Michael Halpin Journalism


Live Review: Louder Than War: James & The Charlatans. Echo Arena, Liverpool – 10th December 2016



James | The Charlatans

Echo Arena, Liverpool

10th December 2016

As two bands so strongly linked with the city of Manchester descended upon Liverpool’s Echo Arena, Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin went along to take it all in.

The Charlatans: Although some debate may have ensued regarding who should have been headlining this double header between James and The Charlatans, The Charlatans opening trio of songs argued a strong case to suggest that the running order was indeed incorrect.

‘Weirdo’ recalled just what The Charlatans do best – playing the underdog and coming out on top. ‘North Country Boy’ is such a crowd pleaser that it was never likely to fail while ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’ grooved along defiantly giving the impression, for the moment at least, that the core of what makes The Charlatans great is still very much intact. Further to this, ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’ was sung with such purpose by the seemingly ageless Tim Burgess, that despite nervous breakdowns, drug abuse, financial embezzlement, jail sentences and the untimely death of two key members, The Charlatans really do appear to be indestructible. Moving into ‘So Oh’ from last years ‘Modern Nature’ album lost the audiences attention however, while ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’ and ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ did not do enough to win them back, in spite of Tim Burgess’ efforts.

Like ‘North Country Boy’, ‘One To Another’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ were only ever going to gain a positive reaction and of the bands newer material, ‘Come Home Baby’, which followed, faired the strongest.

Following ‘Come Home Baby’, Tim Booth and Andy Diagram from James joined The Charlatans onstage. It was all big hugs, big grins and backslapping before Tim Burgess introduced the number they were about to perform as being “by four lads from Liverpool who shook the world”. One instantly knew that this was not going to be a Beatles cover, that would be too easy. Instead, the audience was treated to a version of Echo and The Bunnymen’s ‘Rescue’ which disappointingly seemed to be enjoyed far more by those on stage rather than the audience. As ‘Rescue’ briefly morphed into The Doors ‘L.A. Woman’, much was won back and at this point The Charlatans created the most musically powerful moment of their set. Typically concluding with their usually anthemic ‘Sproston Green’, this performance appeared to be slightly lethargic and it felt, to a degree, like the band were going through the motions. Closing your set with the same song for pretty much the last twenty-five years may well do that though.

One of The Charlatans strengths has always been their ability to win over an audience that has not been solely theirs, and despite such a promising start, that strength did not appear to be there this evening.

James: Aside from Tim Booth’s bizarrely oversized pants, the first thought when he opened his mouth at the Echo Arena was, ‘now there is a fella who can really sing!’ Contemporaries such as Tim Burgess, Ian Brown, Shaun Ryder or Tom Hingley have never come close to the vocal talent of Tim Booth and from the off it is clear that a) James have always been slightly different from other bands of their generation and b) there is absolutely no question whatsoever as to who should be headlining tonight’s gig.

Tim Booth’s vocals simply soared over the audience during ‘Waltzing Along’ and the immediate feeling is that watching an older and wiser James is a beautiful, uplifting and life-affirming experience.

Tim Booth’s zen-like demeanor contradicts his still wonderful dance moves, whilst he carries a grin that cannot help but give off genuine good vibes. When all of these factors are in place, James are pretty much untouchable as a live band.

Following ‘Waltzing Along’ and a superb ‘To My Surprise’, Tim Booth decided that the aptly named ‘Surfer’s Song’ was the ideal opportunity for him to indulge in a good old crowd surf. The strangest part of the whole thing was not that the fact that the 56-year-old can still carry off such a feat, but the fact that he can do it whilst still managing to sing perfectly in tune.

