Monday, May 15, 2006

Julian Cope: Head-On/Repossessed

I've been reading loads of music biographies during this spring: Joe Meek, Hawkwind, Syd Barrett, Hasse Walli (Finnish guitarist with Blues Section, etc.), Bob Dylan, Marc Almond, Suicide... plus Rip It Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds' book on postpunk of 1978-1984.

The latest in line has been Julian Cope's Head-On/Repossessed, which covers the artist's years from his birth in 1957 to 1989. (This edition is actually two books in one, Repossessed starting off immediately where Head-On stops.) Cope headed the UK postpunk band Teardrop Explodes (whose manager was Bill Drummond, better known from the prankish KLF duo) before embarking on a solo career in early 80s. In these books he gives own personal, often bittersweet accounts of rock'n'roll life and its stoned madness, the bitter fights within the band and between record labels, etc., how he met his muse and future wife Dorian in New York, with some excursions into his growing interest in mysticism; all in the best "never take yourself too seriously" Spinal Tap/Cheech and Chong tradition, which he describes with a combination of self-irony and surprising lucidity (considering the fact that he spent a lot of this time in constant drugged-out stupor, the reputation of which made him the laughing stock of UK music press) but always with unbridled enthusiasm. It's somehow touching also to read about Julian's obsession with the Corgi and Dinky toy cars of the 50s and 60s, which he collects obsessively as if to retreat back to his private and safe world of childhood, away from the backstabbers of music business. Julian Cope comes off as a freak but a likable freak with some real insight and conscience.

I have to say that I am perhaps a bigger fan of Julian Cope as an artistic character and personality than of his uneven discography (OK, his albums Peggy Suicide and Jehovahkill are some real gems). He has all the right influences: 60s psychedelic garage rock of the Nuggets compilations bands, Syd, Love, Scott Walker, The Doors, Krautrock (of which he even wrote a book, Krautrocksampler of 1995), Iggy Pop & The Stooges, MC5, Blue Cheer, Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic. Then Lester Bangs (the late great rock writer), Gurdjieff, John Sinclair, C.G. Jung... Julian Cope must be one of the coolest persons living on this planet.

An excerpt on Julian Cope's Head Heritage site

Panels from Daredevil comics which gave Cope's band The Teardrop Explodes its name