Preview: Lloyd Cole The Retrospective Tour At Seattle’s Triple Door

Lloyd Cole at The Triple Door

Surprisingly, some people may not know who Lloyd Cole is, but his devoted fans have been following him for 35 years. Luckily, Cole will be performing at The Triple Door on June 23rd in a program entitledLloyd Cole: The Retrospective Tour. Two Sets of His Music (1983-1996).  

An English singer and songwriter, he is known for his role as lead singer of Lloyd Cole and the Commotionsfrom 1984 to 1989, and for his subsequent solo work. 

Born in Buxton Derbyshire, Cole grew up in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith. He studied law at University College London, but a year later, switched to the University of Glasgow, where he studied philosophy and English. It was there he met the future members of The Commotions. 

Lloyd Cole in Glasgow (1983)

Lloyd Cole in Glasgow (1983)

Cole first stepped into the spotlight when Lloyd Cole & The Commotionsreleased their effortlessly hip debut album Rattlesnakes in 1984. Cole was 23. The album combined intelligent songwriting with good pop music, and critics hailed Cole as “the Next Bob Dylan.” Although Cole couldn’t match Dylan’s longevity, he flirted with perfection on Rattlesnakes. 

Easy Pieces, the band’s second album in late 1985, went gold within a month, and produced the two top 20 singles that are perhaps their best-known songs, “Brand New Friend” and “Lost Weekend.’ Other numbers from the sophomore set in the playlist include “Rich,” “Grace,” and “Cut Me Down,” and there are live numbers from that era including a version of Elvis’ “Mystery Train” from the new Collected Recordings. 

Late in 1987, “Mainstream” proved to be the band’s swansong album and contained another fondly-remembered single, “Jennifer She Said,” plus “Mister Malcontent” and “From The Hip.” That was the lead song on an EP, their last UK singles chart entry before the band called it a day. In 1989, Cole went solo and relocated to New York City, where he recorded with various artists, including Fred Maher, Robert Quine and Matthew Sweet. 

Although Cole first become known in the 80s, his music is not ’80s music’. It is literate, intelligent, thoughtful, and highly enjoyable bits of pop songwriting. His songs are also thematically mature at times–troubling, thought-provoking, and just great listening. He has a unique style, vocal, outlook and writing ability. Both through his lauded work fronting the Commotions and his more eclectic solo efforts, Cole established himself as one of the most articulate and acute songwriters of the post-punk era.  

While Morrissey was introducing his gloomy following to Oscar Wilde, Cole had his listeners finding information about Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Simone DeBouvoir, Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo and Eva Marie Saint.  

His lyrics are smart, funny, clever and deep. Like Morissey. some of Cole’s songs show his dark sense of fun. Still, when the final strains of “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken” fade slowly away, you can’t help but remember every ex- you’ve ever had, and wonder why you were ever surprised that relationships end badly. 

His solo stint 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 of his first solo album, while the other side featured a session orchestra, much in the style of Burt Bacharach or Scott Walker 

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (1987ish)

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (1987ish)

Although some reviewers claimed Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe (its title taken from American minimalist writer Raymond Carver) to be a creative peak, it produced significantly fewer record sales. However, one of the album’s tunes, “Margo’s Waltz,” went on to be featured in the 1998 film There’s Something About Mary, starring Cameron Diaz. 

Cole continued redefining his sound with Bad Vibes (1993) in collaboration with producer/remixer Adam Peters. He used a harder sound. Love Story (1995) and established stripped-down, largely acoustic sound landscapes. With the help of Stephen Street (known for his work with Blurand The Smiths) and former CommotionsNeil Clark; the album produced a minor hit with the song “Like Lovers Do”, affording Cole a mid-90s appearance on Top of the Pops 

The same album’s song “Let’s Get Lost would later be used in the 2003 Australian comedy, Danny Deckchair, starring Jeff Balsmeyer. 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. At least two full-length recordings were locked in its vaults (later released in 2002 by One Little Indian). 

Cole has since released solo albums on smaller independent labels. Sanctuary Records released Music in a Foreign Language (2003) in the UK. Recorded largely by Cole himself (including tracks recorded directly onto a Mac), the songs have a stark, folk-inspired singer-songwriter style.  

In 2004, to mark the Lloyd Cole and the Commotions 20th anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes, the group reunited to perform a one-off tour of the UK and Ireland 

The reunion was never intended to be permanent, and Cole released another solo album in 2006, Antidepressant, He used 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 Cole’s solo recordings. 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),  

The recording was entirely financed by advance purchases by Cole’s fans and contributions from Tapete Records, which later distributed the album and also oversaw and negotiated the rights to release a boxed set with his complete collection of b-sides, alternative takes and previously unreleased material, under the title Cleaning Out the Ashtrays. 

Another album co-funded by fans, Standards (June 2013) includes contributions from Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet, Blair Cowan (The Commotions) and Joan Wasser (a.k.a. Joan As Police Woman),  

In 2016, Cole went on tour with The Leopards to celebrate the release of the Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1988 box set. Live album Lloyd Cole And The Leopards – Live At Brooklyn Bowl was released through his website along with several live recordings of shows he performed with his son William on guitar. And in early 2017, the single Man On The Verge was released as a teaser for the Lloyd Cole in New York – Collected Recordings 1988-1996 box set. 

Cole tours frequently, playing small club venues in a one-man acoustic setting and presenting rock songs from his past career, remodeled as simple folk songs. He interacts extensively with the audience and some songs are told rather than played, in a manner like spoken word or stand-up comedy. 

Lloyd Cole is now 57, but his fans are still devoted. “He’s just so cool,” one explained.  

Lloyd Cole” the Retrospective tour, performs two sets of his music (1983-1995) at 8pm on Saturday, June 23rd at the Triple Door. Tickets $20 Advance, $25 Day of, and $28 Front Rows. Tickets are available at, 206-838-4333 or online at thetripledoor.net Doors open and dinner service begins 90 minutes prior to showtime {All Ages} You can now purchase Private Box Suites online! These are glassed in rooms overlooking the theatre, perfect for larger groups or special occasions.  

Note: Cole’s parents were golf club stewards and he is an avid golfer. Cole’s 5.3 handicap tied 11th place on Golf Digests 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. 

Connect with Lloyd Cole

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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