An extremely powerful ‘Ring The Bells’ showed that none of Tim Booth’s vocal prowess has left him. Just as they would time and again tonight, James showed how an exceptional pop/indie-rock band can make thousands of people feel like all is right with the world. Even if it is just for ninety minutes.
The subject matter of ‘Moving On’, addressing the death of Tim Booth’s mother in 2012, would appear to be far removed from making an audience feel like all is right with the world, but as he articulated his feeling that ‘death is like a birth and can be truly beautiful’ the sincerity of his delivery won his audience over. The fact that Booth’s band mates appeared to be keeping a watchful eye on him while he explained ‘Moving On’ only added further weight to the performance and even though he appeared to be communicating some very personal emotions to the audience, Booth appeared to be completely at one while doing so. He certainly seems to be a man comfortable in his own skin. A beautifully executed stripped down version of ‘She’s A Star’ followed, while ‘Johnny Yen’ from 1986’s ‘Stutter’ brought a tear to a fair few eyes.

‘Born Of Frustration’, without Tim Booth and Andy Diagram going walk-about within the audience would have been enough to lift the spirit of any crowd, but as Booth repeatedly cropped up over one side of the arena whilst Diagram the other, the audience (the majority of which were forty-plus) were sent into something of a frenzy.
‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and the anthemic ‘Come Home’ both proved that Tim Booth still has the moves and as the clock ticked by, Booth showed nothing to suggest he was running out of the energy required to perform in the manner he does; his youthful exuberance seemingly years away from leaving him.

Like ‘She’s A Star’, a stripped back ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ worked wonderfully and began James’ encore in fine style. Tim Burgess joined Booth and company for ‘Laid’ even though it was not one hundred percent clear whether or not he knew all of the words, before ‘Sometimes’ became one huge crowd sing-a-long.

Bravely, James ended their set with this years ‘Nothing But Love’ single and managed to pull it off majestically. The heart, soul, emotion, verve and vigour that James communicated tonight meant that in many ways ‘Nothing But Love’ was the perfect ending to a breathtaking set.

It is not at all overboard to say that the performance James gave tonight was not only a celebration of music but also a celebration of life itself.



Words by Michael Halpin. You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive

Portrait shot of Tim Booth by Robin Linton, crowd shot by Tina



Shindig Magazine: Happening Right Now – Blossoms


 Psych-pop riffs, intriguing vocal melodies and an absorbing film noir aesthetic have all combined to result in Blossoms being championed by the likes of The Charlatans, XFM and BBC 6 Music in recent months, as well as gaining favourable nods from BBC Radio 1. Something of an achievement for a band who told Shindig recently, “we want to be heard by everyone... at school discos, office parties, the radio … everywhere.”

Blossoms have emerged fully formed from North West England’s rich musical landscape (in their case Stockport) and right now they appear to be strong contenders for unbridled success in 2015.

They describe their sound as “ethereal nostalgic sonance” and Lead Singer Tom Ogden possesses a chilling Richard Ashcroft style baritone which also contains elements of Nick Cave’s glorious vocal rasp - the notes at the lower end of Ogden’s vocal register giving Blossoms something of a timeless quality.

To add further fuel to their fire, Tom Ogden also holds the precious gift of a classic wide-eyed-front-man glare, hinting that Blossoms have a lot to explore beneath their initial surface.

Sprinklings of The Doors, The Mysterians and early Deep Purple are all evident in Blossoms musical arsenal, as well as hints of both Wire and Echo and The Bunnymen coming to the fore within their perfectly stirred psych-pop melting pot. It is also no mean feat that already one can enthusiastically ponder what direction their future musical creations may take.

Their debut single ‘Blow’, produced by The Coral’s James Skelly, has been picked up on the antenna of many a receptive ear, namely BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamaq, who broadcast the band playing live in session from Maida Vale studios last September. The release of the bands follow-up single ‘Cut Me And I’ll Bleed’, again produced by James Skelly, is likely to increase their listenership further when it is unleashed on the public in March.

Blossoms recent work with Skelly came to fruition after he heard ‘You Pulled A Gun On Me’, one of the bands earliest compositions. Blossoms Bassist Charlie Salt picks up the story:

“He heard ‘You Pulled A Gun On Me’, loved it and was like, ‘You’s are f***ing boss. Come and jam with me.”

“When the man who’s written some of the greatest guitar tunes in the last 10 years invites you to go to his house for tea you pinch yourself. It's an absolute pleasure to have the prominent writer of Butterfly House working with us, not to mention the back catalogue of The Coral and the respect he's gained.”

