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Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

Disclaimer:

This F.A.Q. is pretty much out of date at the moment, and is in the process of being revamped.

Some questions, such as 'Will the band ever get back together' are, for obvious reason, not really relevant anymore, and questions like 'Why did they split up in the first place' only serve to irritate wounds that have taken 15 years to heal, and as such are not as appropriate as once they were. It is for these reasons that I've undertaken an editorial decision to prune and amend this document which, until such time as it is approved by the band and the members of the Chameleons Mailing list (see I.1 below), will be known as version 1.1a .

Mik Foggin


PLEASE NOTE: This FAQ is the work of Edward Wakabayashi. It can be downloaded in pure text form from the Chameleons FTP site at:
ftp://paradiso.umuc.edu/pub/chameleons/info/triviaguide-1.1


CHAMELEONS MAILING LIST TRIVIA GUIDE, VERSION 1.1

The information in this trivia guide was taken from various sources, notably Mitchell Dickerman's discography (which took some info from Record Collector magazine), the Big Takeover/Jack Rabid, Mark Burgess, and information from the Chameleons mailing list.

My thanks to John Caruso for being list-god and for allowing me to indulge in this affair; to Mitch Dickerman who graciously bestowed upon me the happy task of maintaining this part of his discography; to Liz Bonesteel for starting the list; and to Mark Burgess for his kindness and generosity and his music.

Please email any comments/suggestions/corrections to: zorg@alois.icon.palo-alto.med.va.gov (Edward Wakabayashi)

Contents

I. Administrative

  1. How do I subscribe to the Chameleons mailing list?
  2. Is there an anonymous FTP site?
  3. Is there a WWW site?
  4. Who can I contact if I have questions about the list in general?

II. What does anything mean? Basically...

  1. Who are the Chameleons?
  2. Who are (were) the Sun and the Moon?
  3. Who are (were) Music for Aborigines?
  4. Who are (were) Weaveworld?
  5. Who are (were) the Reegs?
  6. Who are (were) the Sons of God?
  7. What is 'Occasionally David'?
  8. Who was Tony Fletcher?
  9. What is The Prisoner?
  10. Where can I find articles about the Chameleons/Mark Burgess?
  11. What is the Big Takeover/Who is Jack Rabid (and why should we care)?
  12. Did the Chameleons make any videos?
  13. Who did all the covers?
  14. What bands have been influenced by/sound like The Chameleons?
  15. Why is it difficult to make out the guitar chords for the songs? (How did the Chameleons get their sound?)
  16. How the ruddy hell do I describe this band?
  17. Which albums should I buy?
  18. What is, and where can I get, the Tony Fletcher EP?
  19. How can I get a hold of Pivot Records?
  20. Who is Sally?
  21. Is there really a Chameleons 'US'?
  22. Where did the sample for this song come from?
  23. What is Spring Blooms Tra-La/Northern Songs?
  24. Have band members produced anyone else?

I. Administrative

  1. How do I subscribe to the Chameleons mailing list?
    To subscribe to the Chameleons mailing list, send an email message with the single word "SUBSCRIBE" in the body of the message to the following address:
    chameleons-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
    You should receive a confirmation message automatically from the list.
  2. Is there an anonymous FTP site?
    Yes, there is. An anonymous ftp site is set up at ftp://paradiso.umuc.edu (ftp://131.171.20.30). Here one can find lyrics to most Chameleons-related songs (courtesy of Mark Burgess himself), a pretty complete discography, and previous list archives.
  3. Is there a WWW site?
    Home Is Where The Heart Is - The Official Chameleons Web Site - can be found at http://www.thechameleons.com .
    Check out the 'Other Resources' section for details of fan and related band sites.
  4. Who can I contact if I have questions about the list in general?
    Our list-god is John Caruso. You can email him at caruso@paradiso.umuc.edu .

