Cult Liverpool musician Paul Simpson’s memoir Incandescent documents one of the most potent periods in the city’s cultural history and the part he played in it. It explores Paul’s earliest experiments in music with school friends and future stars of Echo and The Bunnymen, and the part he played in legendary Liverpool punk club Eric’s. It documents his friendships and working relationships with, among others, Julian Cope, Ian McCulloch, Bill Drummond and Ian Broudie, and the making of ‘The Revolutionary Spirit’, hailed by many as one of the greatest of all independent singles. But more than just a list of achievements, Incandescent is also an explanation of what Paul didn’t do and why.
Battling depression in a business renowned for its cold-bloodedness, Paul always strived to create art without compromise or loss of dignity – often to the detriment of his career. Be it co-founding, naming and then leaving the Teardrop Explodes, fronting the Wild Swans, sharing a flat with Courtney Love or simply surviving the 80’s with honour when the pop bubble burst, Paul tells his story with coruscating honesty. For him, being in a band was never just about a cool haircut and a pair of vintage trousers, but about discernment, knowing when to say no as well as yes, and the belief that – in the right hands – art can be a greater revolutionary force than politics. With that as his guide, he set off in pursuit of a life less ordinary, a journey he now documents in Incandescent with insight, an eye for detail and wry humour.
Satan Dies Screaming
(Julian Cope’s Cornucopea - Part Two)
Sunday 2nd April 2000.
I’m in bed watching Forbidden Planet when my mobile rings. It’s Liz at the Royal Festival Hall. She tells me she has been trying to reach me all day and would I like to play ‘Sleeping Gas’ on stage with Julian tonight? My silence stretches from here to the moon. “You don’t sound too keen” she says. We only met for the first time yesterday, so festival organiser Liz hasn’t quite got the measure of me yet. She’s yet to discover that no matter how positively I present, I’m as negative as an electron. I kid myself that my auto-response of Nein-Danke to just about everything I’m offered is discernment, but the truth is it’s fear. A still active phobia from childhood about being caught up in events beyond my control. I performed to an almost full house at the festival last night and no one died, so what am I scared of? Well, it’s been 21-years since Julian Cope and I last played on stage together and a lot of dirty water has flowed in and out of the mouth of the Mersey since then. So this invitation is a big deal for both of us. Because I’ve been drinking Malbec since 11am, and because I love Copey to bits for asking me, I’m absolutely horrified to hear myself say “I’ll be right over.”
Julian beams as I arrive. We hug and I scan the vast stage, wondering where the keyboard is. I’d kill to play his M400 Mellotron, but I’m anticipating some sort of high-end Yamaha portable, duct-taped to a stand. His grin widens Loki style, as he gestures to the leviathan that occupies the entire rear wall of the venue. Holy mother of Odin. Does he mean to tell me that I, Paul Simpson, two-finger Joe, am expected to play a song I haven’t heard in ten years and haven’t played in over twenty, to an audience of over two-thousand people, in a venue renowned for having the best acoustics in the world? On one of the largest and most spectacular pipe-organs-in the country? This Satanic torture device could block out the sun. It has four, five-octave keyboards, 103 drawer stops, dozens upon dozens of thankfully disabled bass pedals and an unbelievable, 7,866 individual pipes. The organ I played with The Teardrop Explodes had vibrato and an on-off button.
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