Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes


Release date: 12 October 1984

Label: Polydor (UK & Europe), Geffen (USA & Canada)

Catalogue No: LCLP 1, M5-24064


In 1984, I turned 20 and was studying in a small Midwestern college in the USA, trying to pursue a degree in journalism and a good, proper academic life. Well, that’s what I told my parents anyway…

Anyway, here’s a list of priorities a Malaysian Chinese guy like me would like to accomplish while studying in America:

  1. Get a big American muscle car
  2. Get an American girlfriend, preferably a blonde
  3. Get a kick-ass hi-fi system with JBL speakers (only JBLs, nothing less)


I managed to achieve/accomplish/conquer item no. 2 all thanks to this debut album from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. Here’s how the story goes:

I shared a house with a good friend named Andy who provided the basic necessities like a beat-up Yamaha CR-200E receiver ($25, from a fellow student), a Sony PS-T25 direct-drive turntable and a pair of Wal-Mart loudspeakers (later replaced by a pair of JBL L-150A floor standers).

I provided the LPs, mostly sourced from (and also being a member of) the prestigious Columbia Record House. All you need to do was send them a penny and attach it to their advertisement and they will send you 11 albums absolutely free. What a great deal, I thought, and what a great country this is.

Since the house sits facing the campus, most of our friends would come to hang-out and listen to music/drink beer/make out. We were a motley looking crew consisting of Malaysians, Vietnamese, Laotians, a Sri Lankan, a Nigerian and a few Caucasians. Impromptu house parties were a weekly occurrence.

Now, at these parties I would assume deejay duty, spinning the Top 40 hits as prescribed by Casey Kasem. However, when everyone was busy making out/trying to make out/lying flat on the floor in a drunken stupor, I would spin my music.

I put on Perfect Skin, the first single from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ debut album and then I saw her. She introduced herself as Lisa and we just hit it off from there.

American, checked. Blonde, checked. Happiness, double-checked…

I heard about Lloyd Cole & The Commotions through a TV program called Night Flight (which also featured British acts like The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Icicle Works and The Cult). They came from Scotland and the singer wore a black turtle neck sweater.

However, what appealed most to me, apart from the great guitar-driven music, was the singer’s penchant for quoting and referencing intellectual/famous/slightly obscure people. It was pretty nonsensical but boy, was I impressed…

On the title track ‘Rattlesnakes’, Lloyd Cole managed to sing about a girl who looked like Eva Marie Saint in On The Waterfront film (which starred a young and virile Marlon Brando) and who read the author Simone de Beauvoir.

On the track called ‘2CV’, he met a girl who drove her mother’s Citroen deux chevaux (a real ugly car but with bucket loads of charm).

And on the track Are You Ready To Be Heart Broken?, he was listening to Arthur Lee (of the West Coast psychedelic group Love) records and reading the works of great American writer Norman Mailer.

Well, me and Lisa didn’t last very long as I went off to attend university in another state the following year. Lisa confessed to me that she was attracted to the music first and foremost. She said I just happened to be standing nearby…