I think it’s safe to say that all four of us here at Dangerous Minds are big Julian Cope fans. Jason and I are HUGE fans and I have loved The Teardrop Explodes and followed Cope since I was a teen. The guy’s as cool as anyone’s ever been, he doesn’t care what you think about him and he can write the best guitar riffs since Ray Davies. I’ve seen him in concert four times, read all of his books and I interviewed him once around the time Peggy Suicide was released, in 1991. He was a fascinating guy to talk to, full of energy, his mind wandering off in every direction at once. My guess is also that he was probably pretty stoned that day!
My friend Wm. Ferguson and I met the Arch Drude at the Island Records offices near Tower Records in lower Manhattan. During the interview Cope told us about the mystical experience he had that led to his vision of the earth dying that inspired Peggy Suicide’s somewhat bleak environmentalist message. I recall that we discussed a certain book about Helena Blavatsky which he and I had both read and he compared the physical sensation of his mystic moment to the first time a pubescent boy masturbates, not quite pleasurable and very confusing, a sort of mental orgasm felt in the brain. I asked him if he felt conflicted about bringing a child into a world—his wife Dorian was then pregnant with their first daughter—that he so obviously thought was terminal. He paused and said, “Well, yeah the world is fucked, but it’s not THAT fucked that it can’t be saved, certainly. We’ve got to try.” I then voiced my own skepticism about bring new life into the world—I was 25 at the time—and he said something that I will never forget and have repeated to friends expecting children several times: “If people like you and I stop having children, we’ve ceded our world to the idiots. All intelligent people should have as many babies as possible to prevent all the thick, ungroovy Christians from taking over.”
When we were leaving, I mentioned in passing that I’d seen the infamous Hammersmith Palais show of his first UK solo tour in 1984, a concert that saw Cope performing a bloody act of self-mutilation. During the encore of Reynard the Fox, Cope snapped his mike-stand in half and proceeded to rake the jagged edge across his chest, back and stomach drawing lots of blood and generally freaking out the entire audience! Up until the very end it had been a slick, professional rock show. A girl standing near me puked when she saw what he had done. It cemented Cope’s reputation as a Syd Barrett-like acid casualty.
Cope laughed sheepishly and pulled out his wallet. “Well, you’ll appreciate this: Whenever I’m feeling like I am fucked in the head, I pull out this picture—” it was of a bloodied Cope from the concert I’d seen “—and I remind myself that however fucked up I think I am I am still not THAT fucked!”
And with that he was off. It’s often said of Cope that he’s the last of a dying breed or something to that effect. Not true. This implies that there were more like him, but Julian Cope’s a one off. All hail the Arch Drude!
Above, Julian Cope, tripping on LSD during a Top of the Pops performance of Passionate Friend. Read about this experience in Cope’s own words here.
Great, really intelligent extended Julian Cope interview by Jon Savage