Formed in December of 1995 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and named after a place in the lead singer’s favorite book, Anne of Green Gables, Idlewild resulted from a chance meeting at a university Christmas celebration. At the party, singer-songwriter Roddy Woomble, guitarist Rod Jones, and drummer Colin Newton discovered their shared obsession with bands like the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, and other classic discord punk rockers, as well as alternative rock groups like Nirvana and R.E.M. A style of music inspired by all these influences is exactly what these three young men, along with bass player Bob Fairfoull, intended to produce. Hailed as one of Great Britain’s best live acts, Idlewild create songs filled with both hardcore punk fury and angular melodies.
Lead vocalist Roderick “Roddy” Woomble was born on August 13, 1976, in Glasgow, Scotland, and lived in both France and the United States before his family settled in a small Scottish town two hours north of Edinburgh when he was 15 years old. The soundtrack to Woomble’s childhood, he says, consisted of his parents’ folk records, especially the music of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, though as a teen he preferred heavy metal and punk. He describes his first band as a goth/pop outfit, laughing now about playing gigs in local pubs to audiences of farmers. “It wasn’t until I was about 18 and got a copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited that I started to realize he was quite different,” said the singer, who by now had started playing the drums and writing lyrics, in an interview with Neil Mason of Melody Maker. “Since then, I’ve collected all his albums—there’s a lot. Some of his songs are the best I’ve ever heard.”
In addition to music, Woomble also developed a passion for filmmaking. He received his first eight-millimeter camera for his fifteenth Christmas, and has used it ever since. Regarding filmmaking, Woomble liked “the whole process of it: getting your film back, watching it projected against a wall, even the noise the projector makes.” In September of 1995, Woomble moved to Edinburgh to study film and photography, but never completed his studies. Instead, he dropped his courses in order to concentrate on the band. However, Woomble remained interested in film, using his old, second-hand camera as a sort of diary and filming the band while on tour.
Bandmate Colin David Newton, who serves as Idlewild’s drummer, was born on April 18, 1977. Before attending Edinburgh University, where he studied biology, Newton had only lived in Banff, a small fishing village 50 miles north of Aberdeen in Scotland. Newton’s mother, a primary school teacher, and father, a town planner, still reside in the town of his birth. Growing up, Newton hung out with a group of friends who also like music, and, inevitably, they formed a band. Every weekend, he and his school chums would head to Aberdeen to buy records, then spend the whole next week listening to and learning the songs. Although he was originally supposed to attend Stirling University to study languages and European studies, Newton ended up in Edinburgh, and met Woomble during his first week of classes.
Guitarist Roderick “Rod” Ewan Price Jones was born on December 6, 1976, in South Africa, where his father, an orchestra conductor, and his mother, a soprano, had been working for six months. When Jones was two months of age, the family returned to the United Kingdom and lived in Wales for two years before moving to Leeds, England, living there off and on during Jones’ formative years until he enrolled at Edinburgh as a product design student. Because of his parents’ musical background, Jones was exposed to music at a young age, and one of his earliest memories was of his father asking, “if you could play any instrument, which one would it be?” To his father’s dismay, “the drums,” was Jones’ reply. “I just saw his face drop,” recalled Jones to Mason. “He tried a couple more times and then asked me who my favorite member of the orchestra was. I said I quite liked the guy who played violin. The next morning, out of nowhere, a violin appeared.” Thus, Jones studied violin for six years, followed by reluctant stints on the piano and trombone. When Jones was 16, his parents finally gave up and bought him an electric guitar.
In early 1996, just three weeks after forming and having enlisted a bass player named Phil Scanlon, Idlewild played their first gig at Edinburgh’s Subway
Members include Bob Fairfoull (born Robert James Fairfoull on August 6, 1976, in Edinburgh, Scotland; son of a guitarist; joined group in 1997), bass; Rod Jones (born Roderick Ewan Price Jones on December 6, 1976, in South Africa; son of an orchestra conductor [father] and a soprano [mother]. Education: Studied product design at Edinburgh University), guitar; Colin Newton (born Colin David Newton on April 18, 1977, in Banff, Scotland; son of a town planner [father] and a primary school teacher [mother]. Education: Studied biology at Edinburgh University), drums; Phil Scanlon (left band in 1997), bass; Roddy Woomble (born Roderick Woomble on August 13, 1976, in Glasgow, Scotland. Education: Studied film and photography at Edinburgh University), vocals, lyrics.
