Tag Archives: John Cooper Clarke

Poetry Olympics Weller

The lead up to the 1981 Poetry Olympics in the NME, 28 November, 1981.

Weller yes, but no Jam at Poetry Olympics

Sorry, but Paul Weller won’t be joined by The Jam when he appears at the Poetry Olympics next Monday (November 30). Last week’s NME news story, reporting that the group would play, was based on some mis-information.
However, Paul will still be there to read his own poetry, as part of the three-day event being staged at London’s Young Vic theatre, starting this Saturday (28) with, amongst others, Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke.
The Weller set will last up to half an hour, and he’ll be sharing it with two collaborators in his Riot Stories publishing venture, Aidan Cant from Newcastle and Anne Clark from Croydon. Work by both guests has appeared in Riot Stories and December’s Child, and further contributions, including work by Weller will be included in a special Poetry Olympics issue of New Departures.
The Monday session at the Young Vic is now sold out.


LKJ and Clarkey’s singles reviewed in Sounds, 3 November, 1979, by Alan Lewis.

John Cooper Clarke:
Splat/Twat (Epic).
‘You make life a fairy tale – Grimm… here, do us all a favour, wear this polythene bag… speaking as an outsider, what do you think of te human race?’ These and other gems from Liverpool’s answer to Pam Ayres, recorded live at the Marquee. Trouble is, this is supposed to be a ‘Twin Grooved Single’, but my needle (sharpened only yesterday) refuses to pick up the ‘Splat’ track, if indeed there is one. Is this a conceptual joke?

Linton Kwesi Johnson:
Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-sus Poem) (Island).
Police victimization and its inevitable backlash described with chilling effectiveness in the form of a prisoner’s letter home to his mother. As ever, LKJ’s cool, almost deadpan delivery is a more deadly weapon than any amount of ranting and sloganeering.

Punch In The Puss

Clarkey gets some love in Bag, the NME letters page, 14 October, 1978. Ruled that week by Charles Shaar Murray.

DEAR MELVYN Bag, Music needs another punch in the puss. The only exciting things in the last two months were John Cooper-Clarke and some Solid Senders.
ELUSIVE ETHEL OF EDINBURGH. PS I hope this arrives before the Cooper-Clarke backlash.
Tony and Julie are out, Ethel, so I can’t tip you off about the Cooper-Clarke backlash. The Solid Senders backlash starts – according to my desk diary – on December 16th. ‘Til then – enjoy the album and catch the tour. – CSM.

Clarkey In New Youth

John Cooper Clarke in Hulls New Youth zine, number 4, 1984.

Were you definitely a Punk, or did you just find it coming along at the right time for you?
“Yeah, I was already doing this sort of thing in the period immediately before Punk, but to an extent. Yeah, I suppose I was, plus I definitely altered my style to suit.”

You broke the ground for Poets, it must have taken a lot of guts?
“Yeah, it was a bit dangerous at times.”

But you made poets more acceptable for audiences at rock gigs ’cause there’s a new wave now; Attila, Swells, Swift Nick, Ginger John, etc. It’s easier now…
“Well that may be true, but I wouldn’t say it was easy!”

Has your book been selling well?
“Yeah, great. It’s sold out of the original print run and we’re well into the second set now.”

Is that suit you wear now the one you started with originally?
“(Laughs) No, not exactly. At first it was separate pairs of pants and trousers.”
Tim Dalton, (Spring St.) “First thing he asked me when he arrived tonight was, ‘What suit did I have on the last time I was in Hull’…!
John, “Well I’ve only got one with me you see and I wanted to know if it was the same one as last time. (Laughs) I mean if I don’t set a fuckin’ example, who will!!”

We noticed you hired a flashy car to get here tonight, are you making loads of money these days?
“I owe it all out! I owe my record company £36,000 and the travel agents, who’ve arranged the lat three tours, a few thousand as well!”

Are you bothered?
“Well you can’t take it seriously – I worry more about owing him (a friend) a fiver than I do the record comps… and travel agents.” His friend: “Fuckin’ right, yo should worry!”

Are they your bodyguards? (meaning his two friends)
“Sort of!”
The next few minutes are impossible ’cause his two bodyguard/managers keep singing “One step at a time, sweet Jesus…’!!!

I liked what you said on that programme recently, about you being a socialist in a capitalist world..?
“What you mean ‘I can’t be an Island of Socialism in a sea of Capitalism'”
That was it…
“Yeah, it’s right, y’see I am a Socialist but you can’t decide to live your socialist ideal on your own. It’s impossible. We have to keep going along with capitalism at the moment until we can change it. At the moment I make what I can… I have to, same as everyone. If you do live out your own little socialist ideal… you’ll be left with nothing and you’ll have changed nothing… you’ll just be a martyr, and I mean, a fuckin’ martyr’s no good to anyone (laughs). They’ll just say ‘Oh yeah, he was a nice bloke, but anyway he’s fuckin’ dead now!'”

From Bard To Verse

Clarkey and LKJ in Sounds, 20 March, 1982.

From bard to verse
John Cooper Clarke/Linton Kwesi Johnson
Old Vic

John Cooper Clarke doesn’t so much read poetry as batter your ears senseless with it. Looking like an anorexic refugee from Belsen, he teeters around the stage of The Old Vic with just a microphone (bearing striking resemblance to himself) for company and delights his audience with the now familiar 100 mph torrent of words in action that fall from his razor sharp tongue.
Seldom, I suspect, has the Old Vic born witness to so many four-letter words and scathing irreverence in poems like ‘At Majorca’, (“Where the Double Diamond flows like sick”) and ‘The Day The World Stood Still’, “A sympathetic look at a nerve gas attack.”
Cooper Clarke is sharp, aggressive and above all, very funny. Tonight’s performance was without music. Both he and Linton Kwesi Johnson performed solo, apparently in an effort to become accepted as poets and not musicians, although personally I would never have thought such a confusion likely.
As soon as Linton Kwesi Johnson launched into ‘Five Nights Of Bleeding’ it was obvious that he had never needed the musical accompaniment he has on his records. The ingenuity of cadence, tone and verse construction makes the music superfluous, coupled with a delivery so rhythmic that he managed to create what I would have thought was impossible, a foot tapping poetry recital.
Cooper Clarke’s acerbic wit is contrasted with the overt romanticism of his reggae stablemate. But what is most disturbing about the evening is their joint failure to reach the audience about whom their poetry is centred. Kwesi Johnson’s poems about the riots and his numerous references to his friends in Brixton fell not on the ears of working class blacks, but on an almost exclusively white middle class audience.
Neither did they look like they’d ever strolled down Cooper Clarke’s ‘Beazley Street’ (“where anyone with two ears is a nancy boy”) and one is left with an uneasy feeling that these two heroes of modern poetry have succeeded only in popularising their art for the middle classes. The subject of their poetry, urban working class youth, don’t seem to have got a look in.

Cathi Wheatley