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Lloyd Cole (born 31 January 1961) is an English singer and songwriter, known for his role as lead singer of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions from 1984 to 1989, and for his subsequent solo work.
Cole was born in Buxton. He grew up in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith and went to New Mills Grammar School and later attended Runshaw College in Leyland. He studied a year of Law at University College London but switched to the University of Glasgow, where he studied Philosophy and English and met the other members of The Commotions.
The Commotions’ 1984 debut, Rattlesnakes, contained literary and pop culture references to such figures as Arthur Lee, Norman Mailer, Grace Kelly, Eve Marie Saint, Simone de Beauvoir, Truman Capote, and Joan Didion. The group produced two more albums, Easy Pieces and Mainstream, before disbanding in 1989, when Cole relocated to New York and recorded with various artists, including Fred Maher, Robert Quine and Matthew Sweet.
This solo setting produced two albums, Lloyd Cole in 1990 and Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe in 1991. The latter was recorded in two parts: one side continued the New York rock mastered on his first solo album, while the other side featured a session orchestra, much in the style of Burt Bacharach or Scott Walker. Although some reviewers[who?] have claimed Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe (the title being a quotation from the American minimalist writer Raymond Carver) to be a creative peak, it produced significantly fewer record sales. While he remained with Polydor as his record label, the US distribution contract with Capitol Records ended. (US rights were immediately picked up by Rykodisc.)
Cole continued redefining his sound with Bad Vibes (1993), a collaboration with producer/remixer Adam Peters, using a harder sound. Love Story (1995) established stripped-down, largely acoustic sound landscapes with the help of Stephen Street (famous for his work with Blur and The Smiths) and former Commotion Neil Clark; the album produced a minor hit, affording Cole a mid-90s appearance on Top of the Pops, with the song “Like Lovers Do”. However, following a massive purge of the artist roster that came with Universal Music‘s takeover of PolyGram and Cole’s disappointment with the label, his contract was terminated despite at least two full-length recordings being locked in its vaults (later released in 2002 by One Little Indian).
In 1997–1998, Cole teamed with a younger generation of New York musicians under the name The Negatives. The group consisted of Jill Sobule, Dave Derby of the Dambuilders, Mike Kotch and Rafa Maciejak, who recorded an eponymous CD, released mainly in Western Europe and North America. He has since released solo albums on smaller independent labels. Sanctuary Records, the company responsible for the revival of Morrissey, released Music in a Foreign Language (2003) in the UK. Recorded largely by Cole himself (including tracks recorded directly onto a Mac), the songs had a stark, folk-inspired singer-songwriter style. The album was released in the U.S. by the One Little Indian label, which also collected a number of outtakes (recorded from 1996 to 2000) on 2002’s Etc. and released an instrumental ambient electronica album, Plastic Wood, the same year.
In 2004, to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions reformed to perform a one-off tour of the UK and Ireland which generated some media interest, mostly in UK broadsheets. The reformation was never intended to be permanent and Cole released another solo album in 2006, Antidepressant, using his usual home recording outfit by playing all the instruments himself with friends like Sobule, Derby and the guitar work of former Commotion Neil Clark on some tracks. The follow-up, “Broken Record” released in September 2010, marked a departure from his solo recordings as it was performed by a band of longstanding friends and working partners including Fred Maher, Joan Wasser, Rainy Orteca, Dave Derby and Blair Cowan – as well as two musicians, Matt Cullen (guitar; banjo) and Mark Schwaber (guitar; mandolin), with whom Cole tours, billed as ‘Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble’. The recording of the album was entirely financed by advance purchases by his fans and contributions from Tapete Records, which later distributed the album and also oversaw and negotiated the rights to re-release a boxed set with his complete collection of b-sides and alternative takes and previously unreleased material under the title Cleaning Out the Ashtrays.
A further album, “Standards“, co-funded by fans was released in June 2013 and includes contributions from Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet. In February 2013, a new album of electronic music by Lloyd Cole and Hans-Joachim Roedelius was released.
Cole is on tour frequently, playing small club venues in a one-man acoustic setting and presenting rock songs from his past career remodelled to simple folk songs. He interacts extensively with the audience and some songs are told rather than played as spoken word or stand-up comedy. Performances recorded in April 2008 at Whelan’s in Dublin and in 2003 in Bremen (also broadcast by Radio Bremen) were used for two live albums called the Folksinger series. In 2010, he formed a small ensemble consisting of New England musicians, Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen and, in October and November of that year, completed an extensive tour of Europe. Further tours of New Zealand and Australia and Europe followed in 2011.
Cole married his American wife, Elizabeth Lewis, in December 1989. They live in Easthampton, Massachusetts with their sons William and Frank.
Cole’s parents were golf club stewards and, as an avid golfer, he is known for playing concerts in towns suspiciously close to famous golf courses. Cole’s 5.3 handicap tied 11th place on Golf Digest‘s top 100 list of musicians (tied with Alice Cooper and Dan Tyminski). An article he wrote, about playing the famous golf courses of the Melbourne Sandbelt while being on tour, was awarded with the Best Feature of the Year Award by the Australian Golf Writers Association.
Cole has recorded and performed a number of songs by Marc Bolan: “Children of the Revolution“, “The Slider”, “Mystic Lady” and “Romany Soup”. Cole has also covered “I’m Not Willing” by Moby Grape; “Famous Blue Raincoat”, “Tower of Song” and “Chelsea Hotel” by Leonard Cohen; “People Ain’t No Good” by Nick Cave; “Vicious” by Lou Reed; “I Don’t Believe You”, “She Belongs to Me”, “You’re a Big Girl Now”, “I Threw it All Away” “, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (Black session live) and “Most of the Time” by Bob Dylan; “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” by The Beatles; “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks; “Human” by The Human League (with Stephin Merritt‘s 6ths); “Being Boring” by Pet Shop Boys; “Believe” by Cher; “Glory” by Television; “If I Were a Carpenter”, “Lady Came From Baltimore”, and “Reason To Believe” by Tim Hardin;, “Pocket Calculator” by Kraftwerk; “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by Burt Bacharach; “These Days” by Jackson Browne (not to be confused with Cole’s own song “These Days” on Mainstream); “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” by AC/DC; “Please Don’t Tell Me How This Story Ends” by Kris Kristofferson; and “Chinese Translation” by M. Ward. His versions often differ significantly in arrangement to the originals.