Fried was released on 9 November 1984, just six months after Cope's debut solo album World Shut Your Mouth. Cope retained guitarist Steve Lovell (and guest oboe player Kate St. John) from the previous album, but added his Drayton Bassett musical foil Donald Ross Skinner on rhythm and slide guitars, former Waterboys drummer Chris Whitten and (on one track) former Mighty Wah! guitarist Steve "Brother Johnno" Johnson.
The album was much more raw in approach than its predecessor World Shut Your Mouth: in many respects it prefigured the looser and more mystical style which Cope would follow and be praised for in the next decade. Notoriously, the sleeve featured a naked Cope crouched on top of the Alvecote Mound slag heap clad only in a large turtle shell. Song topics and approaches included early examples of Cope's subsequent tendency to mythologise his own life and connect it to legend and ritual ("Reynard the Fox" combined English folktales with reference to Cope's notorious onstage stomach-slashing incident of the previous year; while "Bill Drummond Said" was an oblique fable about Cope's former manager and future KLF mainstay) and his developing interest in paganism ("O King of Chaos", which Cope later revealed was an invocation to Odin). Several songs featured little or no backing, with Cope accompanying himself.
Despite receiving better reviews than its ill-fated predecessor, Fried sold even more poorly at the time (as did accompanying single "Sunspots"). The commercial failure of the album led to Polygram dropping Cope. He would subsequently hook up with a new manager – artist and musician-cum-prankster Cally Callomon – and sign a new deal with Island Records. Skinner and Whitten would remain with Cope for the next album, Saint Julian.
Bill Drummond's 1986 album The Man replied in kind to "Bill Drummond Said", with a song titled "Julian Cope Is Dead".