Born: Salford, Lancashire, England, UK, 1949

Bio / Discography

I'm not one for name-dropping, but I met John Cooper-Clarke once, in a pub in Birmingham where he was doing a mini-festival. This would be about 1999. I saw him beforehand, at the bar, having a drink with a lady friend of his. After much hesitation, I finally decided I would speak to him.

Punky, nervously: Er, hello John. Can I just say, you are one of my heroes.
John Cooper Clarke, after looking me up and down: Yeah, and look at the way you turned out. Do yourself a favour, kid, and get another hero.
Punky: Okay, sir.

The above is a true story. I expect Clarke has trotted out his insult many times over the years, but I have dined out on this anecdote ever since, and for that he is, indeed, my hero.


Along with Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Patrik Fitzgerald, Andy T, Attila the Stockbroker and, er, Garry Johnson, John Cooper Clarke was a so-called "punk poet". He looked like a stick-insect version of Bob Dylan circa 1965 and was nearly thirty when he first emerged on the Northern punk scene in 1977, causing much intrigue.

A fantastic wordsmith, his quickfire delivery (in a strong Mancunian accent with lots of half-pauses for breath) was as fast as any punk band’s, but it was just him up there, armed only with a microphone and his book of poetry, providing stand-up comedy at such venues as the Electric Circus, in between sets by The Fall, Slaughter & The Dogs, The Drones etc.

Like normal punk rockers, he used humour (usually surreal) to optimum effect in order to make his observations about the banalities of being alive in the late 20th century, but he is (as far as I am aware) the only punk artist whose work has become part of the National curriculum.

His first release was the Innocents E.P., issued in 1977 on Rabid, initially with green labels, later blue. A three-track affair that featured mainly electronic instrumentation except on the title track, which is pure 1977 garage punk, it is one of the essential artifacts of the period. 'Innocents' itself was selected for the Streets compilation.

In 1978 he also appeared on Short Circus/Live At The Electric Circus, contributing two spoken word numbers.

John Cooper Clarke - Smahs Hits -Gimmix AdvertJohn Cooper Clarke - Post War Glamour Girl AdvertJohn Cooper Clarke - Disguise In Love Dvert

His first album proper was for CBS, 1978's Disguise In Love (Rabid had previously released Ou Est La Maison De Fromage?, a bootleggy collection of mainly live recordings). With musical assistance from Pete Shelley, Bill Nelson (Clarke had toured with Be Bop Deluxe), John Maher, and The Invisible Girls (another name for producer Martin Hannett and keyboard wizard Steve Hopkins), 'Disguise In Love' is a fully-fledged debut. Heavily reliant on simple drum machines and keyboards, with just bits of guitar thrown in, the juxtaposition of bouncy music and Clarke’s basically non-musical delivery works perfectly, and the likes of 'I Married A Monster From Outer Space' and 'Post-War Glamour Girl' are spell-binding.

John Cooper Clarke - Disguise In Love Dvert John Cooper Clarke - Walking Back To Happiness Advert John Cooper Clarke

Two tracks on 'Disguise' were done a cappella style, and Walking Back To Happiness provides more than 22 minutes of the same on clear 10” vinyl (in a stickered PVC sleeve), and ending with a full-on pop song in the shape of 'Gimmix! Play Loud", which was subsequently issued as an triangular-shaped orange vinyl single.

John Cooper Clarke - Splat/Twat John Cooper Clarke - Walking Back To Happiness John Cooper Clarke - Snap, Crackle & Bop Advert

The mini-album is quintessential Clarke, filled with hilarious heckler baiting (“I can’t hear you, your mouth’s full of shit!”), corny jokes and rude poems about wanking and package holidays. And the unforgettable 'Twat’, which deserves to be seen in full:

TWATJohn Cooper Clarke - Zip Style Method - UK CD 2007 (Sony - 704178-2)

Like a Night Club in the morning, you’re the bitter end.
Like a recently disinfected shit-house, you’re clean round the bend.
You give me the horrors
too bad to be true
All of my tomorrows
are lousy coz of you.
You put the Shat in Shatter
Put the Pain in Spain
Your germs are splattered about
Your face is just a stain

You’re certainly no raver, commonly known as a drag.
Do us all a favour, here... wear this polythene bag.

You’re like a dose of scabies,
I’ve got you under my skin.
You make life a fairy tale... Grimm!

People mention murder, the moment you arrive.
I’d consider killing you if I thought you were alive.
You’ve got this slippery quality,
it makes me think of phlegm,
and a dual personality
I hate both of them.

Your bad breath vents disease, destruction, and decay.
Please, please, please, please, take yourself away.
Like a death a birthday party,
you ruin all the fun.John Cooper Clarke Disguise In Love Photo Number Two
Like a sucked and spat out Smartie,
you’re no use to anyone.
Like the shadow of the guillotine
on a dead consumptive’s face.
Speaking as an outsider,
what do you think of the human race

You went to a progressive psychiatrist.
He recommended suicide...
before scratching your bad name off his list,
and pointing the way outside.

You hear laughter breaking through, it makes you want to fart.
You’re heading for a breakdown,
better pull yourself apart.

Your dirty name gets passed about when something goes amiss.
Your attitudes are platitudes,
just make me wanna piss.

What kind of creature bore you
Was is some kind of bat?
They can’t find a good word for you,
but I can...



