Release date: 28 May 2012
Formats: double vinyl / double CD / HD 96 khz/24 bit download
Label: Archive / Beggars Banquet
Vinyl – limited edition vinyl in a gatefold sleeve
CD – limited edition in double jewel case w/ slipcase
Released in 1997, when it went straight to the top of the album charts, this year marks the 15th anniversary of Tellin’ Stories. Building on the sound of their eponymous, previous release (The Charlatans – also a No.1), the band’s performance has the feel of a classic British Rock band, (the type which also contain ‘Roll’ in the music), combined with the more focussed songwriting of ‘Britpop’. It has aged well.
The Charlatans will be playing a series of dates this summer, performing the album in it’s entirety and to mark the occasion Archive / Beggars Banquet are releasing a special expanded edition on vinyl and CD along with the original album on real HD download.
The first disc is the original album, re-mastered and cut from the analogue studio tapes, while the second disc is a collection of the single B sides plus an unreleased, early version of ‘Don’t Need A Gun’, originally entitled ‘Rainbow Chasing’. Of the eight B sides only half were re-issued on the anthology ‘Songs From The Other Side’.
With No Shoes
North Country Boy
One To Another
You’re A Big Girl Now
How Can You Leave Us
Get On It
Two Of Us
Don’t Need A Gun
Down With The Mook
Keep It To Yourself
Rainbow Chasing (Don’t Need A Gun first take)
Clean Up Kid
Thank You (Live)
TELLIN’ STORIES TOUR
01 Manchester O2 Apollo
08 London HMV Hammersmith Apollo
09 Glasgow Barrowland
23 Isle of Wight Festival Garden Stage
Singer Tim Burgess has also written a biography, entitled ‘Telling Stories’, and published by Penguin on 26 April.
I remember an unusual amount about 1996 and 1997. The IRA levelled Manchester City centre. The Prince and Princess of Wales finally put an end to their farcical marriage. A young politician called Tony Blair began to appear on posters with weird devil eyes. The Spice Girls released their first single, Wannabe. Nelson Mandela came to Britain to meet politicians and (I think) hang out with Geri Halliwell. Oasis played vast sell out shows at Loch Lomond and Knebworth. Liam Gallagher appeared on the front cover of Vanity Fair alongside his then wife Patsy Kensit wrapped in the Union Jack. Under the headline ‘Cool Britannia’ they helped turn Brit Pop into a global phenomenon. The same issue of Vanity Fair featured an article on a newish men’s magazine called Loaded (for which I had just started working) and a big feature on New Labour’s shadow cabinet. Blur and Oasis fought for the number one spot in the faintly ludicrous and not entirely contrived battle of the bands. Oasis lost. The Tories fought New Labour in the ‘97 May election. The Tories lost. After 18 years in power they were gone. Which seemed weird, like hitting mid-summer straight from darkest winter and entirely skipping spring. Shortly after the election Noel Gallagher and Alan McGee were photographed at a Downing Street reception shaking hands with the new Prime Minister and momentarily everything felt very, very different. John Niven’s novel, Kill Your Friends, a searing attack on New Labour and the British music industry is set, inevitably, in 1996 – 97. So much happened in those two short years, seismic stuff; we packed in a lot of history, maybe too much history, both political and cultural. And in my mind all this blur of events is light diffracted and distorted through the prism of The Charlatans. Through the death of their keyboardist and founder member Rob Collins, their ferocious performance supporting Oasis at Knebworth and the release of their fifth album, ‘Tellin’ Stories.’
These things happened quickly and back-to-back – a queasy, vertiginous roller coaster ride which for The Charlatans changed absolutely everything. Tellin’ Stories is remembered as the band’s chart topping Brit Pop album in the same slightly lazy way that their first record is remembered as their Baggy album or (more generously) their contribution to the Madchester sound. But in fact Tellin’ Stories is to my ears the band’s first unabashed attempt to make an American album, to do what the Rolling Stones had done a generation earlier and take uniquely American sounds – in the case of The Charles Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Bob Dylan – and lend them a distinctly and helplessly British sensibility. There were, of course, signs that the band was heading in this direction. Their previous record, eponymously titled The Charlatans has a mid-Atlantic flavour, but good as it was, it was tentative and timid by comparison. Tellin’ Stories is the sound of a band utterly confident and at the height of their creative powers.
