Well...what to say?
Julian Cope on a 'Dedicated to Joe Strummer Busking Tour'! Yeah, that's right. My favourite living singer performing in the street. For free!!
Yes, there was a lot of waiting round, and I must admit I started to think I must be mad as the messages filtered through another fan that yes, Cope had left Manchester where he had performed earlier, that he was on his way, that the traffic was terrible, etc. I should mention that it was a freezing cold, wet day, and it was dark by the now. Thankfully, however, Steve from a nearby café (who was unaware of Cope's impending arrival until I'd mentioned it) had kindly invited us back inside after the café had closed and gave us a cuppa. Thanks Steve. I know where I'll be getting lunch next time in Liverpool!
Anyway, eventually Julian and his Black Sheep arrived in this historic street - and promptly disappeared into the pub! A couple of his merry men, Acoustika and Christophe (from the Universal Panzies), soon came out and chatted briefly to myself and my son Thomas Indoorminer, with Acoustika telling us how great this three day tour had been. "Legendary", he kept saying. "Legendary!" Shortly afterwards, the great man himself came out, shook hands with Thomas and myself, and explained that they would be playing in front of the Carl Jung monument, but they just had to nip back to the car to get their equipment!
Mr. Cope posing for the camera (he's the one in the hat,
not the paper mache costume!)
He and his Black Sheep then disappeared and, after a few minutes, some wag queried whether they'd gone back to Manchester for it. Eventually, they returned with one fan dressed as Sqwubbsy, the large headed man of the Poll Tax Riots and Peggy Suicide cover fame. As the band had arranged to leave their guitars cases in the pub, they nipped in there again, leaving poor old Sqwubbsy outside. "I won't fit in there!" he was heard to say to Julian as the former Teardrop Explodes man approached the door.
Sqwubbsy: Too big to fit in the pub.
It was getting more surreal by the minute. There we were, a few very cold people taking photographs of a man with a very large head, when a local bloke walked past, looked at us and with a puzzled look on his face inquired, "Are you Americans?"
Anyway, Cope and friends soon came out and, after a brief introduction, informed us that the song they were going to play had first been performed approximately 50 metres up the road at the legendary Liverpool nightclub, Eric's, almost thirty years ago. Yes, that's right. Sleeping Gas! And not just any old Sleeping Gas, but a truly fab version which led to Julian, er, wandering around after he'd sung the "wandering around" bit. As some masked trick-or-treaters were making a little bit of a nuisance of themselves, it was all a bit mental! The band then returned to the Jung monument and finished the set there with Julian giving his guitar to an old friend, Yorkie, in a rather touching moment.
I'd taken my camcorder with me, but to be honest I'd only intended filming the first song as watching something through a lens isn't the same as just watching. But, as they only played the one number, I ended up filming the whole set. By the end, my hand was freezing which prompted one member of the band to smile and remark, "Now you know how we feel."
It was worth it though, because Julian did a fair amount of posing for my camera. I got an extreme close up, and I mean EXTREME close-up, as he walked right up to my camera and started making some remarks about "Death to American dentistry".
It had been a truly wondrous version, segueing into the altogether lesser known Mighty Carl Jung at one point. The memory of the Downs Syndrome kid who hugged and danced with Julian, then looked over to me with the camera and sticking his thumb up will live with me forever. He was totally chuffed. He was still grinning when he came over to me at the end and shook my hand. You could see it had totally made his day.
Mr. Cope's guitar.
It made mine, too. And that of my 10 yr old who got Julian's autograph afterwards and shook his hand again. He was soon on the phone to his mum to tell her that he'd got Julian's autograph and that Julian had shaken hands with him "TWO TIMES!"
I'm not star-struck often, but I must admit I felt like a bit of a pathetic fan when I spoke briefly to Julian after the performance. It was only as we were leaving that I realised I hadn't thanked him for his performance. And I think an artist of his stature who plays for nothing to a small crowd in a backstreet on a cold wet autumn night deserves a thank you. So, better late than never, I shouted to him as we were walking out. "Thanks Julian. That was utterly fab," I said. And in case my enthusiasm hasn't come across strong enough, let me leave you in no doubt that that's what it was. Utterly fab. It might not have been a gig as such, but it was the best live performance I've seen this year, and one that has remained with me ever since.
It was, in a word, IMMENSE!