The Glee Club was the perfect venue to host Julian Cope’s gig ,as his extensive repertoire of songs is eclipsed by the volume of anecdotes and musings that he loves to share, which made tonight’s show part spoken word and part ‘unplugged’ greatest hits performance.
This was my first visit to the Glee Club for live music and was surprised to see the room laid out with the same seating arrangement for live comedy. I was expecting to be stood all night, but in retrospect having a nice seat made perfect sense for the proceeding events.
So if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin………………
In 2014 Julian Cope penned his first critically acclaimed novel ‘One Three One’, which is described as a ‘time shifting agnostic hooligan road trip’ story, thus creating a new genre of fiction for Waterstones to categorise. I finished reading this magnificent book just hours before heading out for tonight’s gig, so all the characters and plots were fresh in my mind. So imagine my amazement when I was looking at the merchandise stand to discover they were selling CDs and books produced by characters and fictional bands featured in ‘One Three One’. I snapped up the ‘Dayglo Maraoda’ CD and the Mick Goodby ‘Juan Fluorescent (the cuckoo’s nest)’ poetry book. Read ‘One Three One’ and all the aforementioned will make sense, I promise.
The support for tonight’s show was Fido-X from The Black Sheep. He was sporting a black T-Shirt with the letters S.W.A printed in the same red font as the notorious rap group N.W.A’s logo. After a minute or so I was able to make out the writing underneath that explained this acronym — ‘Salad with Attitude’. According to Julian Copes ‘Trip Advizer’ CD linear notes this phrase is how Julian described himself in 2009 after having a breakdown induced by smoking the psychoactive herb Salvia. Unfortunately to really appreciate Fido-X set tonight you needed to be smoking excessive amounts of Salvia. He is one man, two laptops and a mini mixing board with a lot of knobs that constantly need turning.
The output of all of this was a looped sample of 3 seconds sung over a guitar riff; this was then repeated over and over for what felt like 15-20 minutes. Over the top of this, various sound effects and crescendos were generated, which gave the vibe that the track might go somewhere or end, but it did neither. The theme of the loop did change a few times but I had become deaf to it I am afraid. A few people around me were holding their ears to protect their sanity from this repetition overload and when the set came to an end there was a sense of relief felt across the room. There were even a few boos from the back of the room at the end of the set. This may have been the reaction that Fido-X was looking for. There is a school of thought that the support act is selected and championed by the main act, so in turn the fans by default must like the act – but on this occasion Copes congregation don’t follow him into the fire with his choice. Been there, but I loved the T Shirt.
Early in the set a long lost Teardrop Explodes great gets a dusting off much to the crowd’s delight ‘Culture Bunker’, which Cope explained with pride, was on the record labels worst selling LPs in the year of release. In between tracks he waxed lyrical about different topics, back stories to songs and moments in his bizarre rock and roll life. Such as, the history and link between crop production and beer brewing, this has led him to the conclusion that all ancient civilisations were off their mash. This was the prelude to the song ‘They Were on Hard Drugs’, a great song which even name checks Birmingham!
The story telling didn’t limit itself to breaks between songs, during ‘Sunspots’ he paused to start explaining that the sound he makes in the chorus is that of a car speeding away. But the story didn’t stop there, he then went on to recount that when the ‘Fried’ LP was released in Japan, the distributors requested a lyric sheet, so it was some poor unfortunate’s job to transcribe the songs and this sound effect became ‘iiiiiiinnnnnnndeeeeed’ on the lyric sheet. So when he continued the song he then added this translation in.
Julian Cope is so charismatic he has the audience hanging off his every word. Until a disgruntled punter pipes up that the bar is shut and he wants a drink. Apparently the bar closes while the acts are on, this is probably a policy related to live comedy performance. Julian points out that he is the same position as he can’t drink while he is on stage, so the mutual agreement is made that we will all have a beer afterwards. Which then leads into several drink related songs ‘As the Beer Flows Over Me’ and ‘Liver as Big as Hartlepool’.
Cope is on fine form and when he looks at his set list taped to his guitar he genuinely gets excited as to what is lined up next. Before he dives into ‘The Greatness and Perfection of Love’ he quotes a Paul Morley review from back in the day — “Julian Cope is the only man who can sing baa baa and mean it”. When you hear Julian perform his songs in their stripped down unplugged acoustic versions there is no denying the authenticity and passion that Morley was referring to all those years ago. It is still there, he hasn’t lost it, but he admits he is curmudgeonly about the world, which is why he wrote the song ‘C***s can fuck off’. I couldn’t bring myself to even type the word and it is this fact that raises JC above mere mortals like me. Not only did he sing a jaunty song littered with the C word, he told a tale of when he had a belt made with this word on, but to stop his rebellious teenage daughter stealing and wearing it he got one made for her — but it was diamantÃ© encrusted.
Later in the set he read a poem from the Juan Fluorescent book written by the fictional character Mick Goodby. He has created this other universe with his book ‘One Three One’ in which these characters live, but their work is filtering into our reality. However the revelation tonight is that all of the characters in this book and a lot of the events are based on people and experience that Julian Cope has known or experienced. Faber and Faber his publicist state that he is the first novelist to employ method actor tactics.
As the inlay to his book states, Julian Cope is actually a Midlander (even though he was voted 36th greatest Merseysider in the Liverpool Echo last year). He was from Tamworth and one of his final anecdotes is about going to see Fairport Convention at the town hall in Birmingham and missing his last bus home, so he walked down Aston Express way and got picked up by the police. This tale segued into ‘Autogeddon Blues’ the anti-cars track.
Julian Cope is a great show man with great songs, great stories and great rapport with his audience. I was sitting so comfortably I didn’t want this great night to end.
I’m Living in the Room They Found Saddam In
They Were On Hard Drugs
As The Beer Flows Over Me
Liver As Big As Hartlepool
Greatness & Perfection
Cromwell in Ireland
Cunts Can Fuck Off
Review: Sean McBurney
Photographs: Steve Kilmister