60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #17


Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

It’s often said that any singer or band’s debut album, no matter how long the ensuing career proves to be, is their best and most enduring.  It’s a case that can be backed up by the fact that a fair number of the records in this countdown were debuts.

The thing is, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions would later release two more hugely enjoyable albums post-debut.  Lloyd Cole as a solo artist, is just about to release his 13th solo record, while there was also one further album under the name of Lloyd Cole and The Negatives.   While a couple of the solo releases have been a tad on the experimental or lo-fi side, all of them have much to offer, as hopefully highlighted by various posts on this blog over the years.

But, and given the fact that many of the songs have, to popular acclaim, been kept in the live sets over the past almost 40 years, there is no doubt that Lloyd’s devoted fans are near universal in the view that Rattlesnakes is his very best.

It’s an album very much of its time and place.  Glasgow in 1983/4 seemed to be the most amazing place to live, with its musical scene seemingly scaling all sorts of new and exciting heights.   Every gig seemed to be packed with A&R reps coming up from London in the hope of finding ‘the next big thing.’   The big bands came and played the Apollo, but there were also so many other fantastic venues such as Tiffany’s, Night Moves and The Plaza, while the student unions at Glasgow and Strathclyde University, Glasgow Art School and Glasgow School of Art were also very much part of the ‘indie’ touring circuit.  There were also an increasing number of modern city centre pubs that were far removed from the traditional boozers in which anyone could drop in and spot an established or aspiring musician, actor, painter, poet or comedian, with the Rock Garden and Nico’s being near the top of such lists.

Lloyd Cole and his band were a big part of the buzz.  The frontman, although not from the city, was at one of its universities.  Copies of some demos were in circulation and it was apparent that the frontman had somehow found Glasgow’s best guitarist and keyboard players and persuaded them to join his band, while he’s recruited a rhythm section that wasn’t shabby. We were only a couple of years removed from the Postcard era and the enthusiastic amateurism that had been involved in the early recordings, but The Commotions, and many of their peers in the city, were now ensuring .professionalism and skilled playing was very much to the fore.

The strange thing is…..the songs weren’t huge commercial successes.  Debut single Perfect Skin reached #26, but the two follow-ups didn’t hit the Top 40.  The album did spend four months or so in the charts between October 84 and February 85, but mostly at the lower end.

And yet, everyone I knew seemed to own a copy of the vinyl.  Like a few other acts who have already been in this rundown, along with others still to feature, this was a band for the student population, or the 80s bedsit generation as it has been dubbed – and of which I am a proud card-carrying member.

It’s all too easy to get nostalgic about the past, but I wouldn’t swap my era for any other.  And I’m certainly incredibly happy that my student years of 81-85, and in particular the last two when I was living in shared accommodation with friends, coincided with such a high point in the city’s musical history.  Rattlesnakes was the soundtrack to so much of what went on, and as such, it’ll always be one of my favourite albums until the day I take my final breath.

mp3:  Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Charlotte Street



If you head over to Discogs, you’ll find some info on a song called Down At The Mission, the would-be debut single from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions.

This was intended to be self-released as the band’s first 45; after it was manufactured, they never put it out, as they got signed to a major label.

“Down At The Mission” is an entirely different song than “Down On Mission Street” from the debut album, Rattlesnakes.

It was due to be issued on a label called Welcome To Las Vegas and it had the catalogue number of LCC 001. The reverse of the sleeve advises that the Commotions consisted of just two other musicians – Neil Clark and Blair Cowan – which means Steven Irvine and Lawrence Donegan became the rhythm section at a later date. The aborted single was recorded at Park Lane Studios on the south side of Glasgow (not that far from Villain Towers and a very short walk from Aldo’s Maisonette). The drums on the recording were, if the info on the runout groove is to be believed, came courtesy of Kenny MacDonald, one of the engineers at the studio and who would later play drums for Bourgie Bourgie.

While Down At The Mission was never seen again during the time the Commotions were together on Polydor Records, its b-side was re-recorded and became one of their most popular songs:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Down At The Mission
mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken (early version)

I’ve called this posting ‘Just As Well It Wasn’t…..’ as the very first entry in the ‘Cracking Debut Singles series’ just happened to be Perfect Skin.



These words are taken from the Lloyd Cole & The Commotions ICA, posted away back in April 2015; it was #11 in this then, relatively new series.

1. My Bag

In a sense this song from 1987’s Mainstream LP is very unrepresentative of the band’s output but it is such a cracking bit of music that it is impossible to ignore. The intention here is to kick things off with a ridiculously uptempo dance number where the beat is what matters rather than the lyrics.

