How the Wiggles influenced your favorite artists, from Lil Nas X to the Kid LAROI
It’s early in the morning in Australia, and from the brief look I get of the storm brewing outside of Anthony Field’s window, it’s far from a “G’day.” The past week in Sydney has been miserable weather-wise, he tells me, but my eyes aren’t fixated on the rain.
Behind Field — better known to anyone under the age of 35 as the coolest dude to wear a blue long sleeve — hangs a reminder of who I’m interviewing. It’s a poster of the Wiggles: arguably the most recognizable, and most influential, children’s band of all time. When it catches my eye, Field doesn’t hesitate. He picks up his computer camera and proceeds to give me an impromptu, all-access tour of what he calls the Wiggles’ “dream factory.”
He shows me a hallway full of plaques and memorabilia, including posters from Disney World performances, billion-streams plaques and a few look-alike puppets, which activated memories of a Playhouse Disney show that were lodged deep inside my brain. There’s also a room filled with costumes, including that of the iconic Captain Feathersword, and a set where Field and his color-coded co-stars film their Australian TV series. And yes, he shows me the Big Red Car — now tricked-out with eight seats to accommodate the growing Wiggly ensemble, which is currently four members big with a rotating cast of returning alumni.
This all started back in 1991 with four guys — Greg Page, Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt and Field — using their backgrounds in children’s education to create a band for a one-off kids project. But now, it’s an empire — one that has made the Wiggles the go-to special guest for artists like the Kid LAROI, a dream collaborator for internet jokesters like Lil Nas X and a worthy band to cover for Phoebe Bridgers (who sings the shit out of “Fruit Salad”).
“When we did our first album, I knew we would do an album that was really good for children. And that's all it was for me,” he says over Zoom. “Because we've been through teacher training, we had our early childhood degrees. I looked around and thought, ‘No one else is doing this’ but never thought this would be successful commercially.”
Fortunately for Field, the Wiggles’ successes are almost immeasurable. Beyond the record sales, commercial triumphs and enormous production studios sits one very clear fact: The Wiggles are a lot of people’s first band. And these days, the original members are still adjusting to hearing that. “It’s guys in bands now, like young guys in bands. Their first concert was the Wiggles,” Cook explains. “And that was what spurred their interest. It's hard to get your head around sometimes. But it's really, really fantastic.”
In 2022, the Wiggles are still doing what the Wiggles have always done. They’re touring Australia, North America and beyond, playing to thousands of children at any given venue. They still have the hits like “Hot Potato,” “Can You (Point Your Fingers And Do The Twist?)” and “Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car.” Sometimes they even play “Elephant” by Tame Impala if Kevin Parker is in town to join them onstage, and if they have an elephant mask handy. “I'd never heard Tame Impala, but my daughter loved them,” Field explains.
But nowadays, they’ve got a new lineup. Field tours alongside more recent members in Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce and the freshly anointed Wiggle Tsehay Hawkins. After their day shows for children and parents, Field and Cook reunite with Page and Fatt for their 18+ reunion shows for what they call the “OG Wiggles.” It’s all the old songs, just with an older crowd. And to clarify, 18+ doesn’t mean NSFW. It’s still the Wiggles.
“There's so much energy and still the same sort of joy in the grown-up audience, and they sing every song,” Cook explains. “I think they're probably louder, if anything. A child audience is pretty loud. But these audiences in Sydney, we played for about 15,000 people, and you could see them at the back. Everyone was on their feet. Everyone was singing every word..”
Fatt, Field, Cook and Page are the same four Wiggles that Hawkins — the youngest Wiggle at 16 and the first woman of color to wear the Wiggles uniform — grew up on. She started in the band this year, calling it all a “full-circle moment.” Even her first-ever concert was the Wiggles, and as she explains, the only other show she’s been to was when the Kid LAROI brought her out with the original members on June 12 during an Australian tour stop. His introduction: “It’s the fucking Wiggles.”
“The crowd didn't know we were coming out,” Hawkins says. “So the fact that everyone knew every lyric was super cool. But also, it was like his inner child had come out. We were onstage, he was jumping around the stage. [The audience] came to watch LAROI. They were just as excited to see the Wiggles as they were to watch him.”
These types of viral moments and guest appearances are now commonplace for the group. Who could forget Lil Nas X’s promise of a Wiggles remix of “Rodeo” back in 2020? In just a few months, the Wiggles will play Falls Festival in Australia — the same show Lil Nas is set to appear at. While Field says a link-up isn’t for certain, potentially crushing all prospects of a “Fruit Salad” and “Industry Baby” remix, he does confirm that their paths may very well cross.
After all, the Wiggles take their work for children seriously. But they don’t take themselves as seriously, Cook explains.
“We can see the humor in a fairly serious artist getting us up on stage,” he says. “We've always tried to follow where this crazy thing takes us. That's why we went to America in the first place. Because we didn't necessarily think we'd have success there. We just thought this was a good adventure. So I guess it's all part of the adventure.”
[Photo via the Wiggles]
The Wiggles’ current adventure includes promoting their latest double album ReWiggled. One-half of the record features Wiggles classics covered by Australian artists such as the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Stella Donnelly, while the second half features the Wiggles showing off their own music chops and covering everything from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The latter took Field seven hours to perfect his mandolin part in the studio.
“A lot of people don't realize it's actually us playing on the records. Over the years, we've had guests, but it's mostly us,” Cook, obviously known for sitting in the backseat and playing his guitar, says. “And I get it all the time with the bands that I play with outside the Wiggles, people going, ‘Oh, you actually play the guitar?’”
While the original four Wiggles continue to win over grown-ups and some of the world’s biggest pop stars, the new lineup is still carrying on the tradition of what the Wiggles do best — and they’re doing so with added representation. As Hawkins shares, she feels honored to wear the yellow shirt these days, and even more so to see little fans carrying her doll and falling in love with the songs she grew up on.
From the outside, Wiggle alum Cook sees the good the band are still doing for children. The Wiggles may have earned some meme status, and continue to catch our attention with a viral moment here and there, but the truth is, you never forget your first band.
“It's still having an influence on people's lives, and I'm immensely proud of that,” Cook says. “I can't see that stopping, really. I just have to give him his due. A lot of it is down to Anthony's dedication and the hard work he's put in over the whole 30 years. Just to go on record, I really appreciate that.”