Julian Cope

Julian Cope (born Julian David Cope, on ) is a British rock musician, author, antiquary, musicologist, and poet who came to prominence in 1978 as the singer and songwriter in Liverpool post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes. Cope has since released many solo albums and is a founding member of the bands Queen Elizabeth and Brain Donor. In addition to his musical career, Cope has written four books of non-fiction: Krautrocksampler (Head Heritage, 1995), The Modern Antiquarian (Thorsons, 1998), The Megalithic European (Element, 2004), and Japrocksampler (Bloomsbury, 2007), plus two volumes of autobiography: Head-On (Head Heritage, 1994) and Repossessed (HarperCollins, 1999).


Early life

Born in Deri, Mid Glamorgan, Wales, Cope was raised in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in the English Midlands. He attended the City of Liverpool College of Higher Education (COLCHE - linked to Lancaster University) near Prescot - some years later the college became part of Liverpool Polytechnic as CF Mott Campus.


Cope's musical career began in July 1977, as bass player with a mythical Liverpool punk rock band known as Crucial Three, which also featured Ian McCulloch (later guitarist and singer for Echo & the Bunnymen) and guitarist Pete Wylie, who later formed The Mighty Wah. Although the Crucial Three lasted for little more than six weeks, and disbanded without ever playing in public, all three members went on to lead very successful post-punk bands. Cope went on to form other short-lived bands UH? and A Shallow Madness with McCulloch, before finally achieving fame and success as the singer, original bassist and primary songwriter of The Teardrop Explodes.

In 1981, Cope compiled Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker, which was released by Bill Drummond's Zoo Records. This sparked renewed interest in the work of the reclusive singer; though years later Cope commented that Walker's "Pale White Intellectual" outlook on life no longer held any fascination for him.

After The Teardrop Explodes disbanded in late 1982 following the completion of three albums, Cope returned to live close to his hometown of Tamworth, settling in the nearby village of Drayton Bassett with his new American wife Dorian Beslity. In 1983 he recorded some introspective works for his first solo album, World Shut Your Mouth, released on Mercury Records in March 1984. This record was followed just six months later by Fried, which featured a sleeve with Cope clad only in a turtle shell. The failure of this record caused Polygram to drop Cope, but he signed a deal with Chris Blackwell's Island Records.

Cope's third solo album was the well-received Saint Julian (produced by Ed Stasium) and released the single "World Shut Your Mouth", which became his biggest solo hit, reaching #19 in the UK in 1986, becoming his only Top 20 single there. The follow-up album My Nation Underground spawned only one Top 40 single in "Charlotte Anne", and Cope fell out with Island Records at this time. Cope found modest American success with "Charlotte Anne" reaching the top of the Modern Rock Tracks. He recorded his next album, the low-fi Skellington, in secret during the course of a single weekend, playing in the same studio used for My Nation Underground. Neither his record company nor management had any desire to release Skellington (Zippo, 1989), and Cope refused to record any other material while he feuded with them to try to get his new work released. This became the first of many feuds with record companies. Cope next released a Texas-only album entitled Droolian (Mofoco, 1990), the profits of which were used to aid of one of his heroes Roky Erickson, who was in jail without legal representation.

When Cope's war with Island Records had abated, he released the double album Peggy Suicide (Island, 1991), which was heralded by critics as his best work thus far. The record was recorded during the anti-Margaret Thatcher Poll Tax Riots, in which Cope took a prominent role, wearing a huge theatrical costume throughout the march. Cope was later featured on the BBC's Poll Tax documentary, a lone protester walking down Whitehall in the costume surrounded by seven lines of mounted police. For his anti-police tirade "Soldier Blue", Cope sampled Lenny Bruce's Berkeley Concert and mixed in samples of the Poll Tax riot itself . The song was later re-mixed by Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy's Michael Franti, who also provided a rap for the new mix. However, when Island Records refused to release the record as being too overtly political, another argument ensued. Many of the songs on Peggy Suicide also reflected Cope's hatred of organized religion, and his increasing interest in the occult, animal rights, paganism, women's rights, the goddess and ecology. In 1992, Cope released another double album, the fiercely anti-Christian Jehovahkill. While the lyrics of such songs as "Poet is Priest", "Julian H. Cope", and the single "Fear Loves This Place" were again highly critical of the Church, much of the music on Jehovahkill reflected his teenage fascination for both Detroit hard rock and a more electro-acoustic based Krautrock. However, the contents of Jehovahkill were too much for Island Records, who dropped Cope the same week that his three shows sold out at London's 1800 capacity Town & Country Club. The press mounted an outcry at Island Records' decision, NME featuring him on their front cover under the headline 'Endangered Species' and Select magazine started a campaign to have Cope re-signed. Cope refused to comment because he was engaged in a tour of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

In the mid-1990s, Cope signed with Rick Rubin's Def American label, releasing Autogeddon (1994) and 20 Mothers (1995), spawning the single "Try, Try, Try", accompanied by two Top of the Pops performances. He was dropped by the label when he refused to visit the USA. In 1996, Cope released the album Interpreter (Echo Records). Cope's ongoing battle with those he referred to as "greedheads" eventually saw him turn his back on the music industry from this point onwards.


