Charlatans UK frontman Tim Burgess has put Charles Darwin’s wisdom — about those most adaptable to change being survivors — into action as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its hold on his native England in the past few months.
At first, he didn’t realize that he possessed such survival skills, the 53-year-old said, describing his popular Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties that take place every day at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. London time.
“I’d been doing them for 10 years, but only for Charlatans records,” he says. “Every year, I’d do a listening party for a record’s birthday, like our ‘Some Friendly’ debut from 1990. People in Britain seemed to like it, but largely — apart from Charlatans fans — they went unnoticed.”
But change brought them to the forefront, consequently packing his work schedule as he releases his fifth solo album, “I Love the New Sky.”
Burgess said Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand contacted him tell him be bought ‘Some Friendly’ when he was 17, and that he’d like to participate in a Twitter party for his band, too. After he did the second night, Dave Rowntree did the third night, for “Park Life” by his band Blur. Next, Bonehead did Oasis’ “Definitely Maybe.”
“Within those four days, it became newsworthy everywhere, and within a week, Rolling Stone was writing about it,” says Burgess.
Soon, demand had grown so exponentially that TTLP expanded to include weekends and two additional nightly broadcasts.
This week’s Wednesday program includes listening to and discussing George Clinton’s “Slide” at 8 p.m., Duran Duran’s “Rio” at 9 and Burgess’ own ebullient “New Sky” at 10 p.m. (London time).
“It’s kind of like the slowest overnight sensation ever,” he says, chuckling.
At a time when many are unemployed, Burgess is punching the clock from sunup to sundown, meticulously preparing for his Twitter Parties.
Subject possibilities are seemingly endless.
Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson, his pals in Sleaford Mods, have become so involved, they commandeered the Thursday schedule to cover their entire back catalog.
The white whale wish list, with The Verve at the top, keeps growing, as more and more believers tune in.
“Everyone wants to do a Tim’s Twitter Listening Party now — Paul Weller did one, and so did Mike Skinner from The Streets,” says Burgess.
That suits the Madchester-Scene founder fine, since there’s not much he can physically do to back his latest release, on which he wrote every track alone, and made in one intense year.
Stylistically, it runs the gamut, from the Cure-undulating opener “Empathy For the Devil”; to a Beach-Boys-bouncy “Sweetheart Mercury”; the Elton John-ish “Sweet Old Sorry Me”; a Beatles-reverb-strolling “Undertow”; to “I Got This,” a 1970s-pulsed, classic-Charlatans anthem with the socially-distant declaration, “I’m through with counting all the friends that I can count on.”
Burgess admits he’s cut a few sketchy acquaintances loose of late, and he, his significant other, experimental musician Nik Colk, and their 7-year-old home-schooled son are a more solidified, insular family unit for it, as they shelter in place on their remote Norfolk farm.
When the COVID-19 clampdown kicked in, Burgess says, “I kind of welcomed it in a way. And I’m sorry for anyone who’s lost anybody to it, but I just wasn’t afraid, and I actually think I might have had it.”
In mid-March, he flew to New York to play four concerts to tout “New Sky,” with two days off after. As venues closed and cafes started only doing takeout, Burgess says, he then got a cough and wasn’t feeling well: “I was sent on a plane back, and when I got home I was in bed for about five days, with intense fever, leg pain, chest and kidney pain.”
He didn’t get tested for the virus and the condition passed. He adds, “But I think it was probably a mild strain of the coronavirus. I mean, what else could it be? And those were the last shows I played, really. Who knows when we’ll ever play concerts again?”