JULIAN COPE – ” Fried “

Posted: March 4, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , ,

Julian Cope - Fried cover

Julian Cope was always an odd sort of pop star and his song “Reynard the Fox” kind of epitomise this. Julian had this oxymoronic desire for stardom, undercut with a deep contempt for what success actually meant for him. Having fought his way out of the punk underground into the Top 10 with his band The Teardrop Explodes, utilising his photogenic cheekbones as a major asset, he immediately backpedaling to obscurity. None of this is particularly unique, but having gone into hiding, Julian then spent years striving to get his fame back on his own terms, with a small, loyal fan base rooting for him and a hostile, disdainful music press very much against him.

Reynard the Fox was the opening track on the album “Fried”, Julian’s second solo album after the split of The Teardrop Explodes.  and just six months after Cope’s debut solo album World Shut Your Mouth. Cope retained guitarist Steve Lovell (and guest oboe player Kate St. John) from the previous album, but added his Drayton Bassett musical foil Donald Ross Skinner on rhythm and slide guitars, former Waterboys drummer Chris Whitten and (on one track) former Mighty Wah! guitarist Steve “Brother Johnno” Johnson.

Its preceding album, World Shut Your Mouth, had been a disappointing sales wise, but Julian had high hopes for Fried before it came out.

“When Fried was released, people would love me again. It would be a cult classic AND it would be huge. I was certain of that.” said Julian. 

This was in 1984, three years after his solitary hit single. Yet he still viewed the likes of Madonna and Wham as peers. Reynard the Fox was conceived as a reaction against the success of those acts’ overblown style – instead of pushing the boundaries, he now “utterly rejected all novelty. If it hadn’t been done before, then I wasn’t interested”, he said. That’s how he came to record a version of a medieval European folk song, mixed with elements of Thomas Grey’s antique lyrical poem The Fox and the riff from Them’s 1966 single “I Can Only Give You Everything” as the opener to his latest comeback album.

All this is recalled in Julian’s brilliantly self-deprecating and highly entertaining autobiographical books, Head-On and Repossessed. He recounts his change from dedicated straight-edge, teetotaler to substance-addled maniac in the drag of one joint, his brief spell as a teen idol, followed by years in hiding as an obsessive vintage toy collector and his constant battles with the music press who, with some justification, dismissed him as a weird, sub-Syd Barret joke. Stunts like appearing on the cover of the Fried album naked, under a giant turtle shell, pushing a toy truck on top of the spoil heap of an abandoned mine in Alvecote really didn’t help Julian’s argument against this assessment. Incidentally, the spoil heap on that photo is the same Warwickshire mound “by a freezing swamp” that Reynard runs to in the lyrics. It was a favourite place of Julian’s during his reclusive years.

Despite the unique cover and dramatic brilliance of Reynard the Fox, Fried didn’t prove to be anything like as successful as Julian Cope had imagined Several songs featured little or no backing, with Cope accompanying himself.. But he did return to the pop charts as a solo artist a couple of years later, most notably with the hit single World Shut Your Mouth.

Having achieved recognition as a talent in his own terms, the music press finally began to take this most idiosyncratic performer seriously and his nineties output was critically and commercially successful. He’s been putting out albums ever since, in between writing highly acclaimed, scholarly books on music history and archaeology.

He may have blown his chance to become a contemporary of Wham back in the eighties, but Reynard the Fox sounds a hell of a lot better today than Club Tropicana ever did. The commercial failure of the album led to Polygram dropping Cope. He would subsequently hook up with a new manager – artist and musician-cum-prankster Cally Callomon – and sign a new deal with Island Records.

thanks 50thirdand3rd.

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