From the very first time I heard The Teardrop Explodes in 1981, I’ve been a massive Julian Cope fan. I’d go so far as to say that he’s one of my only living heros, up there with Jello Biafra and the surviving members of the Firesign Theatre. The Arch Drude is revered in this household as a dharma warrior of the first order. He’s a super rad guy. I have mad respect, as the kids say, for what he stands for.
I’ve seen Julian Cope live “in concert” three times.
The first was in London, in 1984, at the infamous Hammersmith Palais gig where Cope snapped a mic-stand over his knee during “Reynard the Fox” and scraped the jagged metal across his chest, back and stomach, drawing er, copious amounts of blood. The incident was widely reported on in the British music press at the time and was one of the things—although certainly not the only thing—that led him to have a Syd Barrett or Roky Erickson-esque mantle of acid casualty placed around his neck.
At least in my memory of the event, I swear to you that until the self-mutilation incident near the end of the show, it was one of the most memorably professional rock shows I’d ever seen. The band was tight, Cope was in great voice and looked cool as fuck, there was a real momentum to the set list (he was promoting the recently released World Shut Your Mouth album, which I was nuts over) and there was a fantastic psychedelic oil lamp light show with these cool slides of American Indian faces projected behind him (And yes, in case you are wondering, I was on acid, it seemed like a “must” for my first Julian Cope show. When I returned home after the gig, the second biggest riot I’ve ever seen was taking place on my block, but that’s a tale for another time).
But like I was saying, it was an extremely slick rock show right up until the very moment he decided to slice his stomach open during a spoken word monologue about a rockstar slicing his stomach open onstage...
[When Peggy Suicide was released in 1991, I interviewed Cope at the Island Records offices in New York. As I was leaving, I mentioned that I was at this particular show. He laughed sheepishly and produced his wallet. “Well, you’ll appreciate this: Whenever I’m feeling like I’m fucked in the head, I pull out this picture”—it was of a shirtless, blood-covered 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!”]
The second time I saw Cope live, it was at The Ritz (now Webster Hall) in NYC in 1987. The bloody madman of the previous concert was nowhere to be seen. Instead we got the black leather-clad “rock god” version of his act, which included his infamous custom-built mic-stand and a set largely comprised of songs from Saint Julian and his first two solo albums (just one Teardrop Explodes number).
Now here’s the thing, MTV had a short-lived series of live shows, Live at The Ritz, shot obviously, at The Ritz. This was one of them. It didn’t ruin the show or anything, but it didn’t help it, either (I was also in attendance at a show by The Cult around the same time that MTV shot and the mood at that gig was irreparably harmed). I was right up in the front for this show, so I was always curious to see the MTV broadcast. Finally last month, someone put it up on YouTube and it conforms largely to my memory of the event.
The third time I saw Julian Cope live, it was on the Peggy Suicide tour (the last time he played America?) and he’d dropped the slick rockstar persona and the show was stupendous and brought the house down.
And now on to the video of The Ritz show from January 28, 1987
3. Eve’s Volcano
5. St. Julian
7. Non Alignment Pact
8. Bouncing Babies
9. The Greatness And Perfection Of Love
10. Bandy’s First Jump
11. Shot Down
13. Zabriskie Point
14. World Shut Your Mouth
Julian Cope - vocals, guitar; Donald Ross Skinner - electric & slide guitar; James Eller - bass; Keith Richard Frost - keyboards; Chris Whitten - drums.