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John Lever, Chameleons Drummer, Dies

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John Lever, who played drums with the Chameleons from 1981-87, and 2000-03, has died. The news was broken by the band’s singer/bassist Mark Burgess.

“I’m deeply sad to report that this afternoon I got the news that John Lever died this morning following a short period of illness,” he wrote on Facebook. “We want to offer our sincere and deepest sympathy to John’s mother, his sister and his two children at this terrible time. Obviously I’m shocked at the news and consequently I’ll be offline for a while.”

The Chameleons were formed in 1981 in Manchester, England, and Lever joined shortly afterwards. After their debut single, “In Shreds,” had a bit of success, the quartet of Burgess, Lever and guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding released their debut album, Script of the Bridge, in 1983, which featured the singles “Up the Down Escalator,” “Don’t Fall” and “A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days.”

Two more records, What Does Anything Mean? Basically and Strange Times followed in 1985 and 1986. However, they broke up a year later following the death of their manager, Tony Fletcher. Their final recordings from their first go-round were released in 1990 as an EP called Tony Fletcher Walked on Water…. La La La La La-La La-La-La.

From there, Lever and Burgess picked up two new guitarists, Andy Clegg and Andy Whitaker, and called themselves the Sun and the Moon. They lasted only one album, a self-titled effort in 1988.

The Chameleons reunited in 2000, which kicked off with Strip, an acoustic — and drumless — re-recording of their earlier songs. Lever returned for 2001’s Why Call It Anything and This Never Ending Now in 2002. But the reunion ended in 2003 when the band broke up for good.

Lever remained active over the last few years of his life, working for a while with Burgess in ChameleonsVox — where they played their old material — then forming Red Sided Garter Snakes with Fielding. Their debut, Endless Sea, arrived in 2015, but Fielding departed by the time of their sophomore effort, Blue Lake, which was released in November 2016.

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