O2 Academy, Bournemouth

Dr.john Cooper Clarke

The “Punk Poet Laureate”, “The Bard of Salford”, “The People’s Poet”, John Cooper Clarke has collected a few epithet’s over his long career and they all fit. Inspired to make a living out of poetry by Pam Ayers of all people, the be-suited, pipe cleaner of a man with a huge barnet and shades came to prominence in the late seventies on the back of the punk movement. Back in the day he could be seen warming up the hoi polloi at Sex Pistols, Clash and Buzzcock gigs, spitting vitriol at a phenomenal rate of knots in his thick Salford dialect, as the audience gobbed back. Nowadays his hair, although still long, hangs straight after years of vigorous back-combing and his delivery has slowed a tad from his heyday, but his poems still pack a punch. Part stand up and part a poetry recital, JCC brought his special brand of humour to the O2 Boscombe on Sunday.

Opening act Toria Garbutt regaled us with her thoughts on her hometown of Knottingley, a Thatcher ravaged shithole in Yorkshire, drug addiction and postnatal depression. Her poems hit hard as she tackles the everyday trials and tribulations of being trapped on a housing estate in modern day Britain, but they also contain grace and an unflinching honesty, a worthy opener.

Toria Garbutt
Toria Garbutt 

Next up is Luke Wright, a left-wing wordsmith who likes to stick the knife into the Tories wherever possible, as in the adroit “I.D.S.” which only uses the vowel “i” in its entirety, a trick he repeats later in “Burt’s Up Pub” where he limits himself to the letter “u”, both are very clever, vulger and humorous in equal measure. Other highlights include a comment on Cooper Clarke’s choice of snazzy, but ultimately uncomfortable Cuban heeled footwear in, “These Boots weren’t made for Walking”, “Who wants footwear like their dad? / All sensible and dry and drab / Someone better call a cab / These Boots weren’t made for Walking”and “Essex Lion” a case of mistaken identity by a group of pissed up Essex campers who swore they spotted a lion in a Clacton field, it turned out to be a domestic cat, however, Luke takes the inebriated encounter to absurdist heights achieving hilarious results along the way.

Luke Wright
Luke Wright 

After a short intermission Johnny Green, Clarkes longtime chauffeur, travelling companion and former tour manager for The Clash ambles on to introduce the man we have all been waiting for, Dr John Cooper Clarke, (he received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Salford in 2013) who’s unmistakable, stick thin silhouette struts on to loud applause. He warms up the crowd with a handful of new poems, “Hire Car” and “Motorist” before mentioning heís been piling on the pounds lately and launches into “Get Back on Drugs You Fat Fuck”. He moves onto one of his most notable works, “Beazley Street,” a commentary on poverty and inner city squalor, followed by “Beazley Boulevard” an update that is just as incisive as he ponders on poncey makeovers and gentrification. His critique on ageism, “Bedblocker Blues” reflects on the fact that he’s not getting any younger, “I’m not going to say how old I am, but I don’t buy green bananas anymore” he intones. During a monologue about chimpanzee butlers I’m afraid I lost his thread halfway through, partly due to a woman at the bar loudly voicing her displeasure to her partner, if she was so unhappy with the shows content why didn’t she leave instead of spoiling the show for everybody else?

John Cooper Clarke
John Cooper Clarke 

As we moved on towards the latter stages of the set we had a rundown on his marriages and divorces, ìFor my first divorce, we split the house. I got the outsideî and an ode to his latest spouse ìIíve Fallen in Love With My Wifeî. îEvidently Chickentownî, his expletive-laden ode to frustration and futility is probably his most famous, due to its inclusion in the penultimate episode of The Sopranos, brings the show to a conclusion. He says his goodbyes and heads for the wings, only to return seconds later with the quip “I hope you want another one, as there were stairs involved”. Of course, we do and he proceeds to thank Alex Turner of the Artic Monkeys for ìTaking him to the top of the chartsî with his last poem, “I Wanna Be Yours”, which Alex first heard at school as part of the GCSE curriculum and covered on their “AM” album. With that he was gone. The guys a one-off, anyone with the audacity to think they could recite poetry to a crowd of punks and get away with it must have had something special going on and believe me, Johnny Clarke still is special forty years later.

Dr.john Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke
Set List
Hire Car
Get Back on Drugs You Fat Fuck
Beasley Street
Beasley Boulevard
Bedblocker Blues
Shave Off
Some C*@#t Used the N Word
Iíve Fallen in Love With My Wife
Evidently Chickentown
I Wanna Be Yours


Words by John Cherry.

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