The bard of Salford, the Punk Poet, John Cooper Clarke rose to fame around the Manchester Punk scene with an image part Punk and part “Blonde on Blonde” Bob Dylan. His motormouth delivery set a standard for other contemporary performance poets. His poems are equal parts punk themed social commentary and working men’s club comedy. All these years later one of his poems (1982’s “ I Wanna Be Yours”) is part of the GCSE English syllabus in schools, that felt like a “we were right” moment for some of us old Punks.
I always think of “Disguise In Love” as JCC’s debut but in fact it’s his 2nd album, his old record company beat CBS to the punch by issuing “Où Est La Maison De Fromage?” before this one. It’s a strange beast as there are only two solo poems included (a live hurtle through the single “Psycle Sluts 1&2” and the glorious “Salome Malone” again recorded live). On the rest of the tracks JCC delivers his poems over backing tracks by the Invisible Girls, a band including producer Martin Hannett, Bill Nelson and Buzzcocks Pete Shelley. The backing tracks range from “I Don’t Want To Be Nice” with it’s New Wave reggae-ish groove to the jazzy vibes of “Post War Glamour Girls”.
But the main focus here has to be JCC’s words which can make you laugh out loud (“Readers Wives” delivers “The fablon top scenarios of passion, Nipples peep through holes in leatherette, They seem to be saying in their fashion, “I'm freezing Charlie - have ya finished yet?” “) while two songs later he can make a very serious point about racism (“(I Married A) Monster From Outer Space” gives us “They'd go…nudge nudge...when we got off the bus, Saying it's extra-terrestial, not like us, And it's bad enough with another race, But fuck me...a monster...from outer space”) wrapped up in sci-fi humour.
I first saw him perform as the compère at a big New Year show in 1980, at the NEC in Birmingham, also featuring Elvis Costello, UB40 and Madness. Unknown to me at the time my wife to be was at the same gig with her mates. We’re going to see him for the first time since then next month and I canna wait.
I Don’t Want To Be Nice - https://youtu.be/bjLwUzy340A