chrysalis, Papillon
Past membersKarl Wallinger
Dave Catlin-Birch
Chris Sharrock
Guy Chambers
Jeff Trott
Amanda Kramer
John Turnbull
David Duffy[1]

World Party was a musical group, predominantly the solo project of its sole consistent member, the songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Karl Wallinger.[2][3] Wallinger started the band in 1986 in London after leaving the Waterboys.[4] At various times, World Party also featured Guy Chambers, David Catlin-Birch, future Oasis drummer Chris Sharrock, Jeff Trott, Amanda Kramer and John Turnbull.

World Party produced several hit singles during the late 1980s and early 1990s including "Ship of Fools", "Way Down Now", "Put the Message in the Box" and "Is It Like Today?". The band also released the original version of "She's the One", written (like virtually all World Party material) by Karl Wallinger but best known due to the 1999 cover version by Robbie Williams, a UK number one hit single.[5]


Pre-World Party[edit]

Wallinger was born in Prestatyn. He received classical music training in piano and oboe as a child at both Eton College and Charterhouse School,[2][6][7][8] before switching his allegiance fully to pop and rock music. Following initial stints in Prestatyn with the short-lived bands Pax and Quasimodo,[9][10] he moved to London in the late 1970s and entered a five-year "lost period" during which he worked in music publishing, had a stint as musical director of a West End production of The Rocky Horror Show, and played in a funk band called The Out. By the end of this period, he'd also mastered all of the instruments needed for him to become a one-man rock band, as well as the arts of record production and synthesizer programming.[2][11][12]

In 1983, Wallinger joined his first notable band, the Waterboys, initially as a keyboard player. Having contributed one organ part to the band's debut album, and many more piano and organ parts to the second (A Pagan Place)[4][13] as well as playing on tour, his additional skills made him the perfect ally for Waterboys leader Mike Scott when Scott wished to expand the sound of the band for their third album, 1985's This Is the Sea. Wallinger co-produced many of the album tracks, adding assorted synthesizer and sampler arrangements as well as backing vocals, synth bass, percussion, and piano and organ. He also wrote the original music for the opening track, "Don't Bang the Drum".[2][6][14]

Despite the productivity of the sessions for This is the Sea, growing rivalry between Scott and Wallinger led to tensions between the two on the subsequent tour, exacerbated by the fact that Wallinger had been writing his own songs from an early age and saw no opportunity to be able to play and sing them while in The Waterboys, which was entirely dominated by Scott's artistic vision. Now armed with his own record contract with the Waterboys' record label, Ensign, Wallinger left the band at the end of the This is the Sea tour in 1985.[2][6]

Private Revolution[edit]

The first World Party album, Private Revolution, was recorded in a dilapidated former rectory in Woburn, which Wallinger had moved into after quitting both London and The Waterboys.[2][6] Inspired by Prince, Wallinger recorded the majority of the instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, samplers) by himself, as well as singing lead vocals and handling programming and production. There were guest appearances on the record by two Waterboys members, saxophonist Anthony Thistlethwaite and fiddle player Steve Wickham. To create the illusion of a full band, Wallinger credited his own instrumental parts to a variety of imaginary players with whimsical names, including "Millennium Mills", "Rufus Dove" and "Will Towyn". During this time, he also worked on Sinéad O'Connor's debut album The Lion and the Cobra,[15] and she in turn sang backing vocals on the song "Hawaiian Island World"[2][16] as well as appearing in the promotional video for the album's title track.

Wallinger's efforts rapidly drew further music business attention. "They'd heard there was a dumb kid in Woburn writing hits," Wallinger recalled in 2021. "There was this beauty-parade of visiting managers." Wallinger signed a management deal with Prince's manager Steve Fargnoli: "I was a sucker for Prince. I was like, "Take me to Minneapolis. Take me to your leader."[6]

Private Revolution was released in 1986 and displayed Wallinger's eclectic mastery of rock, pop, folk, and funk.[17] The album's first single "Ship of Fools", reached a modest number 42 in the British charts but did much better outside the UK – it reached No. 4 in Australia, No. 21 in New Zealand, and No. 27 in the US, in the process becoming the act's only major international hit. "Private Revolution" was also issued as a single, but only charted in the UK (at No. 107).[4][13]

"I'm not retro. I'm writing songs about now – in fact, the songs I wrote back then are even more relevant now than they were when I wrote them. I wasn't trying to be ahead of the curve, I was just writing about things that seemed obvious to me at the time, and we still haven't done anything about it."

