Tag Archives: John Cooper Clarke

Poetry International ’84

There’s a lot of talk about how mainstream poetry is nowadays, but back in the 80s we were covered in national music papers, to a predominantly non-poetry audience. It seems to me, that whilst we are in a healthy place with spoken word, we’re still reaching to niche audiences. Who’s to blame? I leave that for you to decide.
The NME, 5 May, 1984 reviews that years Poetry International.

Nico/JCC/Jock Scott

From the NME, 2 February, 1985

Nico/John Cooper Clarke
Jock Scott/Rythmic Itch

Nico – desperate, soporific, croaky old Nico – is, basically, the Salford of Johnny Clarke’s sickest fantasies: she drains you, nags you, relentlessly bores you, makes you redundant. The best you can do is try not to notice. Occupy your mind with something else. Watch people watching her, watch them being mesmerised by lack of purpose, movement, anything. Queueing up as a state of mind.
And the songs? What are they like? Come on, you tell me. I asked Lemmy, who was wandering about, to tell me. He said the songs were like Auschwitz set to music. Me, I think that’s going a bit far. Music? Get out, this is more than music, more than the lack of it, more than the support act, Rythmic Itch, could cobble together in a lifetime of neat little melodies and sweet little hair-dos.
In contrast, John Cooper Clarke’s sharpened up on his Jimmy Savile impersonations to the point of eeriness (and what a contrast – imagine Nico pretending to be Jimmy Savile). Between non-well-worn oldies he gives us the even more familiar guys-and-gals banter, one point for the year, two points if you can remember the title of the song, and hows about that?
Cut the cack, jack. Better-oiled than I’ve seen him, he unravels the usual scabrous verses – ‘Beesley St’, ‘Nothing’, ‘Twat’, ‘The Pest’ and so on – at such a rate that you’re always struggling to catch up, to make sense. Focus on a phrase, grasp its meaning, and others will ricochet around you, hit you in the face, make you laugh.
Basically: salford’s a dump; dull, daft, rotting, full of damaged, deranged people who have no understanding of the technology which shapes their world. Also, a woman goes to the doc, says she has a farting problm, not that they smell, you understand, but the noise is so embarrassing and the doc says do one then and she does and he says I’m going to have to operate and she says what on my arse and he says no on your nose
And so to the evening’s pinnacle, a poem by Jock Scott at his laconic best; pointless, rubbishy, hilarious: ‘The Wag Club’. “Last night I went to the Wag/I took a bird home for a shag/and afterwards I had a fag.” nasty one, Jock. So why laugh? BUT WE DO.

William Leith


Urgh! A Music War

With punk sliding into new wave Miles Copeland swooped in for a rock ‘n’ roll film. It’s a fairly uninspiring one but there are some good bands therein.
Some of the footage was shown on the Old Grey Whistle Test, as this was before videos became a big thing for bands.
Klaus Nomi put in a stellar performance, and my dad was a big fan of his.
I remember the album opening British ears to a few US bands and perhaps it worked vice versa.
In poetry terms it shows where John Cooper Clarke was placed as he turns in one of the decent turns from the film.


John Cooper Clarke 1978

The Guv’nor reviewed in the NME, 23 April, 1978, by Adrian Thrills. Steel Pulse on the same bill, now that’s a gig. The write up gives a good taste of those late 70s gigs.

It seemed strangely appropriate that a British reggae band should headline at, and virtually sell out, a major rock venue the week before this Sunday’s massive Carnival Against the Nazis.
And with this Roundhouse triumph and a single on the verge of the chart, Steel Pulse are the living proof that British reggae finally seems to have arrived in a big way.
The audience was unexpectedly Hard Core punk – many of whom seemed to be there as much for the pose as the actual music (never mind the riddims, luv, just watch yer don’t smudge me Black-Star Eyeliner).
Steel Pulse, like many of the home grown roots reggae bands, still suffer from an identity crisis. As someone once said to me at a Black Slate gig “They sing a Bob Marley song like Bob Marley and a Ken Boothe song like Ken Boothe”.
Still, despite sound problems on stage and a set which seems to be cut prematurely short, there are signs that the forthcoming “Handsworth Revolution” album is going to get a lot of more people moving towards the Pulsebeat.
Visually they are imposing – vocalists Fonso Martin and Michael Riley decked out in preacherman togs and David Hinds in stencilled HM Prisoner gear.
And if the band are laid back, even for reggae – and thus not as easy to dance to as others – their great strength is the percussive power they wield. Meaty drummer Steve Nesbitt is at the core of some of the most subtle rhythmic twists and turns I’ve heard in a long while.
Noticeable by its absence was their excellent one-off single for Anchor, ‘Nyah Love’, but the encore was the inevitable ‘Ku Klux Klan’, the white hoods donned by the singers as they returned to the stage remaining as frighteningly powerful a visual ace as the first time I saw the band last year.
The Police opened the evening’s proceedings and somehow I don’t think A&M have gambled as inspiredly with this aging bunch, who last year backed Cherry Vanilla, as they did with Squeeze.
Classic bandwagoners, their leather jackets and peroxide hobs are just a thin veneer disguising well-played, cliché-ridden Heavy Metal rock.
It’s one thing being solid, boys, another altogether being dense.
I’ve often wondered when, if ever, John Cooper Clarke was going to go down as well with a London crowd as he does in his native Manchester. Even at last month’s Buzzcocks Lyceum bash, our one and only Beat Poet, had to fight a stream of abuse and a glass shattered horrifyingly inches in front of him. But at the Roundhouse, he went down the proverbial storm.
Twitching and stamping nervously behind those impenetrable black shades, Johnny recite a testimony that proved poetry isn’t only something you stock the shelves with in libraries (or something in the sole possession of Patti Smith, either).
‘The Monster From Outer Space’, ‘Bronzed Adonis’ and others are greeted like the hits they deserve to be. “He makes love like a footballer – he dribbles before he shoots”, was one line that stood out from a newer piece.
Over twenty minutes, he provided an entertaining interlude, although it’s not the stuff of which headliners are made.