This article was first published on Louder Than War on 30 September 2013.
As The Charlatans announce the full line up for their Royal Albert Hall gig in tribute to drummer Jon Brookes fans pay their respects to the well-loved musician in a special edition of Woodnote fanzine.
The fanzine, edited by Tim Burgess’s Kendal Calling writer in residence Abigail Gillibrand, features fans of the band sharing what The Charlatans mean to them.
Sarah Lay speaks to Abi about Woodnote and the fan stories submitted for the special issue.
I have always loved The Charlatans, I just didn’t always know that to be true.
They were there, sound tracking to some extent or other, everything that happened to me in the last twenty years.
Weirdo was childishly chunky yet angsty enough for my early teenage years. Just When You’re Thinking Things Over deliciously grabbing me as I came of age. How High the thrill of leaving home and that first big, real world love affair. Try Again Today a comforting reassurance as grown up life sucked at every part of me.
But as it happened I didn’t realise how much they, the music and so the band, meant to me. They were just The Charlatans; a great band, a reliable band…but love? I didn’t know it was at the time but when I turned to The Charlatans without hesitation in my darkest days I knew, in my head and heart, I loved them.
As I made the lonely, numb, drive to my dad on the day my mum died it was The Charlatans I needed to hear. I needed the familiarity certainly, and the warmth of their tones. I needed the comfort of the northern intimations of my childhood and the wisdom of their words.
Most of all though I needed to hear something that would make me feel. And there was no doubt that the only band in my collection that could step up to that task, for me, right then, was The Charlatans.
I needed them to help me feel something other than the shock of what I had known would come, finally had. And they did. As I drove along the M62 at sunset on one of the most horrible times of my life the love of their music enveloped me, made me feel but not too much.
My story is unique but not unusual. People fall in love with bands, with songs, all the time. If you’re reading Louder Than War I’d warrant you’ve fallen in love with at least one band and their music at sometime or another.
So, whether your musical love is The Charlatans or some other band you’ll likely recognise the sentiments expressed by fans in the latest issue of Woodnote Fanzine. The special issue, which asks fans ‘what do the Charlatans mean to you’ is published in tribute to the band’s drummer Jon Brookes, who died in August.
Editor, Abigail Gillibrand, was already working on the issue when the news of Jon’s death was announced. She said: “About a month before Jon’s death a good friend of mine suggested that for the next issue of Woodnote I should bring The Charlatan’s fan base together and ask them to write a piece on one of their fondest memories with the band.
“We came up with the question ‘What do The Charlatans mean to you in 250 words?’ which meant the articles would be short and sweet but packed full of emotion.
“At first I asked people that had already written for Woodnote to write the 250 words, but following Jon’s death I opened it to all fans as it seemed fitting to turn the issue into more of a tribute to Jon – I got a lot of responses.
“I had a really sad moment putting the zine together, an article had been submitted before Jon’s death saying, ‘at times like this when Jon’s recovering, we all pull together’, I got an email from the guy shortly after Jon’s death asking to edit his article to, ‘at times like this when Jon has just passed away, we all shed a heartfelt tear’, it really moved me.
“Reading other people’s stories though is great. It’s weird how one band has, in a way, created a family, it’s a really strong unit of people who’ve all been affected by the same music yet in so many different ways. I feel pretty privileged to be a part of it.”
The issue is full of genuine love for the band and sharing of exactly how that love has been a part of each fans life. It might be the soundtrack to a big night out, the tracks on the jukebox that got the pub singing-a-long back in the day, or the comfort of sound in a moment of need. But these are all little love stories to the band.
We asked Abi what The Charlatans mean to her? “The Charlatans are special. It’s as though they’re this strong force of swirling Hammond’s and heavy drum beats that has encompassed so many lives. They’re a powerful band and are genuinely lovely people which I guess makes them so inspiring.
“When I first heard them it was a turning point in my life, I’d never listened to music like that before, but they came on the radio and had a certain groove about them so I bought their album Tellin’ Stories and gave it a listen. I’d never been touched like that by a band, the record reduced me to tears, it was so heartfelt and beautiful – I was hooked.
“I saw one of their gigs and wanted to write a review so I began a blog which evoked my love of writing and quickly turned in to Woodnote. It’s amazing really, the first time I met Tim Burgess was on their acoustic tour at The Citadel in Liverpool in 2011 exactly two years later I was his Writer in Residence at Kendal Calling 2013, watching the band perform as the headlining act on the main stage. If you’d told me that at The Citadel I would never have believed it.
“I feel as though I’m in their journey as much as they’re in mine. They’ve opened up a whole new world of music and I’ve spoken to so many amazing people at their gigs and through Twitter that I would never have met if it wasn’t for The Charlatans, it’s extraordinary.
“They’re an exquisite band that you can’t help but love.”
Here at Louder Than War we were deeply saddened by the news of Jon’s death and this issue shows how many fans felt the same.
All words by Sarah Lay.