Thursday, December 18, 2008

Forgotten Greats of Liverpool, England: The Teardrop Explodes

In the spring of 1977, Julian Cope formed Crucial Three along with Ian McCulloch (later of Echo and the Bunnymen) and Pete Wylie (Wah!). The group rehearsed regularly, but they never actually got around to performing live.
Around 1978, the Teardrop Explodes came into existence. The initial lineup of the group included Cope on bass, drummer Gary Dwyer, Dave Simpson on keyboards and Mick Finkler on guitar. Simpson would soon be replaced by Zoo Records founder Dave Balfe, and Finkler was exchanged for Alan Gill.

The Teardrops quickly became popular because of their ability to fuse post-punk and disco rhythms with swirling pyschadelia. And like Echo and the Bunnymen, the influence of the Doors is quite noticeable. But what really set the band apart was their employment of a horn section. Like fellow Scoucers the Pale Fountains, they were huge admirers of Love’s use of Herb Alpert-style trumpets on 1967’s “Forever Changes.” This wild combination of sounds and styles was successfully blended into their debut album, “Kilimanjaro” which was released in 1980. (Interestingly enough, “Kilimanjaro” features a wild version of a song called “Books,” a joint composition with Ian McCulloch. This song is also featured on Echo and the Bunnymen’s first album, “Crocodiles.” Download both and decide which one you like better).

"Reward" (A single that was added to reissue versions of Kilimanjaro):

"Sleeping Gas" (Very rare video featuring live footage and shots of the band on tour in the USA. Embedding disabled by the fine people at Universal Music Group. Ugh....)

"Ha Ha, I’m Drowning" (Live on UK TV):

"Treason (It’s Just A Story)":

The group’s second album, “Wilder,” is a bit of a grower. While it does contain some of the horn driven bombast of “Kilimanjaro,” it also features more quiet and introspective songs and even a few synth driven numbers. It was a strong second album, but it failed to recapture the spark that made their debut so exciting. The hooks are not as strong and “Wilder” ultimately bewildered much of the group’s audience. Behind the scenes, the group was falling apart. In addition to several lineup shuffles, creative tensions were at an all time high. When the group reconvened to record a third album, Balfe and Cope argued incessantly about the direction of the group. Despite recording nearly an album’s worth of material, the sessions were abruptly terminated and the band was dissolved. These songs were eventually released as “Everyone Wants to Shag the Teardrop Explodes.”

"Seven Views of Jerusalem"(Live on the Old Grey Whistle Test):

"The Culture Bunker" (Live on the Old Grey Whistle Test):

Julian Cope soon went on to have a successful career as a musician and as a writer on music, the occult and ancient British history. Dave Balfe went on to start Food records, which was the home of Blur for most of the 1990s. Other members of the group would also continue make music well into the 80s. Despite a series of reissues and compilations, the Teardrops have yet to receive the kinds of accolades that Echo and the Bunnymen have received.

It should also be noted that there is a long standing feud between Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch. While they were friends and bandmates in the late 70s, their relationship soon became one of acrimony. In fact, the feud continues to this very day. In a recent Spin Magazine cover retrospective on Echo and the Bunnymen, McCulloch stated “There’s a certain group and a certain person I don’t want to talk about. He’s a thief and I always hated his group anyway. I thought they were rubbish. The initials of the group are T.E.”

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