‘The Teardrops, weren‘t they great, In their own wee way?
“Treason”, “Reward”, “The Thief Of Baghdad“. The Teardrops, weren‘t they great?‘
Bill Drummond. ‘Julian Cope Is Dead‘.
Reputations are hard things to shake off, especially in a business where what you are sometimes matters more than what you do. Especially if your name is Julian Cope. and you’ve made a name for youself first as a shameless exhibitionist who would smother his body with Gales‘ honey on stage. and then as a seriously wigged-out recluse with a well-known affection for the dreaded LSD.
Luckily. the music marketplace is also a business where people re-invent themselves with worrying regularity. and Cope is back. rejuvenated. with his third solo LP on the shelves. the first one with the songs and record company promotion to look like it might actually propel Cope on a planet ride to his long-deserved rightful place in the rock firmament.
But let‘s backtrack to the late Seventies. when punk rock lay dying, but the door it had forced was still open to the new music which was springing up in its wake. the like of which had never before been heard. The music press pounced on Liverpool. which had always had an individual view ofwhat punk was about in the first place. and a creative. incestuous pool of musicians. from which woud spring Echo And The Bunnymen. Wah! and The Teardrop Explodes. all of whom would have Top Ten hits eventually.
Above all. Liverpool had characters: the eccentric Scottish-born manager Bill Drummond. who finally brought out a record of his own last year; Holly Johnson, to achieve world fame with Frankie Goes To Hollywood; The tacitun. cooler-than-thou Mac from the Bunnymen; professional Scouser Pete Wylie (Wah!) and Julian Cope. singer with The Teardrop Explodes. whose version of post-punk psychedelia. with blatantly poppy hooks livening up Cope‘s inimitable songs, was irresistibly out of step with the serious angst-ridden grey raincoat music of the time.
The wide-eyed. boyish one. Cope gave exuberant interviews. liberally peppering his quotes with adjectives like ‘awesome‘ and ‘massive‘. (Later he was to release a compilation LP of his favourite Sixties‘ singer titled. with typical Cope understatement. Fire Escape In The Sky: The Godlike Genius ofScou Walker.)
His enthusiasm and self-confidence earned him his detractors, but many more were won over by the Teardrops‘ super poppy album Kilimanjaro and their first hit. the relentless drumbeat and exhilarating trumpets of ‘Reward‘. which stopped just short of the Top Five. Gigs— the good ones anyway —- got rave reviews. mainly thanks to Cope‘s most confessional and personal songs up to that time. It‘s nigh-impossible to work out what they‘re about, but the songs are
As his new album appears, the rejuvenated Julian Cope chews over old times with Alastair Mabbott.
often spell-binding. Even to the casual listener. though. it was obvious that things were not going well. He admits the final split ofthe Teardrops was ‘kind of acrimonious‘.
‘I just got very resentful because I‘d spent so much time on the third album. and l was very angry at the way the group was being treated by the other members. They didn‘t realise he‘. had a good group. On the last album I wasn‘t even allowed to play any instruments. I had a whole album written and I wasn‘t allowed to do any of the songs.‘
Cope repaired to his home in Tamworth. Warwickshire. releasing two albums within a few months of each other. The second one. Fried. was a fairly accurate description of his mental state at the time. The psychedelic music that Julian had loved since he bought Nuggets in 1977 was very strongly to the fore. ‘A lot of Liverpool was fuelled on hallucinogenics at that time. so that‘s one of the reasons we had that kind of name. Teardrop Explodes and Echo And The Bunnymen were both named to fit in with Texas
psychedelic punk. Liverpool ended up being more of a Detroit than a San Francisco. It was too horrible. and we were far too uncool to say “Everything‘s OK“. We just wanted to get out of there and become monstrous human beings. Which I think we did. but not in a particularly good way.‘
Word got around. and (‘ope found a whole new generation of acidheads beating a path to his door. In an excellent NMI'.‘ article on his beloved Sixties‘ garage psychedelia he lionised ‘people who were too nihilistic ever to get it together‘ and it looked to many as if he was fulfilling some rock 'n‘ roll fantasy. but he denies he ever lost his grip that seriously.
’I hate being compared to Syd Barrett. because I was never like that. It‘s very patheticthat kind of thing. and I don‘t like being perceived as being pathetic. Maybe I was at that point. but I‘ve got out of that. Lots of fans seemed to think it was brilliant being Julian (‘ope and being out of it and being crazy — it's a real drag most of the time. It‘s easy to think. “Yeah. I‘m really into this
guy“, but if you‘re sitting at home not communicating with anyone, actually being that person. it‘s horrible. Something I‘m glad I got out of.
‘Ifyou write the way you feel. sometimes it‘s gonna be “up” commercial music. sometimes it‘s gonna be gloomy depressing music. And you shouldn‘t be allowed to make statements if you‘ve nothing to say. so I always tend to sod off fora while when I dry up.‘
Sod off he did. for nearly three years. and now he‘s returned with a young. enthusiastic band (clad. like Cope. in shiny black leather) who have perfected a balancing act between simple. driving garage rock and the big stadium sound. (‘ope claims he recorded the vocals on a pedestal in a darkened studio. with only a set of(‘hristmas tree lights for company. to see how Bono or Jim Kerr felt in front of a sea ofpeople. Stadiums. Julian? What would the self-confessed purist of Eric‘s club in Liverpool think'.’
‘I think I‘d probably be amazed at how true to the trail I‘ve stayed. I‘ve thought a lot about it. and I think it takes a lot not to progress.‘ With Echo And The Bunnymcn clearly on his mind. he continues. ‘I think most groups inevitably start progressing. Which is a real failing.‘
I think what he means is that Saint Julian is all about going back to basics. Easily the best. most accessible record he‘s made since Kilimanjaro. the sheer energy that‘s gone into it is inspiring. as is (‘ope‘s transformation.
‘It was me fighting off flabby thoughts and flabby attitiudes. Getting physically healthy and taut. and I really needed a lot more adrenalin. I lost 2(llb which was a great help and got into a kind of caffeine trip. Started to write really snotty songs. basically because I was feeling really good. and I‘d start getting out and going to London. and actually doing business with people. And the songs started to get a lot more hard and commercial. Because it was called SairuJulian I wanted it to be quite ()‘l'I‘. It had to be like a rock album in a way. It had to be slightly gross.‘
Almost as well publicised of late has been Julian‘s passion for toy cars. a much healthier preoccupation for a boy his age. He even has his onw import-export agency. run with his manager. called (‘opeco (‘allitoy. for the benefit of his collection.
‘I‘ve got over 1000 cars. two paddle cars. l()()planes. ltltltrains. robots. stufflike that. Ialsocollect things like Scalextric and Scalcxtric copies. I‘ve got a lot. but I‘m not a sloppy collector. I know everything I have. and I love it all.‘
I Iis current objective is a 121-1 scale 1956 Lincoln Continental. made by an American called Marty Martino. "I‘hat‘s what I want. It‘s a lot of
money. but . . .‘ His voice drops to a husky whisper. and I'm sure his eyes glaze over. ‘. . .il's brillianll‘
Julian (‘ope is alive and well. Julian ( ‘ope plays live at Edinburgh '5 Queen 's H all on Saturday 2 and Glasgow '.v Barrow/and on Sunday 3 May.
The List 1—14 .‘Vlay3