Saturday, 14 November 2009

FOLLOW FRIDAY: Always ready to be heartbroken by Lloyd Cole

MAYBE it's the day for reminiscences of Lismore Comprehensive in Craigavon, but that's where it all started for me with Lloyd Cole. Who'd have known it would end up with sharing a great 12 year old Irish whiskey in a dressing room in Birkenhead next to a vintage tram?
In the mid 80's,  in Mrs Gallagher's form class, there was a coterie of hip lads who had older brothers and so they knew the best music. I was a crushingly unhip, insecure and sheltered first born and became obssessed by this C90 tape they were knowingly passing around with the words 'Lloyd Cole and the Commies' written in felt pen on that wee name strip tapes have.
So I went to where I always went when I needed to find music without asking people and risking looking foolish - the four big white revolving locked racks of tapes in Craigavon library. Mary Thomas the librarian got me Rattlesnakes and away I went. Loved it, I mean really loved it.
I never got to see the Commotions, as I found out they were called (hey we didn't have the internet or Google) until much later, so the tapes meant a great deal to me.
And despite getting into Madchester, Irish indie, rap and hip hop and folk music, Lloyd Cole always stayed with me. Like Joe Strummer or Paul Brady or Public Enemy or Van Morrison, he was always there - a song, a line or a well sung syllable constantly returning to me.
Unlike a lot of Cole fans, after the demise of the Commotions, his music got even more interesting and important to me.
His move to America in 1990ish seemed to bring on better albums and some great interviews in Q magazine, I'm sure one was with Du Noyer.
His first solo record, X, had some brilliant songs on it as did  Don't Get Weird on Me which had fabulously cool sleeve art with pics shot in LA at the Capitol Building. Even the universally dismissed Bad Vibes, from 1993, had a couple of great tracks on it, including 'So You'd Like to Save The World' and 'Wild Mushrooms'.
But 1995 was the year that sealed it for me. Just before moving to Liverpool and right after university, I got Love Story and that was it, I was going to be with him for good, for better or worse.
And it is all down to one song, 'Like Lovers Do', a fabulous tale of love in three episodes which still entrances me. The great video is available here.
You know that idea of one small bit from a song, one tiny sung syllable can be the thing you love most in any artist's canon? Then for me in the final chorus, when Cole sings 'Well, I'm looking right at you now, girl' and his voice descends to a cool, low  register, man I'm gone every time.
Even after he went on hiatus after he had been dropped by Polydor, (when he and his wife Elizabeth started a family), I listened to Love Story regularly.
And then in 2000, I got The Negatives in Quirks Record shop in Ormskirk (where I was working on the incredibly underrated local paper, the Advertiser). It was, for me, the perfect Lloyd Cole album: cool, literate, very Manhattan (where he had been living) and every song on it was brilliant.
I started working on the ECHO the week after I got it and our daughter Ella was born at the end of the year. My happiest memories of this decade are of Ella bouncing along to 'Impossible Girl' in one of those bouncers you hook to a door frame as I did my weights and sit ups. All records you love have a very specific context within which they become more special.
He confounded expectations by producing two even better original albums, Music in a Foreign Language and Antidepressantin 2003 and 2006 respectively.
It was before MIAFL, as he was launching his current solo folk singer incarnation, that I interviewed him first, for the ECHO. It was great and, unlike Van Morrison, it didn't disappoint. As I fed Ella her lunch we chatted and he was witty, urbane, didn't seem to mind me blowing smoke up his ass and he took the piss out of various people, especially the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch and the Waterboys' Mike Scott. He gave good copy.
I interviewed him again after MIAFL - this time for the Daily Post as he was about to play Birkenhead's Pacific Road venue and we had a blast, talking about how his dad had been a golf pro at the club local to us and more specifically - Irish whiskey.
I promised him a bottle of Red Breast back stage as it was going to be his birthday. The gig was great, if a wee bit shouty (as Merseyside gigs can be) - I know he didn't particularly enjoy it. But I got backstage and delivered said single pot still nectar and we broke it open and chatted for a few minutes.
I dearly wanted to tell him about Mrs Gallagher's form class and Craigavon library and singing along to The Negtives as our wee daughter bounced and about that really, really great low note in 'Like Lovers Do' and our wee nascent family singing along to the doo doos from the 'Brand New Friend' 12" in the car on holiday in France and how much his music had meant to me over the years. I wanted to tell him how much he had meant to me.
But I didn't.
I became an eejit journalist and pretended he was my mate and just shot the breeze in a dressing room full of strangers in a venue which shared space with a transport museum that has a vintage tram in it.
I wish I had said, 'You know what Lloyd? You're brilliant and you helped me out of a personal jam more than once and gave me some great memories over the years. And, by the way, you know that wee low bit in the end chorus of  'Like Lovers Do' - it kills me every single, bleedin time, lad.'
But I didn't. And I regret it.
He has released two live albums and a collection of Stephen Street mixes of his solo recordings this year (as well as two volumes of Commotions Live at the BBC), reviewed here,  and I couldn't be happier.
Oh that I could say this about every Tom, Dick and Harry band I have invested time and emotional energy in over the years; but Lloyd Cole has never disappointed me. God bless the old boy.
Please add songs to the collaborative Spotify Playlist here

1 comment:

  1. Spot on piece, Paddy. I'm forever indebted to Lloyd Cole for an introduction into 'proper' music in my youth. I think you voiced it a little more eloquently than my summation that 'Lloyd Cole is fookin' boss, la'.

    Volley next week?