The last time I saw Julian Cope play live was in 1993 on his Jehovahkill tour. OMB goggled at me when I told him the t-shirt I was wearing to the gig was 22 years old (see here for my memories of that gig). That was in a much bigger venue and with a full band. Since then, Copey has developed his interests in pre-Christian druidic British and European societies and written accessible but meticulously researched books on them, as well as writing accounts of the Krautrock and Japrock music scenes he was influenced by musically (and listening to a lot of records so you don’t have to). He’s also carried on putting out records every few years but to be honest I stopped buying them after the underwhelming 50 Mothers.
On stage at the cosy Brudenell Social Club in Leeds he was alone but for a couple of guitars. Apart from the coincidentally fashionable beard he actually didn’t look too different to the last time I saw him and, just as then, played a long and varied set of 15 songs (including an encore which he announced he was needy enough to require us to ask for) and a “Ted Chippingtonish” poem through the 35 years of his back catalogue. The songs were interspersed with his typically humorous chat and background information. Despite it being just Copey and a guitar, his ability to sing “ba ba ba” and mean it (coined as he told us by the music journalist Paul Morley) meant that he was able to convey the brassy sounds of his Teardrop Explode songs as well as the “wah wah” of later songs without it all sounding a bit samey, which is often a risk in solo acoustic sets.
Apart from the rather perplexing and intermittently unlistenable “soundtrack” to his novel, 131, played as the support slot by Holy McGrail a great evening. Thanks also to @ledwardio for keeping me company and having a good time despite not knowing much of Copey’s repertoire in advance!
(Something newish which I didn’t catch as it took longer than expected to get served at the bar)
Culture Bunker (from Wilder which he described as the Teardrop Explodes’ then record company’s biggest flop of 1981 but which is a decent album)
Double Vegetation (Peggy Suicide)
Everyone’s on hard drugs
Sunspots (from his peak loony period album Fried, complete with “reticent whistling” for the recorder solo – a lovely little song considering how fried he was at the time he wrote it)
As the Beer Flows Over Me (from a drinking song cycle he’s written about beer rather than wine because we’re northern Europeans)
Greatness and Perfection of Love
Cromwell in Ireland (re his forthcoming book about prophets, including ones subsequently deemed monstrous)
Cunts Can Fuck Off (so sweet a little song that I’ve been humming it internally ever since – must remember not to sing it out loud in public)
and for the encore
Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed