So here’s the first in a double-bill of Julian Cope ballads (lucky you!).
Julian is largely remembered, if he is remembered at all, in the guise of the leather flying jacketed (oh, how I wanted one of those jacket!) star of The Teardrop Explodes, performing Reward on Top Of The Pops. Something of a staple of early-80s compilations, the blast of sheer energy that song exudes has never waned, and has rightly become something of an alternative classic.
But one of the reasons (other than the obvious one of copious amounts of drugs) that the Teardrops didn’t become top 40 mainstays was that Julain was never really one for the obvious. In fact he was really one for the downright weird, strange and eccentric. Those eccentricities became more obvious in his solo career (more of which in the next post). But they were certainly there below the commercial underbelly of his early ’80s hits. One of the b-sides of Tiny Children was a 9 minute live version of their debut single, Sleeping Gas, which demonstrates perfectly how off-the-wall Cope could go.
That eccentricity didn’t just manifest itself in weird psychedelic wig-outs. Another consistent trend has been for simple, naive, nursery-rhyme-like songs that provide a space for breath amongst the surrounding weirdness. These songs didn’t usually crop-up as singles, but Tiny Children was the one exception (unsurprisingly it didn’t really bother the shiny-pop absorbed charts of the summer of 1982). Consisting of nothing but Julian’s little-boy voice set against a single-finger synth riff, this is a truly haunting and beautiful song. A song I have loved since I first heard it as part of the band’s desperately under-rated second album, Wilder.
So sing this on a ukulele? Well yes, actually. I think it works rather wonderfully. Not an obvious choice, I’ll grant you. And not one that all your friends are likely to instantly respond to in nostalgic recognition. But it works, all the same. In some ways similar to the blissed-out, trance-like vibe of the last post (Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio), I find this best sung to a gentle repetitve strum pattern of d-du-udu (see pattern 2 here). Enjoy!