Resplendent in Beatnik style black polo-necks with Scott Walker style monastery keys hung around their necks, it remains to be seen whether on not Blossoms intend to study Gregorian chanting as was once Scott Walker wish but Charlie insists that their appearance is actually a reaction to “Jacamo, Freddie Flintoff and Banter.”

“We wear black on the outside but black isn’t how we feel on the inside… Anyone who buys whatever Flintoff's donning and uses the word ‘banter’ doesn't really hold a place or portfolio for criticism do they?” Charlie concludes.

Indeed they don’t Charlie…indeed they don’t.

Blossoms will tour the UK throughout February and into March.
‘Cut Me And I’ll Bleed’ is released on March 2nd through Skeleton Key Records.


The Charlatans – Gig Review – Delamere Forest July 7 2013



Delamere Forest is a wonderful setting for a gig providing the weather is good.

The last time The Charlatans played there torential rain was a main feature, but the five strong rock group had nothing to fear last Sunday as Britain enjoyed its hottest weekend of the summer so far.

There are many plus points about putting on a gig at Delamere Forest.  As well as the beautiful surrounding, it is just the right size for an outdoor gig.

Because the stage is at the bottom of a fairly steep bank, even the smaller people who have suffered for years at gigs by not being able to see a thing – actually have a decent vantage point!

The View provided the main support tonight and they could barely contain their national pride as fellow Scotsman Andy Murray had won Wimbledon just hours before.

Manchester’s Beat Boutique DJ's mixed tunes between performances and did a sterling job in creating the perfect mood for a gig in the evening sunshine.

The Charlatans took to the stage with Tim Burgess sporting white jeans, a white jumper and a blonde bowl-haircut.  He somehow managed to carry this off in a way that only this classic front man can.

Opening with 1999’s Forever, straight away the crowd were seduced by The Charlatans and the sound of their well-oiled machine.  Tim beckoned the audience towards the front of the stage who duly complied.  The whole scene looked like something from Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Tommy where Tommy’s disciples swarmed forwards to follow their leader.  Only this was a lot more down to earth and was purely for the purposes of creating a better atmosphere...

Pete Salisbury, formerly of The Verve, was on drums tonight as Charlatans drummer and founder member Jon Brookes is currently recovering from surgery linked to a brain tumor first detected in 2010.  Salisbury did a sterling job and played his own part in creating the big smiles on the faces of those in the audience.  There was a sense tonight of The Charlatans being the sort of band, like The Rolling Stones, who will never call it a day. 

In the same way that the Rolling Stones are cherished by the generation who grew up with them, for those who happened to be teenagers in the early to mid-nineties, The Charlatans are a constant in life that will always be loved.

Tim Burgess announced to the audience: “It’s all ‘Bangers’ tonight!” and indeed it was.  Just When Your Thinking Things Over, North Country Boy, Then, Just Lookin’ and Jesus Hairdo all followed in quick succession and a selection of favourite album tracks were also thrown into the set.  Flower and Toothache being particular highlights, even if Mark Collins did fluff the guitar line of the former, much to keyboard player Tony Rogers amusement.

The Charlatans were not 100% watertight this evening, possibly due to the absence of Jon Brookes.  That said, it was very rock ‘n’ roll in the true sense and the fact that musically they could have fell of the edge of the cliff at any moment, made it all the more exciting.

Excitement reached fever pitch when an extended intro to The Only One I Know kicked in and even though they have had higher charting hits over the years, The Only One I Know still remains the song to which they are most closely linked.

More ‘Bangers’ came in the shape of Can't Get Out Of Bed, Tellin’ Stories and a storming One To Another and with a set-list like tonight’s, on a day like today, it was as if The Charlatans were serving their own kind of aces.

Sproston Green, forever The Charlatans closing number, was dedicated to Drummer Jon Brookes and as Tim Burgess sat on the drum stand looking out at the audience on a beautiful summers evening, I wonder if he was thinking that the world is a better place for The Charlatans being in it?