I was actually going to start things off with the Dancing Mix of this song which extends to over six minutes in length but to be honest, and despite Lawrence Donegan making you think, via his bass playing, that you could easily be listening to something which could be from Michael Jackson in his classic era before he went all crazy on us, the mix has dated appallingly – particularly the drums – while the idea of burying the guitar during the chorus is just so wrong.

But, given I’m sort of struggling for a post today, here we go:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (Dancing Mix)

The remix was remixed by a combination of Ian Stanley (who had produced the album, Mainstream, on which the original version had appeared) and the Commotions.

The 12″ came with two b-sides, one of which I posted on the old blog with a heavy heart and a huge apology, for it truly is an abomination of a number:-

mp3: Commotions Meet The Irresistible Force – Perfect Skin

The Irresistible Force was the name adopted by Morris Gould, a DJ from Brighton who was really making a name for himself in 1987 as part of the emerging acid house scene, becoming in due course the full-time DJ with The Shamen. He may have done some other stuff that is writing home about (I honestly don’t know!!), but I don’t play or listen to this.

The other track on the b-side was this:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions- Jesus Said

Very much LC and his band by numbers. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first couple of albums, which is no surprise as it dates from 1985 and the sessions around the recording of Easy Pieces.

It’s worth mentioning that the USA release of My Bag featured an entirely different mix, one that was the work of NY-based but French-born DJ and producer François Kevorkian:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (Dancing Remix)

My Bag was the seventh single from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. It stalled at #46, which was a bitter disappointment for all concerned after all three singles from Easy Pieces had been hits. It marked the beginning of the gradual dissolution of the band, with the main man going solo from 1990.



Jennifer we can’t go wrong let’s put it in writing
Jennifer we can’t go wrong let’s do it right now
Maybe you were a little hasty
But they say love is blind

Now her name’s on you
Jennifer in blue

Did you ever have a bad dream wake up and it not stop?
Did you ever feel for a girl for a time and then stop?
Well it’s written there in blue
With a heart and arrow through

Her name on you
Jennifer in blue

Oh, forever you said that’s forever you said
And forever she said that’s forever she said

But you change with the weather
And this is the rain

It’s just a little bit too simple to feature in the great short stories series, but I really love the sentiments, especially when you recall it was written and recorded in 1987 at a time when tattoos were incredibly unfashionable, with all the parlours located in the dodgiest and crime-ridden corners of towns and cities. There really was nothing more ridiculous or stupid than getting the name of your current or latest flame embellished in blue ink on your skin.

It’s also one of the most upbeat and most sing-along of all the Commotions songs:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said

It was released as a single in the first week of January 1988, climbing to #31 before the month was out.

The 12” version had three other tracks – a re-recorded version of a song from Easy Pieces along with a couple of covers, both recorded live in New York City in April 1986:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Blue
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Mystery Train
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – I Don’t Believe You

The former dated back to 1953 when it was first recorded by its composer, Junior Parker. It’s most famous version is that recorded in 1955 by Elvis Presley and considered to be the tune that first got him noticed outside of his home state.

The latter is a Bob Dylan number, written and recorded as I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met), one of the tracks in the 1964 album, Another Side of Bob Dylan.

Jennifer is a song that Lloyd Cole has included, dropped and re-instated into his live sets over the years. It’s long been a favourite among fans.



Rattlesnakes, the debut album from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, was universally acclaimed by the critics on release; it also sold in very respectable numbers, reaching #13 in the UK album charts. I was sure that all three singles lifted from it had brought success to the band, but only Perfect Skin cracked the Top 40, a feat that eluded both Forest Fire and Rattlesnakes.

As happens with so many newly successful acts, some of the music press turned against the band in the run-up to the release of the new material, with a number of writers accusing the frontman of being pretentious and aloof, taking him to task for this habit of dropping in the names of real people (the debut LP had namechecked Leonard Cohen, Eva Marie Saint, Truman Capote, Arthur Lee and Norman Mailer) into songs about fictional females called Louise, Julie, Jodie and Patience.

The opening line from the lead-off single in advance of the sophomore album, Easy Pieces, superbly stuck up stuck two fingers up at such critics, as he sets off for a stroll, under wet skies, with his buddies Jesus and Jane – and I’m pretty certain Jesus wasn’t, in this instance, just a Spanish boy’s name :-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend

It really is a wonderful piece of pop music that has aged as beautifully and smoothly as a classic malt whisky, with perfect use of a drum machine,accordion, strings and soulful backing vocals.

It was a hit with the record buying public, giving the band their first Top 20 single in October 1985.




