The Wiggles shake things up


Wednesday, December 19

Wollongong Entertainment Centre

One of the advantages of being popular with the preschool set is you can go about your life with relative anonymity.

Without the background of a stage, the sunny music or, in Jeff Fatt's case, his trademark purple Wiggles skivvy, he can spend his days surfing and fishing without being recognised.

"It's usually the teenagers who might do a drive-by "Wake up Jeff!"," he laughs.

"Because I'm not wearing my purple skivvy, you sit a bit below the radar of children when you're out in public."

The Wiggles is arguably the most popular children's band of the last two decades. With countless tours, records, DVDs, a movie and even designated Wiggles sections in a few amusement parks, the early childhood entertainers have made a permanent mark on their fans.

In fact, Fatt says their original fans, now all grown up, have started bringing their own children along to the shows.

"I think it's a testimony that we're doing something right and it's nice that parents remember The Wiggles from when they were little, it's nice to see it's being passed on to their children."

Sadly, after 21 years of performing together, three of the original Wiggles members have called it quits.

Fatt, red Wiggle Murray Cook and yellow Wiggle Greg Page are in the middle of their last run of shows before they retire from the Wiggles stage (Sam Moran, who replaced Page when he originally left the band due to illness for several years, exited The Wiggles amid controversy this year to make way for Page's return).

Blue Wiggle Anthony Field will remain and The Wiggles will continue with three new members, Emma Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie and Simon Pryce.

While Cook and Page are leaving to spend more time with their families, Fatt, now 58, is leaving in part because of health problems that flared up last year, resulting in him having a pacemaker implanted.

"It's mixed feelings, I know the very last show is going to be a little bit sad, but it's been a great 21 years leading up to this point," he says.

"The Wiggles is not just four people, it's also the characters, Dorothy the Dinosaur being the most popular.

"There's all those elements that are still there for the children, but by the same token you can't dismiss the fact that some children are going to be sad [that] the original Wiggles aren't going to be performing any more."

Fatt originally joined the band as a favour to former Cockroaches band member Field, who asked him to help out on a few tracks he was writing for children.

In the two decades since, Fatt says the most important thing he has learnt about performing for kids is to keep it short and simple.

He has also learned to engage them by performing at their level.

"For a child, the whole world is new and exciting, so the most mundane thing for an adult may be very exciting for a child.

"The essential thing is that children are egocentric and the world revolves around them, so you cannot do anything to engage them without speaking to them on their level - that's a very important thing."

The purple Wiggle names Rock A Bye Your Bear as his favourite and the quintessential Wiggles song, but most would associate Fatt with the track Wake Up Jeff!.

Keeping this tune in The Wiggles' repertoire might be a little hard since Fatt's replacement has a two-syllable name, but Fatt doesn't think they'll ever take it out of their shows.

"Perhaps we might change it lyrically, I don't know, but it's too powerful a thing for a child to throw that away."

After 21 years, Jeff Fatt, Greg Page and Murray Cook are leaving The Wiggles, but Anthony Field will keep the band alive with three new performers.

After 21 years, Jeff Fatt, Greg Page and Murray Cook are leaving The Wiggles, but Anthony Field will keep the band alive with three new performers.


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