A Beginner’s Guide To… John Cooper Clarke
We take a peek at the man behind the glasses and the uber-quick tongue
Who He Is
John Cooper Clarke has several pseudonyms including ‘JCC’, ‘The Bard of Salford’, ‘The Punk Poet’. He is a seminal and crucial performance poet!
He released a few albums and singles in the late 70’s and early 80's before disappearing into heroin-induced obscurity and reemerging in more recent years to an audience as much revived as his health.
Born in 1949 to working class parents and raised in industrial Salford at the peak of post war austerity, to say that John Cooper Clarke had humble beginnings would be an understatement. After spending his teenage years in the 60’s, blowing his shillings on mohair suits and modding it up in Manchester he started to do poetry gigs crow barred into cabaret nights at working men's clubs.
As the punk movement gained momentum in Manchester so did Johnny and throughout the period he opened for a ridiculously credible slew of bands including The Fall, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Joy Division.
For the last 10 or so years JCC has been back on the live circuit and is at his peak (we like to think so, anyway)!
Why You Should Love Him
Why shouldn’t you love him? In fact if you don’t love (or at least like him) it’s either due to the fact you’ve not heard of him before or because your too busy listening to JLS and sleeping with your sister to appreciate the fact that JCC is not only a master wordsmith but one of the funniest men to ever don Chelsea boots.
That’s the thing about John he seems to exist as two different entities: his poetry and songs from the 70's/80's for the most part contain bleak imagery and dark observations referencing the cultural landscape at the time (albeit still injected with his trademark humor) . But go see him now and you will leave with your sides splitting and your pants sodden. He has a self deprecating, sardonic humor that will leave you in stitches. “Do I have any regrets?”, he said in a recent radio interview. “Regret Is the glue that holds me together”.
When I see him live nowadays It’s more for the stuff he says in between the poems than the actual poems themselves.
His work has also appeared in The Sopranos, Control, Ill Manors and The GCSE syllabus. Alex Turner, Plan B, Steve Coogan and Stewart Lee are among many many many more hold him in high regard. He also looks cool as fuck for a 63 year old or compared to anyone else for that matter.
Our Favourite Album
Definitely 'Snap, Crackle and Bop! '. It was released in 1980 and produced by Martin Hannett and features my favorite track Evidently Chicken Town and the seminal Beasely Street. The production on the record is very of its time and I know some people struggle with this but it really does set itself apart from anything else released during that period, before, or since. With Evidently Chicken Town sounds like a distant precursor to what we would now call grime, its lyrics delivered at Johns trademark breakneck pace.
John Cooper Clarke's quirky personality, off the cuff comments and fantastic sense of humor can only be fully appreciated in the flesh.
Despite all his apparent success in a recent Guardian interview JCC said: “It’s diabolical how poor I am.”
Our Five Favorite Songs
Chicken Town 2
I Musn't Go Down To The Sea Again
I Wanna Be Yours