Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

“Tariq of Nassiriya” Drudion

May 2003ce

Hey Babbies,

What a difference a month makes! The bludgeoning big guns of the West are revealed as the artless oil-pilfering do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do empire builders we said all along, and poor Tony Bear has to come on all naif waif at the hands of Mr KGB. Take that, Mr. Bungle. It makes ma Heathen ticker burst with 808 rhythms, dag nabbit. I spent Eostre in the legendary city of Avila in central Spain, in the careful hands of my ur-mate Pastor Annexus Quammmmm, where even the smallest of Iberian towns could get it together to hang large hand-painted anti-war slogans all over their main streets. Il Quammo was suitably irritado when I insisted we visit the legendary megalith known as the Donkey’s Knob on his birthday, but as it’s deep in the heart of border country between Spain and Portugee, his shamanic other couldn’t resist the challenge. So to my Keltiberian associate goes out a resounding Thang Q!

Meantime, back at home, I’m working on the main text for the new book and burning up the stereo with David Wrench’s amazing versions of Shanrgi-Las songs. I thought BLOW WINDS BLOW had some magnificently trudgeful and broodingly righteous songs, but what the man does to the Shangri-Las is just plain angry, la! I’m hassling him for a CD release, but I ain’t holding ma breath… Anyway, this main text is proceeding apace and I’m still getting up in the early hours to keep to the programme. It’s a weird thing because much of the European fieldwork of the ‘90s has to be redone in light of new ideas and experiences. So I’m in the strange position of returning to places just to confirm suspicions or open my mind a little further. But stuff I never noticed before inevitably smacks me in da mush second time around. Gotta tell y’all, when I first announced THE MODERN ANTIQUARIAN in the press in September ’92, it never occur’d to me I’d only publish in late ’98. I was recently looking at a big spread I did about it for The Independent at that time and it sounds like I’m just months away from hard copy. The idea of that book title was originally because it was so at odds with current archaeology and all that earth mysteries stuff. However, by 1995CE even GEM (Gloucestershire Earth Mysteries) magazine was ripping me off, re-named Third Stone but sub-titled ‘for the New Antiquarian’. During an interview with me, their (then) editor – forewarning me of their unloverly Rip – had the nerve to add: “of course, it should really be ‘Antiquary’ not ‘Antiquarian’, y’know!” Bollocks, says I. I ain’t the modern antiquarian, the book itself is. Know what yooz ripping or don’t do it at all! And these so-called earth mysterians, invited by my kind self to visit the Polisher up on Fyfield Down, huffed and puffed in City Dweller refusal when they saw it was un-driveable! Dammit, times have changed or watt! Nowadays, U-got people storming across half of Britain in search of one fallen menhir, so the evidence that this is a real trip is right there in the ever-more hollow trackways of Blighty!

With everything that has been taking place, I realise that no explanation has been given for my collaboration with those doom monsters Sunn0))) on their new album WHITE 1. Indeed, it was only when I realised that the axe-wielding Stephen O’Malley and his wife Anne were to be staying with us this week that my head managed to distract itself from the main text of THE MEGALITHIC EUROPEAN. However, now I can explain to you that both members of Sunn0))) – Messrs Anderson and O’Malley – both enjoyed my reviews of their album OO VOID and asked would I like to write an epic text for their next record. Certainly not, I replied, you don’t need me ruining those vast swathes of sonic starscapes. But they seemed determined and kept on at me, so I harried them with protestations that it might bring down the great Sunn0))) muse. Finally, as they were clearly not to be deterred, I offered them a way out – if you like it use it, if you hate it, dump it and we can still remain friends. As you know, since 1992’s RITE, I have been championing the gnostic American poet Vachel Lindsay, including him in the DISCOVER ODIN package, displaying him at the South Bank library (and most recently secretly festooning Coil’s John Balance, who devoured it all and came back for more!). Anyway, Stephen O’Malley especially liked my idea of declaiming the text Lindsay-style, and the whole thing seems to have gone over well. Sorry if this is all too long-winded, but I ain’t naturally the collaborating sort, and wouldn’t want anyone to think it was my future way, so ta muchly for listening to all that.

Right, I’m outta here. But before I go, I wanna comment on what is, to me anyway, the saddest bit of writing in the whole Iraqi episode. It was written by a condemned Iraqi artist before he was executed by the regime of Saddam the Mad Ass, and was reported in the despatch of Ian Cobain from the Times. I know little children were blown to pieces by our troops, and I know we now represent bullshit to a great deal of the world, but this short note was my greatest reminder NOT to waste whatever artistic gift my privileged ass just happened to have been presented with out of sheer Lucky Sodism. Ian Cobain wrote:

“A few of the condemned souls had scratched their names into the plaster walls. In one corner was an elaborate picture of an Arab dhow, sailing towards a desert island with a single palm tree, beneath which the artist has scratched his final message. “Tariq of Nassiriya, 5/1/82. Please don’t forget me.”

Never, mate, never ever.

JULIAN