follow us in feedly
Too much junkie business: John Cooper Clarke on ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’

John Cooper Clarke at Thomas De Quincey’s grave (via BBC)
“Are you aware, my man, that people are known to have dropped down dead for timely want of opium?” This, one of the great all-purpose sentences in the English language, has lost none of its utility since it first appeared in Thomas De Quincey’s 19th-century drug memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. If you don’t have a personal valet to try it out on, see how it works on your boss, or when you get to the front of the line at Baja Fresh. Tapping the back of your left wrist for punctuation when you get to the word “timely” drives the point home, I find.

In this episode of the BBC series The Secret Life of Books, John Cooper Clarke, punk poet of Salford and quondam dope fiend, takes viewers on a literary journey to the bottom of a bottle of Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup. Though Clarke doesn’t use Alexander Trocchi’s phrase “cosmonaut of inner space,” I can’t help thinking of it when he pits dopers’ rights to the sacred disorder of their own minds against the depredations of capital:

De Quincey used opium to explore his dramatic inner world. To my mind, he was a visionary in a utilitarian age. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, the qualities of vigor, productivity, and strength were valued over opiated idleness. And then there’s De Quincey, living like a secular monk in the tainted monastery of his own mind.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Punk poet John Cooper Clarke sings ‘MacArthur Park’ with the Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell

Richard Harris’ seven-and-a-half-minute reading of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” is not for me. I like watching Harris on-screen well enough, and I like Jimmy Webb’s writing, but there’s something about the way Harris cries over the warm wine, soggy cake and “stripèd pair of pants” that is more than I can stand. Besides, I’m from Los Angeles, and when I hear the name “MacArthur Park” I think of gang murders and police beatings, despite the lovely gang murder wedding I once attended there.

But Mick Jagger was right: It’s the singer, not the song. What “MacArthur Park” needs is a voice without a hint of mawkishness, a voice that expresses disgust as easily as regret, a voice that has blown out some of its capacity for self-pity: a voice that belongs to an old Northern person. Replace Richard Harris with Dr. John Cooper Clarke, and I’m on board! Nor does it hurt if he’s singing ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell’s hot new arrangement of the number, over which Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull takes a flute solo reminiscent of Dave Greenfield’s keys on “No More Heroes.” All that is “sweet, green icing” on the cake.

Clarke and Cornwell on location (via Gigslutz)
The video for Clarke and Cornwell’s “MacArthur Park,” filmed on location, is the first taste of the duo’s upcoming album, and it is a treat. If the sight of John Cooper Clarke circumambulating an LA lake in his ‘66 Dylan duds doesn’t make blood rush to your groin and drool stream from your lips, just wait until he goes into the kitchen and actually bakes the fucking cake!

The video after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Watch Joy Division live on 1979 BBC youth documentary ‘Something Else’

Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 4, 1979. The Manchester episode of Something Else, a youth program produced by the BBC with the mandate of offering teenagers “something else” to watch, was first broadcast on September 15, 1979, so it makes for a fascinating shapshot of the conditions that led to her becoming the head of state.

The program features live performances from Joy Division (“Transmisson” and “She’s Lost Control”) and the Jam (”Eton Rifles” and “When You’re Young”).

It might not need saying that it’s strange to have the Jam on the program, because Manchester was on the cusp of a truly singular wave of musical talent and the Jam were a London outfit—still, their bits are suitably vital. The clips of JD are top-notch, they’ve have been floating around the Internet for ages (there’s an excellent Playmobil stop-motion re-creation of “Transmission,” for instance), but the full program is encountered considerably less often.

The absolute best thing on this entire video, by far, are Ian Curtis’ dance moves during the guitar parts of “She’s Lost Control.”

Something Else was done in a magazine format with shorter segments. So there’s a brief documentary of an 18-year-old single parent in Salford as well as an interview with Cyril Smith, presented as “Rochdale’s only MP,” about underage drinking. (Smith is utterly indistinguishable from a Monty Python character, must be seen to be believed.) There’s also an awkward exchange with two uniformed police constables who must defend the premise that they hassle kids too much (which they deny).

There’s also a round table featuring Factory Records honcho Tony Wilson, Radio One DJ Paul Burnett, and Joy Division’s drummer Stephen Morris about why the radio never plays anything good. John Cooper Clarke is shown wandering around a shopping mall reciting his signature poem “Evidently Chickentown” and, late in the program, there’s a heavily censored reading of “Twat.”

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The punk poetry of John Cooper Clarke
‘Here are the Young Men’: Classic Joy Division live footage, 1979-1980

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Punk poet John Cooper Clarke, this week on ‘The Pharmacy’
10:47 am


The Pharmacy
John Cooper Clarke

Gregg Foreman’s radio program, The Pharmacy, is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

Gregg writes:

If you do not know who John Cooper Clarke is you probably should…

Some call him a “performance poet,” others a “punk poet.” Clarke was often found reciting his rapidfire verse in unlikely places, whether it was in the burlesque bars of 1970s Manchester or opening for the likes of Joy Division, The Fall, The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and New Order. The man made quite an impression on audiences with his trademarked spiky black hairdo black suits and Ray Ban Wayfarers, resembling a mid 60s Bob Dylan or Keith Richards at his decadent “elegantly wasted” best/worst.