II. What does anything mean? Basically...

  1. Who are the Chameleons?
    The Chameleons are:
    Mark "Birdy" Burgess - Vocals, Bass
    Reg Smithies - Electric & Acoustic Guitar
    Dave Fielding - Electric & Acoustic Guitar, and
    John Lever - Drums
    Dave does some keyboards (and didgeridoo!), as did Alastair Lewthwaite and then Andy Clegg. Brian Schofield was their original drummer. Martin Jackson replaced Lever when he took a year off in 82-83. They were managed by Tony Skinkiss until May 1985, and thereafter by Tony Fletcher until his death in 1987. [please see question #8]
    The band formed in 1981 in Middleton, six miles north of Manchester. Before this, Mark had been in the Clichés while Reg and Dave were in Years. (Dave was in a school band called Sen.) Years released a 7", "Come Dancing"; b/w "Red Chevy", "Don't Leave" on their own Tuff Going Records label. The three started without a drummer and got the attention of John Peel.
    Their first single, "In Shreds" on CBS, made number 42 on John Peel's Festive Fifty in 1982. They originally signed with CBS, but they disagreed with how they should sound. CBS dropped them after the one single, despite encouraging sales. They soon signed with Statik. However, Statik was distributed by Virgin, so they couldn't qualify for the independent charts and were thus overlooked by the music press.
    The debut album, "Script of the Bridge", was recorded in Rochdale during a six-week period. The band was really pissed when they found out about he reduced version which was released by MCA in the US. They then became unhappy with Statik and tried to get away from them, but were bound by contractual obligations. After their second album, "What Does Anything Mean? Basically", they signed with Geffen. While signed to Geffen, the band released what was to be their last album together for fifteen years, "Strange Times".
    The dawning of a new millenium saw a healing of old woulds and a triumphal live and recorded return starting with a sell out five day residency at old stomping ground 'The Witchwood' in Ashton-under-Lyne. A fifth 'proper' album entitled 'Why Call It Anything' was released in July 2001 and the story continues!
  2. Who are (were) the Sun and the Moon?
    The Sun and the Moon were Mark, John, Andy Clegg and Andy Whitaker, with both Andy's on guitars. The group formed out a friendship between Mark and Andy Clegg who had played keyboards with the Chameleons. The two Andy's had been working together on a project (see next question) when Mark decided to recruit them for a new band. The band recorded an album, "The Sun and the Moon" and an EP, "Alive; not Dead", which included a cover of Alice Cooper's 'Elected,' a song which the Chameleons sometimes covered during their live shows. The setup of the band, two ex-Chameleons playing with two guitarists, begged comparison to the Chameleons, though the band tried to develop its own sound. The Sun & The Moon broke up in April 1989.
  3. Who are (were) Music for Aborigines?
    Music for Aborigines were basically Andy Clegg and Andy Whitaker with some help from John Lever. They released a self-titled EP in 1987 containing "Sitting On A Biscuit", "Faith", and "Ragbone Man" (Spartan 12SP 148).
  4. Who are (were) Weaveworld?
    After the Sun and the Moon broke up, the two Andy's, who were not comfortable being in the 'Mark Burgess band,' decided to continue without Mark. (Mark apparently wanted to abandon his long standing position as bass player and took up the guitar. Andy Clegg in particular was not happy with this.) Still with John Lever, they recruited Aky on guitar with Andy Whitaker taking over bass. They released an EP, 'Davy Jones,' but were short-lived.
  5. Who are (were?) the Reegs?
    The Reegs are Reg, Dave, a drum machine and Gary Lavery. The Reegs, sans Gary, released a debut single, a cover of the Kinks song, 'See My Friends,' which was included on a Kinks compilation. (That's Reg singing on that one, by the way.) They released an album, "Return of the Sea Monkeys", which included the various singles and a cover of Velvet Underground's 'All Tomorrow's Parties,' which too found its way onto a compilation (of Velvet Underground covers). Before the release of the album, they had recruited a full-time vocalist, neither Reg nor Dave feeling comfortable with singing. In 1993, the Reegs released "Rock the Magic Rock". The 'band' seemed to deny the possibility of touring, preferring to record with a drum machine rather than an actual drummer. The Reegs future does not seem encouraging, owing largely to the fact that Reg has sold all his guitar equipment. Only time will tell.
  6. Who are (were) the Sons of God?
    In 1993, Mark Burgess finally released his long awaited solo album, "Zima Junction". Many of the songs were recorded two years previous, and one song in particular, 'You Only Live Twice,' had been released on a compilation. The album was released under the group name, Mark Burgess and the Sons of God. The album was mostly Mark, though he did recruit a few friends to help him out, even allowing a couple of songs by friend Bryan Glancy to show up on the album. In the summer of 1994, Mark embarked on a tour of the US after playing warm-up gigs in England with a group which retained the Sons of God name.
