It was hardly a vintage year for music: Agadoo and I Just Called to Say I Love You were two of 1984’s best-selling singles.
The New Romantic buccaneers ruled the airwaves and legwarmers dominated the high street. So there was no little scratching of mullets and ruffling of ra-ra skirts when a bookish, bespectacled university student and his floppy-haired friends took to the Top of the Pops stage name-checking the likes of philosopher Simone De Beauvoir, American writer Truman Capote and 1950s actress Eva Marie Sant.
“I was studying philosophy and English at Glasgow University so they were genuine cultural references for me,” recalls Lloyd Cole who, with his band The Commotions, competed with The Smiths as the student indie band of choice with arch, literate pop songs such as Rattlesnakes and Perfect Skin.
Cole is updating his website from the upstairs room of his Massachusetts home.
“I built myself a rehearsal room in the cellar but my 15-year-old son has moved in there to practise his guitar so I have been forced into the attic.”
Cole is loving life in suburban New England. He’s Mr Content.
“After spending so many years on the road or living in apartments, I am really enjoying domesticity,” he insists. “I am nearly 50, married with two kids, enjoy the odd round of golf and this morning I fixed the engine on my lawnmower after enjoying a slice of toast and Marmite for breakfast.”
An American resident for 20 years, he returns to his birthplace of Buxton next month for his first performance at the town’s Opera House.
Cole grew up in Chapel-en-le-Frith and attended New Mills Grammar School where, as a fan of David Bowie and T-Rex, he was regularly beaten up for wearing velvet trousers.
“In 1972, during the birth of glam rock, I was 11 and then in 1977, when punk arrived, I was 16 – so it was an incredible time to be a young music fan. My mum gave me the leather biker jacket she used to wear when she rode in my dad’s sidecar so I felt like the best-dressed punk in Chapel.”
Cole dropped out of Glasgow University when The Commotions, the band he formed with his fellow students, landed a record deal.
“My ambition was to be on the cover of NME and perform on Top of the Pops and we achieved that within nine months. We were doing everything young musicians dreamt of.”
After acclaimed albums Rattlesnakes and Easy Pieces and hits such as Brand New Friend and Lost Weekend, Cole moved to New York and launched a solo career.
Although his solo work, which spawned hit song Like Lovers Do, encompassed musical genres from psychedelia and American rock to ambient instrumental album Plastic Wood, he describes himself as a folk singer and has spent much of the last two decades touring intimate venues performing acoustic sets.
One of the most distinctive and celebrated singer-songwriters of his generation, he writes less these days, dictated by his mood rather than the whim of record bosses and, when he’s not on the golf course or on tour, he devotes time to his official website.
“For artists like myself to survive these days we have to be webmasters as well as songwriters and musicians,” he says. “An online presence is vital in terms of profile and, increasingly, record sales.”
A recent Dublin gig was recorded and may be released as a download over coming months and he’s performing in Portugal next week ahead of his homecoming gig on June 2.
“The Buxton show will be me, a couple of guitars and a mixture of Commotions and solo stuff,” he reveals.
“I’m staying in Buxton for a couple of nights so I’ll certainly find time to explore, although, as a child, my only visits to the town were to the record shops or the swimming pool.
“You’ll probably find me in a quiet corner of a Chapel pub on my night off. And during the day I’ll be shopping for decent teabags.”
(NB – very liberal paraphrasing by this journalist. Can you imagine me saying “For artists like myself to survive these days we have to be webmasters as well as songwriters and musicians,” he says. “An online presence is vital in terms of profile and, increasingly, record sales.” I may have said something along those lines, but that is clearly not my voice. LC)
Publication: Derby Telegraph
Publication date: 23/05/08