Since forming in 1991, Australian children’s band The Wiggles have seen just about everything. They’ve created an extensive discography spanning 59 studio albums alone – and last year they were the second most-streamed Australian band on Spotify across all genres.
At their peak, the original band performed to over a million people a year. But in recent years, they have noticed something new: a generational crossover. Their fans have grown, many have formed their own bands – and they’re still fans of Wiggles.
This became evident in 2018, when Brisbane hard rock duo DZ Deathrays invited guitarist Murray Cook to take part in their Like People video. In the clip, a demon-possessed cook emerges from a bathroom stall and appears to be taken over by his old persona, Red Wiggle.
Later that year, Cook – who retired from live performance with the Wiggles in 2012, along with original Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt – appeared with DZ Deathrays at the Splendor in the Grass festival. The audience went totally apples and bananas.
It set the stage for Tame Impala’s Elephant’s all-conquering cover of last year, for which Cook returned – and which won the country’s biggest music poll, the Triple J Hottest 100.
“I just started noticing that I often got stopped in the street by young people in their twenties saying ‘the Wiggles were my childhood, you’re legends!'” Cook told Guardian. Australia.
And now there’s a full covers album, ReWiggled, with bands such as DZ Deathrays, Spacey Jane, San Cisco and the Polish Club playing Wiggles songs, and a second disc from the recently expanded children’s band joining the originals to honor their favorite songs.
This is actually the second Wiggles tribute album. An earlier version, featuring Living End, Washington, Sarah Blasko and Adalita, was released in 2011 and re-released in late 2021, capitalizing on Elephant’s viral success. But the new edition debuted at No. 1 on the Australian charts last month. Perhaps surprisingly, for a band with multiple gold and platinum certifications around the world, this is their first album to hit #1 in their home country.
Cook, a pre-pandemic regular on the live scene, is tickled by the validation of young musicians. “I find it particularly satisfying that so many people I meet tell me the Wiggles were their entry into music. For me, it’s like a mission accomplished.
A new cover that made Cook laugh was the Cats version of (Can You) Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist. “In our version, there’s a spoken part where Anthony goes, ‘What’s next Greg, what’s next?’ — and they did those tracks, too.
A children’s song is not an obvious choice for a ratbag punk band, but the Wiggles returned the favor with their version of the Cats Pub Feed. “It was funny too,” Cook says. “It took me three days to learn the solo of [Queen’s] Bohemian Rhapsody, but I knocked out Pub Feed in about half an hour – which I love, I think it’s fantastic! They are great songs for different reasons.
The Cats’ Eamon Sandwith is impressed by this. “It’s the first band I liked,” he says sincerely. “When they approached us to be part of the ReWiggled album, I couldn’t believe it. It’s not often that I get starstruck, but I totally was. I couldn’t believe they knew who we were, having listened to them since I was about two years old.
At the time, Sandwith dressed as Captain Feathersword for Wiggles shows; he text through a photo as proof. “When I first heard their Pub Feed cover, it honestly sounded like a Wiggles song,” he says. “Maybe their writing style subconsciously influenced me since I was a kid, because I was blown away by how Wiggly it sounded.”
Custard, who age-wise is closer to his peers than the Wiggles’ descendants, takes on Do the Propeller. Oddly enough, this could pass for a Custard song. Singer David McCormack is now best known to millions as another icon of Australian children’s entertainment: he plays Bandit, Bluey’s father, in the juggernaut world series that bears his name.
He became aware of the extent of the Wiggles’ reach when his eldest daughter, Rose, was born. “There’s a whole world of kids’ entertainment out there and 90% of it is horrible, but 10% is really interesting,” McCormack says. “It’s really hard to get to the top of that pile, and they’ve been doing it for decades.
“They have tremendous expertise and knowledge. They know how to get across a word or an idea that seems out of the ordinary and yet connects universally with children everywhere, as well as with parents. If it was easy to do and everyone could do it, everyone would do it. They’re hugely successful because they’re very, very good at what they do.
Cook and Fatt are semi-retired from the group, while remaining active as shareholders. Yellow Wiggle Greg Page left in 2006, then came back and left again in 2012. Blue Wiggle Anthony Field then rebuilt the group with Simon Pryce, Lachie Gillespie and Emma Watkins. The popular Watkins left last year and was replaced by Tsehay Hawkins, then just 15 years old.
Now the two versions of the band are collaborating on a series of shows, with the new lineup doing the day shift and the originals doing the final gigs, joined by many of the artists they’ve inspired. “It’s mind-blowing when you get on stage and there’s this roar, but it’s all adults, not little kids,” Cook says.
Fatt and Page both left the band for health reasons, and Page suffered a heart attack on stage during a bushfire relief meeting in January 2020. Cook, 61, underwent surgery to open hearts at the end of 2020. Relentless touring had wiped them all out, so this one unfolds at a pace the original members can adapt to.
And after that? Will Cook put the red skivvy back in its box, until it’s possessed again? “Yeah, probably for a little while,” he said. “But I think we’re going to keep going and do more, just because they’re so much fun and as long as there’s an audience there. I don’t know if people will still want to come and sing Wiggles songs when they’re 40.