In the course of one of his many record company stand-offs, Cope began to write his first autobiographical book, Head-On which primarily covered the years 1976 to 1982, focusing on Cope's time before and during the life of The Teardrop Explodes and ending with the break-up of the band. This was followed a few years later by Repossessed, covering the years 1983 to 1989 and the recording of Cope's first series of solo albums, as well as the writing of Head-On (The books were republished in one volume in 2000, titled Head-On/Repossessed). In addition to his two volumes of autobiography, Cope has written four books of nonfiction. Krautrocksampler, released in 1996 and now out of print, covers the German krautrock musical movement. Reviews at the time were ecstatic, Rolling Stone citing it as "a work of real passion and scholarship". NME agreed: "This is a superb book ... this is an extraordinary book." Mojo went further, writing: "Brilliantly researched, Krautrocksampler abounds with revelations, and Cope's enthusiasm verges on the lethal ... a sort of lysergic Lester Bangs." In the Sunday Times, the reviewer wrote: "German 1970s minimalism is invading the British rock scene ... an Englishman is to blame ... Krautrocksampler is a lively history of a fascinating period, half encyclopedia, half psychedelic detective story." Before the publication of this book the genre itself had all but disappeared off the musical map; both the phrase and the genre are now firmly ingrained and have subsequently been heralded in the likes of Mojo and The Wire. The book was also the subject of fierce controversy due to Cope's outspoken remarks that Can's Bel-Air was a "shambles" (though Can's drummer Jaki Leibezeit concurred with Cope's opinion). In the years to come, Krautrocksampler was also published in German, French and Italian language editions.

1998 saw the release of Cope's long-awaited and widely-acclaimed bestseller The Modern Antiquarian, a large and comprehensive full-colour 448-page work detailing stone circles and other ancient monuments of prehistoric Britain, which sold out of its first edition of 20,000 in its first month of publication and was accompanied by a BBC Two documentary. The Times called the book: "A ripping good read ... it is deeply impressive ... ancient history: the new rock 'n' roll." The Independent called it: "A unique blend of information, observation, personal experience and opinion which is as unlike the normal run of archaeology books as you can imagine." The historian Ronald Hutton went further, calling the book: "the best popular guide to Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments for half a century." The Modern Antiquarian was followed in 2004 with an even larger 484-page study of similar monuments across Europe entitled The Megalithic European, the most extensive study of European megalithic sites to date. In addition to his books on prehistoric monuments, Cope hosts a community-based Modern Antiquarian website that invites contributors to add their own knowledge of the ancient sites of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Cope has lectured nationally on the subject of prehistory, and also at the British Museum on the subjects of Avebury and Odin.

In October 2007, Japrocksampler was released, subtitled How the post war Japanese blew their minds on rock and roll. This much larger hard back book (304 pp) was written in a similar style to Krautrocksampler, but was a far more detailed study and took in the years 1951-78. It has been translated into Italian and Japanese.

Recent years

Cope has opted out of the mainstream in recent years, releasing and promoting his music himself, rather than working with a major record label. He continues to record new material both under his own name and with regular collaborators under the band names Brain Donor - his heavy metal power trio, and Queen Elizabeth, an experimental collaboration with Thighpaulsandra of Coil/Spiritualized. Most of his more recent releases are available either primarily or exclusively through Cope's extensive and interactive website, Head Heritage . Cope is also a musicologist, occultist and an avid champion of obscure and underground music.

His Album of the Month reviews on the Unsung section of his website have promoted bands such as Comets on Fire, Sunn O))) (with whom he performed a guest vocal on their White1 album) and several Japanese bands which feature in his book Japrocksampler. Unsung is another community-based site that invites contributors' reviews, and Cope and the site's numerous contributors have been instrumental in kick-starting the interest in bands like Sir Lord Baltimore, Blue Cheer, Les Rallizes Denudes, Tractor and the Groundhogs. Cope is also considered to be one of the first bloggers; he has been airing his sometimes controversial views since 1998 via his website's "Address Drudion" on the first day of each month .

Cope has continued to perform live in the UK (including an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2003) and other parts of Europe in recent years. Despite travelling to Armenia in 2003 for research, Cope has not toured professionally beyond Europe for several years. In 2005, plans to tour the United States were dropped because their INS refused to grant him a visa.

Julian Cope lives near Avebury, Wiltshire (UK) with his wife, Dorian, and their two daughters, Albany (born 10 August 1991) and Avalon (born 29 April 1994).

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