Tuesday 3 October 2023

"You Ain't Rock 'n' Roll If You Need To Be Loved"

In July, less than a year on from Julian Cope's last album England Expectorates, a new album called Robin Hood appeared without warning on his Head Heritage website.
"Oh Mein Hairies and Divine Goddesses, have we got a mysterious gem for you!" the promotional blurb proclaimed. "Are you looking for the real Robin Hood? For here he is. As popular legend has it, he was raised in the Midlands in the Mercian capital of Tamworth. Always a thorn in the Sheriff’s pride, we know thereafter he was pursued to N. Wiltshire. Still dwelleth he here.

Avail yourselves of umpteen new strong songs – among them number the muscular medley “An Oral History of Blow Jobs”. Ask not what made Marian. Instead, enquire ye here upon everything."
There's no mention of the artist anywhere on the album's front or back cover, but the small print credits all songs to Julian Cope and it's unmistakably him from the first few seconds of opening song Julius Geezer.

Robin Hood doesn't mess about: half of the songs are under three minutes; the majority of those under two. There are none of the drawn out, side-filling cosmic epics of past Cope albums; the whole thing is over in 42 minutes.
The personnel is light for this album, indicating that Julian has played guitar, bass, drums and (of course) Mellotron on all of the songs. The album has been recorded by Philippe Legènde and produced by "L.S. Deeds" and whilst a propensity for basic, repetitive melody and song structure and a brevity that can feel as if songs are ducking out suddenly before they've got up to speed, I personally think it's one of the album's charms.
There are a few clues to the album's construction tucked away in the inner sleeve. Ballad Of Fat Paul apparently first appeared on the documentary Dead Man's Money by Cope associate Christopher Holman (nope, I haven't seen it).  
Don't You Wanna Just Skin Up? samples late 80s French punk band Electric Manchakou
Part 3 of track 12's 5-song medley is the wonderfully titled Aided By Robin Hood's Merry Men, The Very Very Early Fall Manoeuvre Una Baines' Barn-Sized E. Piano Through Sherwood and samples 21st Century Austrian folk band Sturmpercht. Cope also notes that the "recurring Mellotron 400 melody in part 3 alludes to The Fall's 'Repetition', itself taken from the main theme of Tangerine Dream's 4th LP Atem."
Not mentioned, but The Death Of Death underpinning guitar and bass comes on like XTC's Making Plans For Nigel and I think is all the better for it.

The album title is misleading. Whilst Robin Hood is a springboard for ideas, the Arch Drude's interests touch on familiar themes of death, religion and the monarchy. The lavish booklet, full of lovely photos in and around Wiltshire as well as a filtered shot of the titular statue in Nottingham adorning the front cover, includes lyrics to half-a-dozen songs though no accompanying poems or essays this time around. 

Julian Cope's hit a bit of a purple patch in recent years and this surprise release is no exception and has been regularly aired at Casa K and on my daily work commutes. Now, if only he can be convinced to hit the road again, it would great to hear some of these songs played live.

Radiorock The Original has posted the full album on YouTube if you want a preview listen. Faint Hopes and Ant Peel have posted individual songs - links in the titles below - if you want to sample a few. If all that seems a bit too much effort, here's my riduliculous 'Riding Through The Glen' edit of all fifteen songs, coming in at under 3 minutes and originally posted in July.

After all that, I recommend that you go directly to Head Heritage and buy the album. Heck, buy two and give one to a friend!

Phase One
1) Julius Geezer
3) The Devil's Curse
5) Drunken Skiers Off Piste
6) The Death Of Death
8) Don't You Wanna Just Skin Up? 
9) Time & A New Understanding
Phase Two
11) Wrong Side Of The Bed
12) An Oral History Of Blow-Jobs (Medley)
i) An Oral History
ii) You Ain't Rock 'n' Roll If You Need To Be Loved
iii) Aided By Robin Hood's Merry Men, The Very Very Early Fall Manoeuvre Una Baines' Barn-Sized E. Piano Through Sherwood
iv) Me & Bill Gates
v) Julius Geezer (Slight Return)
13) Ballad Of Fat Paul
14) Stop Monkeying With My Heart, You Big Gorilla

Charles The Turd

The jughead on the new coins
Has plans for you and me,
Yes, everyone shall benefit from his community,
But he won't be joining in,
Because he's not like me and you,
So he jets around the planet
Telling people what to do:
"Now, you can eat, drink and sleep together,
For tomorrow we die."

On some far Pacific atoll where
We public may not go,
He's conspiring to re-house us
With Jacinta and Trudeau.
He's an educated derelict,
No minister of tact,
Unelected, uninvited,
Telling people how to act:
"Now, you can eat, drink and sleep together,
For tomorrow we die,
Watch the elite together
Hanging out while we die."
Far beyond the heavenly valley,
Where commemorative tea towels
Dry the eyes of biddies
From Tring to Wallingford,
We enter a new dimension
Of immense ugliness.
Charles the First
He lost his head,
And Charles the Second London Town 
When somebody in Pudding Lane
Did burn the city down,
But Charles the Turd's a cretin,
Private-planing around the sky,
Awe-inspiringly indifferent,
Remember Princess Di?
Now, we can eat, drink and sleep together,
For tomorrow we die,
Watch the elite together
Hanging out while we die.
Somebody has to suffer,
"What's the problem?" they cry,
in-bred and fucking ugly,
Who chose you to survive? 


  1. When I got up this morning preparing a cup of coffee I gave Cope's Robin Hood a listen and then I switched to the internet and saw your post. Funny Khayem. Great work. I think Julian is unable to make a bad record. This one is just the one I expected. A record full of ideas and silent humor. I don't want to say this is a classic or a masterpiece but a record on a very high level and surely not the last time played at my place.

    1. Wow, another perfect example of blogosphere synchronicity (and serendipity), Walter! I think Julian Cope's delivered a few stinkers to be honest, occasionally too self-indulgent or songs constrained by budgetary or production limitations. However, a mark of unconditional love is that I manage to find qualities and enjoyment in everything that he does.

      I agree that Robin Hood won't be held up as one of his best albums (though Self-Civil War is a strong contender), but it is an enjoyable album from start to finish that holds up to repeated listening.

  2. Loving 'Charles The Turd !'

    1. It was an obvious contender, Mike. When it comes to songs about the monarchy, Julian's songs are reliably strong on pith and piss!