Saint Julian was the first album recorded by Julian Cope for Island Records, following his two albums on the Mercury label. It’s now been re-released as a super duper deluxe edition with lots of extra tracks making this a must buy for all fans of the great JC.
Apparently it’s just over 25 years since St Julian was released. 25 years! Time flies etc…. I saw him at the Manchester International on the tour to promote the album with support group Crazyhead (who weren’t too popular). Cope had ‘that’ microphone stand. He was bloody brilliant.
To this day, I adore the Warne Out Mix of Trampoline. Still one of my favourite all-time tracks. I always used to play it to give myself a bit of a boost of confidence – before a job interview, prior to meeting my future wife for the first time, that sort of thing. I love / loved the fact that he had released his debut album World Shut Your Mouth three years earlier without the whisper of a track of the same name, then in 1987, he does and has his biggest solo hit single.
St Julian was his first album away from Mercury, where Cope had released his first two solo albums and had had good success with The Teardrop Explodes, ironic that after leaving the label, he should then release an album more in line with his former group. This new album was rockier than his previous solo efforts, some say influenced by his admiration of Alice Cooper, but the inclusion of Ramones producer Ed Stasium and the raw power given to The The’s Infected by Warne Livesey didn’t harm the overall sound where Cope cut his hair and donned leather from head to foot, creating distaste amongst some quarters with his symbolic crucifixion pose on the album cover.
The album opens with Trampolene. A marvellous slab of how-to-write-a-hit-single genius. It almost worked, hauling itself into the Top 40 singles and nearly, so nearly, making it up into the next ten of the countdown. It’s a catchy, infectious song with ripping guitars and the Livesey drum sound so powerful, so tight, so fantastic. “I can’t believe you’re trampling me” is whizzing round my head as I type. It will be for several hours more.
Little time to rest before Shot Down ensues. More well structured jangly guitar pop, more clever lyrics, more pulsing drums. Bouncing and racing along like a pack of fearsome Cope cubs, stopping for nothing other than to deliver “all shot down from Heaven above” and to indulge us in a teasing guitar solo ready to rip through the track but somehow resisting the urge.
“Da-do-da-do-do”. Eve’s Volcano. Can music get any catchier? It’s a crime that songs like this never received the commercial acclaim that they richly deserved and were quite obviously aimed at. Some Halloweeny keyboards in the background courtesy of Double DeHarrison (aka JC himself). Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll in the form of Spacehopper – a track that has its roots in the 70s from writing sessions with Mr Ian McCulloch. Roaring along, its one of the three tracks produced by Stasium. Three and a half minutes of let-your-hair-down madness.
Planet Ride comes complete with chorus sung by a female chorus. Uplifting? Yes. It had the ability, though I don’t know why, to make me grin before leading into the biggie, World Shut Your Mouth here. It still sounds fresh. It has everything. Even the verses are catchy! If it’s some time since you’ve heard it, then dig it back out and I challenge you to prove me wrong. The only thing that baffles me is why it only reached number 19 in the charts – it should have been right up there, but that’s life. Yes, Cope’s solo career will probably always be measured by this song, but it is, without any doubt, one of the finest pop songs ever written.
The title track is also a lesson in perfect songwriting, listen to this with stereo headphones on and pick out every cymbal stroke, every horn, every slight tap of a drum, without which the track would lose some of its completeness. It could have been another single – had its predecessors been more successful, it may well have been.
For me, the albums highlight comes in the form of Pulsar. Ripping up from the opening vocal “I’ve been away too long and I’m wondering why”. Played live this was awesome. Pure and unadulterated energy and aggression. Stopping midway for a piano and voice segue, before firing all cylinders again – watch that audience bounce!
Originally a Teardrop Explodes track. Screaming Secrets sees the light of day for the first time. It never made it onto an album and it’s difficult to see why – maybe testament to the quality of previous recordings that it didn’t appear anywhere, or, maybe sitting and waiting for that brilliant album to come along where it could sit shoulder to shoulder with its equals? I digress.
Closing with eight minutes of loveliness in the form of A Crack In The Clouds, St Julian is a reminder of how easily we can forget albums which border on the classic. I’ll admit it had gone off my radar, but it won’t again. The final track brings you down to relax mode in a scape of mountains and rivers, and, thunder and lightning. It builds and builds to its climax, fading out and leading you to play the album once more.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the deluxe version of the album has another 14 tracks sequenced by the man himself. B-sides, remixes and live tracks containing some absolute gems. The Warne Out Mix of Trampolene is here as are I’ve Got Levitation and Umpteenth Unnatural Blues and remixes of World Shut Your Mouth and Eve’s Volcano. Also here is the quite fantastic Disaster – a grand old song if I ever heard one, surely worthy of more than being tucked away on a b-side.
St Julian is undoubtedly one of the finest albums of the 80s and if you’d forgotten about it, it’s well worth making yourself remember.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. You can read more from Paul on LTW here.