But by the early 1980s, Clarke’s radio went silent. With his vagabond friends—Beat poet Gregory Corso and Nico (who Clarke roomed with during this period)—Clarke traversed the dark Manchester underworld of drug addiction. Ultimately John Cooper Clarke came out on the other side of this darkness, revived, renewed and more prolific than ever… Now come listen in on my phone conversation interview with the Punk Poet Laureate and “Bard of Salford,” John Cooper Clarke here in the Rx…

Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Mr.Pharmacist - The Fall
Miss Judy’s Farm - The Faces
Alright - The Groop
Intro 1 / I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore - Rx / The Young Rascals
John Cooper Clarke Interview Part One
Qui est in , Qui est out - Serge Gainsbourg
I Wanna Destroy You - The Soft Boys
Get In The Groove - the Mighty Hannibal
Sha la la la Lee - The Small Faces
Honey Hush - Jonny Burnette + the Rock n Roll Trio
Intro 2 / Blow Up - Rx / The James Taylor Quartet
John Cooper Clarke Interview Part Two
Evidently Chickentown - John Cooper Clarke
Dead Moon Night - Dead Moon
Digital - Joy Division
Summer Wine - Lee and Nancy
Intro 3 / Restless - Rx / the Cobras
John Cooper Clarke Interview Part Three
Femme Fatale - The Velvet Underground and Nico
Pair of Brown Eyes - The Pogues
Baby I Love You - The Ronettes
Intro 4 / There is No Satisfaction - Rx / Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Schwab

You can download the entire show here.

Below, Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt, a documentary about John Cooper Clark:

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The punk poetry of John Cooper Clarke
01:27 pm


John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke
Among poets, John Cooper Clarke is the closest thing to a rock star our contemporary times can offer. A native of Salford, Clarke and his trademark spiky bouffant have performed on the same bill as legendary Manchester bands like the Fall, the Buzzcocks, and Joy Division (as well as many other bands); managed to place Snap, Crackle & Bop, an album of his verses set to music, at #26 on the U.K. charts in 1980; and briefly cohabited with Nico in the mid-1980s.

Clarke has made his mark on the worlds of film and TV as well. He’s popped up in the documentaries Urgh! A Music War and Control, in which he recites his best-known poem, “Evidently Chickentown,” which was also used in the closing credits of “Stage 5,” an episode from Season 6 of The Sopranos. He was even in a cereal commercial.

In a way, Clarke is a traditionalist—his poem usually feature straightforward rhymes, they’re uniformly meant to be spoken aloud, and he’s never flinched from artfully reworking the everyday patter of working-class people and incorporating pop music into his poems. Here are three brief Clarke gems:

”(You Ain’t Nothing But A) Hedgehog”
You ain’t nothing but a hedgehog
Foragin’ all the time
You ain’t nothing but a hedgehog
Foragin’ all the time
You ain’t never pricked a predator
You ain’t no Porcupine
“Punk Rock Revival”
The rip-off riff’s authentic ring
A singer who can’t really sing
Can only mean one fucking thing
Punk Rock Revival

Affect the look of a man obsessed
Predisposed to the predistressed
Now you know you’re properly dressed
Punk Rock Revival

Wear your hair the wrong way round
Spike it up in a vaseline crown
Button up your button down
Punk Rock Revival

PVC and nylon fur
And D-rings are de rigeur
The way we are is the way we were
Punk Rock Revival

“Tom Jones”
Back in town in a black Rolls Royce
The funky, hunky housewives choice
In one fact he can rejoice
His trousers don’t affect his voice

Here he is two summers ago reciting his crowd-pleaser “Evidently Chickentown.” As wonderful as it is recited, I recommend giving it a read-through as well—its peculiar literary genius comes through all the more when apprehended with the eyes, in my opinion.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Documentary on punk bard John Cooper Clarke
Punk poet John Cooper Clarke in Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal TV ad, 1988

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Wisdom of the idiots: Two punk legends give advice to the youth of England
02:16 pm


John Cooper Clarke
Steve Diggle

It’s five o’clock in the morning and Steve Diggle of The Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke are both pleasantly wasted. What better time to dispense wisdom to the young folk of Greenstead, Essex, UK.

A message for the teenagers of Greenstead: Stay away from my fucking car.”

Gee. Words to live by… I guess.

This was shot during the annual Latitude Festival in Suffolk.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Punk poet John Cooper Clarke in Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal TV ad, 1988
12:10 pm


John Cooper Clarke

Perhaps the Salford-born bard was an odd choice to put in TV commercial aimed at kids, but the paycheck probably kept him in heroin for… weeks.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Documentary on punk bard John Cooper Clarke
03:32 am


John Cooper Clarke

Ten Years in an Open-Necked Shirt is a thoroughly entertaining 1982 documentary about poet, songwriter, punk comedian and recording artist John Cooper Clarke. Among Clark’s many accomplishments: he was the only poet to open for The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks.

This is the first part of my life story.
Take a look at me now.
Genius or a madman.
All the answers are forth… the answers are forthcoming in the following chapters.

Ten years in an open neck shirt.
The real story.
From slums to stardom.
Well, not even slums.
Not even… I used to dream of living in…
The Gyp… Gypsies used to come ‘round and complain about me.
No, wait a minute, that’s their version.
See, I’ve written a censored version for the “News of the World”.
Don’t want to offend anybody, do I?

Right then.
John C. Clarke, that’s me.

Long out of print, Ten Years in an Open-Necked Shirt is a ramshackle affair, filled with exuberant energy, very much like the brilliant raconteur himself.

The film features Clarke’s good friend Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment