Today John Cooper Clarke is adored across Europe as an elder statesman of subversive art, and the witty, political poet of the first UK punk movement whose blazing creativity has survived a bumpy ride. His poetry was born in those wild 1970s street-fighting days and Cooper Clarke has not returned to America since then. But here he comes again, the incendiary punk performance poet, actor and social satirist, to delight America with a new download release of a DVD, ‘Live in London.’ Recorded at a legendary concert, it features performance of his sardonic, hilarious and revealing poems, both old and new. He is introducing the new release to America with 6 East Coast U.S. dates.
You may only have heard Cooper Clarke’s dry Mancunian wit on the final moments of the HBO Series, ‘The Sopranos,’ but across Europe, and among Americans in the know, John Cooper Clark is the poetic political voice of several generations. Cooper Clarke is currently enjoying a great renaissance. He arrives fresh from an extensive sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland, showcasing new poems that were as enthusiastically received as his classics. His fervent admirers include fellow artists for whom he has become a cultural touchstone, like British actor Steve Coogan, who said, " I ask people if they've heard of John Cooper Clark and if they say, 'Yes, he's a genius!' I say, Thank you. You've just saved me a lot of time."
It’s been an intriguing journey since his wry social observation, fired off in a smart, staccato rhythm, first got Cooper Clarke called a punk poet. He worked and toured with leading movement voices like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Richard Hell and Joy Division, whose producer, fellow Mancunian Martin Hannett, also of U2 fame, was musical director of Cooper Clarke’s band, the Invisible Girls. Cooper Clarke’s poetic credentials were cemented by tours with the great American Beat poets Allen Ginsburg and Gregory Corso, effectively hailing the younger Mancunian as their successor.
His first poem came out on an indie label in Manchester, and Cooper Clarke’s late1970s/early 1980s major label recordings are still influential. But most importantly, his work remains relevant. In the past two years, Cooper Clarke has been part of two worldwide # 1 albums. The Arctic Monkeys cover his poem, “I Wanna Be Yours,” on their mega--selling album, “A.M.”; and he stars in “Ill Manors,” the directorial film debut of top UK rapper Plan B (aka Ben Drew.) Their duet, “Pity The Plight” appears in the movie and on the soundtrack.
At home in Britain, Cooper Clarke’s trademark skinny flamingo profile, with its jaunty cockscomb of hair, is more identifiable than ever. The much-loved cultural icon is the subject of a BBC documentary, “Evidently John Cooper Clarke,” and he has been awarded an honorary Arts Doctorate degree from Salford University in his native Manchester. His book of poetry, “Ten Years In An Open-Neck Shirt,” is one of the world’s top-sellers, and Cooper Clarke is currently negotiating its successor.
It’s time to catch up with the ever-challenging, ever-amusing John Cooper Clarke. He blazed a trail in the 1970s that still lights the way – now America gets to see where he’s flaming next.
‘Live In London’ is released on Fulfill Records andis available on iTunes. It is priced at $7.92