The Teardrop Explodes “Kilimanjaro”

Today’s Cool Album of The Day (#440 in a Series) is The Teardrop Explodes, Kilimanjaro.

The decade of the 1980’s saw the punk rock explosion extinguishing. While punk attacked, and damaged, the old guard prog movement (Yes; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; etc.), its fading left a large void for the followers of punk who were looking to diversify their listening habits. The New Romantic/Blitz movement (Soft Cell, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, etc.) had a definite lack of testosterone for the old punks. Enter the new psychedelia.

Bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, Soft Boys, and The Teardrop Explodes filled this empty space in a more hard edged way. The Teardrop Explodes was led by singer, lyricist, bassist, and resident psychedelic nut job Julian Cope. The band may not have been started as a vehicle for Cope’s immense talents, but that is what it properly became. Kilimanjaro was The Teardrop’s major label debut in October 1980. Quite honestly, it does not sound like anything that had come before it (or anything since?).

As “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” opens, you aren’t listening to “London Calling,” “God Save the Queen,” or anything else from the safety pin generation. The Teardrops commence with a perfect marriage of galloping percussion, atmospheric keyboards, and punchy horns. Trumpet players Hurricane Smith and Ray Martinez were not actual band members, but their playing takes the Teardrop Explodes to another level. “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” is a great anti-love love song. While the band plays the upbeat tune Cope proclaims “Oh, ask me once again, and ask me for a third time, oh and ask me how I feel, I say I’m drowning in your love, ha ha I’m drowning in your love.” Is he exhilarated by this love or being overcome by it?

“Sleeping Gas” and “Treason” keep the pattern going until we reach the Teardrop Explodes’ top 10 UK chart hit “Reward.” Cope announces his arrival into stardom by declaring “Wash my cotton socks, I’m in the news.” This is a great song for a bunch of twenty-somethings in their first bout in the pop spotlight. The musical highlight of “Reward” is Martinez and Smith’s manic horn assault. This is a song and album that sounds as revolutionary today as it did 31 years ago.

Unfortunately, the Teardrop Explodes imploded in a haze of drugs and band/management discord in 1982. Listening to “Books,” “Poppies,” and “When I Dream” one can only imagine what we may have gotten as our reward had the Teardrop Explodes matured together.

— Jim McCabe

Track Listing

All tracks composed by Julian Cope, Gary Dwyer and Michael Finkler; except where indicated

  1.  “Ha-Ha I’m Drowning”
  2. “Sleeping Gas” (Cope, Dwyer, Finkler, Paul Simpson)
  3. “Treason”
  4. “Second Head”
  5. “Poppies In The Field”
  6. “Went Crazy” (Cope, Finkler)
  7. “Brave Boys Keep Their Promises”
  8. “Bouncing Babies”
  9. “Books” (Cope, Ian McCulloch)
  10. “The Thief of Baghdad”
  11. “When I Dream”


  •  Julian Cope – vocals, bass guitar
  • David Balfe – piano, organ, synthesizer
  • Gary Dwyer – drums
  • Michael Finkler – guitar
  • Alan Gill – guitar with
  • Hurricane Smith, Ray Martinez – trumpets


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Posted by Larry Carta

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