Because we were.


Review: The Charlatans Mountain Picnic Blues – The Making of Tellin’ Stories



Whatever The Charlatans do in their career, two things are always certain.  They will always come back fighting and they will always be over-shadowed by The Stone Roses.  Mountain Picnic Blues is a case in point.  Their mid-90’s period is arguably a better story than that of The Stone Roses recent resurrection, yet, Made of Stone (due for release at the end of the month) is big news whereas Mountain Picnic Blues, like much of The Charlatans career, is a more ‘word-of-mouth’ affair. 

The two high-water marks in The Charlatans career have been their The Only One I Know period and the period from 1995-1997 when two number one albums and three top ten hit singles came their way.  Aside from these, they have been a band for those ‘In The Know’.  A band that quietly plugs away, doesn’t air their dirty washing in public and always manages to survive.  In my experience fellow thirty-something’s who happily strutted their stuff to One to Another in 1996, have on a few occasions recently asked: “The Charlatans? Are they still on the go?”  Yes, they are still on the go, which, when you watch Mountain Picnic Blues and take into account their story, really is something quite remarkable.

Mountain Picnic Blues  - The Making of Tellin Stories begins with a potted history of The Charlatans up to that point, covering the period from 1989 when they first came together, right up to 1996 and the beginning of the recording sessions that would eventually give birth to the Tellin’ Stories album.  Tim Burgess, Mark Collins, Martin Blunt and Jon Brookes all give their recollections on the meteoric rise of the band, the critical backlash apportioned to Between Tenth and Eleventh, Rob Collins going to prison and things getting back on the right track for the band through both Up To Our Hips and The Charlatans album.

The Charlatans are something of a people’s band and the fact that they carry on regardless of what they are encountered with makes them this way.  Also the flaws and the stumbles that they have experienced in their career make them a more realistic prospect as a band.  When Mark Collins talks about the fact that Charlatans classic such as One to Another, North Country Boy and How High were recorded in one session and how everything was going so well: “there would be no prison from now on and no breakdowns”, you’ll wince in the knowledge of what happened next to band mate Rob Collins but you’ll also appreciate the realism. 

Each band member talks in detail about exactly what was going on in the band in the lead up to Rob Collins death during the recording of Tellin’ Stories and a scene where bassist bassist Martin Blunt visibly struggles to talk about the loss of Rob Collins is particularly moving.

The pivotal moment in The Charlatans career was Rob Collins’ death and their reaction to it.  As they famously played Knebworth less than three weeks later, Tim Burgess talks about the band “(going on stage) like wolves that day.”  One disappointment from the film (aside from it not being long enough) is the lack of live footage from the 95-97 period.   Yet, a photograph of Tim Burgess onstage at Knebworth with his fist clenched by his side and an expression holding every emotion that he must have been going through his mind that day  manages to truly affect. 

Following Knebworth, the films carries on with The Charlatans fighting spirit and their decision to finish the Tellin’ Stories album and then take it on tour. 

The album entered the charts at number 1 and the bittersweet feelings within the band are talked about candidly before the anti-Hollywood-ending draws the film to a close. 

Mountain Picnic Blues is an insightful, compelling, sometimes funny and emotionally affecting film.

Life in The Charlatans wasn’t a bed of roses after this period; cancer, fraud, drug addiction and a brain tumour all met the band – yet again they have survived and surely somewhere along the line that’s another story.


Mark Collins – The Charlatans Mountain Picnic Blues Interview



Following The Charlatans recent announcement that they are to release the film Mountain Picnic Blues – The Making of Tellin’ Stories on May 13, Mancunian Matters spoke to guitarist Mark Collins to discuss the bittersweet period that brought both the death of Keyboard player Rob Collins and the bands most successful album to date.  We also spoke to Mark about The Charlatans plans for the future.