Formed band in December of 1995 in Edinburgh, Scotland; released first single, the self-financed “Queen of the Troubled Teens,” in March of 1997 on Edinburgh’s Human Condition label; signed to Food Records, 1997; released mini-album Captain, joined the Radio 1 Evening Session tour with Catatonia and Travis, released “A Film for the Future” on Food, released debut album Hope Is Important, 1998; played a concert at Edinburgh’s Street Gardens with Garbage at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament, released “Little Discourage,” 1999; released hit single “Actually It’s Darkness,” followed by the release of 100 Broken Windows, 2000.
Addresses: Fan information —Idlewild Information Service, P.O. Box 23069, Edinburgh, EHI 9YH U.K. Website— Idlewild Official Website: http://www.idlewild.co.uk.
Club and spent the remainder of the year writing songs and performing around Edinburgh and Glasgow. Financed by the creative use of student loans, Idlewild’s first single, “Queen of the Troubled Teens,” appeared in March of 1997 on Edinburgh’s Human Condition label. The single earned airplay on local radio, and in turn, DJ Steve Lamacq’s influential Radio 1 Evening Session program. “They were brash, intense and absorbed in a world of their own,” Lamacq said of the first Idlewild show he attended in London, as quoted by Mason. “The great thing about the ’Wild was that they were so angular and energetic—and despite being four boys in a band—so at odds musically with the f***-end Britpop bands, the imitators and the chancers.”
However, relations within the band were strained, and later that year, Idlewild dismissed Scanlon and enlisted bassist Robert “Bob” James Fairfoull. Born in Edinburgh on August 6, 1976, Fairfoull lived in the city of his birth throughout his childhood and was raised by his grandmother after his parents divorced. Fairfoull’s father made part of his living as a guitarist on the Edinburgh club circuit, and Fairfoull, at age 11, decided he wanted to play guitar, too. Never much of a student, Fairfoull drifted in and out of school and decided to take a course in landscape gardening. However, that plan didn’t work out either, and he returned to school but ended up failing most of his classes again. “I was a bit of a waster,” he admitted to Mason. “It’s the only thing I regret when I look back at myself. I just sat there and thought, Well, eventually a band will ask me to join them.’ I might still have sat there at 35, on the dole, bandless.”
Luckily for Fairfoull, Idlewild came asking, and more importantly, the incoming bassist brought to the group a renewed sense of energy. As word spread about the band, a rejuvenated Idlewild picked up impressive support slots, including one for Mark E. Smith and The Fall in August of 1997, followed by headlining gigs that earned them a reputation for their wild, aggressive stage presence. “Take the energy of a thousand Mexican jumping beans,” offered Melody Maker’s Ben Myers as a description of the group’s live act. “Pour into a liquidiser with a gallon of vodka and Tizer. Add some Sonic Youth, some Blur and some Fuzi records. Shake violently and noisily for 20 minutes in a badly lit room. Garnish with sweat and chipped teeth. Call it ‘Idlewild’ and serve.”
In September of 1997, Idlewild reached the finals at the annual “In The City” competition, a United Kingdom music business event for unsigned bands, then entered the studio with producer Paul Tipler to record for two separate labels. On December 1, Simon Williams’ Fierce Panda Records—an influential label that released early singles for Mansun, Placebo, Embrace, and The Bluetones—issued the seven-inch single “Chandelier/I Want to Be a Writer.” Subsequently, a mini-album entitled Captain, which included the single “Satan Polaroid,” appeared in January of 1998 for Deceptive Records. The recording earned glowing reviews; New Musical Express (NME) awarded Captain a grade of eight out of a possible ten, while Melody Maker’s Mason, in a January 10, 1998 review, predicted, “The raucous energy, and fast, fierce tunes with molten melodies make for a twinkling 1998 for the Edinburgh-based four piece.”
