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The 80's did throw up a few gems and in my opinion one of them was this album: Kilimanjaro by The Teardrop Explodes.
The band was formed by Julian Cope, who started out in the short-lived Crucial Three along with Pete Wylie, who went on to form Wah! and Ian McCulloch ( Echo & the Bunnymen). Cope also went on to achieve solo success over the ensuing years after the band broke up, which incidentally came as no surprise, given their much talked about fighting. Tensions always seemed to be running high and there was a lot of coming and going by the band members during The Teardrop Explodes short life, but out of it all came this album, which is considered 'timeless' by many fans.
1. Ha Ha I'm Drowning
2. Sleeping Gas
4. Second Head
6. Poppies in the Field
7. Went Crazy
8. Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
9. Bouncing Babies
11. Thief of Baghdad
12. When I Dream
The band first came to my attention when they released their single: 'Reward' in 1981. It was their biggest hit and a big brash number with a catchy hook courtesy of the horn section.
I can still vividly picture frontman Julian Cope looking as mad as a hatter dancing around in front of the cameras on Top Of The Pops, as the song made its way up the charts into the top 10. He was also considered to be something of a heart throb and I recall reading in Smash Hits magazine that he could be a contender to take the title of the most beautiful man in the world from its holder, Japan's David Sylvian.
'Reward' was and still remains, an infectious track. From the opening line where Cope announces "Bless my cotton socks I'm in the news" it just reaches out and commands your attention. I was always one for amusing and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Later years saw me loving The Smiths with Morrissey's great lyrics, but I believe this track was where that style of lyric all began for me.
I was equally impressed by 'Ha Ha I'm Drowning' which offered something different to what was around at the time and it held a new appeal for me.
Another single was 'Treason' which is probably my favourite track and one that brings back a lot of memories for me of 1981. It is just as heady and anthemic as 'Reward' and on the strength of these two singles, I rushed out to buy my copy of Kilimanjaro.
As Cope asked the question: "Is it real, or is it treason?" I thought this band were going to be massive and would be around for a long time to come.
Julian Cope projected himself very well and the band conveyed an image of fun swept along with energetic guitars and Cope's unique vocal delivery. Indeed you would never guess the wrangling and fighting that went on behind the scenes.
Even the less aggressive tracks: the slightly psychedelic 'Poppies', the brilliant Arabian flavoured 'Thief Of Baghdad' which is another of my favourites, and also 'When I Dream' are something special. The latter being quite a romantic love song with its simple lyrics: " I've been thinking about you, I hope that you've been thinking about me" . Whilst it loses some of its simplicity by going on for longer than I feel necessary at the end, the three tracks overall confirmed my decision that I was right to rush out and buy this album.
It's back to the hook laden gems with 'Sleeping Gas', 'Boucing Babies' and 'Went Crazy'. 'Books' on the other hand doesn't seem to quite fit in here. Maybe this is because it is actually a cover of Cope's and his former Crucial Three bandmate Ian McCulloch's 'Read It In Books' as it has a slightly different feel and lacks what the other songs seem to convey.
The only other thing that I can fault with Kilimanjaro is its production which I must admit sounded fine to me many years ago, but listening to it now, I feel it isn't as good as I thought it was. Whilst its remastered form offers improvement, I do feel that the horns seem over produced in places and weedy in others. Having said that, it doesn't really detract from my enjoyment of listening to it, as I am reminded of the happy days of first becoming a teenager.
A follow up album to Kilimajaro did indeed follow, but the end was fast approaching as Cope took over the song writing and tensions increased. By the time the third album was in the planning stages, the band broke up.
Described as the greatest dysfunctional family in pop. A read through Julian Cope's autobiography reveals just how mad and bad it all was. As the music press put it into perspective by explaining how the Gallagher brothers might dislike each other, but unlike The Teardrop Explodes, they never chased each other around the hills of Wales with loaded shotguns!
Taking into account their LSD-fuelled psychosis and mutual loathing for one another it is quite amazing that they managed to seem so 'together' on stage and also produce fun performances miming on Top of The Pops. It is perhaps even more amazing that they came up with an album as good as this.
Kilimanjaro does indeed deserve its 'timeless' acclaim.