  7. What is 'Occasionally David'?
    Occasionally David is Mark Burgess, Yves Altana, Neil Thin (real name Neil Dwerryhouse) and John Lever. The touring Sons of God included Karen Leatham on bass. Whereas the Sons of God was pretty much a solo outing, Occasionally David is the active name of a band that Mark chose to be involved with. "Zima Junction" can be seen as a transitional period for Mark, a movement from the tumultuous break-up of the Chameleons and the subsequent break-up of his next band, the Sun and the Moon, to the start of a new band.
    Note 1: Occasionally David was name Mark had originally chosen for The Chameleons but Dave Fielding had thought the name was already in use by another band.
    Note 2: It is actually Neil 'Thin' and not 'Finn' as is printed on both Sons of God live CDs.
  8. Who was Tony Fletcher?
    Tony Fletcher's involvement with the band is not totally clear. The general understanding is that he was set to become the manager after the 1986-87 tour. Before that, Tony was a sort of pseudo-manager and a great calming influence on the band. As the band were preparing their fourth album, Tony died of a heart attack. The band broke up shortly after, which seems to indicate that Tony's position with the band was crucial to it's existence. It is this Tony that Mark refers to as 'a rock in a sea of shit' in the liner notes to "Strange Times".
    Note: this is not the Tony Fletcher, journalist, who, among other things, wrote a book about REM.
  9. What is The Prisoner?
    "The Prisoner" is the name of a British television series from the 1960's which related the plight of a kidnapped British Secret Service agent forced to live in a contrived society. The series dealt with various aspects of society and profiled in particular one man's will and the inability of a conformist society to break it.
    References to this series pop up in quite a few Chameleons/Mark Burgess songs. This reflects the amount of influence this show had on Mark, and probably others in the band (there are some promo photos of the Chameleons taken at Portmeirion where the series was shot). Mark has shown himself to be quite a fan of the program, hoping that when production starts on the movie version to be included as an extra. Sound bites from the program were used in the Sun and the Moon's version of 'Elected' (the speech is from 'Fall Out' and other snippets from 'Free for All' are included) as well as their song, 'Peace in Our Time.' The Chameleons recorded a song called 'Free for All,' which has overt lyrical references. On "Zima Junction", the song 'Up on a Hill' has the line 'I'm a fool, not a rat,' a line from the episode, 'Once upon a Time.'
  10. Where can I find articles about the Chameleons/Mark Burgess?
    Printed material about the band and its offshoots are few and far between but there are some resources out there. "The Big Takeover" (see next question) is perhaps the best source for any info on the band and new information. Unfortunately, it comes out only twice a year. Trouser Press Guide carries some info on the band as does an issue of the UK magazine, "The Record Collector". When "Strange Times" came out, the "N.Y. Times" wrote a favourable review a copy of this review was reprinted on the back sleeve of the promotional copy of the 12" single, 'Tears'). Usually the best place to look for any info is in the fanzine style publications. Most of the larger rags tend to ignore or overlook the Chameleons phenomenon.
  11. What is the Big Takeover/Who is Jack Rabid (and why should we care)?
    The Big Takeover is a New York based music magazine that is produced by Jack Rabid. In 1989, Jack conducted an interview with Mark Burgess a few weeks after the break-up of the Sun and the Moon. For the most part, this interview remains an exclusive and is perhaps the most telling of any interviews conducted with Mark. The magazine itself consists of interviews, record and gig reviews, and letters, and is geared primarily towards indie rock. In each issue, Jack always seems to find a way of including something about the Chameleons, be it a record review, a gig review, an interview, or simply a letter expressing thanks from someone whom Jack turned on to the Chameleons. Jack Rabid was also the drummer in the now defunct Springhouse. When Mark toured the States in 1994, he asked Jack to reform Springhouse and open some gigs on the East Coast, which Jack and co. gladly obliged.
    You can contact Jack Rabid at:
    The Big Takeover
    249 Eldridge St. #14
    New York, N.Y. 10002
  12. Did the Chameleons make any videos?
    No, at least no promo videos. Mark said that Dave Allen had made a video of the Chameleons when they recorded 'John I'm Only Dancing,' but this was never promotionally released. It was probably more like a home movie. A 1984 show was filmed and broadcast on British television. This was later released on video as "Live at the Camden Palace" and remains the only visual document of the group. There was a couple of documentaries made on the band which had airing, but copies of these do not seem to exist.