During a career that spanned 1984-1987, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions were one of those bands that divided opinion. To some, they were part of an era that gave us a great cannon of intelligent indie-pop (see also The Go-Betweens and The Smiths), but to others they were a bunch of boring musos led by a pretentious poet with a deadly dull delivery.

Personally, I loved them.

Formed by a bunch of students in Glasgow in the early 80s, they were signed to Polydor Records and put on a fast road to stardom. Just about everyone I associated with in 1984 owned a copy of debut LP Rattlesnakes, while the lead-off single Perfect Skin was high up on most people’s ‘best of’ lists at the time. However, none of the subsequent singles cracked the Top 40, so the record label insisted that the follow-up LP be produced by someone with a track record of singles success….

And so Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley were dispatched to work with the band, and just 12 months later, Easy Pieces was unleashed on the public. A far more polished and poppy affair, it did yield three hit singles and got them out of the pages of the NME and into Smash Hits.

Problem was, it also started to unleash tensions within the band….and it took two years to release their next LP which was tellingly entitled Mainstream, a piece of work that somehow managed to contain some of their finest recordings but also some really dull and unmemorable songs, not helped by many of Lloyd’s lyrics becoming ever more melancholy. It was an LP of a band at a crossroads.

But instead of taking time out to solve things, they broke-up. Lloyd Cole went on to enjoy a solo career that continues to this day. Neil Clark, Blair Cowan and Stephen Irvine went onto to form other bands while Lawrence Donegan became a journalist and later an author.

In 2004, they got back together for a very short tour to mark the 20th Anniversary of Rattlesnakes, including a tremendous gig at Glasgow Barrowlands (trivia fact….they were supported that night by a then little known James Blunt….who was every bit as nauseatingly bland and boring as you’d imagine).

In total, there were 9 singles released by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, of which five made the Top 40. Their final effort was a four-track EP that played at 33 1/3 rpm, with a remix of a track from Mainstream and three new songs.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – From The Hip (remix)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Please
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lonely Mile
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Love Your Wife

I think you can tell from the lyrics in the chorus that this was a bunch of guys unhappy with their lot:-

I don’t care anymore
I’m sick and I’m tired
And I don’t care anymore
This one’s from the hip
Why should I know why?
It’s a wicked world

In a parallel universe, I’d like to think that someone like Lloyd Cole is being worshipped as a musical god….and has made millions.



Another stab at an occasional series. This will look back at what I consider to have been an outstanding debut single that many years later has not only stood the test of time but reckoned by some out there never to have been bettered.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Perfect Skin

Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole and The Commotions was released in May 1984. It enjoyed a ten-week stint in the Top 75, gradually but slowly making its way to #26 after seven weeks before falling away quite quickly. This demonstrates it was one of those songs that didn’t make an immediate impact on radio listeners and the record-buying public but the more familiar they became with it,  the more they appreciated it and the more numbers went out and spent money on it. After all, there was no other alternative as the frontman was a complete newcomer to the music scene although at least one of the backing band, Lawrence Donegan, had experienced some success with The Bluebells.

There’s a wonderful quote given by Lloyd in an interview to one of the UK music papers in 1984, just before debut LP Rattlesnakes was released:-

“If I hadn’t listened to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ I could never have written ‘Perfect Skin’. I was totally drunk on Dylan at the time I wrote that song and all the imagery is deliberately Dylanesque. I thought, ‘why not be blatant?’ The only difference is, Dylan would have written a song like ‘Perfect Skin’ in an hour. It took me a week!”

I didn’t make that connection at the time as I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in Bob Dylan. All these years later, with my tastes thankfully less narrow than they were in my formative/poseur period, I do get it.

mp3 : Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues

Perfect Skin was issued in 7″ and 12″ formats. Here’s the more than listenable b-sides, with the latter of them initially being exclusive to the 12″

mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – The Sea and The Sand
mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – You Will Never Be No Good

But was it the band’s finest 45?


That accolade goes to Rattlesnakes, released as the third single from the LP in November 84.




This should have been a relatively easy task.  After all, there are only 3 LPs and 9 singles (all of which were on a studio LP) in the career of Lloyd Cole & The Commotions meaning there were just a little over forty songs to be whipped into the shape of a ten-track imaginary vinyl album.

The problem however, was to not just find the best songs but to segue them into what I consider to be the perfect running order.  The other factor being that the band and the record label were astute at identifying the singles and this compilation was in early danger of just being a collection of 45s for the most part.

In the end, I have selected not my favorite ten tracks but the ten that I feel would make up a perfect album.  Here goes:-

Side One

1. My Bag

In a sense this song is very unrepresentative of the band’s output but it is such a cracking bit of music that it is impossible to ignore.  The intention here is to kick things off with a ridiculously uptempo dance number where the beat is what matters rather than the lyrics.