This album for me is one of my favorites and i can listen to every track and it can get me in a jolly old mood.I first got to hear of The Teardrop Explodes from a Matsui video tape that I still have and this tape basically was a programme that had all the best and worst performances from the 1980`s and this signified the end of the 1980`s and the beginning of the 1990`s and this programme was shown on BBC2 and the performance that The Teardrop Explodes did was in 1981 on Top Of The Pops and they performed the song Reward and just seeing the enthusiasm of Julian Cope the lead singer of TTE made me want to watch the performance again and again and then to find out more about the band and purchase and album.
The band are from Liverpool and they had quite stiff competition from the town from bands such as Echo and The Bunnymen and Wah but still went about their own special way in producing music that would leave a mark.They formed in 1978 and their genre is described as Post-punk/Alternative Rock which is a style of music that i very much prefer and gives them that edge on certain other bands that were around at the same time.
The album Kilimanjaro was the first to be released by The Teardrop Explodes in October 1980 and at first the original artwork on the the sleeve cover was the shadowy picture of the band you see but was later changed to a picture of Mount Kilimanjaro for what the album was named after.
There is twelve songs on the album and they are a mixture of really upbeat songs to quite serious songs in a way and shows a diversity in music writing and performance that really for me that seems to be lacking in quite a bit of similar genre music as a lot of bands and artists do not seem to have the imagination or motivation to write a piece of music that will make people sit up and take notice and inspire later generations but this album most certainly did that for me and that is why i still do at certain times purchase albums in the present from the same genre as The Teardrop Explodes to see if any of the current bands or artists can give me the same feeling.
I will now give you my opinion on each of the twelve tracks and give a bit of information about what the song is like and what the songwriter/s are trying to do or say.
Track 1 - Ha Ha I`m Drowning
This song from the title sounds a bit like someone may commit suicide or is going a bit crazy but basically the song is about drowning in someone else`s love and is a bit of a funny adaptation to your normal love song but is basically saying that
the love you are giving me is overwhelming and and that Julian Cope is saying that love is like water and that he is in a sea or a bathful of love and it is very overpowering but it is better than no love at all and it is a good start to the album. Rating 8/10.
Track 2 - Sleeping Gas
Now we all know what sleeping gas does to you it basically sends you on a journey to the land of dreams and can certainly help you sleep if you are having trouble.This song is basically about a person who seems very confused and is just wandering around and it seems that nobody will contact them and they seem a bit lost really which for the person can be a bit scary and if it was you and it was dark and the weather was bad you could have some real problems and i do wonder if JC had a few issues but maybe it just came out in his writing.I do like this song but not one of my favorites if i am being perfectly honest.Rating 7/10.
Track 3 - Treason
Now this could have something to do with The Gunpowder Plot and a tribute to the bad man that was Guy Fawkes but the song
talks about getting annoyed with someone and wanting have a fight with them and asking if the situation is real or if is just fake.It seems to me that all it is from the words is that it is a story and that some people need to distinguish between fact and fiction and then they will know the morals of the song and the story that is being told.For me this is a great song and one of my favorites on the album a real winner.Rating 9/10.
Track 4 - Second Head
This could be seen from the title as bit unreal as not many people have a second head but it can be found in rare cases but i have only seen this in cartoons or movies.This song basically says that a second head seems useful but is it really the head that you first had which sounds a bit crazy but maybe the second head just just a part of the persons personality and only really comes ou t every now and again.Another decent song but not one of the best on the album.Rating 7/10.
Track 5 - Reward
This song every time i hear it just makes me smile and is the reason i first got interested in The Teardrop Explodes.It seems to me it is basically saying that JC should learn to accept the rewards he is given throughout his life as he has earnt them.He also says that all of a sudden that in the end we are all wrapped up the same and a lot of people need to accept the rewards they are given.The trumpets the enthusiasm everything about this song gives me a very positive vibe and is the major standout track for me on the album.Top marks.Rating 10/10 - Wish i could give it more there should be a 12 rating mark.
Track 6 - Poppies
This song seems to have links to Rememberance Day as the title suggests and with mentioning parachutes in the words it is stating that Julian Cope is maybe a soldier or a person who is in a field of poppies and has a lot of emotions and wants to wait around to pay his respects to the people that fought for their country an gave their lives up so bravely and valiantly so they could make sure future generations could have a decent future.The words are very emotion filled and for me what makes it such a great song and one that i listen to carefully and is again another favorite of mine.Rating 9/10.
