From Red Wedge, No.5, 1987
… it was the tail end of a typically short English summer, one of those days when the air heavy and sweet and the sky all a golden glow, reflecting the first of the leaves fallig earthwise. Strolling by the Serpentine in search of liquid refreshment, we spied an establishment vending all manner of tea-time delights.
Our ears happened to catch the conversation of two ladies seated nearby.
‘He’s thinking of giving it all up.’
‘Yes, and he plans a fabulous last jog supporting that Stylish Council mob, you know, all haircuts and left wing lyrics. Well, must go now and put Phil’s dinner on, he’s got a jig tonight.’
The shock of the revelation we had just heard set in. We sat simultaneously stunned, sure the conversation pointed to one person, PORKY THE POET!!!
Interview by THE CUP OF TEA?-NO!KIDS.
Desperate for a denial the cold light of the morning saw our trio making haste to ‘Go Discs’, workplace of the aforementioned bard. Finding Porky hard at work, sorting his morning mail. Eventually he surrendered to our demands for truth and confessed.
‘Well, I suppose it would come out sooner or later in the gutter press so I’ll tell you. I’m splitting up.’
‘But Porky, the news of your split is bound to stun the entertainment industry, why are you doing it?’
‘I’m tired of being a poet and as poetry already has Attila the Stockbroker, Benjamin Zephaniah and Joolz who are all good left wing poets, I find it difficult to get work.’
Sadly after touring Great Britain with special guests The Style Council, the dreaded day dawned. The 25th November was to be Porky the Poet’s ultimate performance. Hordes of hecklers packed into Hammersmith Odeon for their last opportunity to harass him, along with legions of loafer wearers who lounged about in the lobby. Porky’s classic ‘The Scheme of Things’ started the proceedings followed by other poems of lasting historical and literary significance, such as ‘Nobby’, ‘A New farmyard’ and ‘Beano’, interspersed with slices of comic genius.
Porky bowed out pantomime style with a rousing rendition of ‘Kep on Smiling’. He was joined by an all star pantomime cast including the customary horse (filled we believe by none other than Paul Weller’s mum and sister!). Porky ended his starspangled career by being physically removed from the stage by two bouncers and a JCB.
The next day it was with furrowed brows and frustrated frowns that we climbed the stairs of St Pauls. If we had 2 new pence for every step we had climbed, we would have £5.18 quipped one of our number.
Eventually, a puffing and panting Porky the Poet who now looked more like Slim the Satirist, greeted us with one of those smiles which even after climbing 259 steps filled us with warmth. . .
And now you’ve split. . .?
Well my legs are going to a dance troupe, my arms will be re-mixing the next George Michael L.P. and my head can be seen playing the part of a football in the Bolton Alhambra production of Aladin!. . . No actually I will be making a career as Phil Jupitus (my real name) as a stand up comic extraordinaire. I’m writing new material and what to do comedy stuff without poetry – I’ve already done one gig at The watermans Art Centre and that went really well. I will still be doing the odd few gigs as Porky for small organisations who I didn’t get a chance to play to before.
Fave raves fab pop picks?
I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with some great things over the years, particularly Tour managing The Housemartins, playing bass for Riff Raff and being involved with the Red Wedge tours. My best gig was playing to a home crowd at Southend in ’85, that was as support to Billy Bragg and the Sid Presely Experience. Just great!!! My tips for ’88 are Kevin McAller – the funniest man in London, who does a hilarious slide show and favourite bands are The Screaming Abdabs, Panic Brothers and the Gargoils.
Bad karma man…
Billy Bragg would take great pleasure in telling you the worst moment of my career – it was at Glasgow Barrowlands on the Labour Party jobs and industry tour. I did 25 minutes of material in 10 minutes without the aid of drugs! I was doing a poem about Essex trendies called ‘Soul Boys’ and a gang of Mods and Scooterboys down the front got the wrong end of the stick and heckled throughout. They waited for me after the show shouting ‘we want the fat one!’It was pretty disappointing doing an unsuccessful audition for Madness as a gig with them would have been brilliant.
Politics and pregnancy are debated as we empty our hamper…
I want to do fewer gigs now due to the job at Go! Discs, they’ve been really good about me being involved with other projects. Also I eventually want to settle down and have a family. (??) As a poet I’ve always felt a responsibility to include politics in my writing, although it doesn’t take up the majority of my set. As poetry is purely language it has to be more direct – whereas good socialist comment in music such as songs like ‘Move On Up’ or ‘Soul Deep’ can also be taken just as bloody good dance records.
Up until two years ago I was a member of a socialist organisation. I left because I felt they were putting the politics across in too much of an antiquated style. Things have changed since 1917! I’ve still a tremendous amount of respect for those active in Militant, the SWP and other socialist organisations. They’re actually getting down to the job of putting socialism across to people that many Labour Party members haven’t got the bottle to do. I think the current wave of suspensions and expulsions in the Labour Party is disgusting. I fail to see where the primary socialist party in Great Britain will get by expelling socialists – The Labour Party should be proud to have such a broad based membership as opposed to the homogenised simpering to Thatcher that you get with the Tories. They all look like they’ve been moulded in a big vat in some Home Counties’ factory that produces sensible men in neutral suits and sensible ladies in Marks and Spencer two pieces.
I’d love to see the day that Ken Livingstone is leader of the labour party as I think he is one of the most able politicians we have seen in a long while. Since the abolition of the GLC I would like to see Red Wedge taking on the role of putting on free festivals and gigs in London and elsewhere.
As the sun sank westwise into the Putney skyline and the twilight chill filtered into the dome it was time to depart. The realisation that Porky the Poet was no more left us tinged with sadness but we were confident that the metamorphosis into Phil Jupitus would see him bigger than ever!
What the stars said
Norman Cook (Housemartins)
“Porky is the only person in showbiz that could split on his own!”
Wendy May (D.J.)
“I’m really sad to see Porky split as it’s about time large chaps had their say in poetry. Porky could have been huge, mega, massive, if only he hadn’t stuck to a diet of lettuce leaves and carrots. My favourite memory of Porky is when he played at The Mean Fiddler with Riff Raff, pogoing around and singing ‘I want to be a cosmonaut’.”
Attila The Stockbroker (Ranting Poet)
“Better than George Michael and not worse than Crystal Palace, he is fat, round and bounces on the ground. After his split his stanker will be used as an undersized street light in Stanford Le Hope and his testicles will be appearing in Viz as extras in Billy Bollocks and Buster Gonad.”