You Don’t Have To Be Afraid

I was listening to Julian Cope’s Peggy Suicide album last week. I was looking for something I hadn’t heard for a long time to soundtrack my drive to the Lakes and it caught my eye. Released in 1991 it signalled a new Cope. He went on to make a further opus for Island, Jehovakill, who then dropped him, at this clear turning point in his career. It was the period when the post-80s pop Cope was formed, with his lyrical references to organised religion, feminism, paganism, ecology, Mother Earth, prehistoric sites- the Cope world view. It was also a move away from the pop sound of the previous decade and into a heavier, psychedelic rock sound. He was at a peak of press interest (the weeklies loved him and the new spate of monthlies were on board too). His hatred for the Thatcher government and the poll tax demonstrations/riots took pace during the making of Peggy Suicide, with Julian attending the London demonstration dressed as Squibsy.

Peggy Suicide is a double album and an ‘artistic vision’ record. The band were a mix of old (Donald Ross Skinner, Rooster Cosby) and new (Mike Joyce and Mike Mooney). Some of the songs sound, not dated maybe, but of their time- 1990/91 drum beats, Manchester funky rock- but there are some career highs here too, perfectly sequenced, leading us through the album in a certain order, lyrically and musically. Beautiful Love is a gorgeous, lightfooted calypso song about Albion and dolphins. Hanging Out & Hung Up On The Line is dense Detroit rock. Drive, She Said is a stunner. But on the drive up the M6 the one that struck me most was Safesurfer, seemingly a tribute and ode to contraception and safe sex, from the opening line ‘I saw my old man exploding out of a tunnel’ to the huge Mick Ronson- inspired guitar track. Eight minutes of epic Cope magnificence that no one else could have made.

Safesurfer