I was actually going to start things off with the Dancing Mix of this song which extends to over six minutes in length but to be honest, and despite Lawrence Donegan making you think, via his bass playing, that you could easily be listening to something that could be from Michael Jackson in his classic era before he went all crazy on us, the mix has dated appallingly – particularly the drums – while the idea of burying the guitar during the chorus is just so wrong.

2. Rattlesnakes

This is also aimed at keeping listeners on the dance floor, albeit we are now moving into indietracks territory and away from funk/disco.  One of the band’s earliest and best-loved songs, the name-dropping of Eve Marie Saint and Simone de Beauvoir were proof that Mr Cole was a cut above the norm when it came to songwriting.

3. Brand New Friend (long version)

There were many who ridiculed Lloyd for the amount of aforementioned name dropping on the debut album and I’m convinced that the introduction of Jesus into the opening line of the first track off the second LP was him thumbing his nose or flicking the Vs at said critics. This is such a wonderful piece of pop music and it has aged as beautifully and smoothly as a classic malt whisky.  This version is taken from the 12″ single release.

4.  Perfect Skin

It seems strange to have this tucked away in the middle of the album.  The debut single that announced the arrival of a great new band and the opening track of what turned out to be a flawless debut album.  In any other circumstances this would be a stick on for Side One, Track One but as I explained above, I feel the opening of this compilation is best served by My Bag.

This really is an astounding song and the fact that the band did not seek to extend or alter it for the 12″ release of the 45 proves their belief that they obtained sublime perfection at just over three minutes (which makes it a total mystery as to why a total abomination of an extended mix was put on the 12″ of My Bag…. a single I paid 50p for in a charity shop and still felt that I’d been ripped off!!)

5. Forest Fire (extended version)

It would have been so easy for the band to insist that the 45s should all be uptempo numbers and so stand a better chance of daytime radio airings and a high placement in the charts.  The decision to make the second-ever single a slow-tempo ballad with a long outro via a guitar solo was brave and which ultimately backfired as it stalled at #41.

Proof that the lyrics didn’t need name to be dropped in to make the listener sit up and go ‘wow’.  I was madly in love in 1984 and Lloyd perfectly captured how I felt about the woman in question and how she felt about me.  This, together with You’re The Best Thing by The Style Council, always make me think of her and wonder how her life turned out after our very messy and prolonged break-up.  We never ever imagined it that way, maybe we should have paid more attention to the first song on the second side of this LP…

Side Two

1.  Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

“It’s about being so in love there’s only one way to go – if you get so happy then you’re ready to be heartbroken”.

Lloyd Cole talking to the NME in 1984.  Wise words that, as I said, I should have heeded.

2.  Mister Malcontent

The other day when looking back at Mainstream, I described this song as the Commotions by numbers. This was not intended as an insult….indeed I was trying to achieve the exact opposite.

This is one of THE greatest ‘tracks only ever released on an LP’ of all time (see Age of Consent by New Order as another example).  Friend of Rachel Worth in a comment left behind recently described the version of Mister Malcontent played on the 20th anniversary tour of Rattlesnakes as ‘storming’, a description that was 110% spot-on – bizarre that the best song on the nights turned out not to be on the LP that was being commemorated.  Proof that the Commotions were an incredibly talented group of musicians and not merely a backing band for a talented wordsmith out front.

3.  Big Snake

A mysterious and uneasy lyric.  If taken literally then it appears to condone incest, so I’m sure this is not the case. One alternative explanation, and this would be borne out from some of the material on subsequent solo albums on which he also adopted a third-person narrative, is that this is a song about a man who has hired a prostitute to act out a fantasy.  Either way it is unsettling and creepy….and in most cases would be so disturbing as to border on the unlistenable.  But, the unsettling and uneasy tale gets an equally unsettling and uneasy tune topped off with a wonderful backing lyric from Tracey Thorn.  It’s a million miles away from walking in the pouring rain with Jesus and Jane…..

4.  Four Flights Up

Anyone who ever says Lloyd Cole is just a pretentious and po-faced song writer should be tied to a chair and made to listen to this humorous track from the debut LP.  And it comes with a jaunty, sea-shanty type of tune that makes you want to dance at the indie-disco.

5.  Perfect Blue (alt mix)

I’m killing myself here.  The original version that closed Easy Pieces is a great bit of music.  This alternative version was made available for a compilation LP that was released post-breakup and isn’t as good.  But it is still a strong enough track to close off this particularly imaginary compilation.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend (long version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Forest Fire (extended version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Mister Malcontent
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Big Snake
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Four Flights Up
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Blue (alt mix)


I’ll have a look at the extensive solo career over the coming weeks and months.