Track 7 - Went Crazy
Thing song for me sums up Julian Cope`s personality.It is a song about certain things in your life that make you and your friends cry out in despair and that i have had enough and that you just could go crazy and just up and leave the life that you have got
and start a new life.But then it talks about indecision and thinking about what he could be about to give up.Another good song for me that bides well with me sometimes when i am having a bad day.Rating 8/10.
Track 8 - Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
This song is basically being a brave person and making your way onto bigger and better things however hard it may be and all the things that the world throws at you that you carry on regardless and eventually you will be rewarded and the promise of a good life can be achieved.A short but good song that is one of the better songs on the album for me.Rating 8/10.
Track 9 - Bouncing Babies
This is a song basically about JC as a child and that he had a tendency to fall down quite a bit and it got harder every time to get back up.But he listens to what people say and eventually says he has gone from being a Bouncing Baby to a Bouncing Bomb now that he has got older and needs someone to come and diffuse him before he does something stupid like killing someone.This is a strange song for me on the album and some of the lyrics are a bit bizarre so just an ok song for me this being honest the lyrics put me off a bit but i think that was just Julian Cope showing that in his song writing that he could be controversial at times and it shows quite a lot in this song.Rating 6/10.
Track 10 - Books
This could easily be used as an educational song for people to read books more and could be used by libraries or schools.Seriously though it seems as though JC reads quite a lot of books but when he is not being a bookworm he is a bit of a daydreamer but is always looking for his next book to read.A pretty decent song for me and shows that music was not his only interest or so the words make you believe that he was an avid reader or literature.Rating 8/10.
Track 11 - Thief Of Bagdad
A song that tells a tale that a person has been robbed but cannot believe that the person that has done this is someone that they thought they could trust but it seems not to be and that leaves the person feeling upset and hurt and wondering if they can trust anyone in their life again after this incident.For me this is a great song but just shows how you think you know someone so well and they misuse that trust you have shown and take advantage of you.Rating 9/10.
Track 12 - When I Dream
What this song is about really is the things that Julian Cope does when he is in sleep mode and he starts to dream about the person he likes and goes in a bit of a fantasy about it and that he has such feelings and emotions when he dreams that it is almost like he is awake and that he screams for joy about the person he is talking about and for me that he seems that he loves and has a lot of affection for.This for me is a fitting end to a quality album and just listening to it every time makes me smile again and again.Rating 9/10.
This was the first of three albums to be released by The Teardrop
Explodes and brought them the most album sales.Julian Cope went on to have minor chart success as a solo artist and his biggest hit was World Shut Your Mouth and was an ok song but not up to the standard of music he had created with The Teardrop Explodes.
The album got to #24 in the UK Album Chart and the most successful single from the album was my favorite Reward which reached the dizzy heights of #6 in the UK Single Chart.The band split up in 1983 but this album showed the talent they really had.
If you have never heard of The Teardrop Explodes or Julian Cope and you like the Punk/Rock Genre then i think you should buy this album as i assure you it will not leave you disappointed and if you already have the album then you have great taste.
I hope this was as interesting reading this review as it was writing it for me as it is one of my all time favorite albums and i sometimes play it if i am a bit stressed out or i have had a bad day.
Further information :-
Released Date - October 1980
Recorded - ???
Genre - Post-punk
Length - 39:45
Label - Fontana
Producer - Bill Drummond & David Balfe, as The Chameleons except track 3 Clive Langer, Alan Winstanley, tracks 10 & 12 Mike Howlett - This further information was taken from http://www.wikipedia.org/
You can buy the album from www.amazon.co.uk at a bargain £4.99 as i shockingly still have the receipt(as if i was going to take it back) and i purchased it from HMV on 1st September 1998 and paid the pricely sum of £9.99 but still feel i got a bargain back then as i have received much pleasure from this great album.
Thanks for allowing me to do this review and au revoir as Julian Cope used to say as he liked to speak French quite a lot he was fluent you would say.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ha Ha I'm Drowning
2 Sleeping Gas
4 Second Head
5 Poppies In The Field
6 Went Crazy
7 Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
8 Bouncing Babies
10 The Thief Of Baghdad
11 When I Dream
14 Strange House In The Snow
15 Use Me
17 Sleeping Gas (Live)