Karl Wallinger, 2012[3]

Breakthrough and peak years – Goodbye Jumbo and Bang![edit]

Relocating to a 32-track studio in London (which he called "Seaview"), Wallinger began work on the second World Party album, Goodbye Jumbo.[2][3] As with Private Revolution, he played almost all of the instruments himself.[2] In 2000, recalling his songwriting aims at the time, Wallinger explained "I wanted to personify the world and sing about her. I always thought it would have been great if Otis Redding’s "Try a Little Tenderness" had been about the planet. Plus, if I stand on top of a mountain Julie Andrews-style, the hills do seem to be alive with the sound of music. You can say whatever you like about eco whatever, but if you fuck up the environment you’re going to die."[6]

On some of the tracks, Wallinger collaborated with fellow former Waterboy and songwriter Guy Chambers, who had originally joined the project in 1986 for live and studio work.[6] Sessions were lengthy, carried out during the night and fuelled by copious amounts of marijuana,[6] with Chambers later remembering "if you worked with Karl you had to get into his headspace. Everything was very slow and you had to be extremely patient. I was one of Karl’s principal cheerleaders at that point. We laughed a lot and I learned a lot from him, particularly about lyrics, but he was a terrible procrastinator and still is now."[6] For his part, Wallinger would credit Chambers as being "the pushy guy who would cue me into the corner pocket. I’ve got to thank him for that."[6]

Dave Catlin-Birch (pictured as Paul McCartney in the Bootleg Beatles in 2006) served as bassist from 1992 to 1995.
Chris Sharrock (pictured performing with Oasis in 2008) served as drummer from 1992 to 1997.

Released on 24 April 1990, Goodbye Jumbo was voted "album of the year" by Q magazine[6] and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "best alternative music performance" in the US.[2] The album contained the minor UK hit singles "Way Down Now" and "Put the Message in the Box"[4] (the latter going on to be covered by Brian Kennedy on his 1996 album A Better Man, and becoming a top 40 hit in the UK and a top 20 hit in Ireland). After the 1991 EP Thank You World, World Party recruited former Bootleg Beatles member David Catlin-Birch as guitarist and ex-Icicle Works member Chris Sharrock on drums, with intentions to play more live dates.[2] Instead, Ensign label boss Nigel Grainge cancelled a planned tour support slot with Neil Young in favour of further recording.

Looking back on the events twenty-two years later, Wallinger reflected "nowadays you would tour the fuck out of the Q Award thing, but (Grainge) was like, "No, you can’t go and support Neil Young in America – get back in the studio," and for me that meant three more years out of sight."[6] He would consider this to be the decisive moment in the band's career which damaged its long-term chances. ("That was it. There was a moment there: door open, door closes.")[18]

With touring plans shelved, World Party began work on a third album, Bang!.[2] During the lengthy recording process, Chambers set up his own band The Lemon Trees in 1992, continuing with them in parallel to his World Party work until 1995.

Released in 1993, Bang! reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart,[6] A single, "Is It Like Today?" (described by Wallinger as "a précis of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy in four verses"), reached No. 19 on the UK Singles Chart[4] as well as becoming a moderately successful single in Europe. Following the success of Bang!, World Party appeared at the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, at which they had previously played in 1987 and 1990. The album generated two further singles, "‘Give It All Away" and "All I Gave".

In 1994, World Party recorded "When You Come Back to Me" for the Reality Bites soundtrack, influenced by David Bowie's 1975 song "Young Americans".

Egyptology (and "She's the One"), Dumbing Up, Wallinger's aneurysm and hiatus[edit]

Written following the death of Wallinger's mother, World Party's fourth album, Egyptology, was released in 1997. A single, "Beautiful Dream", only reached No. 36 in the British charts;[19] and the album itself was commercially unsuccessful. Wallinger severed ties with his record label, regained his back catalogue in 1998, and began a three year break.[6]

Wallinger's discouragement with being shuffled from label to label (Ensign to Charisma to EMI) due to corporate takeovers had a lot to do with the break and his desire for practical independence.[6] In 2012, he explained "basically my last fax or whatever it was to EMI was literally just like "fuck off"... At that point I just said "tell them we don’t want any more money, just say give me back the catalogue and I'll walk and we'll call it a day". Just to demonstrate how little it mattered to them, they said yes. It ended up on the front cover of Music Week... It was great to get my music back because otherwise they can do anything with it, they can just put it on a shelf, anything. Getting control of that back was the essence of being able to survive really, because since then I've had tracks in films and in television programmes and the money’s come to me instead of a black hole as it was with EMI. And also when you're doing your own thing, it’s much nicer because you can surround yourself with people you want to be surrounded with."[20]

Meanwhile, in January 1997, Chambers had departed the band in order to accept the role of musical director for Robbie Williams. This, in turn, led to Williams re-recording an Egyptology track, "She's the One" (which had won Wallinger an Ivor Novello Award in 1997),[2] and releasing it as a single in November 1999. The Williams version reached No. 1 in the UK charts.[2] Chris Sharrock, plus World Party's touring bassist of the time, performed on the new version, which was very similar to the World Party original apart from the addition of string orchestra parts. Wallinger was not informed about either the recording of the cover version or the involvement of members of his own band, later commenting "it was very strange. Nobody phoned me to say they were doing it, and they used the band I’d just been on the road with to record it. It also annoyed me that Robbie didn’t sing the right words. It was a weird one: you lose your friends but you make loads of money."[18]

