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 1986 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.


Script of the Bridge

The Chameleons released their debut album, Script of the Bridge, on August 8, 1983, on Statik.

1. “Don’t Fall” (4:06)
2. “Here Today” (3:50)
3. “Monkeyland” (5:24)
4. “Second Skin” (6:50)
5. “Up the Down Escalator” (3:57)
6. “Less Than Human” (4:12)

7. “Pleasure and Pain” (5:11)
8. “Thursday’s Child” (3:22)
9. “As High as You Can Go” (3:35)
10. “A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days” (5:43)
11. “Paper Tigers” (4:16)
12. “View from a Hill” (6:41)

Studio Cargo Studios, Rochdale, England
Colin Richardson – production, engineering

Mark Burgess – bass guitar, vocals, production
Dave Fielding – guitar, production
Reg Smithies – guitar, production, album cover artwork
John Lever – drums, production

Alistair Lewthwaite – keyboards

“Up the Down Escalator” / “Monkeyland”
Released: 1 January 1983 (UK, Germany, Spain, US promo)

“Don’t Fall”
Released: 1 January 1983 (France promo)

“As High as You Can Go” / “Pleasure and Pain”
Released: 1 February 1983 (UK, Portugal, Spain)

“A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days” / “Thursday’s Child”
Released: 1 June 1983 (UK, Portugal)

Feb 1985

A. “Nostalgia”
B. “In Shreds”


What Does Anything Mean? Basically

The Chameleons released their second album, What Does Anything Mean? Basically, on May 20, 1985, on Statik.

1. “Silence, Sea and Sky” (1:59)
2. “Perfume Garden” (4:36)
3. “Intrigue in Tangiers” (5:17)
4. “Return of the Roughnecks” (3:26)
5. “Singing Rule Britannia (While the Walls Close In)” (4:17)

6. “On the Beach” (4:10)
7. “Looking Inwardly” (4:29)
8. “One Flesh” (4:28)
9. “Home Is Where the Heart Is” (4:54)
10. “P.S. Goodbye” (4:02)

Recorded January 1985
Studio Highland, Inverness, Scotland
Colin Richardson – production
Ian Caple – engineering

Mark Burgess – vocals, bass guitar, strings, production
Dave Fielding – guitar, ARP String Ensemble, production
Reg Smithies – guitar, acoustic guitar, album cover illustration, production
John Lever – drums, production

Martin Kay – sleeve design

“Singing Rule Britannia (While the Walls Close In)”
Released: 1 August 1985


Strange Times

The Chameleons released their third album, Strange Times, on September 1, 1986, on Geffen.

1. “Mad Jack” (3:55)
2. “Caution” (7:46)
3. “Tears” (original, 5:05)
4. “Soul in Isolation” (7:28)

5. “Swamp Thing” (5:56)
6. “Time/The End of Time” (5:41)
7. “Seriocity” (3:00)
8. “In Answer” (4:54)
9. “Childhood” (4:39)
10. “I’ll Remember” (3:39)

11. “Tears” (full, 5:09)
12. “Paradiso” (4:35)
13. “Inside Out” (3:34)
14. “Ever After” (3:59)
15. “John, I’m Only Dancing” (2:30
16. “Tomorrow Never Knows” (6:08)

Studio Jacob’s Studio, (Ridgeway House, Farnham), Surrey, England
David M. Allen – production
Mark Saunders – engineering
Paul Crocket – engineering assistance, piano
Beki – engineering assistance, piano

Mark Burgess (credited as “Birdy”) – vocals, bass guitar
Reg Smithies – guitar
John Lever – drums, percussion
Dave Fielding – guitar, ARP String Ensemble

Reg Smithies – cover illustration

“Tears” / “Paradiso”
Released: 16 June 1986

“Swamp Thing”
Released: 1 September 1986


Tony Fletcher Walked on Water…. La La La La La-La La-La-La

In 1987, The Chameleons recorded four songs for a proposed EP, set for release in advance of their second Geffen album. Chameleons manager Tony Fletcher died two days prior to the sessions, which precipitated the band’s collapse. In 1990, Mark Burgess released the EP as Tony Fletcher Walked on Water…. La La La La La-La La-La-La on Glass Pyramid.

1. “Is It Any Wonder” (5:46)
2. “Free for All” (4:25)

3. “The Healer” (7:07)
4. “Denims and Curls” (4:23)


The Sun and the Moon – Le Soleil, La Lune.

In early 1988, Mark Burgess and John Lever released Le Soleil, La Lune, their singular album as The Sun and the Moon.

1. “The Speed of Life” (4:07)
2. “Death of Imagination” (3:49)
3. “A Matter of Conscience” (5:30)
4. “Peace in Our Time” (4:25)
5. “Dolphin” (4:20)
6. “House on Fire” (5:25)
7. “The Price of Grain” (6:06)
8. “Limbo-Land” (3:27)
9. “A Picture of England” (5:24)
10. “This Passionate Breed” (4:42)

Mark Burgess – bass, vocals
Andy Clegg – guitars
Andy Whitaker – guitars
John Lever – drums, percussion

The Sun and the Moon – production, engineering, album art concept
CJ – production, engineering
Barry Diament – mastering
Paul Cobbold – engineering

George Marino – editing
Jamie Maddox – sleeve photography
Martin Kay – sleeve layout and design
Mark Burgess – sleeve liner notes

The Andrew Sisters – additional vocals


Dali’s Picture

Collection of material recorded 1981–82.

1. “Everyday and Crucified” (3:28)
2. “Monkeyland” (5:11)
3. “Dreams In Celluloid” (6:45) prototype of “Second Skin”
4. “Love Is” (3:59)
5. “The Fan, the Bellows” (3:33)
6. “Looking Inwardly” (4:25)
7. “Dali’s Picture” (4:06)
8. “Nostalgia” (5:30)
9. “Less Than Human” (2:31)
10. “Things I Wish I’d Said” (5:16)


Discography:

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

Sources:

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