Lloyd Cole doesn’t care for fast cars, thinks Simon le Bon is ‘just beefcake” and would hate to be a member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. He also reckons the music business needs him. And so does Peter Martin.
‘Simply,’ pauses Lloyd Cole, mulling over the germ of an idea, ‘I feel our role is to point out just how bad other groups are. We show what can be done with a little thought. ‘Strong words from someone so outwardly meek.
He has the air of a slightly dotty, dishevelled literary student (probably because that’s what he was just one year ago) with his hair parted on the wrong side and a notepad and pen tightly clutched in his hand. But, as we know, appearances can be deceptive. like fellow singer/lyricist of merit, Morrissey, he has total faith in his music. This tends to parade as a particularly amusing form of bare-faced arrogance, lightly peppered with a rich, dry sense of humour. ‘Really, 1 can’t decide whether I’m arrogant or not. The thing is, arrogance is very easy to spot in people with no talent. Simon le Bon’s arrogant because he’s got no right to think he’s got talent. 1 mean I’m no genius, but in relative terms I’d say this business needs me.’
This afternoon we’re chatting over a mug of steaming tea at Genetic Studios (owned by Martin Rushent, and the place where he produced The Human League’s ‘Dare”, amongst others).
Situated on the leafy slopes outside Reading, the complex boasts a tennis court and swimming pool – not that he’s had much chance to use them. Along with the Commotions he’s been far too busy finishing off his first LP, ‘Rattlesnakes’. ‘We’ve recorded every song we’ve got. 1 even had to write three lyrics last week. The oldest song we’ve got is from last Christmas – it’s a brand new group.’
Although in good spirits he’s slightly rueful as regards the state he’s let himself get in recently. ‘I never used to be scatter-brained but there’s so much to be done at the moment. We’re just so busy -I’m dreadful at forgetting things.’
He’s also missing his girlfriend Elaine. ‘She works for a newspaper in Scotland which, of course. ties her to the place. So with me always in London it’s really bad. It’s just silly that 1 can’t see her. So to keep my sanity I spend all my money on airfares. It’s my responsibility to myself and the people around me to keep sane.’ Incidentally, what does she think of all this? ‘Obviously she thinks I’m a genius, which is quite right.’
With two hits under his belt, the wry,’60s sounding ‘Perfect Skin’ and the brooding ‘Forest Fire’, it seems he’s already found a few fans who agree with him. ‘I’ve got one girl who writes to me all the time – 1 call her Mad Heather. In fact most of my fans seem to be neurotic teenagers. Oh yes and 1 got my first fan letter from a boy today. He said he adored ‘Perfect Skin’. 1 thought ‘adored’ was a very good word for a boy to use. I’m glad that’s the sort of person 1 attract.’
So how important is ‘being popular’ to Lloyd Cole? ‘1’d be overjoyed if I had hits in this country but 1 wouldn’t give a damn about Bulgaria! Seriously, if we were to be popular here we wouldn’t need to be popular in places like America. lt’d be nice, but 1 don’t want it enough to have to work for it. We’re not a greedy band.’
He goes on to explain that this isn’t the case with most record companies. ‘I decided 1 wanted to do this when 1 was 12 and I’ve been working towards it ever since. Subsequently I’ve found there’s loads of horrible things about it. Too many to mention. It all boils down to the fact that it is a business, and record companies are just out to make money and, therefore, they are greedy … and we’re not. 1 just want to earn enough money to satisfy a few basic needs.’ These ‘needs’ include a flat and a car. ‘I’ve got this dream of owning a Citroen 2CV. It’s one of those incredibly romantic things you should have that make your life more enjoyable. I’m very pleased that’s the car 1 want. 1 like it ‘cos it can’t go fast. Also if 1 wanted a Porsche I’d be extremely poor for a very long time.’ So exactly what does he put his appeal down to? ‘Well, it’s not like Dylan who was so much of a genius he was barely human. I think our greatness will come from our collective talents – like The Beatles. When you listen to us you get the impression of everyone’s individual character. Like you could hear George Harrison’s bit or Ringo’s bit – no-one else have played it. There’s no point if it’s not like that. You might as well be in Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The only familiar thing about them is that AW AW AW noise. I’d hate to be in a group like that.’
So how highly do you rate Lloyd Cole & The Commotions? ‘Well, I’d hate it for someone to come along who was as good as us. If we’d been around in 1966 maybe we’d have had some competition, but now … ? The Smiths? 1 just think they’re funny. They’re my favourite group at the moment but 1 don’t regard them as competition.’
And how about image, Is that important7 ‘Well, I’d rather people stick pictures of me on their walls than pictures of Simon Le Son. 1 mean I’d much rather be seen in the same light as Boy George – even though 1 don’t particularly admire him – than Simon Le Bon. He’s just beefcake. Ideally I’d like to be treated like an actor. They at least get some respect. Pop is just not recognised as an art form. But like David Bowie said, music has overtaken art and poetry as an art form. It should be recognised.’
Constantly referring to his art as that of the ‘pop genre’, I wonder what sort of things influence him? ‘Tennessee Williams (American playwright) type things, like his film Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Certain scenarios in that fit in really well with a pop song. Also in that film 1 found Paul Newman’s character incredibly appealing. There was something very romantic about the self-destructive nature of his role as the drunk. 1 also very much like the American writer Joan Didion. Her books are generally a collection of observations on the American way. Half of my songs seem to be about America. I’m going to go there first opportunity 1 get.’
In fact he admits it isn’t out of the question that after ‘pop’ he might end up a writer. ‘It’s too far in the future to say, but I’m certainly not the type to end up an actor. All 1 know is that now I’m a fairly tried and tested songwriter. Six months ago I’d written two good songs and 1 was really pleased. Now I’ve written a dozen and 1 feel 1 can expect good things from myself from now on. Yes, 1 really feel I’ve a right to say we’re improving the charts.’
And with that kind of confidence, there’s no arguing.
Publication: Smash Hits
Publication date: 01/01/84