As Mark greeted us he instantly began to explain that Mountain Picnic Blues came about via 2012’s 15th Anniversary tour of Tellin’ Stories: “A company called Start Productions had heard we were doing a few shows and said they’d like to put one (a documentary) together.  We said ‘Go on then, as long as you don’t want us to pay for it.’  Chris, who was putting it together, showed us some of his other stuff and we went ‘alright, let’s commit it to film!”

Mancunian Matters asked Mark how he felt about the inevitable questions that would arise regarding the death of Rob Collins during the recording of Tellin’ Stories, especially when revisiting the period through both Mountain Picnic Blues and last years tour: “None of us go a week without reflecting back on Rob” Mark explained.  “He’s always with us.  We don’t feel awkward talking about Rob.  Rob was a big part of our lives and he was a big part of that record.  It’s a shame he wasn’t around to enjoy the aftermath of the record.  We still take him on tour with us because if we ever run samples live of some of the songs, he’s in there.  We just put him in a little box…he’s a lot easier to carry around these days!”

Rob Collins could indeed be “difficult to carry around.”  John Robb’s 1998 biography of The Charlatans We Are Rock describes Rob as ‘the bands Wild-man…banging on hotel doors at all hours looking for partners in crime, covering the drivers eyes on the way to gigs and generally looning around.’

Rob may well be ‘a lot easier to carry around these days’ but the affection in Mark’s voice when he speaks about Rob still reveals a sadly missed friend and band mate.

In early 1996 when Mark Collins, Tim Burgess and company set to work on Tellin’ Stories they did so by flying out of the blocks with a blitz of recording that produced One To Another, North Country Boy and How High:  “In session one we recorded those three” Mark enthused.

As the sessions progressed and the album began to take shape, the mood within the band was at an all time high.  On the evening of July 22nd 1996 however, all of that was about to change.

Following an afternoon and early evening spent in a pub in Monmouth, The Charlatans headed back to the studio at around 10pm.  Rob Collins decided to drive his own BMW back to Monnow Valley studios and on the journey back attempted to race a car containing other members of the band.  Rob tried to take a short cut but collided with several parked cars.  Not wearing a seat belt, he was thrown through his windscreen.  He died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.

Stunned by Rob’s death, The Charlatans spent the following days wrapped in confusion.  Did The Charlatans end there?  Would it be disrespectful to carry on?  A visit form Rob Collins’ Dad explained that Rob would have wanted them to continue and Jeff Barrett from Heavenly PR gave the band an impassioned speech as to why they should keep on going.

The immediate business that needed to be taken care of was The Charlatans support slot with Oasis at Knebworth.  Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream had immediately offered keyboard player Duffy’s services: “He offered Duffy on a free loan.” Mark recalls.  Duffy respectfully learned Rob Collins keyboard parts and the band appreciated his presence: “He was a great person to be around at the time.”  Recalled Mark.  “He is… playing wise…a genius but in a different style to Rob’s Genius.  It worked perfectly.”

Knebworth was undoubtedly the most difficult gig The Charlatans would ever have to play and in effect The Charlatans were grieving in public that day.  Nothing was dedicated to Rob Collins because as Martin Blunt put it at the time: “from now on everything will dedicated to him.”

Over 100,000 people were behind The Charlatans at Knebworth and what was given to both Rob Collins and their audience was the most ferocious gig they had ever played.  Mancunian Matters asked Mark if he was aware of the audience willing them on?  “I can’t really remember that gig other than walking out and concentrating on giving Duffy little nods where he’s supposed to change chords. He had five days rehearsing with us to learn a whole set.  I don’t even know whether I looked out at the crowd.  We were just staring across the stage at each other concentrating on making sure that people knew…It was a message of intent.  ‘Were not splitting up, here you go, were moving.”

Just two weeks after Knebworth The Charlatans release One To Another as a single.  It hit number three in the UK charts and Mark describes the track as ‘a monster’.  When we asked him if he had a favourite track from Tellin’ Stories he told us: “The four singles that came off it, One To Another, North Country Boy, How High and Tellin’ Stories, they all still sound great to me.”