    Mark was hoping to get some videos made for the Sun and the Moon but plans for this fell through. Presently, Mark has a lead on someone who may be able to produce some videos for Occasionally David.
  13. Who did all the covers?
    The artist for all of the proper Chameleons albums was none other than Reg Smithies. A seemingly prolific artist, Reg also did the cover for the 'In Shreds' single,' which was subsequently used for the release of "The Fan and the Bellows" compilation. Perhaps the most interesting cover that Reg did was for the Peel Sessions album. This album came out three years after the demise of the Chameleons and one can infer from this that Reg had not retained strong ill feelings toward the band. Reg also did most of the covers for the Reegs material.
    Dave Fielding also contributed artwork for sleeves, the Chameleons' 'Singing Rule Britannia' 12" EP and the Reegs' 'Chorus of the Lost' 12" EP.
    Reg also drew the cover for Homeland's "Pure" single.
  14. What bands have been influenced by/sound like The Chameleons?
    When someone mentions the Chameleons' sound, they invariably think of a solid guitar sound coupled with an echoey guitar sound. It is the latter that really helps to define the unique style of the band.
    The following bands have been suggested by others as sounding similar to the Chameleons: For Against, Jet Black Factory, Springhouse, Into Paradise, Comsat Angels, Catherine Wheel. Echo & The Bunnymen are compared with the Chameleons frequently. Kitchens Of Distinction is perhaps the most notable for their use of echo guitar. Their sound is a great wash of guitars, though there is only one guitar player. (My first thought when I saw them live was that they were like the Chameleons with one guitarist.) It's been said that the Chameleons were an influence, though I've read an article in which they said that they started listening to the Chameleons after hearing of the comparisons. They are highly recommended.
    The Wedding Present has been compared to them, but this is no coincidence. David Gedge was in Dave Fielding's teenage band (Sen), and Brian Schofield was in a band with Gedge and Peter Solowka.
    Slowdive may have named the Chameleons as an influence (think of the Chameleons at half speed, and not pissed off). They seem to specialise in 'guitar wash,' their sound relying primarily on a grand echo effect to the point that the guitars don't sound like guitars. No emphasis on traditional strumming.
    There is an Australian band called Souls In Isolation which also named them as an influence. A track by them appears on the "Young Blood" compilation.
    Note by Michael Marsh:
    I'm a good mate of Keith O'Neill, drummer with Cast, and as salad day youngsters we were obsessed with Mark and co. Indeed, The Chameleons were largely responsible for our early forays into the heady world of pop as The Empty Hours. We were crap but they were dear (dead) days. We saw them live at The International in Manchester and I still consider that moment, in the eerie green glow, as the opening to Swamp Thing rose out of the smoke, as one of the best of my life.
    When in a band called The Australians (with Tommy Scott from Space) I remember Keith citing Strange Times as the most influential album ever. I know he still has a dodgy copy of the Camden vid and a What Does Anything Mean Basically? T-shirt which I am hassling him to wear on Top of the Pops.
  15. Why is it difficult to make out the guitar chords for the songs? (How did The Chameleons get their sound?)
    Part of the reason the Chameleons sound is so distinctive is for the simple fact that the group did not use the normal 'E' tuning that most guitarists use. For most of the material before "Strange Times", the guitars were tuned up a whole step to F#. "Strange Times" and "Tony Fletcher..." songs were tuned to F.
    Reg and Dave had distinctive styles. Reg tended to play the guitar almost like a bass player, keeping the rhythm and central melody while Dave added echoey washes. The album, "Tripping Dogs - (Free Trade Hall Rehearsal)" separates the two into distinct channels allowing one to isolate each guitar players parts.
    Another distinction in the Chameleons sound is Dave's use of something called an e-bow. This is an electronic bowing (as in violin) device that will sustain a note by bowing, as opposed to picking, a string. This effect is prominent in songs such as 'Tears (acoustic),' 'The Healer,' 'Soul in Isolation,' among others. Dave also played keyboards, and in some songs, does not seem to contribute many (or any) guitar parts, e.g., 'Swamp Thing' and 'Is It Any Wonder?'
    Lastly, it should be said that John Lever's drumming adds a very unique touch to the group. It seems that John is left-footed and right-handed, at least, the kick (bass) drum is at his left foot and he tends to ride with his right hand.
    Note by Eddie Joyce:
    Mark also uses a different tuning for his bass. Usual tuning is EADG but Mark uses DADG.
  16. How the ruddy hell do I describe this band?
    That's easy. Tell them the band is "sui generis."
    After they stare at you for two seconds, explain to them that the phrase simply means that they sound like William Blake's "The Tyger" set to music.
