Somewhere in a parallel universe, The Chameleons would have been one of the biggest bands in the world. As it stands, I can probably count the people I know who have even heard of them on one hand and still have some fingers left.
Though their first record, Script Of the Bridge stacks up favorably as a debut album against, say Boy by U2 (the band they are most often compared to), and in their live shows — usually in small clubs or theaters — they create a noise big enough to fill a stadium, the Chameleons just never really caught on in America. Of all the bands I've ever heard, I would, in fact, have to rate the Chameleons as the single greatest band practically no one has ever heard of.
My discovery of this great eighties band came by way of a record review I read in Rolling Stone. Having worked in a record store at the time, I rarely paid attention to such reviews, mainly because my job gave me access to pretty much anything I ever wanted to hear. But also, because the critics so rarely ever got anything right.
This review, however, caught my eye. It compared The Chameleons to other English bands of the moment I really liked — such as Echo And The Bunnymen and the aforementioned U2. But the writer also used exactly the right buzz words to pique my interest. Words like "dark and desolate," and "layered and textured."
In this particular case, the reviewer nailed it.
Script Of The Bridge is simply an amazing debut album. Script is the sort of record that sounds as though it was recorded by a band that had been making records for years. Released first as a British import in 1983, MCA Records would notoriously screw up the American release later that same year by changing the song sequencing and omitting some tracks altogether.
Since the most popular eighties rock bands of the time were split pretty much three ways — you had your syntho-pop "Flock of Haircuts" type bands; your Clash City proto-punkers; and then you had your standard bearing English guitar bands like U2 — The Chameleons probably best fit into the "guitar" group. That is, if you choose to put a label on them at all.