2 October 2012

John Cooper Clarke and John Prescott

The film Evidently...John Cooper Clarke (on TV recently apparently) is to be shown locally soon, followed by an appearance by the man himself. I've seen Clarke perform before, seen the film Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt, and used to love his words: the many defiant 'fuckin''s in 'Evidently Chickentown' (to which the title of the more recent film alludes) that fell foul of the BBC censors in the 1980s; 'Beasley Street', the slum area where 'the rats have all got rickets'; the 'progressive psychiatrist' who recommended suicide to the otherwise unnamed sad case that 'Twat' is addressed to; but most of all, 'Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies / In a box', on 'Beasley Street' again, of course – in the very vicious régime that was Thatcher's, Keith Joseph played a particularly vicious role.

Delivered in an amphetamine rush, this then was John Cooper Clarke's acerbic wit at work: a popular poet who took pot shots at the nasty, the conventional, the hypocritical, the fashionable, the boring – a man whose war on cliché made any similar assaults by the likes of Martin Amis look humdrum, worn out, clichéd even.

Danbert Nobacon is the guy from the anarchist band Chumbawamba who tipped a bucket of water onto John Prescott at the 1998 Brit awards. I'd have thought John Cooper Clarke to be the kind of guy to appreciate that, but far from it: this May, in a Guardian interview, Clarke seems to see Prescott as a champion of the working class, and calls him 'the last politician with integrity'. Yes, that's the same Prescott who's famous for his Jaguars, his mock Tudor beams on Parliamentary expenses, his croquet playing, and who supported Blair in the destruction of Iraq because of all those WMDs that everyone knew the country didn't have. Integrity? Prescott's only slightly less hypocritical than Blair. Surely there's some heavy irony at work here on Clarke's part?

Regrettably, I can't see it. Am I missing something? I fear not, and if this is the case then John Cooper Clarke is no longer funny: he's a disaster.

John Cooper Clarke: Simon Hattenstone interview

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