When he isn’t performing as lead singer of The Charlatans, who headline the Waverley Stage at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Tim Burgess can be found scouring record stores for rare vinyl. It’s a passion that spawned his latest book, he tells Fiona Shepherd
Even back in 1990 when they were hip young ambassadors for the burgeoning Madchester movement of rave-influenced indie bands, The Charlatans would probably not have been the obvious candidates to outlast all their peers. The twin behemoths of the scene, The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, have both reformed in recent years to mixed receptions but it was The Charlatans who kept on trucking and developing down the decades.
Even the imprisonment and deaths of band members haven’t derailed them, and here they are again poised to play at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay for the second time with a mighty back catalogue at their disposal. The band won’t finalise their setlist until the day but frontman Tim Burgess promises that it will be “bangers all the way”.
“We always love playing in Scotland,” he says, “so when you add Hogmanay in the mix, it’s even more enjoyable.”
Burgess will also DJ after the show at the Citrus Club as is his tradition but, just so that every spare moment of his day is accounted for, he will also appear in his latest incarnation as published author of two music books at an In Conversation event with Vic Galloway at the Assembly Hall.
“I’m only a visitor to the world of writing books,” he insists. “I was at Edinburgh International Book Festival over the summer and I felt like they’d rumble me and chuck me out. It’s a world I love but I’ve definitely sneaked in through an open door.”
That door was first opened by Penguin Books. When they approached Burgess to write his autobiography, he had never considered putting finger to keyboard. “There followed a couple of years of meeting them for coffee and saying how well the book was coming along,” says Burgess. “The truth was, I hadn’t written a word, but I enjoyed the coffee. Eventually I thought I’d better get started….”
Telling Stories, named after a Charlatans album, was published in 2012. Since then, there have been a number of autobiographies from fellow Mancunian musical luminaries, including compatriots-turned-adversaries Morrissey and Johnny Marr, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook of New Order. “I read that first massive sentence in Morrissey’s book and quite enjoyed it, but it was in a shop so I only got that far,” says Burgess. “I love New Order but I try to blank out the fall-outs so I sidestepped Hooky’s and Bernard’s books. Having said that, I’m looking forward to [New Order drummer] Stephen Morris’s book.”
Like Morris, Burgess’s style is easygoing and perennially positive without soft-soaping the reader. He has channelled his natural enthusiasm for life into the puntastic Tim Book Two and he says the follow-up will be called One. Two. Another, although it’s hard to tell if he’s being serious.
Published earlier this year, Tim Book Two charts his vinyl-fuelled roadtrip to track down recommendations of rare records he had been given by artists and colleagues including Iggy Pop, David Lynch and Johnny Marr.
“They say write about what you know, so records and record shops seemed the obvious choice,” he says. “I found shops like The Record Detective Agency [in Palmers Green, London] that I’d never been to before. Istanbul was a great city for buying records, that was definitely a surprise. Chris Carter from Throbbing Gristle recommended ABBA! His day job was making the most out-there music from the mainstream so, in his own time, he listened to the opposite to relax. Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth recommended an album that was recorded and left in a drawer for years. It’s called Colour Green by Sibylle Baier – I’d never heard of it before and now it’s one of my favourite records.”
Burgess has somehow also found time to set up and run his own indie label O Genesis, releasing Same Language Different Worlds, his album collaboration with New York musician Peter Gordon, in September. And so his dedication to records continues.
Tim Book Two is a love letter to vinyl and its vendors. Although some stores have weathered the slump to enjoy the fruits of the modest vinyl renaissance, the past decade or so has not been an easy one for record shops, independent or chain. Burgess was a regular in Edinburgh’s Ripping Records and Avalanche Records before their demise and puts Glasgow’ s Monorail Records in his top five record shops in the world. “Sometimes you just need to be
near vinyl to feel a bit better, surrounded by like-minded people,” he says. Music and mates – sounds like the ideal recipe for a fulfilling Hogmanay. ■
The Charlatans headline the Waverley Stage at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party. Tim Burgess in Conversation is at Rainy Hall, The Mound, 31 December, 12:30pm. Tim Book Two is out now, published by Faber & Faber