John Cooper Clarke could be forgiven for deviating from his usual modest self when he said ‘I ain’t waving the victim flag, but considering the massive impact I’ve had on British culture, it’s f***ing diabolic how poor I am.’ Indeed, he admitted more than one truism about music culture, for JCC’s influence has been profound, from being the 1970s British punk scene’s poet laureate to a conspicuous influence on Alex Turner’s lyricism.
I first listened to JCC through my dad’s endless CD collection—itself an increasingly obsolete enthusiasm—, the album ‘Disguise In Love’, released the same year I was born. It was more obscure than anything I’d listened to before, and I struggled to get it—its comic realism, sometimes brutal, driving his acute social commentary from below, lying somewhere in timelessness between Charles Dickens and Francois Rabelais, ranting over the sci-fi electronics of ‘(I Married A) Monster From Out of Space’, or the pop-swing of ‘Teenage Werewolf’. Of course, the music merely serves a purpose—it’s what JCC was saying that really mattered, and it still does. ‘Evidently Chickentown’ strips back free will and gives voice to those living under the foot of monopoly capitalism (‘the f***ing scene is f***ing sad, the f***ing news is f***ing bad, the f***ing weed is f***ing turf, the f***ing surf’); ‘Beasley Street’ addresses the consequences more soberly (‘far from crazy pavements, the taste of silver spoons, a clinical arrangement, on a dirty afternoon’). Equally, tracks like ‘Kung-Fu International’ and ‘Tw*t’ remain as relevant as they do laugh-out-loud funny, as do his more controversial comments that still evoke the hecklers in recent performances as they to in his more frenzied days at punk gigs.
Widely accepted as an innovative and cornerstone influence on British culture today, a northern working-class legend, John Cooper Clarke’s visitation to York on Sunday is not one to miss.
Tickets are available through Fibbers. Click here.By Scott Clarke