MOJO Time Machine: Julian Cope Attacks U2 And Guns N’ Roses, Gets Booted Off Label

On 5 October, 1992 Julian Cope lashed out at Bono and Axl Rose. Island Records promptly dropped him.


by Fred Dellar |
Updated on

Picture: Alamy/David Tonge

5 October, 1992

Julian Cope was getting testy. Presumably because Island Records had been causing him problems regarding his cosmic, Neolithic-to-the-future LP Jehovahkill. The album, his sixth solo release, had run into trouble at pressing plants where workers refused to deal with it due to its controversial title: it was also reported that Wessex’s Arch-Drude’s self-penned sleeve notes were also causing friction, one music weekly reporting that they contained, “vitriolic attacks on Axl Rose and U2 among others.”

Hopes that things might be smoothed out were dashed in mid-October, when a full-page ad for Cope’s Fear Loves This Place EP appeared in the music weeklies, heralding the imminent arrival of Jehovahkill. The ad, also penned by Cope, was not designed to win friends among those who perceived themselves as guardians of the record industry. For it scoffed at Axl Rose’s duet with Elton John on the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, and questioned U2’s commitment to the anti-nuclear lobby. “Island hated those ads,” Cope later claimed. “But I don’t feel bad about slagging U2 off since everybody else is licking Bono’s arse.” The ad was withdrawn from a number of magazines due to fear of possible libel action. Others printed edited versions of the announcement, one that Cope had headed, “No mystical gush, no cheap new age fix.”

"I don’t feel bad about slagging U2 off since everybody else is licking Bono’s arse."

Julian Cope

In the event, those who picked up Fear Loves This Place would have been under no illusions about Cope’s opinions. The sleevenotes declared Axl Rose’s band as, “poor dupes, saps, knobshines in their smug L.A. rebellion. They think the louder they get, the more rebellious it is.  Well, then, the greatest rock 'n' roll would be made by the USAF or the Red Army - they are truly heavy metal - not some homophobics (sic) in Puff gear.  They don't even have the guts to print the word "Fuck!" Forgive their Judeo-Christian hang-ups…”

As the smoke cleared, on October 19, Jehovahkill finally gained a release. A 16-track affair, described by Cope as, “a Darwinist rock’n’roll album with a strong Krautrock influences,” it appeared on CD, cassette, and three-side vinyl, all pressed in a specific shade of blue. It was also announced that dates boasting “two and a half hours of performance, 2000 years of music” would commence at the Liverpool Royal Court on October 27. The first three shows at London’s Town and Country Club proved immediate sell-outs.

The first reviews of the album proved generally positive too and after full page ads, thankfully free from controversial comment, appeared in the press on October 24, and the album clambered into the lower reaches of the Top 30 a few days later.

The most sonically unappealing album I have ever heard...

That said, Island MC Marc Marot allegedly deemed Jehovahkill, “The most sonically unappealing album I ever heard.” And, within a month, Island decided to throw in the towel. A report claimed: claimed “The label has decided to sever its working relationship with Julian Cope after the release of four albums and the double LP compilation Floored Genius.” Those close to Cope claimed that the then 34-year-old singer was deemed to be too long in the tooth and too uncommercial by Island, one spokesperson stating: “It’s ironic that he should be released from his contract at a time when he’s at his creative peak and his work is more popular than ever. I wonder whether the same view would apply if Neil Young or Van Morrison came knocking at the door?” Cope seemed confused. “It was funny really,” he said in a conversation with writer Stuart Maconie, “Having tried at various times to pull stunts that would get me dropped from Island, I’d decided to stop thinking like that because I had two albums to do and there’s no point in viewing it like a prison sentence.”

The period which should have been one of triumph for Cope ended in further disillusionment as what he termed “the mighty Head On tour,” featuring old and new material, had to be pulled after just five dates, due to a throat and chest infection. “It’s pretty serious,” announced one of the Drude’s aides: “He had to go to hospital - he wasn’t malingering.”

“Cope’s Career In Runes” read one headline as November arrived. At Avebury, a recovered Julian Cope wandered out in the early morning mist that enveloped the ancient stones. What do mere mortals know? he mused as he gazed up at Silbury Hill. There would be more to come – much more.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us