I was very pleasantly surprised with the level of feedback when I had a nostalgic look back at Easy Pieces, the sophomore LP from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, released in November 1985. And in trying to keep with the mantra of the public getting what the public wants, I thought it would make sense to offer up some thoughts on Mainstream, the band’s third and final LP released back in October 1987.

This was an album I was really looking forward to hitting the shops, purely on the basis of the strength of the advance single which was so different from any other track the band had released up to that point:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag

An infectiously catchy number that was impossible not to want to groove to and up there with the best songs the band ever made. And yet it flopped, failing to crack the UK Top 40. Part of this would have been down to a failure to get much radio airplay – a song so blatantly about drug misuse would have scared away almost all DJs – but what was just as worrying was the thought that much of the fan base might have moved on in the two-year hiatus since the previous album caused by the band’s inability to find the right producer for the new material which Lloyd had been indicating would surprise many who were expecting more of the same.

Even before the music began this fan was really surprised thanks to an album cover with its stark monochrome image of just the lead singer with the rest of the band also having similarly styled individual photos on either the back or inner sleeves. The exception being keyboardist Blair Cowan who has a smaller photo on the lyrics sheet underneath which were the words ‘This album is dedicated to Blair’. At the time I thought he had taken seriously ill and was perhaps dying (partly related to reading too much into the closing track on the album!!)  but it transpired that he had in fact left the band between the conclusion of its recording and it being mixed and pressed for release.

40 minutes or so after putting the needle into the groove I found myself totally bemused.  I wasn’t the least bit prepared,  for the most part, how downbeat a record it was.  Lloyd’s lyrics came across as a being those of a man thoroughly fed up with his lot and who felt, having crammed so much into the first part of his life, wasn’t looking forward to what lay ahead.  Over the next few weeks, I tried and tried again to fall for the album and although I did eventually warm to some of its charms, there just wasn’t enough to really win me over. So much so, that a couple of years later I gave the LP to someone without much of an afterthought and indeed during the 90s when, like many others I fell for the con of buying CDs of music I already owned, I only purchased the first two of the bands LPs.

About five years ago however, on the back of getting the blog up and running, I picked up a second-hand copy of Mainstream in a charity shop for £1.99 and consequently gave it a listen to again for the first time in around twenty years.  I’m happy to admit that my musical tastes had grown somewhat in that intervening period. I’d become more of a fan of many of the influences that Lloyd Cole has had on his songwriting craft and so couls now an appreciate things a lot more.

I’m repared to admit that Mainstream has more than a few decent tunes. But…..and it is a huge but………..it also contains some of the worst things the Commotions ever put down on vinyl as well as suffering from a production that has dated very badly in places.

Side One opens with the previously mentioned and still loved My Bag which is rather strangely followed by three downbeat numbers before closing with one of the most infectiously catchy numbers in the band’s career, all of which makes for a very disjointed and difficult listen.

Until I reassessed the album I had always dismissed the three slow number as sub-standard.  But I was wrong, certainly in the case of From The Hip a song that not only contains one of Lloyd’s most heartfelt lyrics responding to the criticisms levelled at him about his pretentiousness over a tune that REM would have been lauded for.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – From The Hip

However, both of 29 and Mainstream, the tracks that immediately follow are dull and uninspiring.  The side closes with Jennifer She Said, a song that I like and loath in equal measures.  For the most part it is very listenable but there’s a section in the middle where a short guitar solo sounds like a tribute to Dire Straits that I just can’t abide.  It’s only 10-15 seconds in length (if that) but I hate it so much that I can’t really listen to it nowadays without getting annoyed.

Flipping the record over and Side Two, despite also having a similar mix of upbeat and downbeat numbers is a far more enjoyable listen thanks in part to the sequencing but more importantly the better quality of songs.

Mister Malcontent is maybe a bit Commotions by numbers but it is one the most underrated songs they ever recorded – particularly the opening two thirds which is as good as anything on the debut record; Sean Penn Blues is a witty sideways swipe at the life of the man who, in those days was known only for being married to Madonna but who would go on to enjoy a critical renaissance in later years; Big Snake was, and remains, a genuinely disturbing and creepy song with a sublime backing vocal from Tracey Thorn; Hey Rusty is a magnificent anthem for the mid-late 20-somethings who had emerged blinking from the shelter of student days and into the big wide world of commerce – folk just like me when the album came out; These Days is a thing of beauty – at a time when AIDS was new and was thought to be a disease that was going to wipe out much of the human race, Lloyd composed a simple, lovely and hugely effective song that advised you to be careful….

