"We were ruled by a King, Lords and Commons; now by a General, Court Martial and Commons, and we pray you what is the difference?"

The Levellers were a mid 17th Century political movement, whose most notable representative was John Lilburne. He resigned from the Parliamentarian Army where he was a Lieutenant-Colonel. Lilburne refused to sign John Pimms' Solemn League and Covenant believing it to be biased towards Presbyterianism. He was arrested twice for slander (once was the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the other was the Earl of Manchester).

In 1647 the army made it clear that it was not happy about arrears in pay, no indemnity for wartime acts and drafting. Soldiers who knew about Lilburne and his group started selecting delegates (known as "Agitators") to go to Parliament with their problems. Sir Thomas Fairfax then called a rally for the whole army to discuss action. And so, the General Council of Army was formed - both the soldier class and the officer class are represented. The General Council forms its own policy, based on Lilburne's ideas.

The army split into two groups. The Grandees whome were composed of the officer class, and Lilburne's supporters whome were nicknamed the Levellers by Oliver Cromwell (second-in-command). The Levellers propose an agreement with the Officers, which was rejected because it called for religious tolerance.

After Charles I was executed, the Levellers increased their activity, John Lilburne, William Walwyn, Richard Overton and Thomas Prince were then arrested for treason and the Levellers began a mutiny in London. Cromwell and Fairfax appealled for them to stop, and they did. The head of the mutiny (Robert Lockyer), was executed. The Levellers were not pleased and put together a resistance, which was crushed by Cromwell at Burford in a surprise attack. And so the Levellers lost their military support, Cromwell leading the army to war against Ireland.

Lilburne, Walwyn, Overton and Prince were later released, but the Leveller movement was never again.


If afflictions make men wise, and wisdom direct to happinesse, then certainly this Nation is not far from such a degree thereof

The Levellers had very radical ideas about how the country should be run. Their ideas included the right to vote for all, the distribution of the landlord's land to all, equal rights, the cessation of wars with foreign lands and the empowering of the peasant class. They mustered support in the military - many soldiers being unhappy with the way they were treated and the poor people of England, but very unpopular with those in power (naturally). The Levellers eventually ran out of political steam.

Britain was primarily a monarchy, with very distinct class divisions, the thought that these divisions should be blurred was an alien concept. Even with the Civil War, and the fight against King Charles I, the Leveller's ideas were simply too radical. The country was in the throes of massive culture shock, and was being shocked constantly by Olver Cromwell. The idea of equality, whilst attractive, was not realistic.

See also:- Diggers

Agreement Of The Free People of England. By Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne, Master William Walwyn, Master Thomas Prince, and Master Richard Overton, Prisoners in the Tower of London, May the 1. 1649.

1988, four regulars of the Eagle pub, Brighton, were thinking of giving up the music business altogether. Their interest in performing was rekindled by McDermott's Two Hours (a local folk-punk group, hell bent on having fun) and they decided to form their own folk-inspired group. An echo of the New Model Army, the Levellers were born.

Assisted by their acting manager, Phil Nelson (owner of Hag Records) they promoted themselves with demo tapes and gigs. By early 1989 they had produced an EP, "The Last Days of Winter", produced by Phil Vinall - the band felt that Last Days was not an appropiate lead track so the "Carry me" EP, produced by Mark Waterman, was recorded and released in May 1989. Within a few weeks, all 1,000 copies had sold out.

The group hooked up with booking agent Charlie Myatt, who became a close ally in hard times, when the record industry was not interested in folk. With Myatt, the group toured the UK college circuit, Ireland and Holland.

Around this time, Alan Miles, a mandolin and guitar player, joined the band, adding more texture and warmth to the overall sound.

October 1989 saw the successful release of the "Outside Inside" EP. They approached the French label, Musidisc, who promptly signed them up to a three album deal, taking them into the studio in 1990, with Waterboys producer, Phil Tennant, to record "A Weapon Called The Word", their first LP.

