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Press release

  • 15 December 2005
  • Man behind JCB Song digs into happy Sussex memories

    Nizlopi: Sussex graduate Luke Concannon (top) and John Parker

    Nizlopi: Sussex graduate Luke Concannon (top) and John Parker

    Sussex graduate Luke Concannon is Top of the Pops - and hoping to hang on to the Christmas No 1 slot with his group Nizlopi and their single, The JCB Song.

    Acoustic duo Nizlopi (Luke and musician John Parker) are now second favourites to take the most coveted No 1 spot of the year. All depends on whether X Factor winner Shayne Ward can notch up enough sales in time. His single is released on Wednesday (Dec 21).

    Nizlopi fought off chart veterans Diana Ross and Westlife to hit No 1 on Sunday. Nizlopi's fame has spread through word of mouth and the popularity of their online animated version of JCB, which has so far enchanted one million viewers.

    Luke, who graduated in 2000 with a degree in English, remembers his time at Sussex with great affection - unlike the misery of primary school that inspired The JCB Song.

    Speaking from Ireland last week, part of a hectic promotion tour, Luke said: "Sussex? I loved it. The first year [1997] I fell in love, wrote songs and played at the jam nights. I went round Brighton playing in venues and asking for gigs. And I cooked food for mates and sat singing while we ate and drank crap wine. I just loved the engagement, a chance to be loved for being myself. And a chance to sing regularly.

    "Other than Shamanic consciousness, life histories, fantasy culture and psychoanalysis though, I really did a BA in Girlfriend, Music and Community Work Studies."

    Dr Brian Bates, who taught the Shamanic Consciousness course Luke refers to, remembers Luke well. He says: "I'm delighted to hear that he is doing so well with his music. It doesn't surprise me. In the course, each student chose a topic of their own to explore during the entire term, and I remember that Luke studied the tribal roots of Irish folk music.

    "When the day came for him to give a presentation about his work to the seminar group, I was a bit worried when I saw he had turned up with a drum. The walls between the seminar rooms are quite thin, and the people in the next room were struggling with heavy discussions of existential philosophy. Luke's presentation was marvellous - well researched and rehearsed. And when he demonstrated a couple of songs for us, singing and playing the drum, the effect was superb and, of course, so enchanting that I knew 'next door' would enjoy it too. They went quiet, and I had no complaints!"

    The JCB Song tells the tale of the five-year-old Luke escaping the school bullies and spending the day riding in his dad's big yellow digger. It's proved a hit with children and parents alike.

    Now Luke and John (the pair met on the school bus in Warwickshire when they were both 13), are setting their sights on promoting their new album.

    Luke says: "We are now getting a lot of attention because of JCB. We are likely to be number one this week! We released it with an animated video on the net in the summer. It's an honest song, written from the heart about my strong memories of being young and proud to be from a family of hard-working, good, fun musical men, versus having a hard time at school. We have refused deals from record labels, as we feel that we want to go our own way, and represent our values, rather than the profit-driven values of the mainstream."

    Nizlopi hit the road in earnest after Luke graduated. John joined Luke in Brighton for a while before they both returned to their native Leamington Spa, where they are still based. A year of small-venue gigs and recording ensued, before things began to take off with their debut album, Half These Songs Are About You, an eclectic mix of jazz, folk and hip hop tributes. It has already topped the National Unsigned Network Chart for ten record-breaking weeks and is receiving enthusiastic critical acclaim.

    Reflecting again on his time at Sussex, Luke says: "That first summer was when Finley Quaye's Maverick A Strike album was coming from every residence and every car stereo. By my third year I was busting to be engaged in the real world, being of service to people rather than to my studies. I worked a lot in schools doing music workshops with kids, and played in three different bands. Now, in the heart of all of this music and travel, I do have a hunger for reading, thinking and reflection time. It's funny how we hunger for balance. It's about mixing our passions with the needs of the world."


    Notes for editors 

    For more information about Nizlopi, please see: and to see The JCB Song online, visit (open the virtual notebook and click on "Watch the JCB music video").

    University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing, tel: 01273 678 888 or email or


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