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The Charlatans: Scottish gigs to celebrate delayed 30th anniversary

Tim Burgess, frontman of The Charlatans.
Tim Burgess, frontman of The Charlatans.

Indie rock legends The Charlatans play Aberdeen and Edinburgh as part of their delayed 30th anniversary tour. Gayle Ritchie chats to singer Tim Burgess.

Floppy-haired Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess is bursting with excitement.

The band is heading to Aberdeen (May 17) and Edinburgh (May 19) and he anticipates the gigs will be “amazing”.

“We haven’t played Aberdeen for about 10 years,” he says. “It was important for us to play the city because it’s been such a long time. And Edinburgh is always amazing.”

The gigs, which form part of the band’s 30th anniversary tour, were rescheduled along with a date in Glasgow, after two crew members tested positive for Covid-19 in December.

Tim Burgess can’t wait to play Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

“It was a tough call to make but it was the right thing to do,” says Tim.

“Because of Covid, there’s been a few times we’ve had to abandon our 30th anniversary.

“So this year is the 32nd – since our debut album Some Friendly was released in 1990.

“But we’ve been going for 33 years – which is my favourite number.”

Soft spot for Scotland

Tim has had a soft spot for Scotland from the word go, thanks to the generosity and passion of those he encountered.

“For the very first tour we did, we were accepted by Scotland,” he muses.

“We got fed for the first time there as a band and I’ll always remember that. We’d done about 10 dates across the UK and never once had anyone bothered to bring us a sandwich – until we played King Tut’s in Glasgow.

“So I’ve always thought we’ve been ‘taken’ by Scotland and always have the most amazing audiences. People are passionate for the music.”

Some Friendly

How does Tim feel about Some Friendly, which features what’s arguably become the band’s anthem – The Only One I Know – more than three decades on?

“Well around about 1990 was the most exciting time of my life really,” he reflects. “We went from nothing to something quite quickly. Recording the songs, we had no reference point of what we could be.

“We went into a studio with a guy called Chris Nagle who’d worked on Factory Records as an engineer.

“We chose him because he had a modern approach. All our songs sounded very 60s-inspired, so it was a nice balance.”

Looking back, Tim says he is “open-mouthed” at the sounds the band was producing: “Sproston Green. Beautiful little songs like Sonic. And Flower. That just sounds like The Pixies to me.

“If I listen to Some Friendly I get really carried away and think about how amazing those times were.

“But Then is my favourite – one of the greatest songs I’ve ever been involved in. The beat originated from De La Soul’s album Three Feet High and Rising – a beat (drummer) Jon (Brookes) adapted. We were open to other’s people’s stuff and that helped us to write at the time.”

Another of Tim’s favourite tunes is White Shirt. He enjoyed writing it because he was thinking about “bands like Felt” and trying to inspire keyboardist Rob Collins who, he says, was “really only interested in The Beatles and Deep Purple”.

We’d done about 10 dates across the UK and never once had anyone bothered to bring us a sandwich – until we played King Tut’s in Glasgow.”

TIM BURGESS

When I reveal I listened to Some Friendly as a young teenager – on a Sony Walkman while cycling through the Aberdeenshire countryside – Tim gets hugely excited.

“Amazing! Amazing!” he enthuses. “I was 22 at the time and thought I was writing for people my age, perhaps a little younger or older. But the reach it had – to early teens, and rockers who liked Hawkwind standing at the back of gigs – it was a real mix.”

Enduring band

Described as one of the UK’s most enduring bands, The Charlatans have been through the deaths of two members (keyboardist Rob was killed in a road accident in 1996 while drummer Jon died after battling a brain tumour in 2013), an imprisonment and a nervous breakdown.

And yet they’re still going strong. Tim, 54, who is strikingly fresh-faced with his blond moptop, says while they “do get pushed down”, they’re resilient and always spring back up.

The Charlatans in 1990.

“When we get together we start from scratch and that’s when it works best, although we do write separately,” he says. “We’re really open and, I think, brave in the way we try to move the sound forwards.”

Memory lane

Fans can expect a trip down memory lane at the upcoming gigs with visuals which Tim describes as “interesting, sad and hilarious”.

He adds: “It’s us through the years as a backdrop. It’s like a greatest hits tour in a way. There’s a few deeper cuts but everyone will have heard everything. I don’t get bored because every audience gives something different.

“There’s a lot of arms in the air and smiling faces, but it’s always different.”

The Charlatans (from left) Martin Blunt, Tony Rogers, Jon Brookes, Tim Burgess and Mark Collins, during a photocall at the HMV store in London’s Covent Garden, to promote their new single A Man Needs to be Told in 2001.

Extra hilarity

The last time I saw The Charlatans was at Dundee’s Caird Hall in December 2015. Ahead of the gig Tim had tweeted to invite fans on a treasure hunt to find tickets, having stashed them at the Desperate Dan statue.

Will there be similar shenanigans on this tour? “There’ll be extra hilarity, of course!” he laughs. “A lot of things, like the ticket hunt, are done off the cuff. I always hide tickets in strange places. If I can put someone on the guest list, I will.”

The Charlatans are still going strong.

Future looking bright

While the focus for 2022 is the tour, Tim says the future is looking bright with the band working on new material.

“We’re not close to demo-ing yet but we are writing. It’s sounding good but it’s early days. It doesn’t seem like we have to rush. It just has to be great. And I can’t wait for the Scottish gigs!”

The Charlatans played Belladrum Tartan Heart music festival, Beauly, Scotland, in 2018. Picture by Shutterstock

Going solo

Those who follow Tim’s solo work will be aware he’s working on a new album with the video for the first track, Here Comes The Weekend, released last month.

“The jumper is the star!” he laughs. (Tim sports a vibrant baby blue, red and yellow woolly sweater).

“The song feels like it’s really striking a chord. It’s happy but it’s also about being apart from someone, so it’s not always so happy. I hope people like it.”

The Charlatans play Aberdeen Music Hall on May 17, tickets can be purchased here, and Edinburgh’s O2 Academy on May 19, tickets can be purchased here.

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