Friday, March 23, 2012

In praise of... John Cooper Clarke

Last night I went to see legendary punk poet John Cooper Clarke, whom I hadn't seen perform for well over 25 years. There was a time when it seemed that every band's "Special Guest" in support was John Cooper Clark - he was cheap and simple to stage; all he needed was a microphone. Speeding on amphetamine he delivered observational and witty poems with the finesse of a machine gun in a thick Mancunian accent. A rail thin stick figure in a tight black suit, black shades and spiky black hair - a typical set might last twenty minutes, during which time you wondered how he found time to breathe.
   Last night he was older, but still dressed the same, and now he takes the time to talk. He's become the headline act and his show is part stand-up comedy, part rambling raconteur and part punk poet. He delivered some new poems reading from handmade books of verse and still had time for standards like "Attack of the 50 foot woman".  He riffed about growing old in the new "Things Are Gonna Get Worse" ("Make that hearse reverse nurse") and came to the finale with the dystopian "Beasley Street," which describes a society in total collapse after Thatcher's assault on the the North. He followed this with an update in the same meter called "Beasley Boulevard," which describes the same place after gentrification.


Low-slung shady basement gaffs
Rooms of empty sound
Strip ribbon casements
With venetians halfway down
The Hocksten fin
With a nervous trim
And a fragrant disregard
It's an urban splash-art ghetto gym
Beasley Boulevard

An excellent night out.