Obits — March 13, 2017 at 10:36 am

John Lever, powerful drummer for The Chameleons, dies following short illness

John Lever, the longmtime drummer for Manchester post-punk favorites The Chameleons and spin-off groups The Sun and the Moon and ChameleonsVox, died this morning following “a short period of illness,” his longtime musical collaborator Mark Burgess announced 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,” the Chameleons frontman wrote on his Facebook page this morning. “Obviously I’m shocked at the news and consequently I’ll be offline for a while.”

Levers, a key component to the band’s thick, powerful sound, replaced original drummer Brian Schofield shortly after The Chameleons formed in 1981. He joined singer/bassist Burgess and guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding. The band would release three classic albums during its original run: 1983’s Script of the Bridge, 1985’s What Does Anything Mean? Basically and 1986’s Strange Times.

The drummer also joined Burgess in the Sun and the Moon, which released a self-titled record in 1988, and reunited with the Chameleons in the early 2000s, and played with Burgess later in the decade under the ChameleonsVox banner. Burgess continues to tour and record with ChameleonsVox, but Lever hadn’t been part of the latest lineup. Most recently, Lever had re-teamed with former Chameleons bandmate Dave Fielding as The Red-Sided Garter Snakes.

Further details of Levers’ death are not yet known.

Below, check out Lever in action with the Chameleons in an hour-long live set from 1982.


Video: The Chameleons, Live at the Gallery Club (1982)





  1. This is terribly sad news. Rest in Peace, John.

  2. It was an honor to share a stage with you in BLACK SWAN LANE, J.L.
    You were a true friend and a genuine great person.
    RIP, brother. xx
    Jack Richard Sobel

  3. Just seeing this news today. Gutted to see another legend pass on too soon. It seems something in the universe compelled me to wear my Script of the Bridge t-shirt this morning, mere hours before I found out about John. He will be sorely missed.

    @ Jack Sobel: I was at the 2011 gig in Oakland with ChameleonsVox and BSL. It was magical to hear Mark, John & Co. perform “Script…” – it was a desperately needed shot in the arm for me as I was going through an emotionally tough period back then. I also became a BSL fan that night based on your performance – all the best for your continued success!

  4. Modsleix Six

    So sad that the opportunity for any type of a “proper” reunion (however unlikely) has now been forever extinguished. Heartbreaking to know that ANY chance of hearing/seeing these great musicians perform together as a full original unit once again (again, as unlikely as it might’ve been or seemed), has now been permanently laid to rest…

    John Lever R.I.P…

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