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Hey Rusty
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – These Days

Overall, Mainstream is a record that suffers from comparions to the flawless debut LP and is an album that the listener needs to devote some time and energy to in order to fully appreciate its nuances and its attractions. Two duff tracks and a duff 10-second guitar solo do not make it a duff record.

Now I think it’s time to try and put together one of the 10-track imaginary albums…….





Everyone I knew in the mid 80s…..and I mean everyone……adored Rattlesnakes, the debut LP from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. It’s a record packed with great tunes that you can latch on to immediately while lyrically its as fine an album as any. Poetry and prose set to music….

However, not so many folk seem so fond of the follow-up Easy Pieces, released in 1985 just 13 months after the debut. While Rattlesnakes was commemorated with a 20th Anniversary Tour in 2004 (where the band played a blistering set at Glasgow Barrowlands only spoiled by the fact that a then unknown but cringingly appalling James Blunt was the support act), Easy Pieces is passed off with the words ‘its ok….but nowhere near as good as the debut’ – even by the band themselves.

I’m not going to sit here and argue that Easy Pieces is a better record than Rattlesnakes…..but I am prepared to say that it as a far far far better record than many give it credit for.

Lead-off single Brand New Friend is a near perfect piece of pop, brilliantly polished by the production skills of Langer and Winstanley. Trust me on this one….

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend

Lost Weekend, with its clear-rip of The Passenger (as mentioned previously here) was the next 45 while the third single lifted from the LP was Cut Me Down. I many ways this was a strange choice as it isn’t the most commercial of songs but I suppose when six months have passed since the LP was released and the promotional tour is over then the third and final single isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I still think they missed a trick not issuing this as a 45:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Why I Love Country Music

Two other songs on the LP are also personal favourites – opening track Rich which is one that seems tailor-made for radio and is very reminiscent of REM and closer Perfect Blue with its wonderful harmonica and acoustic guitar opening that screams out Americana Road Movie……….

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rich
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Blue

So there you have it. Four of the ten songs from the LP. Everyone a gem. And the other six aren’t too shabby either……



Lloyd Cole & the Commotions released just nine singles and three albums during a four-year period between April 1984 and April 1988. Their biggest hit single was Lost Weekend which climbed as high as #17 – a bit of surprise to me as I was sure they had enjoyed at least one Top 10 single and I’d have thought it would have been debut Perfect Skin, but it only reached #26.

Lost Weekend was also the only single on which bass player Lawrence Donegan got a writing credit. After the band broke up, Lawrence became a very successful journalist and author and it was in the pages of one of his excellent and hugely enjoyable books – No News At Throat Lake – that he briefly mentions his part in the writing of Lost Weekend and fully acknowledges the tune is a shameless rip-off of The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

If you can’t quite hear that for yourself, then take a listen to the extended version of the song as it appears on the 12″ single, and in particular the extended instrumental break in the middle:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Lost Weekend (extended version)

It’s actually a reasonably decent extended version, only about a minute longer than the 7″ radio friendly version which can be found on the flip side along with a couple of half decent otherwise unavailable tracks:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Big World
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Nevers End
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Lost Weekend (7″ version)



It was only after writing this and going to load up the tracks that I discovered all of these songs were featured as recently as last December as part of the Saurday’s singles series.  Sorry for the repetition.



The internet has made the world a much smaller place….and it has also made it easy to realise that there are kindred spirits out there, often in the most surprising of places!

Today’s friend electric is Brian who is the mastermind behind Linear Track Lives. I know that many of you have been keeping up with Brian, especially in recent months when he has been putting together an excellent Top 50 of UK indie hits 1980-89 featuring dozens of sings that you’d also find here on TVV, so you don’t really need to be told that he has a great taste in music and he is a damn fine chronicler of the indie scene.

But I can also vouch that Brian, together with Mrs Linear Lives, are a lovely couple having had the very good fortune to meet up with them a few years ago when they travelled all the way from Seattle to Glasgow just to fulfil one of Brian’s lifelong ambitions which was to catch Big Country play a gig at the Barrowlands Ballroom in my home city. The enthusiasm and passion he brings to his blog is clear for all to see but believe me, it is miniscule compared to the real-life enthusiasm and passion for indie music….here’s a man who would happily spend his entire life browsing around dusty second-hand vinyl stores and making visits to legendary venues and landmarks in whatever town or city he found himself. Let’s put it this way….if we went on Mastermind he would make his specialist subject ‘obscure b-sides of 80s indie music’ and he’d get 100% correct with no passes.

Brian tends to write short and snappy pieces, very often of a factual nature but when he does turn his mind to more in-depth stuff then it’s all to easy to see his fandom comes with a great writing talent as this example from August 2012 demonstrates:-

The blog has been pretty quiet this month because I have been doing a bit of traveling with the family. The good news is, along the way, I got to hit two legendary record shops worthy of mention.

