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BOOK REVIEW – Copendium – An Expedition Into The Rock n’ Roll Underworld, by Julian Cope

| 28 December 2012 | Reply

Published by Faber and Faber, December 2012
Rrp AUD$59.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Copendium by Julian Cope

Julian Cope – solo artist and former leader of The Teardrop Explodes, author, loon and music obsessive – has compiled over a decade’s worth of reviews from his Head Heritage website Album Of The Month feature.

Well, he calls them reviews but these are essays – analytical and pondering not just the music, but also the legacy, the very essence of each artist’s largesse – and the whole work, bound in black faux reptile skin, the title resplendent in shiny silver calligraphy, has more in common with a thesis on the obscure, the barely known, underbelly of rock n’ roll.

A thesis, that is, bound like a book of magic or a bible, containing privileged knowledge to be handed down to the next generation lest it be lost forever.  It is weighty not just literally but also literaryly, if indeed that is a word (and if not, I hereby declare it one).

That Cope is insane seems beyond doubt to the casual observer, but hyper intelligence and a cult-freak knowledge of slabs of vinyl that sold 3 copies twenty or thirty or even fifty years ago is a rare gift for anyone, and in the hands of Cope – a rock n’ roll shaman if ever there was one – it is positively Messianic.  In flicking through these 700-plus pages I have already determined to find ultra rare works by all manner of artistes, finding Cope’s sermonising of their dark and secret delights irresistible.

Whether you think he’s lost the plot, or the artists detailed within deserve to be forgotten forever, is irrelevant – for every record made, SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE in every generation will take influence and magic from it, will bore their mates arses off in the pub near closing time about it’s magnificence, and will doubtless lose girlfriends as they obsessively rant endlessly about why the young ladies in question should try harder to understand it’s wonders.

Copendium tells us WHY we should explore these records.  Cope shares his personal experiences and what HE sees in them, but never dictates what we should see or how we should feel.  A modern day Lester Bangs, he proselytizes at length about well known artists such as Van Halen (he selects an early bootleg rather than a studio album!), Miles Davis, James Brown, Black Sabbath and Nico, and is equally zealous about The Badgermen, Universal Panzies, Om, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Le Stelle di Mario Schifano, Alrune Rod and other equally obscure (at least to this reviewer!) acts.

Get it, study it, explore the artists detailed within its hallowed pages.  Copendium may just be the most important book ever written.  Or the most self indulgent, it’s hard to tell.  Either way it’s essential for any rock obsessive.

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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