A series of setbacks struck, the first single from the new album, "World Freak Show", sunk without a trace - after a mistake by Musidisc meant that the single was released well after the set date. Miles left the group having been ground down by the relentless touring.

Fortunately, a replacement appeared in the guise of Simon Friend. With the newest member in tow, the group headed out on a European tour with New Model Army.

In October 1990, a second Musidisc single appeared, "Together All The Way" with a Luke Cresswell (later part of Beats International) remix of "Three Friends". Musidisc made another mistake and sold out of copies after a week, so the band took steps to end the contract, China Records stepped in and the legalities were settled out of court.

With their new label the Levellers went back into the studio and began on the "Levelling the Land" LP. Released in September, 1991, it entered the charts at number 14 and the first single release, "One Way" topped the Indie Charts, making it to number 51 in the UK charts. The band signed to Elektra Records in the US and they were on their way.

1992 saw the release of "Far from Home", tours of France, Germany, Scandinavia, USA and Canada. Though these events were a rip-roaring success, the word "Freakshow" still left a nasty taste in the Lev’s mouths, chiefly because Musidisc had, at the start of 1992, had issued a new, cash-in remix "World Freak Show" without the band’s permission. Ironically, the company had failed to notice that the lead singer, Mark Chadwick, had forgotten the words half way through the recording and sang "la la la".

Early 1993 saw the bad return to the studio to record their third and defining album, "The Levellers". Produced by Marcus Dravs and released in August, the second single from the album "This Garden" was the band's first UK Chart success, coming in at number 12 in November, 1993.

Late 1993 and the band were on the road again. Playing two dates at each venue, the band put a different show on each night, the first with Credit to the National and Chumbawamba (yes, Chumbawamba) and the second with Papa Brittle and The Fish Brothers.

The band's fan club was started, "On The Fiddle" now has branches in Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Czech Republic, USA and Australia. Now run from the The Metway in Brighton, which also became home to the band's rehearsal space and offices (and also holds their own pool room and bar) in September 1994.

The Metway also became home to Justice! an organisation fighting the Criminal Justice Act, a cause close to the bands' hearts. The Levellers are known for their anarchistic tendancies and their devotion to the cause of freedom for all.

"Zeitgeist" was written and recorded between October 1994 and April 1995 and became their first number one album when it was released in August 1995. With several appearances on Top of the Pops and three hit singles, the Levellers had hit the big time.

This success was repeated with the release of "Mouth to Mouth" in 1997. The first single from the album, "What a Beautiful Day" went into number 13 in the UK charts and stayed in the charts for 4 weeks. "Celebrate" and "Dog Train" went in in the twenties and continued the high profile of the band.

"One Way of Life - the Best of...." was released in 1998.

The latest album, "Hello Pig", was released in September 2000 preceeded by a rerelease of the single "One Way" in December, 1999, which charted at number 33 only to disappear a week later.

Although the Levellers have not been a major player on the music scene in the last year or so, it does not mean that the band have disbanded or that they are not preparing material for another album. Certainly they were on a tour of the UK colleges and universities in late 2001...

As for the future of one of the UK's most enduring folk-rock bands? Who knows... But be assured, there's only one way of life...

Band Members

  • Mark Chadwick - Vocals / guitar.
  • Jon Sevink - Fiddle.
  • Jeremy Cunningham - Bass guitar.
  • Simon Friend - Guitar / mandolin.
  • Charlie Heather - Drums.
  • Steve Boakes - Dijeridoo (occasionally!)


ALBUMS Sources:

The Discography and information are taken mainly from the Levellers own website. The biography has not been updated since the release of "Zeitgiest" and the discography since the release of "Hello Pig" and even then it is patchy. As soon as I find more information I will update this write up. I know that the Levellers were still touring at the end of 2002 (as they played at my local Student's Union) and are, therefore, still together and working on new projects.

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