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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, October 28, 2003
    Cope - gettin' on with it
     
    "How do I get this thing started?" Asked Julian Cope of a band member as he fiddled with the controls of a newly strapped-on guitar, "Do I just turn everything up high?"

    This captured the mood of a night of full-on Cope rock at Liverpool Academy, the self-styled post-punk primadonna with an electric rock'n'roll band turning up the volume and again thrilling the city which was once his home. Cope was wearing a full military outfit with stack bovver boots and pink-rimmed shades: face barely visible with a full beard-moustache-hair thing going on, he would have been unrecognisable but for his trademark camping it up, swinging on that heavy-duty extendable mikestand/platform which has been his onstage companion for many years. And for the songs, of course, from 'Love, Peace and F***' to 'Safesurfer', every one a thriller.

    His band consisted of The Cope, Skinner Major and Skinner Minor, Doggen and Holy McGrail, and as a post to his Head Heritage site said today, "what an awesome sound they blew up. Early songs, new songs, Brain Donor songs, and loads from Peggy Suicide, all done full on and stomping."

    Funny this should happen late in the same day the family and I took a look at The Calderstones, remains of a chambered tomb which dates from the late neolithic/early bronze age. The oldest rocks in Liverpool, sacred stones, now enclosed in a greenhouse in Calderstones Park, locked up, labelled, randomly assembled, whatever sacred energies or positive powers they once held diminished by their captivity.

    At the turn of the 1980s, at the height of the Liverpool Erics / Teardrops scene, Cope was a radical rocker, often stoned. Since then he's become The Modern Antiquarian, a seeker after ancient landscape mysteries pursing a passion for rocks and stones across Britain's prehistoric fields. His guidebook to our megalithic remains is a great travel companion, and carries essays examining our prehistoric beginnings "in order to help us reconcile where we are Right Now".

    The beauty of Copey is that he holds these seemingly irreconcilable differences together, this full-on rocker / field mystic / interpreter - always winningly. It was a rock night tonight, without doubt, but he managed to integrate into an audience heckle session some words of ancient wisdom, summarising weeks of 'time management' workshop waffle in one pithy rock'n'roll phrase:

    COPE (mimicking heckler): "Get on with it? Get on with it? Hey, dude, me just standing here doin' nothin' - I call that gettin' on with it!"