Tim Burgess's golden rules of rock’n’roll excess

Tim Burgess’s wild years were the stuff of Britpop legend. Here, the Charlatans’ frontman instructs Nick Duerden in the 10 golden rules of rock’n’roll excess

In the 23 years since their inception, The Charlatans have
experienced major success, fleeting failure, and more than their
share of bad luck.

In 1996, for example, keyboardist Rob Collins, recently released from prison for his part in an armed robbery, was killed in a car crash. Shortly afterwards, the Manchester band were playing in front of 125,000 people at Knebworth, supporting Oasis on one of Britpop's defining nights. Elsewhere, bassist Martin Blunt has endured depression, replacement keyboardist Tony Rogers has had testicular cancer, and drummer Jon Brookes was struck down by a brain tumour. The band faced bankruptcy after their accountant absconded with much of their money, and to keep their collective pecker up, have over the years enjoyed an awful lot of imaginatively administered drugs.

All of which makes frontman Tim Burgess's autobiography, Telling Stories, a vivid read. Burgess, about to turn 45, should by rights be merely yet another rock casualty; instead, talking over his career highs and lows, he is breezy charm personified, and continues to hide behind the coy smile of a teenage boy.

"Am I a survivor?" he asks. "You could say that."

What lessons has he learnt over the past two decades of a decidedly wild rock'n'roll lifestyle?

Never underestimate the importance of a good haircut

"I always wanted to be a pop star. People say you either have it or you don't, and I suppose I did. I certainly always wanted to look the part. I went through a lot of different hairstyles early on, and then one day I came across an album called It's Different for Domeheads. I always thought the dome, or the bowl cut, looked cool. The Byrds had bowl cuts, and so did I. Before long, people were going into hairdressers nationwide asking for a 'Tim Burgess'. I liked that."

Be nice to groupies

"Groupies never appealed to me, and I've apologised to a lot of people who wanted to have sex with me over the years. But then I was always in long-term relationships with girls I loved and respected. I don't think I missed out, no, because they were inspirational girlfriends, and, at the time, I thought I would stay with each of them for the course."

Avoid Simon Mayo

"Success came pretty quickly for us. Within a year of me joining, we had a No 1 album [Some Friendly, 1990]. We didn't play the game, though. We didn't do friendly phone-ins with radio DJs, and we didn't hang out with other bands because we thought it would dilute our spirit. It was a strange time. Then it got stranger. Our second album [Between 10th and 11th, 1992] only reached No 21, which dented our confidence. We only regained it, and started to enjoy things, later on. And then, if I'm honest, we enjoyed things perhaps a little too much."

Experiment with drugs

"I remember sniffing petrol as a kid, and getting high off glue remover. I did magic mushrooms, I did ecstasy. Drugs were always part of my life, and I had a great time on them, to be honest. One time in America, we discovered the process of blowing cocaine up each other's arses. The nerve endings there are much more receptive. It was an intimate activity, sure, but then being in a band is an intimate thing. Why did we do it? Well, DVDs and playing cards will only take you so far on a 28-date tour of America. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time."

Quit drugs

"I think I got out of drugs at just the right time, but friends may tell you otherwise. I went to see a doctor, a nutritionist, in 2006, and he said that I had done myself certain damage, that I should stop doing drugs, and get better. So I did. I had implants in my ears, which I squeezed every time I had a craving, and which killed the craving. So I went all out, quitting drugs, and drink, and cigarettes. It was difficult, but I've got to say I've never missed them, not once, not at all."

Move to Hollywood

"Hollywood is a long way from Northwich, Cheshire, but I moved there [in the late 1990s] with my wife, Michelle, who was American. Mark Collins [The Charlatans' guitarist] said that me moving so far away would split the band up, but I knew it wouldn't. It wasn't 1990 any more; the world was getting smaller. We had MP3 files, the internet. Los Angeles was strange, and for seven years I didn't really understand it at all. It took somebody as charismatic as my wife, who had a car, to show me the city, and be my guide."

Come back home

"I'm back in the UK now [Burgess's marriage recently ended]. It just seemed to make sense, and, besides, I got tired of all the travelling, the jetlag. The Charlatans have a studio in Cheshire, so it's nice to be so much closer to it. And the band is still very much a going concern: we're doing some live shows in the summer; I've got a solo album coming out in the autumn; and we'll be working on a new Charlatans album for 2013."

Find a yogi and take up meditation

"After I successfully kicked the drink and drugs, I was well into the idea of being clean. My doctor put me on a course of pills for 21 days, but I took them for three years. I wanted to become ultra-clean. A friend then introduced me to transcendental meditation. I looked into it, read up on [founder] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and also the David Lynch Foundation [which teaches TM across America], and it just all made sense. I meditate for 20 minutes twice a day now. It's part of my life."

Accept that you're an old rocker

"I'm really happy ageing, actually. I always heard that life begins at 40, and I quite agree with that so far. I've got lots going on, and I've found balance. I've written this book, I've got a record label, the band is still going strong, and I'm in a great new relationship. I couldn't be happier, really."

Invent a breakfast cereal

"A few months ago, I threw out on Twitter that it would be fun to have a breakfast cereal that you could eat at festivals to get you back on your feet. Well, Kellogg's contacted me, and they are now producing it [ingredients include shortbread, raisins and "squidgy marshmallows"]. I've called it Totes Amazeballs, and we'll be selling it at festivals this summer. It was a silly idea, but we ran with it."

'Telling Stories' (Penguin) by Tim Burgess is published on Thursday

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits