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Wiggles 080609
In the world of kids, the Wiggles make up the fab four. They will be bringing their moves and their music to the U.S. Cellular Coliseum on Wednesday. (For The Pantagraph)

From Cockroaches to Wiggles: No one can say it's been a long, dull crawl for Australia's Anthony Field, one-quarter of his homeland's highest-grossing music group.

No, scratch that: highest-grossing entertainers. Period.

With Russ Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson and all the other Down Under ex-pats eating their yellow/red/purple/blue dust.

In fact, these high-grossers, The Wiggles, have been part of the Aussie entertainment landscape for close to two decades.

But it's only been in the past half decade or so that the color-coded, high-octane rock quartet has invaded the states.

They've done it chiefly through their high-profile programming on the Disney Channel, followed by some serious touring with their live show - the one coming to Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Field, a former straight-ahead rocker in the Aussie band the Cockroaches, has been Wiggling 'round the world with no regrets since the early '90s.

And he's been seeing the color blue every twist and turn of the way - per his designation as, yes, the Blue Wiggle (as opposed to his mates Murray, who sees Red; Jeff, who dreams Purple; and Sam, who espies Yellow).

The whole thing began as a lark, says Field, a full-blown adult now in his mid-'40s, but with the high-octane energy reserves of the average 5-year-old in his audience.

The Sydney native began his musical life as a nun-taught violinist, which couldn't compete with the Rolling Stones-style guitar taught him by his big bro' John.

The result of that latter tutelage: the aforementioned Cockroaches, featuring the brothers Field and future Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt.

The group managed to become one of Australian's chart-topping '80s bands. So why in the world would Anthony and Jeff defect for something aimed at a

demographic in single digits?

It didn't hurt that Field had long harbored an interest in education, especially where kids are concerned.

"Yeah, we had a bit of commercial success (as the Cockroaches), but we're still basically doing the same music now, only with different lyrics," he says.

That "early bit of commercial success" has, of course, been compounded many times over via the Wiggles and those "different lyrics."

Creatively, the interest has been compounded, too, he says.

"Children are more open to music, and not just what's on the radio," Field notes, adding that the Wiggles have been able to weave every kind of sound, from country to jazz to "songs from the Pacific Islands," without being hooted off stage.

"I know we couldn't have done that as a 'normal' rock 'n' roll band," he says. "So this has been liberating for me."

He doesn't regret his days as a Cockroach, and everything that went with it. "I was in my 20s, and I was meeting women, and partying all the time - that whole lifestyle. But I got married and had a bit of a family ... and that slowed me down."

Back in the early '90s, before kid-centric TV and live tour shows had became a mass market industry, "there were no four-man rock bands doing children's entertainment," he says.

Now, of course, they're everywhere, including, Field wryly observes, on the Disney Channel, where the Wiggles have been supplanted by Disney's own house variation on the theme, the Imagination Movers.

In the beginning, "we used to be on three times a day, then it was down to one time a day, even though the ratings were still big. It became harder for people to see us."

The bottom line: "Disney looked at us and said, 'we didn't create them, why should we put them on our TV station?'"

No matter, says Field: The Wiggles will wriggle away from Disney to the PBS Kids Sprout network, effective Aug. 24, where they're being handed the prime 6-to-9 a.m. morning block on a platter.

Heck, why not just call it the Wiggles Channel? Field laughs, and notes that he and his color-coded mates will host the three-hour block in new segments, introducing other series programming as well as hosting retrospectives of their past shows.

Meanwhile, there's the current summer tour, "Wiggles Go Bananas Live!," coming to town via the Coliseum Wednesday, replete with all the orbiting Wiggles regulars: Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Wags the Dog and the Wiggly Dancers.

The one doing gymnastics across the stage will likely be Field, usually beating up the drums, flipping this way and that, or hanging upside down from somewhere.

He describes it as the Wiggles meets Cirque du Soleil.

Only with better colors.

At a glance

What: The Wiggles in "The Wiggles Go Bananas Live!"

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: U.S. Cellular Coliseum, 101 S. Madison St., Bloomington

Tickets: $18 to $35

Box office number: (800) 745-3000

Wiggly field

The four color-coded Wiggles are:

Anthony (Field), Blue Wiggle

Born: 1963, Sydney, Australia

Fun fact: Was an infantry soldier and piper with the 5/7 Royal Australian Regiment at Holesworthy, circa the early '90s

Murray (Cook), Red Wiggle

Born: 1960, Cowra, Australia

Fun fact: Was a regular on the Aussie music quiz show, "Spicks and Specks."

Jeff (Fatt), Purple Wiggle

Born: 1953, Casino Northern, Australia

Fun fact: Played keyboards in "the best rockabilly band Down Under," The Roadmasters

Sam (Moran), Yellow Wiggle

Born: Year unknown, Wagga Wagga

Fun fact: There really IS a Wagga Wagga (in New South Wales, Australia; pronounced "wogga-wogga")


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