IT’S not been the best of times for Lloyd Cole, what with tax woes, dodgy knees, a dose of ‘flu and the small matter of being attacked by a lion. But the Buxton-born singer-songwriter is bearing up well after falling foul of a pocket-sized version of the king of the beasts.
“I was in a wildlife park in Johannesburg,” Cole recalls. “It had a fantastic petting zoo where you could approach all these animals. I was petting a baby lion and it proceeded to bite my arm. It was not serious though at all.”
Following the petting zoo revelation, Lloyd lists his other moans. He has had to finish his taxes, has been struck down with a bad case of man `flu, and has also undergone two bouts of knee surgery in the past two years, the second being in December of last year.
Lloyd hails from Derbyshire, born in Buxton and growing up in Chapel-en-le-Frith in a huge house where the family would take in lodgers.
“My father was not actually a professional golfer, like it is commonly reported. He just worked at the local golf course, and then when I was around 13, he was put in charge,” says Cole.
Music was his passion, he says, from the age of 12 or 13 and “it has been the most important thing in my life since then”. Cole has spoken in the past of feeling out of place in Chapel-en-le-Frith. As a long-haired, velvet-trousered glam rock fan who supported Chelsea rather than Manchester United or City, he also had his share of beatings.
When he was 16, the family moved to Chorley and then to Scotland. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions formed in 1982 while they were all studying at Glasgow University. Three top 20 albums followed, including the critically-acclaimed Rattlesnakes, full of pop culture and literary references which Lloyd puts down to his English and Philosophy studies.
“The references do probably come from there yes. It was probably because I was young and more interested in reading about people’s lives rather than living my own,” he says.
The Commotions also produced hits such as Perfect Skin and Brand New Friend before disbanding in 1989. Cole pursuing a solo career which has lasted to this day.
Along the way, he moved to America where he met his wife, Elizabeth. They live in Massachusetts and have two sons.
“Moving away from the UK, was not a conscious decision, I just wanted to get away. I got a six month lease on an apartment in America and I eventually met my wife and have stayed there ever since,” says Cole.
Lloyd talks me through the differences between life in the UK and the USA.
“They are based around totally different ideas. It is such a big country too, so big that people never even need to leave to go on holiday,” he says. “Just look at the Major League Baseball championship. It’s called the ‘World Series’ and it is totally intentional.”
A move back to the UK is now unlikely, he says.
“My wife has a very large family, and we are settled here. I have my two boys in school and the only ties I have to the UK are my parents. If I was single, I would probably be living in Whitby.
“Being in the job I am in, I get to come back two or three times a year so I get my fill from that, plus I can bring back some Marmite. I just had some with my toast this morning” he laughs.
Polite and charming, Cole has no hesitation in explaining anything about his life, even his supposed rivalry with legendary rocker Alice Cooper.
After both men tied 11th place in Golf Digest’s Top 100 musicians handicap list, and both artists began name-dropping each other in live shows to entertain the crowds, Lloyd reveals that there is no real animosity between them.
Introducing his song Only Women Bleed, Cooper has been known to say: “Even Lloyd Cole doesn’t sing about that”.
Cole says: ” I think it’s because of my reputation of being quite wordy. So before singing Impossible Girl, I tell this story because one line from it basically talks about the wrong time of the month. Funnily enough though, we have never even met. But I think me and Alice need to have a face-off to see who the real number 11 is!”
Cole has been lauded as “one of the most articulate and acute songwriters of the post-punk era”.
He says: “When you choose to do something professionally you have to expect people to critique your work, and you always hope for them to say nice things and it is pleasing when they do.
“They aren’t always nice though, especially when one reviewer claimed that the song My Bag was terrible and I should have put the bag over my own head.”
He adds: “My career has been more of a series of up and downs, the ups being wonderful.
“I did try giving up writing music in 1997 because I felt that I was making music and writing material because I had to for albums, when it should be the other way round – writing when I am inspired to write. I do write less now and I am working on my guitar work more but I will write music for the rest of my life.”
Lloyd Cole will be appearing at Bolton Albert Halls on Saturday, April 19, and at Buxton Opera House on Monday June 2, tickets £16.
Publication: Manchester Evening News
Publication date: 17/04/08