Early 1991, I’m 19 years old wearing Joe Bloggs jeans, Kickers and a Champion hoody, my hair is below my ears and parted in the centre, 6’8″ and in those days, stick thin.. I must have looked a complete pillock! On the upside I wasn’t alone. I was in uniform, along with a few hundred other Indie kids filing into the Top Rank Suite on Brighton Seafront to see the Charlatans. Waving our arms around to euphoric Indie rock with a couple of beers was nice change from waving our arms around to A Guy Called Gerald, amazing the energy we all had back then. In those days a Charlatans gig would be considered a relatively quiet night! Compared to 12 hours raving in a field off the M25 I suppose it still would be now.. These days I need a rest after seeing a pub band down our local.. Thankfully the Charlatan’s music has aged a lot better than me.
Tim Burgess lopped onto the stage with his big mop of hair, bowl cut (as it remains, but not blonde as it is now), no parting (such a rebel) and the band fired into The Only One, just as this album kicks off. The Stone Roses hadn’t even been thought of then, this was perhaps ahead of its time, and listening tonight it’s actually stood the test of time almost as well as the band has.
This vinyl “best of compilation from 2002 is a wonderful trip down memory lane, this pressing is revealing layers and textures in “Then” that I couldn’t hear then. Reason 1: My Sanyo all in one system in my bedroom had a penny blue-tacked to the “needle” and it sounded dreadful. Reason 2) Some Friendly (their first album) wasn’t as nicely mastered as this compilation, it’s a real treat in fact. I still have my copy of Some friendly, in it’s limited edition white plastic sleeve. Sadly there’s not much left of the vinyl inside, for the above mentioned reasons coupled with the fact it was so often played.
Track six now and Weirdo’s bass line bounces along, while the Hammond Organ defines the background and to some extent the band.. Burgess’s slightly nasal “Manc” whine sets the tone perfectly, and for many defined the whole genre. This song is such a treat to be heard on a proper system. I’d not given much thought to how this kind of music would be enhanced by a decent pressing on a good Hi-Fi, it’s so nice to have some old favourites demanding turntable time.
The mix includes the Chemical Brother’s mix of Patrol, which is a Dub heavy mix, and spoils the atmosphere a touch to be honest. It’s not as well mastered as the rest of the album. However, think of it as Cindy Crawford’s mole and you’ll remain happy. Especially as it’s followed by the wonderful pop song Can’t get out of bed, which acts as a happy-go-lucky foil to what just went.
All of the tracks on Melting Pot (named after the Cafe shown on the cover) are from The Charlatans time with Beggars Banquet records (1990 to 1997), so it’s not a definitive collection by any means. However, it’s making for a wonderful snapshot of my twenties. Anyone that was a fan back then, or is a fan now and wants to re-discover their early years owes it to themselves to have this in their collection.
Buy The Charlatans – Melting Pot Vinyl LP from the Hifiwigwam Shop now.