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the Complete Review
the complete review - autobiography


Julian Cope

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To purchase Head-On / Repossessed

Title: Repossessed
Author: Julian Cope
Genre: Autobiography
Written: 1999
Length: 199 pages
Availability: Head-On / Repossessed - US
Head-On / Repossessed - UK
Head-On / Repossessed - Canada
  • Published in one volume with Head-On (see our review)
  • Shamanic depressions in Tamworth & London (1983-89)

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Our Assessment:

B : more (sha)manic musical fun as Cope goes solo

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent B+ 17/10/1999 .
Time Out A 10/11/1999 Peter Carty

  From the Reviews:
  • "There are pages in Repossessed, as in all Cope's work, where focus fades, and no rounded point is made. (...) But as the outpouring of an extreme, inspirational voice -- its coughs and splutters resolutely included -- music's loss is reconfirmed as literature's unexpected gain." - The Independent

  • "Cope's writing goes beyond self-indulgent lunacy. It's considered and self-deprecating, octaves above the usual ghosted Spinal Tap muso-drivel." - Peter Carty, Time Out

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Repossessed starts up where Head On left off. A bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more paranoid, Julian Cope retreated to Tamworth. He assumed The Teardrop Explodes' large, accumulated debt (one of the beauties of the music business is that you can be rich and destitute at the same time, losing tons of money simply being a success) and distanced himself from most of the old crowd, holing up with beloved Dorian (whom he married in 1984).
       Toy collecting became a major priority (Cope mentions the neat things -- model cars and the like -- he finds on various trips and outings throughout the book), but the music was also still in him. The fun stories behind the early solo albums -- World Shut your Mouth, Fried, Saint Julian, My Nation Underground, and Skellington -- are all here. Trying to learn from the sad demise of Syd Barrett's "total freefall tragedy" after he and Pink Floyd went their separate ways, Cope takes Barrett as his "anti-blueprint" -- with only limited success, one might add: Cope didn't go the way of Barrett, but he managed to get his fair share of pillorying press, accused of many forms of lunacy.
       The turtle-shell cover of Fried is explained -- Cope took to it like a second home apparently, waddling all over under it. Fortunately, Cope doesn't take this or many of his other unusual acts too seriously -- whether slashing his stomach to a stunned (and then nauseated) Japanese crowd or obsessing about toy cars or hiding in his house, the furniture piled up against the front door. Cope always maintains the self-deprecating humour:

I loved the idea of Saint Julian. It was so perfectly representative of me, the white middle-class asshole, whose life is so self-obsessed that he feels he alone has the answer. And the title was presumptuous enough, too.
       Cope is a huge success in Japan (though it should be remembered that this is the country that embraced Alyssa Milano as a pop star ...). The reaction fascinates him: "It occurred to me that the Japanese way of thinking was utterly fascinating and worthy of being seriously ripped off."
       There is some maturing here as well -- using less drugs, for one thing. Cope continues to be paranoid and, occasionally, reckless, but he begins to realize, after one (mis)adventure too many that "it made a funny story, but it's no way to live your life."
       A few books influence him -- John Sinclair's Guitar Army, Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, and Gurdjieff and Carl Jung -- hinting of the more contemplative Cope to come. He never quite has his act together -- part of his charm, and the charm of his music -- but by the end he seems to be on a somewhat more solid footing.
       In his memoir, 45 (see our review), Bill Drummond says of Julian Cope: "To have that sort of talent and waste it is a crime against Creation." The free-spirited Cope could probably have used a little more guidance (of the sort Drummond, David Balfe, and others weren't able to provide), but his madcap genius does shine through in most of his work, not completely wasted.
        Repossessed and Head On are good and solidly entertaining rock-pop autobiographies. Both are generally more fun when concerned with subjects other than the actual recording of albums and bitchy infighting among producers, managers, and musicians, but Cope balances his story well and entertains throughout.
       An odd slice of the times, and a life lived most unlike any other, endearingly, engagingly, and humorously related. We look forward to the next installment.

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Repossessed: Reviews: Julian Cope: Other books by Julian Cope under review:

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About the Author:

       British pop star Julian Cope was born in 1957. He was a member of The Teardrop Explodes and has also had a successful solo career.

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