Wallinger was further annoyed when Sharrock subsequently quit World Party to join Chambers in Williams' live band. He would later admit to having experienced "ongoing bitterness" and that "the song had a much better time than me, popping off to the Brits while I was at home eating crackers dipped in water".[18] In 2012, he recalled "at the time it seemed horribly clandestine and then Robbie stole my band and I was like, "What are you doing, guys?"..."[6]

With Catlin-Birch still on board, Wallinger released a fifth World Party album, Dumbing Up, in 2000 (which peaked at No. 64 on the UK Albums Chart).[21] A lone single, "Here Comes the Future", was released the same year, pointedly featuring the original version of "She's the One" as a B-side.[22]

Plans were made for touring in spring 2001, only to be cut short by Wallinger sufferering a brain aneurysm in February 2001 while cycling with his son on a Center Parcs holiday in Suffolk.[18] He was left with damaged eyesight plus a prolonged (if temporary) inability to speak, play instruments or carry out any other musical activities.[2]

All World Party activity was put on hold for five years while Wallinger recuperated and painstakingly learned how to play music again. During this time, he was sustained by royalties from the Williams cover of "She's the One". In 2012, he admitted "thank God they did record it. It kept me and the family in spaghetti when I was ill and couldn’t work."[6]

Later period and final years[edit]

In 2006 Wallinger re-emerged onto the scene.[2] With his back catalogue reclaimed from EMI, a distribution deal was agreed (via his own Seaview label) with Universal, and he played his first live show in a decade at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, US. He played additional US dates in 2006 including the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Big Blue Ball, a joint project with Peter Gabriel with production work by Stephen Hague was also released.

Subsequent World Party activity was intermittent. In September 2007, World Party supported Steely Dan in their first tour of Australia. The Best in Show compilation was released to celebrate the Australian tour. In 2009, World Party toured the west coast of the US, and appeared at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival and San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

In 2012, World Party released a new five-CD/70-song collection of new songs, live recordings and cover versions titled Arkeology to critical acclaim.[6] The band toured extensively in America in 2012, and toured England for the first time in twelve years, ending with an appearance in November 2012 in London at the Royal Albert Hall.[2] Live dates and tours followed through 2015, and a 2013 UK show was issued as a 2-CD set called World Party – Live!.

Following the end of their 2015 North American tour World Party no longer toured, released new material, or updated their website. Wallinger moved to Hastings and continued working on music while keeping a low profile. An interview with Mojo in 2021 revealed that he still hoped that "a 63-year-old Welshman can say something relevant, post-apocalypse. Who knows how close it is to a parting shot?" but also warned "it's useless to try to find out what I'm up to... (I'm) just a guy who makes noises in a room and plays them to as few people as possible."[23]

In November 2022, Wallinger released an expanded edition of Egyptology. In an interview with The Big Takeover during the same month, Wallinger claimed to be close to finishing a new album, aiming to release it in early 2023. He claimed "I’ve got twenty-odd years of material... What I’m trying to do is make everything the most contemporary version of things, rather than go back and just say, "How can I finish these songs off and put them out?" I want everything to be from around now, so that’s what I’m heading toward... I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be just like rolling the stone away from the front of the cave and coming out again into the sunlight. I’ll be so happy to have an album out."[24] To date, this album has not been released.

Wallinger's death on 10 March 2024 ended any hopes of further World Party activity.[25]


Touring members[edit]


Wallinger cited influences such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Junior Walker, Neil Young and Prince. He sang and played most of the instruments himself, using multi-tracking to create the studio sound. Lyrically, many of his songs featured thoughtful and occasionally political sentiments.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak positions
1987 Private Revolution 56 13 60 18 39
1990 Goodbye Jumbo 36 70 26 38 20 73
1993 Bang! 2 40 49 69 55 9 29 126
1997 Egyptology 34 22 167
2000 Dumbing Up 64
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Live albums[edit]

  • World Party Live! (2014) (recorded live at the Picturedrome, Holmfirth, UK, April 2013)

Compilation albums[edit]


