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……