Meanwhile, Idlewild had signed with Blur’s label Food Records in December of 1997. In early 1998, the band embarked on their first United Kingdom headlining tour, appeared at the NME Brat Awards, opened shows for The Warm Jets, and joined the Radio 1 Evening Session tour with Catatonia and Travis. By now, Idlewild’s live set had gained legendary status. “We do like to go completely mad,” admitted Woomble for Idlewild’s official website, “and we’ve all got cuts and bruises to prove it. I smashed my front tooth out with my microphone in Amsterdam, got a false one fitted and then smashed it out again a few weeks later.”
In April of 1998, Idlewild surfaced with their first record for Food, the dramatic single “A Film for the Future.” Described by Melody Maker as “the best livid rock single since [Nirvana’s] ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’” and named NME Single of the Week, the song heralded the first chart action for the group, climbing to number 53 in the United Kingdom. Summer festival appearances and other singles, including “I’m a Message,” followed. Then on October 26, 1998, Idlewild released their debut album. Hope Is Important featured 12 tracks of exhilarating punk songs, as well as unexpected, delicate pop tunes. The set also included “When I Argue, I See Shapes,” the group’s first top 20 hit. Supporting the album with more touring, Idlewild traveled to New York City to play their first American date as part of the CMJ show, returned to the United Kingdom for more dates, among them a sold-out show in London, and made their first trip to Japan.
Idlewild welcomed a new year with another round of tours, including a gig with Unkle on the NME Carling Premier Tour, support slots with Placebo, and a European tour with the Manic Street Preachers. Afterward, the group began writing songs for their next album, made appearances at music festivals during the summer of 1999, and played a concert at Edinburgh’s Street Gardens with Garbage at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament. Following the release of the first single off the forthcoming album,” Little Discourage,” another United Kingdom chart hit, Idlewild embarked on a 14-date British tour. They rounded out the year with a trip to Chicago to record tracks for the album, playing six dates in the United States before returning home.
On March 27, 2000, Idlewild released the hit single “Actually It’s Darkness,” followed closely by the full-length 100 Broken Windows on April 10. Recorded in intervals over a seven-month period in Scotland, England, Wales, and the United States with producers Dave Eringa (known for his work with the Manic Street Preachers) and Bob Weston (who has worked with Shellac, Rodan, and Sebadoh), 100 Broken Windows retained the band’s fierce energy. However, the set also revealed a greater emphasis on harmony and lyrics, proving Idlewild much more than an exciting live prospect. It entered the United Kingdom album chart at number 15 and gave rise to a third hit single, “These Wooden Ideas.” Adding to the success of 100 Broken Windows were two appearances on the BBC show Top of the Pops, a set of performances on the popular television show Later With Jools Holland, and an appearance at the Radio 1 One Big Sunday event held at Falkirk. After playing summer festivals and completing a United Kingdom tour in the fall of 2000, Idlewild traveled to Europe for shows with Placebo.
“Queen of the Troubled Teens,” Human Condition, 1997.
“Chandelier,” Fierce Panda, 1997.
“Satan Polaroid,” Deceptive, 1998.
“A Film for the Future,” Food, 1998.
“Everyone Says You’re So Fragile,” Food, 1998.
“I’m a Message,” Food, 1998.
“When I Argue I See Shapes,” Food, 1999.
“Little Discourage,” Food, 1999.
“Actually It’s Darkness,” Food, 2000
“These Wooden Ideas,” Food, 2000.
Captain (mini-album), Deceptive, 1998.
Hope Is Important, Food, 1998.
100 Broken Windows, Food, 2000.
Buckley, Jonathan and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Melody Maker, January 10, 1998; January 31, 1998; August 15, 1998; October 17, 1998; September 18, 1999; September 25, 1999; October 2, 1999; December 8-14, 1999.
New Musical Express, June 10, 2000.
Village Voice, March 28, 2000.
Washington Post, November 26, 1999.
Idlewild Official Website, http://www.idlewild.co.uk (September 19, 2000).
"Idlewild." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/idlewild
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