Today I read that it is 35 years since ‘Rattlesnakes’ was released.
As soon as I heard ‘Perfect Skin’ I was in love with Lloyd Cole.
Having read Lloyd‘s Tweet about the album’s birthday this morning, I wondered if I would write something. I started going through all my stuff. I used to write down the gigs I went to and thought this would be a good starting place. I saw that the first time I saw Lloyd Cole and the Commotions was on 13 October 1984. Today is the 13 October 2019, so I took it as a sign!
‘Rattlesnakes’ came out the day before the gig, and I was keen to get to know it before we saw them. Even before playing it, I loved the sleeve, the brown colouring. I loved how they looked, the clothes and guitars.
I played it and played it. I learned as much as I could. To this day if someone mentions 1984, I don’t think George Orwell I think ‘Rattlesnakes‘.
Cath Carroll’s review in the N.M.E. said ‘Having a record collection without ‘Rattlesnakes’ is like having a kitchen without a kettle’.
Support came from The Blow Monkeys who were wonderful and who I would later book for The Buzz Club.
Lloyd was a shy performer, bass player Lawrence Donegan did most of the talking. I was filled with a sense of belonging. I had found a band I could share the next few years of my life with. We managed to get back stage. about 20 of us. I chatted briefly to Lloyd, told him I was in a band and we had recently supported The Television Personalities round Europe. He said he had their ‘Part Time Punks’ single.
We saw them again on 13 December 1984 at the Hammersmith Palais. Robert Elms was in the audience. It felt like the right place to be, the crowd was growing. By now I knew every word, every guitar flourish.
Back at the same venue nine months later with fantastic The Jazzateers supporting.
November 1985, ‘Easy Pieces‘ was released.
Here’s a photo of me in my bedroom. The wall to my right has a photo of Lloyd from the N.M.E. plus a few Lloyd Cole and the Commotions gig tickets.
I was working in Our Price Records in Aldershot in 1987. One morning I opened the Polydor box and on top there was black and white photo of Lloyd’s face.
‘My Bag’ single preceded the album ‘Mainstream‘. I bought it on a few formats, it even came in a bag shaped sleeve!
I love ‘Mainstream’.
‘From the hip, by the hip for the hip’ NME
I was working in Our Price Guildford now and played ‘Jennifer She Said’ as often as I could.
My brother Tom was living in Spain so Danny and I went to stay with him for a few days, while we went to the Barcelona gig in January 1988. That was exciting, being among European Lloyd Cole fans. Same clothes, hair and style.
‘Lost Weekend’ from ‘Easy Pieces’ had been a big hit and the band grew in popularity – the next London gig was Wembley Arena. We saw them in Poole a couple of days before. Poole was great, Wembley felt a bit souless. I don’t really like that venue.
Danny and I went to America for six months in July 1988. Here I am in my ‘Mainstream‘ tee shirt in California with my band Bluetrain recording for a local tv station.
I used to frequently call Lloyd’s American label to see if the band had any plans to play L.A.. They didn’t. We did see the band that had supported them in Poole and Wembley though. The Railway Children were a great band on Factory Records. We saw them in Hollywood in September 1988.
Back in the U.K. and living in London. No more Commotions. Up to Edinburgh to see Lloyd with his long hair and stubble. I was working as the band booker for the Rock Garden in Covent Garden now. Danny was working at Cherry Red Records and we were living in Islington.
We saw Lloyd lots in 1990. Edinburgh, Hammersmith, Brighton, Brixton. I really like this album, his first solo one. Some great tracks, ‘Waterline‘ and ‘Undressed‘ being my favourites.
Oddly Lloyd Cole at Brixton Academy on 8 April 1990 is the last gig I wrote down. Life took over. I started to work as press officer at Ultimate Records and went to so many gigs, I no longer wrote them down.
I bought ‘Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe’, ‘Bad Vibes’, and ‘Love Story’
In 1995, just after ‘Love Story’ had come out, my band, Jump Rope played a gig at the Powerhaus in Islington, North London. It went ok. A Scottish guy came back stage and started talking to us, saying he really enjoyed it. He said he managed Lloyd Cole. I gushed some reply and we exchanged numbers. Derek McKillop called me a couple of days later to say that Lloyd was looking for a band to support him on his up coming tour and could he put us forward?
We toured in late September and early October 1995. Jump Rope was a three piece band, me on guitar and vocals, Danny on bass, plus an American drummer. We were able to squeeze ourselves and our gear in the old Rover car my parents were kind enough to lend us. Off we set.
It was great fun.
We played in Dublin, at the Mean Fiddler. Van Morrison was in the audience and after the show Lloyd got word that Van wanted to meet him. Lloyd asked me ‘What shall I say to Van Morrison?’. That moment stands in time for me!
The crew were all great and really welcoming to us. The tour manager Mick Brown was particularly kind. Our paths crossed again years later when he was TM for The Flaming Lips when they headlined the Green Man Festival in 2010.
The tour finished at the Empire in Shepherd’s Bush, London on 3 October 1995.
We were really happy with this gig. The last of the tour and our best. Lloyd invited everyone back to the bar in his hotel. We stayed there drinking and chatting for a few hours.
Derek called us again after the tour and said Lloyd would like to produce a couple of tracks by us. He came to a rehearsal in Camden and we ran through the set, choosing which songs to record. A couple of weeks later we went to Soul2Soul studio, again in Camden. Derek was working with John Reid, Elton John‘s manager now and was trying to get us a deal with Rocket Records.
Through no fault of Lloyd’s the demo wasn’t great. The band just wasn’t great.
Anyway, that’s my Lloyd Cole story.
Happy birthday ‘Rattlesnakes’ X