Mark also explained to us the circumstances regarding the release of One to Another: “Once we’d done that session we said to the record company ‘We’re going to release One To Another’ and they were very good, they let us.  Rob played on those and I was thinking about this, if Rob had had his accident on week one, we might have called it a day.”

We reminded Mark about One To Another being voted the best single of the 90’s in Loaded Magazine: “I’ve got a picture of me, next to George Best.  I’m holding up our Single Of The Decade (Award) and he’s holding up his Player Of The Century (Award).   We’ve got our arms around each other holding up our trophies.  That was a good night that…”

Following Knebworth and the release of One to Another the band came to the decision to finish the Tellin’ Stories album.  Duffy would fill out Rob Collins parts, the rest would add finishing touches and the album would be complete.

We asked Mark if he felt as though the band owed it to themselves to finish Tellin’ Stories?  “It would have been the wrong thing to do to call it a day then.  It had to be done all round.  It was essential.”

In April 1997 North Country Boy was released as a single, reaching number four in the UK charts.  The same month, the Tellin’ Stories album was released and became the bands third number one album.  The reviews were full of praise, many commenting that it was The Charlatans most coherent and well-structured album to date.

Tony Rogers was drafted into the band on Keyboards for the Tellin’ Stories Tour and as a result became a fully-fledged member: “Tony’s unflappable” said Mark: “But we weren’t after someone to fill someone’s boots.  They’ve got to bring their own thing and Tony was completely capable of that.”

The tour that kicked off that spring was an emotional affair.  Within the audience there was genuine love, care and admiration for The Charlatans and the courage they had shown.  Mancunian Matters asked Mark if there was a sense within the band that the audience were doing more than just enjoying The Charlatans gigs on that tour? “Definitely, we felt like….there’s a lot of us!”

As 1997 rolled on How High and title track Tellin’ Stories both enter the top twenty in the UK singles chart.  A homecoming gig at the Manchester Nynex in November 1997 was a special night and we asked Mark what he thinks of homecoming gigs?: “It’s a nightmare! (laughs) Friends and family wanting guest lists! I hate them…! No, they’re great.  I even got my Mam and Dad there to the Nynex ones.”

Gigs at Glasgow Barrowlands and London Docklands Arena capped off the end of the tour and the end of a period that for better or worse has come to define The Charlatans. As Mountain Picnic Blues will show upon its release, The Charlatans really can take on anything and come out fighting.

Following the release of Mountain Picnic Blues, The Charlatans will begin recording sessions for a new album  in June: “Were hoping it could be finished by the end of the year…we’d like to think that we would have a 2014 release.”

The Charlatans will also be playing the following gigs this summer:


July 7              Delamere Forest Festival       Northwich

July 27             Kendal Calling                         Lake District




Mark Collins Transcript of interview

Michael: Where did the idea for the DVD come from? Did it come from last years 15th anniversary tour of ‘Tellin’ Stories or did you already have the idea?

Mark: Some guys from a company called ‘Start Productions’ how’ve made films of Mott The Hoople and Love had heard we were doing a few shows and they said they’d like to put one together. So they just approached us and we said “Go on then, as long as you don’t want us to pay for it then great”.

Michael: So did they suggest doing ‘Tellin’ Stories’ as a subject or did the band suggest it?

Mark: They did. Chris who was putting it together, it was his idea to do the documentary and he just pitched it to us, showed us some of his other stuff that he’d done and we went “alright, fair enough, let’s commit it to film!”

Michael: So when you actually decided to do the Mountain Picnic Blues film, as well as well as the Tellin Stories Anniversiary Tour, obviously, because of the period that it covered in the band, you’re always going to get people reflecting back on Rob Collins and what happened. How do you feel about that looking back on it now because there’s almost a positive connection because you can still connect with your mate if you like through your music which not a lot of people get the opportunity to do…

Mark: Of course…None of go a week withour reflecting back on Rob, he’s always with us and he will be till the end. We don’t feel awkward about talking about Rob, Rob was a big part of our lives and he was a big part of that record and it’s a shame he wasn’t around to enjoy the aftermath of the record. We still take him on tour with us, he still comes away with us, you know, because if we ever run samples live of some of the songs he’s in there. We just put him in a little box…he’s a lot easier to carry around these days!

