Here Come The Wiggles: An Interview with Anthony Fields (the Blue Wiggle)

Wiggles-2 75His enthusiasm is genuine; not only for his fellow band mates but also for their intended audience.

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There’s a certain unequivocal truth that’s understood and generally accepted when bringing up the delicate subject of family entertainment; if the kids enjoy it, the parents are almost surely going to hate it. How many of us have had to suffer through hours of babbling Telletubthings or, even worse, way over-caffeinated purple dinosaurs?

Twenty years ago that particular equation was turned on its head, when a bunch of Aussie rockers made the choice to hop in their ‘Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car’ and lay down some infectious all-ages jams as The Wiggles. I spoke recently with founding Wiggle, Anthony Fields (he’s the Blue Wiggle, for you newbies), and asked if he ever thought he would become the Mick Jagger of the preschool set.

“When I was a guitar player in a rock band, playing clubs in Australia after going to university,” Fields said, “I had absolutely no idea I’d be doing something like this after 23 years.”

Listening to him speak about the band’s impressive history, his enthusiasm is genuine; not only for his fellow band mates but also for their intended audience. Part of the fun of what they do is the ample room they’re provided with to genre-hop within the framework of their songs because “kids give us the freedom to do this,” Fields says. “We’ve included Celtic, Italian, and Irish influences in our music. Children are so much more open-minded and have fewer limitations in relation to what they listen to.” Their audience is about to expand even more with the debut of a brand new show called “Ready Steady Wiggle” on Sprout, a new CD entitled Taking Off, and of course, a corresponding world tour that stops in St. Louis on Sept. 18. This flurry of activity can only mean something big is happening in Wiggles World; not only are there brand new Wiggles, but one of them is the first female Wiggles member. How has that changed the Wigglescape?

“It’s been fantastic,” Fields enthuses. “Before, girls really only had Dorothy the Dinosaur to relate to, but now with Emma Watkins (the Yellow Wiggle) on board, they really have someone they can look up to and have even more fun with.”

In their native Australia, the press has even dubbed Ms. Watkins’ fans the ‘Mini-Emma Army.’

“It’s great, because they come to shows dressed as Emma in replica outfits and wearing bows,” he says. “She’s really caught on!”

Besides the aforementioned Emma Wiggle, now joining the ranks are Simon Wiggle (the Red Wiggle) and Lachy Wiggle (the Purple Wiggle). Fields is still the Blue Wiggle, the only remaining original member still on the roster. Still along for the ride are Captain Feathersword, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus, and Dorothy the Dinosaur. For fans wondering if the classic Wiggles are still around, Fields assures me that they are.

“They’re still involved, sure. Jeff plays piano on the CD, Murray plays some guitar, and Greg comes down too. And whenever we’re in Sydney doing a concert, they’re always there for support.”

I asked him how it feels to be with an almost entirely new group of people, and he acknowledges that the energy is invigorating.

“The energy they bring is great, and it’s funny; I’m kind of like Papa Smurf” he laughs, “because I’m so much older than the new members. But they’re a really lovely group of people.”

Musically, are there any differences with this new lineup?

“What I love about the new band is that we have these wonderful four-part harmonies, which you can hear all over the new record.”  

Truly, the new album doesn’t miss a step when it comes to catchy pop tunes that kids and parents alike will find themselves humming long after the disc stops spinning. As the driving force behind the band, I ask him what kind of music he listens to for his own enjoyment.

“A lot of stuff from the 30s through the 60s, just happy, upbeat music,” he says. “I also like traditional country music like Merle Haggard, folk music, and stuff like Amy Winehouse and Bruce Springsteen.”

Speaking of rock stars, The Wiggles have plenty of their own famous fans as well. Actors such as Robert DeNiro and Johnny Depp bring their kids to the shows, as well as musicians one wouldn’t necessarily associate with the group.

“We get all kinds of people. James Hetfield from Metallica brings his kids, Mick Fleetwood comes down. Neil Sedaka, who’s such a great songwriter, brought his grandkids.”

When I bring up John Fogerty, who appeared on The Wiggles Christmas DVD, Fields sounds like a kid at…well, Christmas!

“It was a thrill, mate!” he says. “We got to take a tour of his studio, and it was like being in guitar heaven.”

The tour’s official charity sponsor is St. Jude’s Hospital, an organization chosen by The Wiggles because of their “outstanding and ongoing support of children’s healthcare and research. They’re a great organization to work with,” Fields says.

So if you and your family want to dance to classic Wiggles tunes like Hot Potato and Fruit Salad, or brand new classics like Do The Propeller! and Beep! Beep! Buckle Up! make sure you’re at the Peabody Opera House on Wednesday, Sept. 18 for a Wiggly good time. | Jim Ousley

The Wiggles – Wednesday, Sept. 18, Peabody Opera House @ 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $78.50, $38.50, $25.50, and $18.50.

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