In the first installment of his memoirs, Julian Cope recollects the Liverpool (post) punk scene, revolving around Eric’s club. Literally just across the street from the world famous Cavern, this is where the seeds of the Teardrop Explodes germinated.
In 1976, he left his Midlands home for college on Merseyside and soon formed his first band – The Crucial Three – with Ian McCulloch (then known as ‘Duke’) and Pete Wylie. As the name suggests, the group took themselves very seriously from the start. But, convinced of their own talent and driven by ambition and the right connections, all of them would go on to appear on Top of the Pops over the next few years: Mac with Echo & the Bunnymen and Wylie with (The Mighty) Wah!
Others on that Liverpool scene included Pete ‘You Spin Me Round’ Burns, Lightning Seed and producer Ian Broudie, Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie, and Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford, who would later form one of the biggest selling British bands of the mid-80’s, Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
The Teardrop Explodes burned out shortly after a couple of albums and top twenty hits in ’80-81. Head On contains plenty excess, with the band and their entourage spiralling out of control on tour and Cope following Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz onto the Top of the Pops stage to perform Passionate Friend, while on acid. The memoir has plenty accounts of his drug consumption and subsequent experiences, as Cope became a sort of Syd Barrett figure for the 80’s generation. Yet, it is well written and really entertaining, with short chapters that make you want to have just one more blast.
The second volume, Repossesed, takes us up to the end of the 80’s and the recording of albums such as My Nation Underground and Skellington. Cope seems frustrated by his portrayal in the music press as an acid casualty, but did he not play up to this reputation? His second solo album was called ‘Fried’ and the sleeve had a photo of Cope crawling on all fours below a giant a turtle shell, next to a toy truck with the word ‘Fried’ emblazoned on its side.
The truck itself would be abandoned in the undergrowth of the home near Tamworth he ‘retired to’ in his mid twenties after the wheels came off the Explodes juggernaut. His obsession with toy car collecting is well explored in Repossessed, which is subtitled ‘Shamanic Depressions in Tamworth and London (1983-89)’.
On the whole, I prefer this second volume. It’s more personal, far from a rock star biography at times, as Julian descends from the heights and tries to rebuild his life and career in rural Staffordshire. Yes, there is still some touring(the odd mad stint in Japan), tales of drug exploits and groupees, but much of the time it’s about taking stock in the Midlands, with his American wife, or hanging out with close friends.
Cope is able to gradually get back on track and keep making music, regardless of whether it sells on a grand scale or not. In fact, his artistic integrity and uncompromising attitude were often a bone of contention with record companies. He claims to have pulled the plug on his song East Easy Rider being used in a Levi’s ad. As ever, this kind of book gives the author the chance to slag off those they have fallen out with (Mac from the Bunnymen or ex-Teardrop band members in this case), but Cope comes across as one of the more intriguing and amusing personalities of the era. In these personal memoirs, he is always willing to share his knowledge and passion for leftfield music and other dimensions with those who want to go along on the trip.
Find out more at his excellent music website: https://www.headheritage.co.uk/