Who is it? John Cooper Clarke (1949-present)
What is he known for? Stand-up ‘punk’ poetry, Salford Bard and all round legend.
What did he change? It’s fair to say that John Cooper Clarke has redefined poetry, making it accessible to everyone, in a language they get, about subjects they know and in an accent they hear…
…Or, as Avant magazine put it in 1990, ‘He’s the guy who kicked over the pompous pedestal of poetry, grabbed it by its iambic pentameters and kicked an excess of accessibility into its vernaculars…He’s the snarling, snapping, assertively wicked, wildly witty, original incarnation of punk ethics, who metaphorically took a host of golden daffodils and stuffed them down the throats of Wordsworthian Wilburs, who thought poetry lived and breathed in the cloistered glass cases of Oxford dons…
‘He smashed the esoterics and used their rules to reverse the verse, ride their rhymes and lubricate the lyrics through a turbo-charged stand up delivery…He was the first alternative humorist, as the boundaries between art and comedy and politics collapsed like an Eastern bloc beneath an avalanche of realism. John Cooper Clarke is the literary equivalent of graffiti art…and then some.’
What was he doing on Bury New Road?
John Cooper Clarke lived originally above Friedman’s chemist on the corner of Bury New Road and Great Cheetham Street East, opposite the Rialto cinema. Later, he lived on Camp Street and St Paul’s Road, and was often seen walking his mum’s dog along Bury New Road.
For the full hilarious story of John’s early-ish years read his brilliant autobiography, I Wanna Be Yours, which includes the quote of all time from John’s mum… ‘You can’t have everything – where would you put it?’ and loads about Higher Broughton – an area that “seemed to house a disproportionately large number of the criminally insane”…
John reckons the Graham Gouldman written Hollies smash hit, Bus Stop, was written about the one outside his parent’s flat, and that Roger Moore rented digs across the road. He describes his younger self as “A seven stone fucking consumptive” and a “malnourished silhouette”, who, aged 11, was in a Salford gang ‘full of delicate kids’, called the Blue Orchids…”We just hung out together and tried to avoid trouble”…
The autobiog also includes top anecdotes about fellow Bury New Road legends Nico, Alan Wise, and Mark E Smith – ‘Captain Charisma’ – whose mum worked in the Post Office on the corner of Bury New Road and Kings Road.
In the autobiography, John captures some of the magic of the place – his ‘artist mates’ cashing in Giros, The Beatles, The Hollies and Freddie and Dreamers playing in Manchester just a bus journey down the road, the plentiful supply of drugs, the poverty and the strange set of characters who pervaded the place.
No-one tells it better than Johnny Clarke himself – I Wanna Be Yours (Picador)
How important is John Cooper Clarke?
Paul McCartney: “One of Britain’s outstanding poets. His anarchic punk poetry has thrilled people for decades and his no-nonsense approach to his work and life in general has appealed to many people, including myself, for many years…”
Kate Moss: “The velvet voice of discontent”
Pete Shelley: “The thing about John is that he appears, and when he does appear it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds.”
Steve Coogan: “If I’m talking to someone and go, ‘D’you know John Cooper Clarke?‘ and they say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a genius’, I’m then, ‘Good, you’ve saved me a lot of time’…
Do you have any photos, anecdotes or memories of John Cooper Clarke? Please get in touch email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook: Bury New Road Heritage.