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Lloyd Cole reflects on missed opportunity for The Commotions

LOGGED OFF: Lloyd Cole says he wouldn’t have become a musician more than 30 years ago if he knew music would eventually become computer files.LLOYD Cole’s songwriting has always be littered with cultural,literary and filmreferences. During his 1980s prime with his band The Commotions his lyrics and jangly guitar soundedmore in tune with Bob Dylan’s coffee house period than the excesses ofthe decade.
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After all, this is a songwriter who referenced American actress Eva Marie Saint’s performance in the 1954 film On The Waterfront in one of his most famous songs, Rattlesnakes.

Three decades later the 55-year-old Englishman reanalysed his threealbums with the Commotions for a box set last year and in January he will tour , exclusively playing material from his former band and his first four solo recordsLloyd Cole(1989),Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe(1991),Bad Vibes(1993) andLove Story(1995).

During the process of digging through his glory years, Cole discovered several hidden cultural references that even escaped him.

“Charlotte Street is one of the songs we brought back for this tour, and one I don’t normally play when I perform on my own, but I figured out a way to do it and my son [Will] plays with me in the second set,” Colesays from his home inEasthampton, Massachusetts.

“There’s that lyric going into the chorus, ‘here comes my train’ and it never occurred to me that it was meant to be some sort of symbolism. Like in every Hitchcock film when a train goes into a tunnel it means the lead male and female are about to have sex.I was singing the song the other day and it occurred to me that, gosh, I wish I had intended that and had been that clever.”

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – RattlesnakesSince touring for the second time in2002 Cole has been a keenadmirer of thecountry’s food, climate, and especially, its golf courses. Cole, who is the son of golf stewards,plays off a single-figure handicap and has published numerous articles about the sport.

In 2010 the n Golf Writers Association awarded Cole best feature for his articleMacKenzie, Melbourne & Me -about playing the famous Melbourne sand belt coursesfor the first time.

While in town next month to play at Lizotte’s, Coleplans to tick off the Hunter’s leading course, Newcastle.

“It’s one of only two or three golf courses in which I haven’t played, butI’ve always wanted to,” he said.

These days Cole may enjoy a love affair with , but his first experience touring the country with the Commotions in 1986 was much different. Promoters over-predicted the indie band’s popularity and booked them into large arenas like the old Sydney Entertainment Centre.

“They were bigger than anything we’ve ever done before,” Cole says.“I remember being on stage at the Sydney Entertainment Centre andthinking, what the hell are we doing there? How the hell are we supposed to play this?”

Cole says the band didn’t perform poorly, but they lacked the large-scale production to make their arena shows appealing.

“I don’t think we necessarily sucked in Perth orSydney, but I definitely felt like we were flies in the distance,” he says.“I don’t think we had big screen projections, so we were just these five wee boys on stage in this giant room with a show not designed for that.

“In retrospectI felt a bit silly, but it was all new to us. We’d only been going for two years when this happened.”

MISTAKE: Lloyd Cole says The Commotions were ill-prepared to play arena shows on their first and only n tour in 1986.

There will be more to Cole’s n tour than simply performing and playing golf.He will return to the University of South ’s Hawke Research Institute to discuss the future of music consumption. While Cole hasn’t followed through with his threat two years ago to remove hisback catalogue fromSpotify, he remains opposed to music streaming.

“It certainly makes it more difficult for me to make a living,” he says.“It looks like there are signs that people do want to buy records, if those records are something which are made to have and hold. The vinyl resurgence is very real.

“The idea that music only exists as a file is not something I find attractive and I certainly wouldn’t have started making music if it had been that way in 1983.”

Catch Lloyd Cole performat Lizotte’s theatre on January 17.