I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating.
One of my fondest live experiences was a gig played by Queen at Ingliston in Edinburgh in 1982.
Don’t rush to judge me on the basis of that sentence as I went along purely to see the support act which was The Teardrop Explodes. The booking agent either had a sick sense of humour or hated Queen fans, or both.
Julian Cope took to the stage to a barrage of abuse, the intensity of which I’ve rarely witnessed, but he was ready for it and up for the fight. He continually taunted the crowd and the band (which was more or less session musicians as The Teardrop Explodes had more or less imploded by this point in time) treated everyone to some real obscurities. My favourite moment was when St Julian said “Here’s the one of mine that I’m sure you all know and love’ and as fans roared in expectation of hearing Reward, he launched into an acoustic and quiet version of Use Me, the b-side to Treason, and sung it in French!
It had been just three years earlier that The Teardrop Explodes came onto the scene, one of a number of Liverpool-based acts who were on Zoo Records, a venture formed and fronted by Bill Drummond who also seemed to have a role in each of the acts on the label, either as a performer or manager.
The debut consisted of a three-track 7” single:-
It was a fine way with which to announce yourself and it would receive the biggest compliment imaginable in that Tony Wilson, who generally took an immediate and pathological dislike to anything that emerged out of Liverpool, gave it high praise. There was also some favourable coverage in the music papers with a number of journalists predicting that the band, and label mates Echo & The Bunnymen, stood on the cusp of greatness with long and successful careers inevitable.
Like many other acts who were attached to small labels at that particular time, the production values are basic and far from polished, but there’s certainly a noticeable spark about the music while there’s enough intrigue in the lyrics, certainly on the a-side, to make the most causal listener sit up and take notice.
Zoo Records eventually wound up and The Teardrop Explodes landed a contract with Phonogram Records, resulting in two very fine albums in Kilimanjaro (October 1980) and Wilder (December 1981), with three singles also hitting the Top 30. Indeed, the debut is one that has aged magnificently and is up there with the finest of all albums from the decade in which it was released. A re-recorded and more polished version of that early Zoo single was included:-
I’ll finish off with a lift from a piece that appeared in The Guardian back in 2010 when a 30th Anniversary edition of Kilimanjaro was reviewed:-
The 30th anniversary reissue recently spurred one heritage-rock magazine to ask the band’s former frontman Julian Cope if he would ever return to writing pop music. It seems a fair enough query given Kilimanjaro’s success: it spawned a top 10 hit in Reward, spent 35 weeks on the charts and displayed such commercial promise that both U2 and Duran Duran apparently considered the Teardrop Explodes their only real competition. You might also feel compelled to ask in light of Cope’s latter- day musical output. That variously includes an hour-long homage to the late Princess of Wales called She-Diana; a live recording of his “proto-metal” band Brain Donor; and Spades & Hoes & Plows, a self-styled “masterpiece of agrarian doom-clod-plod” that features Cope accompanying singer David Wrench on “Mellotron and 26-inch marching bass drum”, and culminates in an 18-minute instrumental inspired by a series of road-toll protests in 19th-century Wales. Alas, Helyntion Beca (The Rebecca Riots) seems to have been overlooked by the programmers of the Radio 1 playlist, a fate that also befell such other recent Cope numbers as All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers….(Will Realise the Minute They Die That They Were Suckers).
Actually, Cope told the magazine, he’d just written a pop song, inspired by the mid-60s baroque style of the Left Banke, a band not so wildly removed from the kind of influences that powered Kilimanjaro – the blasting brass arrangements of Forever Changes-era Love, the Seeds’ reedy garage rock, the sunshine pop of the Turtles. “It’s called,” he added, “The Cunts Can Fuck Off.”
He’d obviously been listening to early Jesus and Mary Chain