    After they stare at you for two seconds, recite Baudelaire's poem "What a Pair of Eyes Can Promise."
    After they stare at you for two seconds, tell them that you're just fucking with them, and that the band sounds like Journey. Suggest that they order you a pint of Directors, then proceed to drink it while thinking about how lucky you are to possess the Gnostic Secret of Chameleons Music.
    After that, get plowed, brood about Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence for a bit, then, at the top of your lungs, drunkenly argue that the Packers will make the playoffs next season.
    A good time will be had by all, and you'll have an excuse to call in sick the next morning and listen to Script of the Bridge.
  17. Which albums should I buy?
    All of them :-) Actually, for the newcomer, the amount of Chameleons material out there can be overwhelming. Though the band released quite a few singles, they only recorded and released three albums. In the past few years, no less than nine posthumous collections were released. Most of these were from radio sessions or demo tapes. Once you have the three proper albums (I guess this is the first recommendation), you can pick and choose from the rest according to your desperation. Be warned, some releases are harder to come by than others, some near impossible.
    Most of the Chameleons b-sides are available on CD (assuming this is the format you are interested in), the notable exception are the two tracks on the b-side of the 'Singing Rule Britannia' 12".
    For someone just starting out, the first three albums are obvious choices, though collectors should get the original UK CD release of "Script of the Bridge", the US LP is missing four songs. Also, "What Does Anything Mean? Basically" was reissued on CD to include two extra tracks, 'In Shreds' and the unedited version of 'Nostalgia.'
    Several live albums were released and the best to get for song tracks is "Live in Toronto", recorded on the band's 1987 (last) tour. The sound quality is a bit dodgy mainly because the original tape is a bootleg. However, it is good enough to give you an idea of how they sounded live. "Free Trade Hall Rehearsals" (aka "Tripping Dogs") can be considered a live album though there is no audience. It is mostly interesting for the working versions of 'Mad Jack' ('Bobby Moore's Wine') and 'In Answer.'
    Of the demo/session albums, the most interesting are "The Fan and the Bellows" and the Peel Sessions album. The release of "The Fan and the Bellows" was originally blocked by the band, thus making it hard to find. Quite a few copies did make it out, though, so there are some lurking about. The Peel Sessions include different versions of some songs with different lyrics. It also includes a great, perhaps their best, early song, 'Things I Wish I Said,' a sadly prophetic song. The other demo albums are really for die-hard fans and completists.
    The most significant-and-once-hard-as-hell-to-find-though-don't-hold-your-breath-for-a-CD-copy recording is "Tony Fletcher Walked on Water...".
    Note: though the original CD is a rarity, the songs have been released on a compilation called "Northern Songs" and also as a bonus CD with the "Return of the Roughnecks" compilation. [see question #23].
  18. What is, and where can I get, the Tony Fletcher EP?
    The band were set to record a follow-up to "Strange Times" and began by recording four songs. These songs were to be released before the album. After the songs were recorded, the band broke up. There were no real plans after that to release the songs, owing to the violent split between Dave and Mark.
    In 1990, Mark set up his own record label, Glass Pyramid, in order to help pay off debts the band had accumulated. He planned to release the last four songs as "Tony Fletcher Walked on Water", but was threatened with legal action by Dave who did not want the songs released. Though quite a few 12"s and CD's were pressed (1100 each), they never made it to any stores, and the few that were distributed went to promotional people and magazines. (A similar occurrence happened with a recording of rehearsals from 1985, "Tripping Dogs". This was Glass Pyramid's first release, and though about 10000 of these made it to market, it was pulled after the threat of legal action. It has since been reissued under the title, "Free Trade Hall Rehearsals", minus the in-between song chatter and plus an extra track that Mark had forgotten about.)
    Copies of "Fletcher" have been spotted in England for $200. The CD version is practically impossible to find, though a lucky few do own them. Up until recently, Mark was giving copies of the CD to people who made an open contribution to LiBEARty, an organisation Mark and Sally have supported. (Mark has since run out of the CDs.) The 12" version, however, is available from Pivot Records. When Mark toured the US in 1993 and 1994, he had copies for sale at his shows.
    It is not certain how many of these are left, but the fact that not many were pressed in the first place makes this an instant collector's item.
    [See question #23]
  19. How can I get a hold of Pivot Records?
    Pivot Records / Vinyl Solutions
    28th Street
    Grand Rapids, MI
    49508

