Band: The Charlatans
Jon Brookes died in hospital aged forty-four on 13th August 2013 with his family at his bedside. He had been receiving treatment for a brain tumour following a seizure while on tour in Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Jon Brookes was born in 1968 in Burntwood, Staffordshire, United Kingdom. He grew up in Wednesbury, a market town in the Black Country. In 1987, still 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 acheived one single record and a tour of Germany before breaking up.
Jon Brookes was a founding member of the Charlatans, who formed in 1989 in the West Midlands.
The musician died after battling a brain tumour. His packed funeral was held at the town's 180-seat Christ Church, Burntwood, at a poignant service, with some of the mourners standing outside under the shelter of a white marquee. His wife Debbie was at the head of the procession flanked by close family and members of the band. Guests included Jon Brookes's friend and West Bromwich Albion defender Jonas Olsson.
Jon Brookes was diagnosed with a brain tumour after collapsing during a Charlatans gig in Philadelphia, in the United States in 2010. He briefly stopped breathing and was helped by a doctor attending the show, before being taken to hospital for emergency treatment. The rest of their US tour was cancelled as Jon Brookes was flown to the UK for treatment. Speaking afterwards he described how he "saw lights" in the corner of his eyes before collapsing at the concert and said he was at the "start of the long road of treatment for cancer" but was "feeling fit and positive".
The band revealed that he had undergone further surgery for the brain tumour. They said he had recovered well from the operation but would remain in hospital for additional treatment. Jon 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. Jon 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. 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 . 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.
Jon 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, Jon 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.
The sad death of the Charlatans’ drummer Jon Brookes from a brain tumor at the far too young age of 44 is the end of a long battle he’d been fighting against the condition that we first became aware of when he collapsed on stage at a gig in Philadelphia in 2010.
They had their big years in the nineties but had settled into being a very popular cult band – still able to score top 20 albums and sell out venues like Manchester Apollo. It had even seemed that the tragedies that had stalked the band for years had stopped until Jon collapsed on stage in Philadelphia and found himself unable to breathe and was saved by the prompt action of doctor. It was here that he found he had the cancer and fought bravely against the disease until his death. His attitude to his condition was, like his drumming, an inspiration.
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song: 'The Only One I Know',
co-written by Jon Brookes. Performed by the Charlatans.