Nostal­gia pays trib­ute to John Cooper Clarke

Nostal­gia looks back on the ca­reer of John Cooper Clarke – the punk bard of Sal­ford who con­tin­ues to per­form to this day

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS -

PAM Ayres was prob­a­bly an un­likely muse for Sal­ford punk poet John Cooper Clarke.

The two could not be more dif­fer­ent. Ayres was a prod­uct of leafy Berk­shire and her po­ems poked gen­teel fun at ev­ery­day fam­ily life.

Cooper Clarke grew up in grimy Sal­ford, honed his craft in the world of the Sex Pis­tols and the Stran­glers and re­leased his work on Rabid records!

But it was only through watch­ing Ayres on the TV tal­ent show Op­por­tu­nity Knocks that he be­came con­vinced he could make a liv­ing out of po­etry.

Born in Jan­uary 1949, Cooper Clarke lived in Higher Broughton and was first in­spired to write by his English teacher. He started per­form­ing in Manch­ester folk clubs while work­ing as a lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cian. Early col­lab­o­ra­tions with Rick Gold­straw and the Fer­rets de­vel­oped his rapid fire style of de­liv­ery – and he soon came to the at­ten­tion of Manch­ester pro­ducer Martin Han­nett.

The punk explosion in Manch­ester, and in­deed the rest of the UK, was ig­nited by the Sex Pis­tols’ leg­endary con­cert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on June 4, 1976.

Only around 40 peo­ple turned up – but the roll call read like a who’s who of Manch­ester mu­sic!

Han­nett, who went on to found Fac­tory Records and pro­duce the likes of Joy Di­vi­sion and the Happy Mon­days as well as Cooper Clarke, was there. So too were Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley, who’d in­vited the Sex Pis­tols to play. They went on to form the Buz­zcocks.

Pre­sen­ter and im­pre­sario Tony Wil­son, who co-cre­ated Fac­tory Records and helped launch the Ha­cienda night­club, was in the au­di­ence along with Joy Di­vi­sion founders Peter Hook and Bernard

Sum­ner. Also present were Mark E. Smith, who formed punk band The Fall, Mick Huck­nall and Mor­ris­sey. The stage had truly been set for a punk poet from Sal­ford to emerge.

And emerge he did. Cooper Clarke’s EP In­no­cents was re­leased on Han­nett’s Rabid la­bel in Oc­to­ber 1977. It was fol­lowed in 1978 by his de­but al­bum Ou est la mai­son de fro­mage?

He then toured with Bill Nel­son’s band Be-Bop Deluxe and was signed by Epic Records.

The stu­dio al­bum Dis­guise in Love, pro­duced by Han­nett, was is­sued later in 1978.

Cooper Clarke worked with Peter Shelley of the Buz­zcocks and Vin­nie Reilly of Du­rutti Col­umn be­fore re­leas­ing his sem­i­nal al­bum Snap Crackle and Bop in 1980.

It be­came one of the four big­gest sell­ing al­bums on Sony Records and es­tab­lished Cooper Clarke as the au­then­tic voice of the punk era.

The track Beasley Street, said to be in­spired by Camp Street in Sal­ford, was an un­remit­ting at­tack on the squalor and poverty of Bri­tain un­der Mar­garet Thatcher. The BBC even cen­sored one of the lines.

An­other track, Ev­i­dently Chick­en­town, fea­tured in Danny Boyle’s 2001 film Strum­pet where it was re­cited by Sal­ford ac­tor Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston. It was also used to brilliant ef­fect in a 2007 episode of Amer­i­can TV se­ries The So­pra­nos.

Cooper Clarke’s sole Top 40 hit was Gim­mix! (Play Loud) in 1979.

Dur­ing the 1980s, Cooper Clarke per­formed with Joy Di­vi­sion, New Or­der, Elvis Costello, Siouxsie and the Ban­shees and Du­ran Du­ran.

He fea­tured as a spe­cial guest on shows by the Buz­zcocks, the Clash and the Sex Pis­tols.

In 1982, he starred in the film John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt. Funded by the Arts Coun­cil, it was di­rected by Nick May and screened on Chan­nel 4.

One of his more un­usual gigs was ap­pear­ing along­side the Honey Mon­ster in two TV ad­verts for the break­fast ce­real Sugar Puffs in 1988.

He also ap­peared at Ash­to­nun­der-Lyne with the Suns of Arqa in 1992.

Arc­tic Mon­keys’ front­man Alex Turner printed Cooper Clarke’s poem Out of Con­trol Fair­ground in­side the CD of the band’s 2007 sin­gle Flu­o­res­cent Ado­les­cent.

An­other of Cooper Clarke’s po­ems, I Wanna Be Yours, fea­tured in the Arc­tic Mon­keys’ fifth al­bum AM re­leased in 2013.

Readers can revel in the past 150 years with a brilliant an­niver­sary book from the M.E.N. and lo­cal pub­lish­ers iNostal­gia. The Chang­ing Face of Manch­ester: Sec­ond Edi­tion is packed with past images of Manch­ester con­trasted with mod­ern pho­tos of how the same scenes look now. The book re­tails at £14.99, but M.E.N. readers can or­der it for the re­duced price of £9.99 plus postage and pack­ing.

Just go to inostal­gia.co.uk to place your or­der or tele­phone the or­der hot­line on 01928 503777.

Pam Ayres, whose suc­cess en­cour­aged Clarke, on stage in April 1977

The Sex Pis­tols in­cluded John Cooper Clarke at their gigs, De­cem­ber 1976

Arc­tic Mon­keys fea­tured John Cooper Clarke’s po­ems on their record­ings, Fe­bru­ary 2008

Elvis Costello, who shared the bill with John Cooper Clarke, De­cem­ber 1979

Manch­ester mu­si­cian Peter Hook of New Or­der, Oc­to­ber 2016

Hugh Corn­well of the Stran­glers with John Cooper Clarke, Oc­to­ber 2016

Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston per­formed John Cooper Clarke’s poem Ev­i­dently Chick­en­town, Au­gust 2017

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