It’s fair to say that John Cooper Clarke has changed the face poetry over the years with verse about everyday stuff, comedy, a Salfordian machine gun style delivery and an iconic look of spikes hair, sunglasses and a self-described appearance as a “malnourished silhouette”.
From his Higher Broughton roots, which provided the inspiration for some of his best known poems, Beasley Street and Chickentown, Johnny has gone on to be an Honorary Doctor at Salford University and in 2023 was given the freedom of the city of Salford as one of its most famous sons.
Meanwhile, the verses have kept on coming, with his last book, The Luckiest Guy Alive (with a cover by pop artist Peter Blake) being lauded by the likes of Kate Moss, Steve Coogan and Paul McCartney, who said “long may his slender frame and spiky top produce words and deeds that keep us on our toes and alive to the wonders of the world…”
The book was the first for over three decades, after Ten Years In An Open Necked Shirt, and was followed by his must-read autobiography, I Wanna Be Yours, named after the poem which ended up on the GCSE English Literature syllabus… “My poems are never finished, only abandoned” he wrote in the book, which details his life from being a lab technician at Salford Tech, to doing adverts for Sugar Puffs – ‘serious pop art’ – and his near death experiences with drugs.
‘I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours…’
As Hooky commented, “John is a true survivor. Even after a nuclear war it will be him and the cockroaches…”