On his website British-born singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole wrote: “Yes, it was me who opened his solo venture (the eponymous 1990 release) with a song called ‘Don’t Look Back.’ I know, I know ...”
Since 2015, the western Massachusetts-based musician has been overcoming his self-conscious misgivings about going back in time and reviewing what he’s done more than 20 years ago. The results are two tidy box sets demarcating distinct eras: “Lloyd Cole and the Commotions — Collected Recordings 1983-1989” and “Lloyd Cole in New York — Collected Recordings 1989-1996.”
“It was much more fun that I would’ve expected,” Cole said in a phone interview, confessing that at the outset there were some old albums he wasn’t looking forward to revisiting.
“The ‘90s were going fine until the mid-’90s. I got a little bit lost. I wasn’t sure what I should be doing,” Cole said, noting that even the most revered artists, like Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Prince, all experienced similar periods.
At 56 Cole is by no means an old man, nor does he intend to stop making new music. But because to him rock ‘n’ roll has always meant youth culture, he occasionally quips about his “cranky old age.”
“For me the time’s running out for playing electric music on stage,” said Cole, who is much more at ease with an acoustic guitar. On Dec. 14 he’ll be solo, acoustic and, in a departure for Cole, playing material from 1983-1996 only. For the second half of the show, his 24-year-old son, Will, joins him on stage as an accompanist.
The Sellersville set will feature “songs they’ve been yelling out for, for 25 years. I’m finally going to play them.”
“Once demand has dried up for this show I will resume my work as a contemporary artist,” Cole declared on Lloydcole.com.
A crooning troubadour brandishing contemplative, witty and poetic wordplay, while chronicling the ebb and flow of personal relationships, and occasionally referencing literary and pop culture figures, Cole (and his band The Commotions) became well known in the U.K., France and Sweden. America, however, proved a tougher place to engage an audience. Before getting some TV exposure thanks to David Letterman, and before the emergence of the adult album alternative format, “college radio was the only place we got played a lot,” said Cole. “Radio’s very different in America. In the U.K. there were two types of radio — national, meaning the BBC, and independent (commercial). There were no R&B stations and there were no pop stations ... they had to play everything. (In the U.S.) we had a lot of ‘it doesn’t work like that here’ conversations.”
However, Cole did get approached to do the entire soundtrack for “There’s Something about Mary” because of how much Peter Farrelly and his wife loved his 1991 album “Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe.” It was the only thing they packed to listen to when they honeymooned in New Zealand, Cole said. In the end, his only contribution to the comedy was “Margo’s Waltz” off of “Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe,” which set the tone for the movie’s fleeting sad sequence.
“Peter Farrelly contacted me when they were working on a rough draft of the script,” said Cole, revealing that “Mary”’s original title was “The Loser.” “I said to him: ‘This is really an upbeat film, and I don’t have much upbeat music’.”
When asked what he was reading these days, Cole said he was a fan of Fran Lebowitz, and that he tried, but gave up on, “A Partial History of Lost Causes” by Jennifer DuBois, leaving it behind in a New York hotel room. “If I don’t like a writer’s style — no matter how good the plot is — I just can’t face it,” he said.