Jon Brookes: Powerhouse drummer with The Charlatans

 

In his eminently readable and candid memoir, Telling Stories, The Charlatans' charismatic frontman, Tim Burgess, describes drummer Jon Brookes as a "Keith Moon fanatic, phenomenal powerhouse drummer and West Midlands nutcase."

Brookes was a founder member of the group, who, because they relocated to Cheshire, are still routinely described as a "Madchester" band. This was as much due to the way they mixed dance, Sixties psychedelia and indie rock to create the irresistible Nineties singles "The Only One I Know", "Weirdo" and "One to Another" as it was down to their pudding-bowl haircuts and baggy clothes.

Formed after the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans eventually eclipsed the baggy trinity from Greater Manchester and became the most consistent act to emerge from that scene. They scored more Top 40 hits than the aforementioned and topped the UK charts with their Some Friendly debut in 1990, as well as with their fourth album, The Charlatans in 1995, and Tellin' Stories, their fifth release, in 1997.

Brookes contributed to the songwriting on their 11 studio albums and was arguably the most level-headed member of the group, whose penchant for cocaine passed into rock lore.

Born in 1968 in Burntwood, Staffordshire, he grew up in Wednesbury, a market town in the Black Country. In 1987, not yet out of his teens, he joined bassist Martin Blunt and organist Fay Hallam, whose Mod band Makin' Time had imploded, and Graham Day, the former frontman of The Prisoners, to form the Gift Horses. They managed one single and a tour of Germany before breaking up.

However, Blunt and Brookes had gelled as a rhythm section and would form the backbone of every subsequent line-up of The Charlatans. Adding the organist Rob Collins, and the guitarist and vocalist Barry Ketley, they began rehearsing a mixed set of covers and originals. They fell in with Northwich record-shop owner Steve Harrison, who became their manager and secured them a few gigs, including a support slot with the Stone Roses in May 1989.

When Ketley quit, they recruited Burgess, the lippy singer with the Electric Crayon Set, along with the guitarist Jon Baker. They composed half a dozen, organ-driven songs, including "Indian Rope", which they issued on Harrison's Dead Dead Good label in January 1990.

Produced by engineer Chris Nagle, who had helped the late Martin Hannett fashion the Factory Sound with Joy Division and New Order, the single was championed by John Robb in Sounds and James Brown in the New Musical Express, topped the indie charts and sold out its 20,000 copies.

The major companies came sniffing around, but the band chose to sign a six-album deal with Beggars Banquet, a British independent with an impressive pedigree (Gary Numan, The Cult, the 4AD offshoot). In July 1990, "The Only One I Know", built around an insistent, haunting keyboard riff, charted, as did the follow-up single, "Then". With Burgess's Jaggeresque pout on the cover of every music magazine, Some Friendly sold 150,000 copies in two days and quickly went gold.

The Charlatans made inroads into Continental Europe, Japan and America. Yet the pressure of their early success took its toll. Baker left and was replaced by Mark Collins, a bona fide Mancunian. When the fickle British music press turned on them and called Between 10th and 11th, their second album, self-indulgent, Blunt, their de facto leader, came close to a nervous breakdown.

In the spring of 1992, they seemed back on track with the success of the luscious "Weirdo". ThatDecember, though, Rob Collins, always a loose cannon, was arrested for giving a lift in his car to a friend who had joked he would attempt to rob an off-licence – and then actually did. Collins spent four months in jail. The group recovered from this setback, and in 1994 issued Up to Our Hips.

Following shenanigans on a Transatlantic flight, their US prospects diminished, though their UK standing was at its highest after they were embraced by the Britpop generation. In July 1996, Rob Collins died in a road accident while driving back from Rockfield studios near Monmouth in Wales, where The Charlatans had been recording.

Brookes proved a rock, simply telling his bandmates that they couldn't split up. With Martin Duffy of Primal Scream on keyboards, they duly supported Oasis a week later at Knebworth, completed Tellin' Stories and decided to go on.

They hired organist Tony Rogers and found a new lease of life, even if the move to a major label in the mid-Nineties didn't deliver the expected dividends internationally. In 1999, though, they discovered that they had been ripped off by their accountant and had to pay £2m in back taxes to the Inland Revenue. Thankfully, they remained in great demand as a live attraction and always delivered a rousing set – as when I last saw them at the Wychwood Festival two years ago.

Back then, Brookes, who had collapsed during a concert in Philadelphia in 2010, and been diagnosed with a brain tumour, seemed to be on the mend. He enthused about the Birmingham band The Carpels whom he had signed to his One Beat Records label. He rejoined The Charlatans at the end of 2010 and participated in the tour to mark the 15th anniversary of Tellin' Stories in 2012. He died of brain cancer.

Pierre Perrone

Jonathan Brookes, musician: born Burntwood, Staffordshire 21 September 1968; married Debbie Hill (three daughters); died Burton-on-Trent 13 August 2013.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past