Remembering World Party’s Karl Wallinger

Karl Wallinger, the producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader behind World Party and a onetime member of the Waterboys, passed away on Sunday. No cause of death has been announced yet. He was 66.

Born in Wales, Wallinger grew up with music and played in a few bands before being recruited by Mike Scott as a keyboardist for the Waterboys in 1983. He toured with the band and contributed to two albums, A Pagan Place and This Is the Sea.

Wallinger formed his own band, World Party, in 1986. While technically a band, their debut album, Private Revolution, released a year later, was largely a one-person project recorded in Wallinger’s home studio. The album turned into a surprise hit thanks to his knack for immediately catchy songs, most notably “Ship of Fools” (see video above).

karl wallinger world party private revolution album cover art

World Party went on to release several more albums, including Goodbye Jumbo, Bang!, Egyptology, and Dumbing Up.

“In the early ’90s, [Goodbye Jumbo] seemed to be everywhere,” writes Graeme Thomson in the Guardian. “Citing the law of unintended consequences, a case could be made that it heralded the coming tide of Britpop, drawing on some of the same sources with greater wit and far less self-consciousness.”

Among other projects he worked on Sinéad O’Connor’s 1987 debut album The Lion and the Cobra, and in 2008 he was also included on the Peter Gabriel-produced album Big Blue Ball.

“Karl was an abundant talent and we have been given extraordinary music and memories from this extraordinary man.”

Peter Gabriel

Wallinger also worked on soundtracks, including Reality Bites and Clueless, and his song “She’s the One” (from Egyptology) turned into a Number One UK hit for Robbie Williams.

Steeped in the music of the Beatles and other pop giants, Wallinger created songs that transcend genres and generations, and feel as timeless today as they did when first released.

“I get hammered with this retro thing, but I’m not retro. I’m writing songs about now,” he told writer Graeme Thomson, in an interview conducted just before the release of his career retrospective box set Arkeology.

After suffering a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 2001, Wallinger stepped away from his music career for several years to recover. Later that decade, however, he was able to resume touring.

In a 2022 interview with the Big Takeover, Wallinger revealed he was working on a new album.

“I’ve got twenty-odd years of material,” he said, “[but] what I’m trying to do is make everything the most contemporary version of things, rather than go back and just say, ‘How can I finish these songs off and put them out?’ I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be just like rolling the stone away from the front of the cave and coming out again into the sunlight.”

Wallinger is survived by his wife Suzie Zamit and their two children.

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