He was born in Buxton, Derbyshire. He grew up in nearby Chapel en le Frith and went to New Mills Grammar School and later attended Runshaw College in Leyland Lancashire. After failing in law at University College London, he later attended (but did not graduate from) the University of Glasgow, where he studied philosophy and English and met the other members of The Commotions.
Their 1984 debut, Rattlesnakes, contained literary and pop culture name-checks to such figures as Norman Mailer, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Truman Capote and Joan Didion. The group produced two more albums, Easy Pieces and Mainstream, before disbanding in 1989, when Cole relocated to New York to record with various artists, including Fred Maher, Robert Quine and Matthew Sweet.
This solo setting produced two acclaimed albums, Lloyd Cole in 1990 and 1991's Don't Get Weird on Me Babe. The latter was recorded in two parts: one side continued the New York rock mastered on his first solo album, while the other side featured a session orchestra, much in the style of Burt Bacharach or Scott Walker. Although some reviewers have claimed Don't Get Weird on Me Babe (the title being a quotation from the American neo-realist writer Raymond Carver) to be a creative peak, it produced significantly fewer record sales. While he remained with Polydor as his record label, the US distribution contract with Capitol Records ended. (US rights were immediately picked up by Rykodisc.)
Cole continued redefining his sound with Bad Vibes (1993), a collaboration with producer/remixer Adam Peters using a harder, grunge- and psychedelia-inspired sound. Love Story (1995) established stripped-down, largely acoustic sound landscapes with the help of Stephen Street (famous for his work with Blur and The Smiths) and former Commotions Neil Clark and Blair Cowan; the album produced a minor hit, affording Cole a rare mid-90s appearance on Top of the Pops, with the song "Like Lovers Do".
Following a massive purge of the artist roster that came with Universal Music's takeover of Polygram, he was dropped from the label with at least two full-length recordings locked in its vaults (later released in 2002 by One Little Indian).
In 2000, after being a solo artist for more than a decade (and a couple years without a contract), Cole teamed with a younger generation of New York musicians under the name The Negatives. The group consisted of Jill Sobule, Dave Derby of the Dambuilders, Mike Kotch and Rafa Maciejak who recorded an eponymously titled CD, released mainly in France. He has since released solo albums on smaller independent labels. Sanctuary Records, the company responsible for the revival of Morrissey, released Music in a Foreign Language (2003) in the UK. Recorded largely by Cole himself (including tracks recorded directly into a Mac), the songs had a stark, folk-inspired singer-songwriter style. One Little Indian, home of Björk, released Music in a Foreign Language in the U.S.; they also collected a number of outtakes (recorded from 1996 to 2000) on 2002's Etc. and released an instrumental ambient electronica album, Plastic Wood, the same year.
In 2004, to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions reformed to perform a one-off, sell-out tour in the U.K. and Ireland which generated some media interest, mostly in UK broadsheets. The reform was never intended to be permanent and Cole released another solo album in 2006, Antidepressant using his usual home recording outfit by playing all the instruments himself with friends like Jill Sobule, Dave Derby and the guitar of former Commotion Neil Clark on some tracks.
This album has further widened the audience and interest for the artist and is regarded by many as one of his best where he perfected his craft as a folk-singer against a contemporary setting. The lyrics are noted for being abnormally normal for rock songs, focusing on the reality of a young american middle-class parent: leaving New York for a life in the suburbs, worring about the stock market crash, fantasies of escaping marriage, or being "no longer young, no longer driven to distraction, not even by Scarlett Johansson".
Cole is constantly on tour, playing intimate club venues in a one-man acoustic settins and songs from his rock/80's past is remodelled to simple folk songs. He interacts extensively with the audience and some songs are told rather than played as spoken word or stand-up comedy with stories showing a healthy amount of humour and self depreciation. One of these performances was recorded in April 2008 while Cole performed three solo acoustic concerts at Whelan's in Dublin and will be used for a live album.
Cole married his American wife, Elizabeth Lewis, in December 1989. They live in Easthampton, Massachusetts with their sons William and Frank.
Cole is clearly a fan of Marc Bolan and T. Rex; he has recorded and performed a number of Bolan's songs: "Children of the Revolution", "The Slider", "Mystic Lady", and "Romany Soup". Cole has also covered "I'm Not Willing" by Moby Grape, "Being Boring" by Pet Shop Boys, "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Chelsea Hotel" by Leonard Cohen, "People Ain't No Good" by Nick Cave, "Vicious" by Lou Reed, "I Don't Believe You", "She Belongs to Me", "You're a Big Girl Now", "I Threw it All Away" and "Most of the Time" by Bob Dylan, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" by The Beatles, "Human" by Human League, "Believe" by Cher (done as a lark), "Glory" by Television, "If I Were a Carpenter" by Tim Hardin, "Pocket Calculator" by Kraftwerk and songs by M. Ward. His versions sometimes differ drastically in arrangement to the originals.
As an avid golfer, Cole is known for playing concerts in towns suspiciously close to famous golf courses. He shares a passion for this sport with Alice Cooper, who is said to introduce the song "Only Women Bleed" by claiming "not even Lloyd Cole has written a song about menstruation" when playing live. Cole has even starred in a commercial for a local golf supply store located near his home.
Cole's 5.3 hcp got him a respectable tied 11th place on Golf Digest's top 100 list of musicians (tied with the aforementioned Cooper and Dan Tyminski).
|US Modern Rock||UK Singles Chart||Ireland||Australia|
|1985||"Brand New Friend"||-||#19||#11||#73||Easy Pieces|
|1985||"Lost Weekend"||-||#17||#10||-||Easy Pieces|
|1986||"Cut Me Down"||-||#38||#12||-||Easy Pieces|
|1988||"Jennifer She Said"||-||#31||#27||-||Mainstream|
|1988||"From The Hip"||-||#59||-||-||Mainstream|
|1990||"No Blue Skies"||-||#42||-||#92||Lloyd Cole|
|1990||"Don't Look Back"||-||#59||-||-||Lloyd Cole|
|1991||"She's A Girl And I'm A Man"||#7||#55||-||-||Don't Get Weird On Me Babe|
|1991||"Tell Your Sister"||#6||-||-||-||Don't Get Weird On Me Babe|
|1992||"Butterfly"||-||-||-||-||Don't Get Weird On Me Babe|
|1993||"So You'd Like To Save The World"||-||#72||-||-||Bad Vibes|
|1993||"Morning Is Broken"||-||#83||-||-||Bad Vibes|
|1995||"Like Lovers Do"||-||#24||-||-||Love Story|
|1995||"Sentimental Fool"||-||#73||-||-||Love Story|
|2000||"Impossible Girl"||-||-||-||-||The Negatives|
|2003||"No More Love Songs"||-||-||-||-||Music In A Foreign Language|