Michael: That must be bitter sweet I suppose because commercially and critically it was the most successful time of the band…

Mark: Well, it’d be nice if commercially it’d sorted us out…it sorted out an accountant who robbed us…but that’s another documentary that one!

Michael: In the Mountain Picnic Blues film is there any favourite moments? Is there any great live moments that you particularly enjoy?

Mark: I’ve not watched it! (Laughs) I’m going to watch it on Monday, there’s a screening going on at the ICA in London so I thought I’d wait till then. I thought “I’ll go and watch it with an audience.” I’ve got an idea what’s going to be in it…

Michael: So is there any footage from what you’ve seen where you think “that’s brilliant that”…
Mark: I’ve not seen any footage, I’ve got a rough idea whats going to be in it because ive spoken to the rest of the band…and I was there when he was asking me questions…and I was there when I was playing the gigs…and I was there when I was making the record and I’ve got a rough idea what going to be happening. Have you watched it then?

Michael: No, No. I’ve seen the trailer but that’s it but they’re doing a screening in Manchester as well so I’m going to go to that if I can get a ticket.

Michael: So, with the Tellin’ Stories album then, do you have a particular favourite song from that album?

Mark: A Particular favourite? Not really. I mean the four singles that came off it, ‘One To Another’, ‘North Country Boy’, ‘How High’ and ‘Tellin’ Stories’, they all still sound great to me. I mean if I go and sit in my car for an hour and drive around I will hear one of those everyday and it still sounds fresh to me on the radio, and I still get a buzzfrom hearing it.

Michael: ‘One To Another’, just to take as an example, is an unbelievably well regarded tune. Even now…

Mark: It’s a monster!

Michael: Well all four of those tracks that you’ve mentioned are…the whole album is really! But ‘One To Another’ got voted ‘Single of The Decade’ in Loaded magazine…

Mark: It did!,its funny you just said that coz I’m just looking on my wall actually and I’ve got a picture of me, next to George Best, and I’m holding up our single of the decade (award) and he’s holding up his ‘Player of the century’ (award) and we’ve got our arms around each other holding up our trophies. That was a good night that…

Michael: I read somewhere that when you started recording the album, that you record ‘One To Another’, ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘How High’ in the same early sessions? Is that true?

Mark: They did yeah. We were doing it (recording) in two week sessions and in session one we recorded those three. It was kind of different in those days, we’d just book ourselves into the studio and once we’d done that session one we said to the record company “We’re going to release ‘One To Another’” and they said “Well you haven’t finished the album yet” and we said “Don’t worry about it” and they were very good, they let us and people don’t do that…release while you’re still recording and that’s why Rob’s in the video for ‘One To Another’. We were allowed to release singles before finishing the record. Rob played on those and I was thinking about this, if Rob had had his accident on week one, we might have called it a day but because we’d made 90% of the record we had to see it through and complete it and release it.

Michael: Did it feel as if you not only owed it to Rob but also owed it to yourselves to do that?

Mark: It would have been incomplete. It would have been the wrong thing to do to call it a day then. It had to be done all round. It was essential.

Michael: I think that your fans must have made a big difference as well. The way that people were behind you at Knebworth. People were willing you on and willing you to succeed that day and even afterwards on the tour in ’97 for the Tellin’Stories album, it was more than just enjoying the Charlatans, it was more like “come on lads, keep going”

Mark: There’s a lot of us!

Michael: Exactly! There’s a lot of us! Did you pick up on that?

Mark: Definitely. Maybe not so much at the Knebworth thing because I can’t really remember that gig other than sort of walking out and concentrating on giving Duffy little node where he’s supposed to change chords and stuff because Duffy had had about five days rehearsing with us to learn a whole set. So it was concentration, do it, get in the helicopter and get leathered. That’s my memories of Knebworth! I don’t even know whether I looked out at the crowd. I think we were just staring across the stage at each other concentrating on making sure that people knew…it was a message of intent. “Were not splitting up, here you go, were moving.”

