Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope
Dragonfly


Released 1991 on Island
Reviewed by Andfurthermoreagain, 02/05/2013ce


If any track, ANY TRACK AT ALL, was to signify Cope’s new enlightened, righteous and sonically achieving, free-ass-followed direction (let’s call it direction, right – the ‘right’ direction indeed!) after My Nation Underground – hell, even Skellington and Droolian - it was this nine-minute-plus bulldozer of a repetition epic!
If any single recording was to accurately herald the forthcoming ur-sprawl of Peggy Suicide, more so than Beautiful Love, more so than that EP’s other attendant and misguiding tracks (one of which was a Droolian track, another merely a baggy-cash-in dance remix* and one other ‘new song’ a possible Nation Underground era-outtake) it was this rocket-riding motherfucker of a funkathon!
Dragonfly was possibly the ultimate summation of Cope’s newly invigorated vision through a rekindled love of George Clinton, Detroit proto-rock, Sly Stone on-the-one-isms and epic Krautrock grooves. It’s ‘Peggy Suicide, The Overture’ – or overdriven-ture! In fact, to borrow and adapt one of Julian’s previous metaphors, Dragonfly is almost like the result of a free-festival where The Stooges, MC5, Funkadelic, The Family Stone, Doors, Can and Faust found themselves playing on the same bill and all got up to jam with each other. It really is that good – really!
Yet, criminally, albeit pressed on gloriously post-punk 12 inch pink vinyl, this visionary blast was relegated to the potential boneyard of a b-side. And not only that but a b-side of a different release** of the fucking redundant remix of Beautiful Love. What? Why? This surely shoulda been an A-SIDE, or a double A side at the very least and definitely not of the remix***
Essentially, Dragonfly acts in the same way for Peggy Suicide that Necropolis, The Subtle Energies Commission and (the full length) Poet Is Priest do for Jehovahkill – ie. listen to this/these and you can hear without doubt where the artist is coming from this time around. Unlike the defiantly Krautrock-informed Jehovahkill tracks however and whilst being cut of the same cloth (if not more so) as Peggy Suicide’s more urgent grooves this stunning piece wouldn’t actually have fit within the carefully phased song-cycle of the album and anyway, Peggy already had one unsurpassable epic in Safesurfer to comfortably accommodate a second (maybe). Dragonfly is so utterly self-contained and of a loose ‘one off’ nature that it clearly belongs as a separate, yet also sums up and represents the vibe of the main album (in a similar way to Primal Scream’s track ‘Screamadelica’) like a handy pocket sized companion piece. Well, you’d need a big fucking pocket, but you get the idea – it’s the biscuit base to the cosmic cheesecake - a sonic statement of intent that takes some beating and has (in many ways) yet to be bettered, even by some of the Rite series.
Fading in, yes fading in like all the best tracks seemingly beamed in from another time-stretched dimension, Dragonfly is built around a driving on-the-one Sly Stone rhythm, sounding (with the lolloping bass) not unlike a warped segment from Sly’s over-achieving Dance To The Medley. Yet, unlike that stop-start affair, this groove does not give up – it goes all the way and doesn’t even back off. It just keeps going, keeps driving, on and on, right on through to the end**** and not a minute of tape wasted, not one second. In fact, if anything it’s about half the length it outta be (although the 10/11 minute mark seems to be the archetype for many of Cope’s non-Tutonic heroes. I’m thinking When The Music’s Over, Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, Maggot Brain. But what about Up In Her Room – 15 mins? C’mon Cope!).
Julian’s ultra-distorted guitar is loose (as in Stooge-loose), clanging and riffing in and out of a sonic battleground somewhere between Ron Asheton circa Funhouse and Delay ‘68 era Michael Karoli and, he keeps repeating this wiry garage-soul lick which is possibly based on the electric sitar part on Band Of Gold. Well, possibly. Either way, it’s a real freedom-fuzz fire-fight, a full-on rush of a workout and Cope seems to be happy to be tied down to no particular expectations but the groove itself. The bass and drums are driving but Julian is at the wheel. Right on. His vocals (no real lyrics here, just ad-libs and asides) are about as ur-Jimbo/Pop as he has ever got (Brain Donor not withstanding) and he even chucks in a bizarre quotation from Faust’s Der Baum for good measure - and (of course) to hammer the whole frigging point home somewhat. Well, why not – it was going that way!
Yet, if you think Julian is the only star of the show here, think again my friends and step up Mr Donald Ross-Skinner on wah-Clavinet. Oh yes, wah-Clavinet, just like Sly, nearly as good as Sly (not far off anyway) and he’s got that Riot Goin’ On sound nailed right there (as he also did on Bring Cherhill Down). Yet, as the sub-cocaine-torpor of Riot would have been wrong, wrong, wrong for this track, he just plays it with the righteous intensity of something off Stand! or even Bernie Worrell’s third-eye-melting eruptions across the whole of the Free Your Mind album. Moving from funk licks to spluttering outbursts, dropping down to sustained single notes (that sound like guitar feedback at times) even dropping out entirely around the 2nd and 4th minutes (seems someone knows when to back off) and exploding into a section of Floydian space-rock-cathedral-chords (also redolent of Roky Erikson’s freeform-haven’t-learnt-or-heard-the-song-yet playing on the Red Krayola’s Hurricane Fighter Plane) towards the end. This is one hell of a performance and possibly a highlight within his Cope-based career and he’s not even on guitar. Donn-Eye, you’ve got the job. Alright!
Look, if you’re a Cope fan who’s got everything you should know and love this already, that’s a given, maybe you don’t love it enough but you gotta dig it mightily at the very least. If you’re a Cope fan and you haven’t got it or heard it, get it now – it shouldn’t be too hard to find and it’s even on the flawed-reissue of Peggy Suicide. But even if you can’t really stand Julian Cope yet you understand and respect his influences, go get this and allow the artist his righteous metaphor on this one occasion. Okay?

