The Chameleons (called The Chameleons UK on some American releases) were a post-punk band that formed in Middleton, in Greater Manchester, England in 1981 (see 1981 in music). They consisted of singer and bassist Mark Burgess, guitarist Reg Smithies, guitarist Dave Fielding, and drummer John Lever (replacing original drummer Brian Schofield). The core quartet were sometimes augmented live by keyboardists Alistair Lewthwaite and Andy Clegg in the 1980s, and percussionist/vocalist Kwasi Asante during their reunion period (ex-Magazine drummer Martin Jackson also briefly replaced Lever during 1982-83 while the latter was on sabbatical).
Through Mark Burgess' vocals and dark and ironic lyrics, their songs often dealt with personal themes of childlike innocence and a reverence for nostalgia. Musically, perhaps most notable in their work was the band's innovative and distinctive use of dual guitar melodies, courtesy of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding. These arrangements were often characterised by the use of delay and chorus effects. Dave played a melodic and atmospheric guitar while Reg played a more traditional riff-based guitar.
The band initially released three studio albums in the 1980s, following 1982 debut single "In Shreds" (the fruit of a brief signing to Epic, latterly reissued on the Statik label), and several radio sessions for late legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel. The Chameleons released their first full-length studio LP, the critically-acclaimed Script of the Bridge, on the Statik label in 1983. The album features a blend of rhythmic electric guitar textures, providing a moody and intense backdrop for Mark Burgess' haunting vocals. After their third release, 1986's Strange Times and the 1987 sudden death of band manager Tony Fletcher, they abruptly disbanded. Burgess then fronted The Sun and the Moon (with Lever), who issued only one eponymous album on Geffen in 1988, followed by an array of solo projects. Guitarists Fielding and Smithies formed The Reegs, who released two albums: Return of the Sea Monkeys (1991) and Rock the Magic Rock (1993). John Lever later joined Bushart, who released the album Yesterday is History (2008).
The Chameleons had been broken up for well over a decade before playing a small series of successful live dates in 2000 and the concurrent release of the album Strip (which reworked older material in an acoustic format). After a final studio album, 2001's Why Call It Anything?, another unplugged album (This Never Ending Now), and a successful reunion tour which took them across Europe and the United States, the band dissolved once again in early 2003 due to personal differences.
In 2009, Mark Burgess and John Lever reformed to play Chameleons back catalogue material, under the name Chameleons Vox.
Although The Chameleons never attained the level of commercial success or fame enjoyed by their contemporaries (e.g. The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen), their body of work is still critically acclaimed within the music press and influenced bands as diverse as Clan Of Xymox, Kitchens of Distinction, Puressence, Interpol, Blacklist, Editors, White Lies, and most recently The Horrors.