Michael: Well it’s like the statement you put out. “THERE WILL BE NO CHANGE. WE ARE FUCKING ROCK. WE’VE LOST OUR MATE.”

I Read about Duffy and the way that he came in. Is it true that Bobby Gillespie pretty much just said “Duffy’ll do it for you” without Duffy actually knowing about it to begin with. Is that true?

Mark: It sounds like something that Bobby would do yeh! I’m trying to think of the exact point…but I just remember hearing that he was on a free loan and he was a great person to be around at the time, I don’t know if you’ve ever met him but he is character wise (laughs) probably the complete opposite of Rob, playing wise – a genius but in a different style to Rob’s genius. They were ying and yang but it worked perfectly.

Michael: when Tony Rogers came in that must have been strange still for Tony? I know you can’t speak for him but…

Mark: Tony’s another character. He’s unflappable but again we weren’t after someone to fill someone boots. They’ve got to bring their own thing to the party and Tony was completely capable of that…more that capable of that and since we met him we were like “right, okay, when are you joining?…”

Michael: …because he’s not looked back really, if you look at it like that. He’s like an integrated member of the band now.

Mark: Yeh, he’s not a hired hand. He’s a member.

Michael: Obviously you revisited the Tellin’ Stories album last year and you’ve revisited ‘Some Friendly’ in the past as well. Would you consider doing it for any of you’re other albums?

Mark: Maybe…its hard to say right at this moment because were not feeling retrospective right now, even though there’s a retrospective DVD coming out…Were working on the next album at the moment, so were not thinking about revisiting stuff at the moment but I wouldn’t rule it out. I wouldn’t, maybe at some point doing ‘The Charlatans’ album or maybe doing ‘Wonderland’ or ‘Us and Us Only’, or do them back to back. I’m totally down with doing stuff like that, I don’t mind it at all but for the moment were thinking New Record.

Michael: Any idea when that will be finished?

Mark: Well, our first recording session starts in June so were hoping it could be finished by the end of the year but were in no hurry, were taking our time, we’d like to think that we would have a 2014 release.

Michael:…and you’ve got the Delamere Forrest and Kendall Calling gigs in the summer…

Mark: Yeh, July, we’ve not done Delamere for a while. Last time we did it, it absolutely lashed it down, it was a really good one though. Ive got fond memories of that one and we’ve not done Kendall Calling as a band before.

Michael: When we were talking about doing other albums, would you ever consider doing a gig where you did an album by another band? Say, The Charlatans do ‘ There’s a Riot Going on’ or ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’ or ‘Bringing it All Back Home’?

Mark: (laughing)I’ve not even considered it, probably not…no….I don’t see how we could do something like ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’ better than Dexy’s did it and how can you better a Dylan record? I think we’d be on very thin ice doing something like that and I don’t feel comfortable about touching other people’s classic records so I’ll pass thank you!

Michael: Okay…No problem..

Michael: Can I just ask as well. When you did the Tellin Stories tour in ’97 things seemed to grow as the tour went on and it seemed as if the band really picked up, what I’ve noticed is…and I don’t know if I should tell you this but I’ve got a bootleg of the Brixton Academy gig on that tour, the one where Paul Weller played and Noel Gallagher was on

Mark: oh…yeh…yeh…Weller come up and did Cant Get out of Bed and Sproston Green and he murdered it!

Michael: (laughs) Did he!?

Mark: Only Joking Paul! It was beautiful…it was a beautiful thing.

Michael: and I read that you did and good home coming gig at the Nynex that year, I know its not a home coming gig for all of you but do you still get a buzz when you those home town gigs because obviously they are special…

Mark: It’s a nightmare! Friends and family wanting guesrlists! I hate them…! No, they’re great,we did the Apollo just recently and I even got my mam and dad there to the Nynex ones…

Michael: Were they sitting there like proud parents?

Mark: yeah, they turned the hearing aids off and shut the windows…but no those gigs are great, just a few guest list problems that’s all.