EDIT 8/5/13 CE - ERROREM IMPRUDENTIUM;
"wah-clavinet" - of course it's not a wah-clavinet and you were right for thinking so too. Donneye probably does use a clavinet (by the sound of it) on Bring Cherhill Down (and is mentioned as such in Repossessed) but the keyboard on Dragonfly is probably just a wah-wah'd organ of unspecified type. This is what happens when you review a tune out of your head instead of checking the source material first and get the sounds confused with another recording. I'll never learn. As if a clavinet could produce the shimmering, sustained chords towards the track's climax. Ha! At least I didn't claim an omnichord or something equally inaccurate - in fact, is that the famous omnichord on Cope's version of I Have Always Been Here Before? Let's get into that another day.



*Love L.U.V – whilst clearly an in-house affair of sorts (Hugoth Nicolson was the re-mixer), it’s unlikely that this track came fully stamped with the Cope seal of approval. Despite the fact that Julian had previously initiated the ‘why didn’t they do more with it?’ Troublefunk mix of WSYM and also an (as yet officially) unreleased Michael Franti re-mix of Soldier Blue, this Beautiful Love remix, along with remixes of the next two Peggy Suicide singles (East Easy Risin’ and Heed Of Penetration And The City Dweller) was likely insisted upon by Island Records and half-heartedly agreed to by Cope (as well as probably coming up with the titles, feeling that such a slight compromise to current trends was necessary in getting the real stuff out!).

**Such multi-formatting meant that I actually missed out on Dragonfly at first. Being a strapped-for-cash school kid at the time I had to be very, very careful what I bought at the weekend (after very, very carefully saving up my lunch money during the week) so couldn’t really afford more than one or two singles or an album at a time. Beautiful Love was my first introduction to Cope (thanks to the marvellous performance avec double-neck Gibson on the Jonathan Ross show) and after picking up Peggy Suicide at its handy single album price (or I wouldn’t have been able to afford it and I wonder with a shiver how things might then turned out) I quickly realised that Julian Cope was my new (and true) musical love and spent the next 12 months or so (through and including the release of Jehovahkill) greedily snapping up the whole back catalogue as best I could. Starting with the albums and then the singles, I think the Love L.U.V 12” was one of the last things I picked up, 1. Because it was the remix (AGAIN) and 2. Because I wrongly suspected that Dragonfly might just turn out to be a comparative throwaway non-track like Butterfly E- similar title huh?. So, the attractive but misleading pink vinyl remained luckily un-bought but for way too long in the temptingly stuffed Julian Cope rack at X-Records in Bolton – the contents of which I mostly acquired over the course of that back-cataloguing period!

***Whilst Julian has admitted to a vague interest in the baggy movement, it makes you wonder just who exactly Island were marketing such remixes at. The dance club DJ? Unlikely. Radio 1? Er, No. Madchester baggies? Definitely not, given the scene’s unrighteous parochialism and small-mindedness. In fact, as a very young and nascent (but ultimately utopian and seeking a worthy musical way out) ‘baggy’ myself, even I could tell that this ‘dance’ remix was something of a superficial irrelevance within Cope’s music and this was one of only four Cope tunes I even owned at that point. Funnily enough, when I bought the Beautiful Love EP my fellow Madchester-loving friends thought it hilariously puzzling as to why I should be interested in some 80s throwback – such was the ‘so called’ forward thinking nature of those baggies, ha!. Yet, ironically they were all heartily digging U2s new ‘psychedelic baggy’ informed direction on Achtung Baby. I say, ‘informed’ but I mean mis-informed. Check out those terrible 80s style orchestral synth-stabs on She Moves In Mysterious Ways to see just how wrong bands can often get it. In fact, don’t check it out, it would mean playing it!

****or other side. What the fuck is that ending? Just when the track grinds to a cunning and (at first seemingly uninspired) tape-manipulated halt it suddenly shoots into the stratosphere at about 10 times the original speed with what sounds like a sample of a completely different song. But what song? I haven’t managed to slow the record down sufficiently (at risk of damaging the vinyl or stylus) to identify this snippet. Answers on a postcard I guess!


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