John Cooper Clarke – The Kings Arms March 22, 2012


Ah, there’s no punk like an old punk, and there were plenty of them on hand at The Kings Arms Thursday night to relive their glory days with John Cooper Clarke.

For those who may be under 45 years old, Clarke is the self-styled “Bard Of Salford”, a poet from Manchester who plied his trade during England’s punk years of the 1970s.

One of the bands Clarke shared the stage with was The Clash. Now, former Clash road manager Johnny Green tours with Clarke, opening the show with a bit of reminiscing from his days with Joe Strummer and Co.

As an old punk rocker myself, I must admit to feeling a touch uncomfortable with the scenario. As Green stood on the stage, reading from his book, A Riot Of Our Own, I couldn’t help but think that old Joe Strummer might be spinning in his grave at the sight of this sentimental affair.

But, I could be wrong. Green certainly entertained the crowd and they seemed to enjoy his trip down memory lane.

John Cooper Clarke was up next, looking very much like he did 30 years ago…at least from a distance. He’s still got those long, spindly legs, that crop of black hair, shooting out in all directions and those ever-present shades.

Clarke immediately had the crowd in the palm of his hand…riffing on Gregory Peck’s appearance in The Yearling, marine biology (how deep would the sea be without sponges?) and blues great Howlin’ Wolf.

The age of the crowd was lost on Clarke. He pointed out the advantages to aging…”you can hide your own Easter eggs”.

He touched on his upbringing…”We had a tough school, we had our own coroner”.

He recited a few old favourites such as his list of things you’ll never see (A girl named Stan), Evidently Chicken and Beasley Street got a rave from the audience.

He pondered singing Wayne Newton’s Las Vegas classic Danke Schoen and gave a long and enthusiastic shout out to Real Groovy Records.

So, although both he and the audience (I include myself) were a tad long in the tooth, Johnny Cooper Clarke proved he still had the charm, the timing and the wit of a man half his age.

Marty Duda

photos courtesy Jonathan Ganley