    Herm Baker runs Pivot (as well as Vinyl Solutions, a shop where Pivot runs out from). Herm was largely responsible for Mark's US tour in 1994, and unfortunately he fell into debt because of it. He still has a number of items available that were sold at the shows including t-shirts, Tony Fletcher 12", and the live Sons of God CD only available at the US shows.
  20. Who is Sally?
    Sally is the name of Mark's (ex) wife. The "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" album includes a rather atypical song called 'Sally,' which was written by Mark for the woman who was to become his wife.
  21. Is there really a Chameleons 'US'?
    When MCA released the Chameleons first album in the States, they changed the band's name to the Chameleons UK. This happens to a lot of bands when they get signed to an American label, because there is supposedly an American band (or in some cases, a law firm, a store chain, etc.) that has the same name. (An aside: I find it amusing that the American versions of these bands are rarely heard of. Who are the Charlatans, the Mission, etc.?) Apparently, at the time, there was an American band called the Chameleons (or maybe Chameleon), perhaps from Minneapolis. They wore pseudo-New Wave clothing and sang a lot about sex.
    Note by Damian Ramsay:
    I can confirm that the band that you are talking about is Chameleon. 
    Another band, The Chameleons, was a Portland, OR (my hometown) band which existed prior to The Chameleons UK. They were fronted by Richard Crandall and played probably folksy prog-rock. I came across one of their albums, "Spring Fallout", in a used bin in a local music store. It was published by META Records of Portland in 1981. 
  22. Where did the sample for this song come from?
    a) 'Don't Fall' - 'In his autumn before the Winter comes man's last mad surge of youth.' 'What on Earth are you talking about?'
    Unknown. While the group was recording songs for their first album, they had a mike set up to a television and they recorded random bits, presumably for use in some songs. It was never documented as to what this is from.
    There are two suggestions as to the source of this quote. Either it's from a film called "Two Sisters From Boston" or possibly from a film called "A Town Called Alice".
    b) 'Peace in Our Time' - 'Everybody votes for a dictator.'
    The Prisoner, episode 'Free for All'
    c) 'Elected' - 'We have just witnessed two forms of vote. (etc.)'
    The Prisoner, episodes 'Fall Out' and 'Free for All'
    d) 'Happy New Life' - 'We don't know what will happen or when.'
    Twin Peaks
  23. What is Spring Blooms Tra-La/Northern Songs?
    "Spring Blooms Tra-La" is the name of a recent live CD recorded at a Sons of God show in Germany in 1993. It is a German-only release on Strangeways Records and includes a second CD with three songs from the "Manchester 1993" CD.
    "Northern Songs" is the name of a compilation CD of songs released on the Imaginary label. It includes the songs on the "Tony Fletcher Walked on Water..." CD.
  24. Have band members produced anyone else?
    Mark has produced The Convent, a German band. Dave has produced many groups, including: Monkey Run, Inspiral Carpets, Crocodile Shop, Fading Smiles, and Sunhouse.
Last Update: Friday 12th December 2014