Today’s song is a request from Mark French.

mp3: The Teardrop Explodes – Reward

Aside from the fact that it’s a shout for a great piece of music, it also allows me to demonstrate that I don’t need to have a copy of a single to come up with a 320kpbs rip.  Yes, I did once own a copy of Reward by The Teardrop Explodes, but it was one of hundreds of 7″ singles that were left behind in an old flat in Edinburgh.  Regular readers from the olden days will be all too familiar with the sad tale, and it’s just too painful to recall it one more time for those who don’t know.  Let’s just say, it’s cost me a fair bit of money trying to put things right since 1986.

The vinyl rip instead comes from my copy of the album Kilimanjaro, itself the re-released version from 1981 with the zebras on the cover rather than the original from October 1980 which has a portrait of the band.  The reason for this being that the original release of Kilimanjaro didn’t include Reward which was initially released as a stand-alone single in January 1981, and going on to be the biggest hit single by the band, or indeed across the subsequent solo career of Julian Cope, by reaching #6.

The Guardian newspaper, in March 2015, had a feature on Reward in which Julian Cope and keyboardist Dave Balfe explained how they came up with and went about making the song.  It turns out it was written in the main by guitarist Alan Gill, with him coming up initially with the bassline. Cope wanted it to sound like a northern soul classic and their first stab at it came via an effort for a BBC radio session but when they later got into the actual recording studio, the frontman decided to remove the drum intro so that the first and last thing you heard were trumpets, which, to be fair, was a stroke of genius as this is the instrument which really drives the song forward at pace. Balfe, in confirming that the band had problems coming up initially with a satisfactory recording and mix, heaps praise on the frontman for the end result, describing it as “…a mad awesome record unlike anything else in pop. We sounded like Vikings on acid fronted by a lunatic.”

Here’s the version the band recorded for the BBC – it was for the Mike Read show on 16 October 1980, which went out in the slot immediately before that of John Peel:-

mp3: The Teardrop Explodes – Reward (BBC session version)

Anyone who followed The Teardrop Explodes closely will know that Reward was very much a one-off with them not recording anything similar ever again.  Indeed, much more typical of their output was the b-side of the 45, which I’ve lifted from its inclusion on the CD Everybody Wants to Shag…The Teardrop Explodes, their third and final album which was recorded in 1982 but not given a release until 1990, for the simple reason that Cope basically sacked everyone in the middle of the sessions.  Let’s just say a high intake of drugs was a factor, as indeed they were when this song was recorded:-

mp3: The Teardrop Explodes – Strange House In The Snow

I’m guessing the pop kids who loved the single didn’t play it more than once, that’s assuming they got to its end on the first spin they gave it.

As always with this blog, I’m very much open to guest contributions and/or suggestions for inclusion in this weekly series. Feel free to get in touch by email :



  1. What a cracker of a song. It was very much part of the new wave without sounding anything like new wave – see Associates and oh so many others …

    I never owned the single – my pal did. Seeing the cover brought back so many superb memories of a life lived up to my neck in music. Hurrah!

  2. Definitely in my top 10 singles of all-time. Not sure I’d agree that Strange House is more representative of the band’s sound – Colours Fly Away was undoubtedly an attempt to replicate Rewards success, at least on the part of the record company.

  3. I sometimes think this is the best single there’s ever been.

    Interesting to hear the improvements made on the session version. The opening chorus riff (keyboard rather than trumpets though surely) grabs your attention from the off and the much earlier introduction of the four-on-the-floor drum pattern doesn’t let go. Ditching most of the guitarist in search of something to play was a good idea too. Trumpets were all over 1981 after Reward but by that time Julian was already getting a taste for self-sabotage.

  4. Has their every been a better or more British opening line than? ‘Bless my cotton socks, I’m in the news’ – even now after all this time just hearing it again brings on a sense of happiness and joy- thanks for posting

  5. Great post on my all time favorite band. If memory serves correctly from Copey’s great biography Head On, the inspiration for the horns was his desire for the song to sound like the theme to a spy film. Julian was rather possessive of the Teardrop Explodes use of horns, so much so that he was enraged when Balfe and Drummond added them to their production of the Bunnymen’s Happy Death Men. And he was none too happy with Paul Weller adding them to Boy About Town on Sound Effects. Sorry, I am such a Teardrop Explodes nerd.

  6. The start of my lifelong love of The Teardrop Explodes and Julian Cope’s music. At age 10, I was blown away by this song and I have never, never tired of listening to it.

    I didn’t hear Strange House In The Snow until many years later, but I love it. Sonically, it reminds me of a demented relation of Venus In Furs.

  7. Well the ‘3rd album’ was titled correctly…maybe we didn’t want to ‘s**g them, but we all love the Cope in this forum!

  8. @Mike, I couldn’t agree more. Does that mean TVV is ready for a Brain Donor &/or Queen Elizabeth ICA at last?! 😉

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