The first, the cozy Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, Ill., is an old haunt I have returned to several times since my college years there two decades ago. Back then, my pockets were full of lint, and this not a store for the poor. For the most part, all I could do was dream. Even now, with a shekel or two in the piggy bank, I still can’t waltz out with much of a stack. There are no bargain bins, and I have never bought even a 12″ single for less than $15 to $20. The most absurd price for an album I saw this time around was $100 for ‘The Sound of The Hit Parade.’ Still, if you can get past the dollar signs, the selection is a real head turner.

You can find every imaginable genre, including a very impressive selection of ’60s rock, but the real treasures are unearthed in the UK-heavy punk/new wave section. Just to give you a taste, there aren’t too many spots in the U.S.A. that would even have an Associates section, let alone one with 18 pieces of vinyl, as I witnessed on a recent Friday afternoon. I picked up a few gems, including a handful Lloyd Cole 12″ singles that have eluded me for many years.

For a terrific mention of Vintage Vinyl from a real writer, read this piece from the great Dave Eggers that appeared in the Guardian back in ’06.

The second shop I visited this month was one I heard about in a most unusual way. Back in February, during my trip to Scotland, I was looking for the works of several local bands at Elvis Shakespeare in Edinburgh. As you may have guessed from its name, it was equal parts record and book store. I struck up a conversation with the owner and asked about the likes of Close Lobsters, Altered Images and others. He was out of virtually everything I desired. He explained he usually had what I was looking for but there were these two Americans that recently came in and cleaned him out. He said they fly over to the UK a few times a year and hit dozens of record shops, including his, to stock their own store back in Los Angeles. I took all of the info on this mystery store and hoped for a reason to be in SoCal.

Perusing the stacks at Wombleton Records made me anxious and giddy all at once. There were so many albums I had always wanted. There were so many more I had read about but had never actually seen before. Like Vintage Vinyl, the prices are out of my league. Since these fellas go to Europe, handpick the albums, hire a customs agent to take care of the bureaucracy and ship them to America, you can sort of understand why the Sounds’ first album, for example, was $60.

Other than the prices, just about everything else at Wombleton is wonderful. It’s an intimate and fantastically decorated shop. It’s — more or less — all vinyl, and the real hard-to-find albums are given their own section. I have never seen so much C86 in my life, and I didn’t see a single reissue. These were very old but well taken care of originals. And, oh, the 7″ singles! At one point I had six from Postcard in my hand… even though I knew I would never be able to afford them all. It just felt good to hold them. When the dust settled, I got a Hit Parade 7″ on Sarah, Orange Juice’s “Poor Old Soul” and Josef K’s ‘The Only Fun in Town,’ both on Postcard, a few rare Go-Betweens albums and an old favorite from Strawberry Switchblade. Seriously, if money was no object, I could have spent thousands of dollars. The scary thing is, according to the owner, his stock was low. They will be hitting the UK again next month. I hope I can find another excuse to head to Cali.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (dancing mix)
mp3 : Josef K – The Angle

More Friends Electric tomorrow



A guest posting from long-time reader Jim Chambers

So… the vinyl villain inspired me – he didn’t know it but I can’t thank him enough for planting this particular seed in my mind and he is indirectly reaponsible for my hangover a few weeks ago. It was his 45 45s series that got me thinking…

I’ve just celebrated my 45th birthday so I’m of the generation when a 7″ single really meant something. I threw a party – the first house party since I was a student I think. (You know the way you get slightly precious about the carpet and all that.)

I invited 45 people to my house. The only condition was they had to bring their favourite 7″ single. I hired decks, a smoke machine and strobes (it was a package – honest I didn’t get carried away)…

Everyone got into the spirit of it, bringing along some absolute classics. And everyone is a secret DJ – given the chance. Even if they want to play Remember You’re A Womble. My mates spoke about what they were going to play in their ‘set’ as if they were headlining the dance tent at Glastonbury, which was all quite amusing. The night got a little hazy after the third round of sambucas but I can remember a good friend of mine and me dancing away and shouting all the words to Lost Weekend at each other much to the astonishment of everyone else. If only I’d remembered my schoolwork as well as I could remember lyrics…

There was serious drinking, dancing, grown men hugging each other and much laughter.

And obviously when you get to ‘a certain age’ it’s unusual to see so many of your friends in the same room – it’s normally reserved for weddings etc so personally the night was a sheer delight. It wasn’t without its moments… The occasional row etc but nothing too serious. The carpet didn’t get ruined, nothing got damaged and the neighbours didn’t complain so all in all a great, memorable night.