The first four songs, beginning with the country blues swagger of No Shoes, and culminating in the apocalyptic One To Another work so well they together they are, for me, hard to listen to as individual songs, which is ironic given that the album spawned three top ten singles and one top twenty. But that’s the thing, The Charlatans had by this time learnt to write great rock n roll albums where once they were writing some cool pop tunes. It’s this newfound maturity and curiosity about all things American that made such later gems as Us and Only Us and the triumphant Wonderland possible. In 1997 Blur and Oasis sounded emphatically English. The Charlatans suddenly sounded international in the way their heroes The Rolling Stones sounded international. And years later they would play songs from this album supporting the Rolling Stones
And yet at the beginning of 1997 the record you are now holding looked like it might never be released. More to the point The Charlatans looked like they were finished. This was not the first time the band had been on the verge of a dramatic implosion. Four years earlier Rob Collins was arrested and charged with the armed robbery on an off-licence. He was eventually found guilty of “Assisting an offender after an offence”, for which he was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment. He served just four months, but the chaos he caused almost split the band.
In July 1996, midway through the recording of Telling’ Stories Rob crashed his BMW on a tiny country lane near Monnow Valley recording studios in Wales. He was thrown through the windscreen and died on the roadside from head injuries. The band was devastated. I remember being at Rob’s funeral and watching Tim almost collapse with grief. He was only just held on his feet by Chloe, his then girlfriend. After the funeral I spent a mad couple of nights with Martin Blunt in Brighton who went from sobbing fits to dropping E and re-enacting scenes from Quadrophenia beneath the Palace Pier. I remember big Johnny Brookes doing a perfectly convincing imitation of stoicism and even managing to crack a few jokes. And I remember Mark Collins, always so funny, intelligent and perceptive, becoming briefly distant, angry and morose. What I do not remember is any talk of the band splitting up. Because they had already had that talk and they had decided to carry on, drafting in Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy to complete Rob’s keyboard parts.
So when they came to play Knebworth The Charlatans were defiant, putting in the performance of a lifetime. Tim had always said, half flippantly, he admired Damien, the child anti-Christ in the schlock horror classic The Omen. He said he liked that look of childish innocence that masked a vengeful Earth flattening fury. On stage that afternoon he was Damian raging against the dying of the light and anyone who had dared to write the band off. An hour later Liam Gallagher dedicated Live Forever to Rob Collins. Knebworth may have been Oasis’s show but it was The Charlatans’ day. They played most of Tellin’ Stories, an album 99.99% of the crowd had never heard. And they blew everyone’s mind, including the headliners.
On April 21 1997, nine days before Tony Blair was elected, they released the record. It went straight to number one in the album charts and spent another 28 weeks in or around the top. Unlike a lot of records of the time it has not dated. It takes me back for sure, as it doubtless does you, but not in a morbid or nostalgic way. After all, with the benefit of hindsight there is not much to be sentimental about. The mid and late nineties seemed to promise the earth, and things did change forever but not necessarily in a good way. We got a few good songs, a fairly awful government, some pretty mediocre bands and a handful of truly great, great albums, of which this is one. Tellin’ Stories is extraordinary. It is a testament and constant reminder of the amazing fortitude of The Charlatans as individuals and as a band. It is an album that in its vision and ambition makes most of its contemporaries sound frighteningly parochial, and in doing so it both helps define a very strange time in the history of English pop whilst shaking itself free of the worst of that time.
It was and remains a beautiful, angry, blistering rock ‘n’ roll record.
Ben Marshall, March 2012, Brighton