Year Single Peak positions Album
Hot 100

Alt. Songs

Main. Rock

1986 "Private Revolution" 107[40] Private Revolution
1987 "Ship of Fools" 42 4 42 65 21 27 5
"All Come True"
1990 "Put the Message in the Box" 39 86 8 33 Goodbye Jumbo
"Way Down Now" 66 114 53 17 1 21
1991 "Thank You World" 68
1993 "Is It Like Today?" 19 62 24 52 5 38 Bang!
"Give It All Away" 43
"All I Gave" 37
1997 "Beautiful Dream" 31 Egyptology
"She's the One" (promotional only)
"Call Me Up" (promotional only)
2000 "Here Comes the Future" 89 Dumbing Up
2012 "Words!" (promotional only) Arkeology
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Other contributions[edit]

  • Acoustic 05 (2005, Echo) – "She's the One"


  1. ^ https://recordcollectormag.com/reviews/live/world-party-2
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Karl Wallinger obituary by Robin Denselow in The Guardian, 13 March 2024
  3. ^ a b c "World Party’s Karl Wallinger was a pick’n’mix songwriter with a total, titanic love of music" – article by Graeme Thomson in The Guardian, 12 March 2024
  4. ^ a b c d e f Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 1084. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  5. ^ Breihan, Tom (11 March 2024). "Karl Wallinger (World Party, The Waterboys) Dead At 66". Stereogum. Archived from the original on 11 March 2024. Retrieved 11 March 2024.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Karl Wallinger Remembered: "Music is the greatest thing for me, because it takes me somewhere that it’s safe to be."" – article in Mojo #337 by James McNair, 2021, republished 11 March 2024
  7. ^ "Wallinger, Karl". encyclopedia.com. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  8. ^ Thomson, Graeme (15 August 2012). "Karl Wallinger: The song that saved my bacon". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 7 February 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  9. ^ "North Wales: Pa – Pl". link2wales. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  10. ^ Cassidy, Andy (10 July 2012). "World Party – Interview with Karl Wallinger". Penny Black Music. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  11. ^ Reid, Graham (27 October 2008). "KARL WALLINGER OF WORLD PARTY INTERVIEWED (1993): Couldn't care less, couldn't care more". Elsewhere. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  12. ^ Tortorici, Frank (16 October 1998). "World Party's Karl Wallinger". MTV News. Archived from the original on 13 March 2024. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  13. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 610. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  14. ^ Sleevenotes for This is the Sea reissue, 2004
  15. ^ Risen, Clay (12 March 2024). "Karl Wallinger, Who Sang With World Party and the Waterboys, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  16. ^ Graham, Cheryl (1 March 2022). "World Party's 'Private Revolution' Tackled Environmental Concerns 35 Years Ago". PopMatters. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  17. ^ Davey, Ryan. "Private Revolution: A Retrospective of World Party". Ceremony. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  18. ^ a b c d Karl Wallinger: The song that saved my bacon
  19. ^ "Thank You World: Karl Wallinger bids farewell - World Party singer-songwriter dies aged 66" - article by Paul Sinclair in Super Deluxe Edition, 12 March 2024
  20. ^ Mike Hughes - In Conversation - September 18, 2012 - Interview – Karl Wallinger of World Party - interview in God is in the TV, 18 September 2012
  21. ^ "WORLD PARTY | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com.
  22. ^ "Here Comes the Future" entry on Discogs.com
  23. ^ "Karl Wallinger Remembered: "Music is the greatest thing for me, because it takes me somewhere that it’s safe to be."" - article in Mojo by James McNair, 2021, republished 11 March 2024
  24. ^ "Interview: Karl Wallinger of World Party" - interview by Katherine Yeske Taylor in The Big Takeover, 18 November 2022
  25. ^ Breihan, Tom (11 March 2024). "Karl Wallinger (World Party, The Waterboys) Dead At 66". Stereogum. Retrieved 11 March 2024.
  26. ^ a b "Official Charts > World Party". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  27. ^ a b Australian chart peaks:
    • Top 100 (Kent Music Report) peaks to 12 June 1988: Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives: Australian Chart Book. p. 343. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 12 June 1988.
    • Top 50 (ARIA) chart peaks from 13 June 1988: "australian-charts.com > World Party in Australian Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
    • Top 100 (ARIA) peaks from January 1990 to December 2010: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 306.
  28. ^ Canadian Albums:
  29. ^ a b German chart peaks:
  30. ^ a b "Dutch Charts > World Party in Dutch Charts" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  31. ^ a b "charts.org.nz > World Party in Australian Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  32. ^ "norwegiancharts.com > World Party in Norwegian Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  33. ^ "swedishcharts.com > World Party in Swedish Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  34. ^ "World Party Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Bubbling Down Under Week commencing 8 October 1990". bubblingdownunder. 8 October 2021. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  36. ^ Canadian Singles:
  37. ^ "World Party Chart History > Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  38. ^ "World Party Chart History > Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  39. ^ "World Party Chart History > Mainstream Rock Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  40. ^ "Gallup Top 200 Singles". Gallup. 18 October 1986. Retrieved 9 December 2022 – via ukmix.org.

External Links[edit]