Dr John Cooper Clarke Review

Dr John Cooper Clarke Review


A sell-out audience at The Atkinson for a trip back in time to the late 1970’s and 1980’s, the early days of punk, when Manchester was the focal point of a burgeoning pop scene with New Order, The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses plying their trade and the legendary Hacienda Club opening its doors for the first time.
Myself, I had just released a punk record called ‘Boys on the Dole’ which reached No. 7 in the New Wave charts.
Mike Garry was a librarian in those days but he soon turned to performance poetry and became a popular figure on the circuit, his poems cataloguing life on the streets of the city. He is the archetypal ‘voice of Manchester’. ‘Signify’ was a telling tribute to his old schoolteacher but the highlight of his act is his chart-topping eulogy for the late Tony Wilson, Saint Anthony’.
Luke Wright announced himself as ‘the token Southerner’ on the bill. He did as much talking as reading poetry and could easily make a living as a stand-up comic. His poem about ‘The Essex Lion’ reduced him to screaming hysterics but more interesting was The Company of Men which explained his difficulty in finding a place in society with his effeminate looks.
Finally, after the interval, appeared the star of the show, the  invincible Dr. John Cooper Clark, sixty seven next month, but sounding as lively and young as when he started out, and retaining the emaciated figure of a reformed heroin addict with his shock of raven black hair and skeletal legs in fashionable skin-tight chinos..
At times, when ruminating between verses, he reminded me of Woody Allen with his philosophical meanderings about life. ‘What does occasional furniture do the rest of the time?’ ‘Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?’
He ran through a good number of old favourites including ‘Beesley Street’, with its updated codicil of ‘Beesley Boulevard’ showing how life has changed for some, but not all, in the back streets. I was sorry not to hear my particular favourite, ‘Salome Maloney’, but the session on limericks had everyone laughing and he ended in fine style with his piece de resistence, ‘Evidently Chickentown, which is included in the GCSE syllabus, has been featured on ‘The Sopranos’, and inevitably brought the house down. Not bad for a poem which, in the unexpurgated version recounted here, features the f-word 47 times in its 28 lines.
Many of the poems heard during the evening have been set to music at various times. Read aloud, they create a great atmosphere at readings yet the ranting sometimes becomes indecipherable. Best to buy the book and give yourself time to reflect on the words at leisure because they explain a whole generation.
There were the 19th century Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Keats whilst Roger McGough led The Mersey Poets in the 1960’s. John Cooper Clark is the spokesman for the 1980’s Punk Generation. See him while you can.

Star Rating: 8 out of 10.  A coup for the Atkinson. JCC is the spokesman for a generation.

Posted on 16 December 2015 under General news

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