John Cooper Clarke John Cooper Clarke

ABOVE: Search & Destroy fanzine, 1979 (left) and Sounds, June 1979 (right)

Album No.2 Snap Crackle [&] Bop was a worthy follow-up, with Clarke again helped by Martin Hannett and the Invisible Girls, as well as members of Buzzcocks and The Fall. 'Evidentially Chickentown' and '23rd' provide the abuse, 'Beasley Street' the melodrama, and 'A Distant Relation' the pathos. Unexpectedly moving in places, this is a top-notch album. The gimmick this time was a songbook tucked into a pocket on the front cover.

With no new material in the offing, Me And My Big Mouth - an eleven-song compilation album with songs from every official album and a few extras (i.e. 'Kung Fu International') - was issued to maintain interest in his work.

In 1982 he starred in the film titled John Cooper Clarke - Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt, directed by Nick May for the Arts Council of Great Britain and Channel 4, and released Zip Style Method, his third and final studio LP, which spawned two singles. The Day My Pad Went Mad and Night People.

John Cooper Clarke - Disguise In Love Dvert The Return of John Cooper Clarke October 83 Tour

ABOVE: Gig review from 1982 and Tour Poster from 1983

Unfortunately, JCC was fond of both alcohol and heroin, and spent much of the '80s shooting up heroin with Nico (yes, that Nico), and as a result couldn't get himself arrested, but he is currently enjoying something of a renaissance, gigging regularly (his shows even get advertised in The Sunday Times supplements), popping up on programs about both punk and poetry, has been the subject of an excellent, entertaining BBC Four documentary, Evidently... John Cooper Clarke, and has played himself in the film Ill Manors (2012).



Subsequent studio albums: This Time It's Personal (with Hugh Cornwell, 2016), The Luckiest Guy Alive (2018)

Singles & Albums / Extraneous Releases / Promos / Various Artists

John Cooper Clarke - Innocents E.P. Innocents E.P. (7", 1977)

John Cooper Clarke - Post War Glamour Girl Post War Glamour Girl (7", 1978)

John Cooper Clarke - Disguise In Love Disguise In Love (LP, 1978)

John Cooper Clarke - Gimmix, Play Loud! Gimmix, Play Loud! (7", 1979)

John Cooper Clarke - Walking Back To Happiness Walking Back To Happiness (10", 1979)

John Cooper Clarke - Splat/Twat Splat/Twat (7”, 1979)

John Cooper Clarke - Snap, Crackle & Bop Snap, Crackle & Bop (LP, 1980)

John Cooper Clarke - The It ManIt Man (7”, 1980)

John Cooper Clarke - Me And My Big Mouth Me And My Big Mouth (LP, 1981)

The Day My John Cooper Clarke - The Day My Pad Went Mad The Day My Pad Went Mad (7”, 1982)

John Cooper Clarke - Zip Style MethodZip Style Method (LP, 1982)

John Cooper Clarke - Night People Night People (7", 1982)

Extraneous Releases

John Cooper Clarke - Où Est La Maison De Fromage? Où Est La Maison De Fromage? (LP, 1978)

John Cooper Clarke - The Very Best Of... The Very Best Of (CD, 2002)

John Cooper Clarke - Evidently - The Archive Recordings Volume 2Evidently - The Archive Recordings Volume 2 (CD, 2012)

John Cooper Clarke - John's in the Money: Evidently John Cooper Clarke, Vol. 1John's in the Money: Evidently John Cooper Clarke, Vol. 1 (CD, 2013)

John Cooper Clarke - AnthologiaAnthologia (3xCD+DVD, box set, 2015)

John Cooper Clarke - Anthologia HighlightsAnthologia Highlights (2xLP, 2015)


John Cooper Clarke - The John Cooper Clarke Airplay Sampler / Snap, Crackle (&) ... No Rude Words!!!The John Cooper Clarke Airplay Sampler / Snap, Crackle (&) ... No Rude Words!!! (12", 1980)

Various Artists

Streets UK LP 1977 (Beggars Banquet): Innocents

Short Circuit: Live At The Electric Circus UK 10”LP 1978 (Virgin): (You Never See A Nipple In The) Daily Express / I Married A Monster From Outer Space

The Last Stiff Compilation Album... ...Until The Next One UK LP 1980 (Stiff): Chicken Town

The Crap Stops Here. UK LP 1980 (Rabid): Psycle Sluts 1 & 2 / Bronze Addonis (Live at Manchester Polytechnic 1977)

NME / Rough Trade C81 UK Tape 1981 (New Musical Express/Rough Tapes): The Day My Pad Went Mad / 81 Minutes

Fast Forward Australia Tape 1981 (Fast Forward): Interview

One World Poetry Holland LP 1981: several live tracks, apparently

Let The Children Play UK 2xLP 1981 (Panic): Nothing

Poetry Olympics UK LP 1982 (All Around): tracks unknown

Martin UK LP/CD 1991 (Factory): Suspended Sentence

Rabid/TJM Punk Singles Collection UK CD 1996 (Receiver) Innocents / Suspended Sentence / Psycle Sluts

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! UK 2xCD 1996 (Virgin): Kung Fu International

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! 2 UK 2xCD 1996 (Circa): Beasley Street

1-2-3-4 Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 UK 5xCD 1999 (Universal): Psycle Sluts (Part 1)

White Dopes On Punk UK 2xCD 2005 (Castle Music): Innocents






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