John Cooper Clarke – the punk poet


John Cooper Clarke – The punk poet

Today is John Cooper Clarke’s birthday, so we thought we would like to wish this punk poet happy birthday by retracing his story.

Musician, punk and performance poet, John Cooper Clark has had since childhood (as teachers said) a strong propensity for writing … and for fashion (we add).

He wrote his first “poem”  in the last year of  Secondary School, concerning the fact that the priest had farted during the function.

Coming from Salford, Clarke is a true working class son: the son of an engineer who died of cancer due to the inhalation at work, at 15 he left school to take up various jobs.

His skinny and “bespoke-punk” style still characterizes him today and his black hair that defy gravity have now become a trademark.

He always comes in dark suits, with very skinny trousers and fitted blazers and his ever-present pointed ankle boots.

Undoubtedly he remembers a little Bob Dylan, who was also a source of inspiration for his poetry, by his own admission.

His first appearance on a fairly important stage was in ’76 in Manchester, when he read his poems before a Pistols, Buzzcocks and Slaughter And the Dogs’ gig.

In 1977 he published the “Innocents” Ep with the independent label of Manchester Rabid Records; in this album his words are accompanied by a band with whom he collaborates from time to time, The Curious Yellows.

Afterwards he was in the UK top 40 hits with “Gimmix!(Play Loud)” in 1979, and then became a member of the collective of Equity actors under the name Lenny Siberia.

In the release of a documentary on his performances entitled John Cooper ClarkeTen Years in an Open Necked Shirt directed by Nick May and produced by the Arts Council of Great Britain and Channel 4.

The documentary includes recordings of his performances and music videos. After the release of a new album in 1982, “Zip Style Method”, his career suffered a decline due to heroin addiction, which held him prisoner for many years.

In the decade of the 80’s he lived a toxic relationship with Nico, the muse of Velvet Underground, with whom he shared an apartment.

But after a black period, Clarke got back on track and returned to the stage with his poetry performances alongside many musicians. In 2012 he returned as a protagonist of the BBC documentary on the British Punk “Evidently … John Cooper Clarke”
In 2016 an anthology of his work was released: 3 CDs that contain his texts from 1978 to 2014.

 2018 was a very active year for Mr. Copper: he was a BBC One’s contestant in the Pointless Celebrities show, where he reached a head-to-head with Suzannah Lipscomb.
In the meanwhile he continued untiringly to bring his poems around the world.
He has created a very stylish new video “Johnny remember me“, that “It’s a mix of funereal Spaghetti Western guitar twang and Cooper Clarke’s striking, unmistakable voice” says the NME.

His new poetry book “The Luckiest Guy Alive” was released on November 1st 2018; and then he collaborated with the Artic Monkeys, who chose his own poem as a text for the song “I Wanna Be Yours“. A very romantic piece that John wrote in ’83 and that speaks of unconditional love.

The Artic Monkeys leader, Alex Turner, said he had always been very inspired by John’s poems in writing the lyrics.

A sign that the punk poet is still very much alive in English culture, even with regard to the new generations.

But it has not stopped yet: new dates have added for 2019 on the tour “The Luckiest Guy Alive“, given the high demand from its fans, who obviously do not have enough of him and claim their idol around the world.

 Good luck John and happy birthday!


Words by Federica Diaz Splendiani