The Chameleons

The Chameleons were an English post-punk band that released the 1983–85 albums Script of the Bridge and What Does Anything Mean? Basically on Statik Records. Their 1985 Geffen release Strange Times spawned the college radio staple “Swamp Thing.” Singer–bassist Mark Burgess and drummer John Lever carried on as The Sun and the Moon on the 1988 album Le Soleil, La Lune.

Members: Mark Burgess (vocals, bass, guitar), Reg Smithies (guitar, vocals), Dave Fielding (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Brian Schofield (drums, 1981), John Lever (drums, 1981-82, 1983-2003), Martin Jackson (drums, 1982-83)


Background

The Chameleons formed in early 1981 in Middleton in Greater Manchester when Mark Burgess teamed with two guitarists: childhood friends Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding, who played in numerous school bands. Burgess hailed from The Cliches, a punk trio that demoed three songs: “Rock of Ages,” “The Whole Wide World,” and “Leaving Town.”

The Chameleons initially used a beat box but hired drummer Brian Schofield in time for their first session with BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. They performed four songs for Peel’s June 17, 1981, broadcast: “The Fan and the Bellows,” “Here Today,” “Looking Inwardly,” and “Things I Wish I’d Said.”

In late 1981, Schofield cleared out for drummer John Lever. The Chameleons signed with CBS-subsidiary Epic Records. For their first single, they linked with Steve Lillywhite, a soundman on 1977–81 albums by Peter Gabriel (“Melt”), The Psychedelic Furs (Talk Talk Talk), U2 (Boy, October), Ultravox (Ultravox!, Ha!-Ha!-Ha!), and XTC (Drums and Wires, Black Sea).


“In Shreds”

On April 2, 1982, The Chameleons debuted with the Epic single “In Shreds,” backed with “Less Than Human,” both group-written numbers.

After “In Shreds,” disparities on the business end caused CBS to sever ties with The Chameleons, which then signed with Statik Records, a Glasgow-based indie that issued titles by Creation Rebel, Dead Kennedys, New Age Steppers, Men Without Hats, Positive Noise, and Thomas Dolby.


Discography:

  • Script of the Bridge (1983)
  • What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1985)
  • Strange Times (1986)
  • John Peel Sessions (1990)
  • Dali’s Picture (archival, 1993)

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