I received a mixed tape from a friend back in high school, a tape that I mentioned ad nauseum on my old blog, Music Insanity, but one that bears mentioning again in these pages, because it introduced me to a number of bands back in the day, including one that would become one of my all-time favourites: The Charlatans. Known as The Charlatans UK here in North America, the group formed in 1989, “survived” the deaths of two band members and several changes in sound over the years, and have released 13 albums, including this year’s, “Different days”. Not bad for a band that was once referred to as the “also-rans” of Manchester (and later on, the “Britpop survivors”).
Indeed, at the time of “Some friendly”‘s release, the band were lumped in with the likes of Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, despite not being from the greater Manchester area at all. It was obviously more to do with their debut album’s musical proximity than the band’s geography. The album was heavy on the danceable bass and beats, acid house psychedelia, Tim Burgess’s lethargic vocals, and of course, Rob Collin’s monstrous organ work. The aforementioned mixed tape sampled heavily from “Some friendly” but surprisingly, nowhere in its contents was the album’s first single, “The only one I know”, so I didn’t hear it until I got my hands on the cassette tape of the album. And oh, when I did, there was plenty of rewinding and replaying required.
At the time, I saw it as completely new and inventive but I would learn much later that the song borrowed lyrics from The Byrds and an organ riff from Deep Purple. “The only one I know” went on to be The Charlatans’ first top ten single in the UK and hit number 5 on the US Modern Rock charts. Today, it remains one of the band’s best-known songs.
It certainly displays the early incarnation of the band firing on all five proverbial cylinders. The screaming high end on guitars and Martin Blunt’s thumping bass line, simply provide an extra large canvas for Rob Collins to paint his whirling Hammond splatters. And then… and then, there’s Jon Brookes’ mad shuffling drum beat that almost begs you to take up the maracas, à la Bez, and dance like a looney fool. Even today, I feel out of breath just listening to it and remembering all the times, all the drunken nights, I danced to this particular track, mouthing along to what I imagined were the lyrics to “The only one I know”.
Such a great song.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.