The records I’ve chosen are all Scottish (in honour of JC) and all went down well on the night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Lost Weekend
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (12″ version)
mp3 : Big Country – In A Big Country (LP version)

So thanks JC for inspiring me and thanks for allowing me to share the story. My friends are now all looking forward to a 78s party which I expect will be a much more sedate affair.




As the series is alphabetical, it should come as no surprise following his appearance last week that Mr Cole is back, this time with the backing band that first brought him to the attention of the public.

From wiki:-

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were a British pop band that formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982. Between 1984 and 1989, the band scored four Top 20 albums and five Top 40 singles in the UK. After breaking up in 1989, Cole embarked on a solo career but the band reformed briefly in 2004 to perform a 20th anniversary mini-tour of the UK and Ireland.

The band were formed whilst Cole (who was born in Derbyshire, England) was studying at the University of Glasgow. They signed to Polydor Records; their debut single “Perfect Skin” reaching number 26 in the UK charts in Spring 1984, while the second single “Forest Fire” reached 41. The first album, Rattlesnakes, was released in October 1984. Produced by Paul Hardiman and featuring string arrangements by Anne Dudley, the album peaked at No. 13 in the UK and was certified Gold for sales over 100,000 copies. NME included in its Top 100 Albums of All-Time list, and the title track was later covered by the American singer Tori Amos. The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers included the album amongst their top ten list.

Due to the insistence of their label[citation needed], the follow-up album, Easy Pieces, was produced by Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley (who had previously produced Madness, The Teardrop Explodes and Elvis Costello and the Attractions). Released in November 1985, the album was a much quicker commercial success than its predecessor (entering the UK album chart at No. 5 and certified gold within a month). The singles “Brand New Friend” and “Lost Weekend” were the band’s first and only UK Top 20 hits (reaching No. 19 and No. 17 respectively).

Two years later, the band released their third and final album, Mainstream. Produced by Ian Stanley (former writer and keyboard-player of Tears for Fears), the album peaked at No. 9 in the UK and was also certified gold, but contained only one UK Top 40 single, “Jennifer She Said” (No. 31).
In 1989, the band decided to split up and released a “best of” compilation, 1984-1989, which was their fourth Top 20 album (UK No. 14) and fourth Gold certification. Following this, Cole embarked on a solo career with the release of his self-titled album in 1990.

On the first two Commotions albums, Cole was the band’s main songwriter (though he co-wrote several songs with various bandmembers). The third album is credited to the band as a whole, though Cole remained the sole lyricist. Particularly notable were Cole’s knowingly pretentious lyrics (he was studying philosophy at the University of Glasgow when the band started) and namedropping the likes of Norman Mailer, Leonard Cohen, Arthur Lee, Grace Kelly, Truman Capote, Simone de Beauvoir, Nancy Sinatra, and Eva Marie Saint as well as referring to Sean Penn (somewhat sympathetically) as “Mr. Madonna”.

Post-breakup careers

Cole moved to New York City and later to New England to pursue a solo career with Polydor/Capitol Records and later appeared on Rykodisc, before establishing self-published entities in the United States. His solo career has found him collaborating with the late Robert Quine, Fred Maher, Dave Derby and Jill Sobule.

Clark continued working with Cole on almost all of his solo releases and full band tours. He was also a member of the short-lived group Bloomsday, with Irvine (of the Commotions) and Chris Thomson of The Bathers.

Cowan collaborated with Cole and his new backing band in New York on Cole’s first two solo albums. He played with Del Amitri, Paul Quinn and the Independent Group, the Kevin McDermott Orchestra and Texas but is today an IT-specialist at British Telecom.

Donegan is a journalist and an author – he is a golf journalist and Scotland correspondent for The Guardian and published several non-fiction titles, including No News at Throat Lake and Four Iron in the Soul.

Irvine joined former bandmate Clark in Bloomsday and, as a session musician, worked with Del Amitri, Etienne Daho and Sarah Cracknell. He is also managing artists and bands.

Don’t know about the rest of you, but the fact that Lost Weekend was their biggest hit was a surprise to me. It was one of the few songs that bassist Lawrence Donegan gained a writing credit, and in one of his excellent books he acknowledges that the the tune has more than a passing resemblance to The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

I’ve a few Lloyd Cole & The Commotions singles in the collection and have decided to go with the biggest hit….mainly becuase it has one of the strangest intros of any record (it sounds as if it is playing at the wrong speed!) and also for proof that more doesn’t necessarily mean best as the compact 7″ version is by far superior:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend (Extended Version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Big World
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Nevers End
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend (7″ version)