Sunday, August 2, 2015

No More Heroes? ( A personal view of John Cooper Clarke)

 The Pest

The pest pulled up, propped his pushbike at a pillar box, pulled his 'peen, paused at a post and pissed.

'Piss in the proper place' pronounced a perturbed pedestrian, and presently, this particular part of the planet was plunged into a panorama of public pressure and pleasure through pain.

The pandemonium prompted the police, who patrolled the precinct in panda cars, to pull up and peruse the problem, while pickpockets picked pockets in pairs.

'Arrest the pest who so pointedly pissed in that public place' pleaded the peeved people, practically palpitating.

The powerful police picked up the pest: pronounced him a poof, a pansy, a punk rocker, a pinko, a poodle poker.

They picked him up, pummelled his pelvis, punctured his pipes, played Ping-Pong with his pubic parts, and packed him in a place of penal putrefaction.

The period in prison proved pitiless. The pendulous pressure of a painless personality purge prompted the pest to ponder upon progressive politics... and a workable prognosis.

He put pen to paper and privatively and persuasively propagated his personal political premise -- pity: a police provocateur put poison pellets in the pest's porridge. 

The police provocateur was promoted, and the pest was presented with the Pulitzer peace prize... posthumously.

Those that follow my blog regularly will have come to the conclusion that I have a thing, a fondness, even possibly an obsession with the poetic arts. This fondness has been pretty much a lifelong affair, with very little to hinder its passage from an interest that was kept under wraps as a teen, through to the adult self who will quite happily sing out loud his devotion to this subject - as stated very little, but not completely unhindered.  Growing up in the English secondary school system during the 1970s was a lesson in how not to promote a love of a subject, or in how to dissuade learning and the desire for more knowledge. It was more a case of hammer home the subject matter, with the idea that each nail was a fact that could be quoted verbatim in an exam environment and heaven help the child who thought for themselves. To be fair this maybe only my personal experience & the conditions at the school I attended, and also I can hear you thinking “What has this to do with the poem printed, or the title of this post?”

 Well………. Back to the poetry, at this particular school, we were taught “THE CLASSICS”, by which I mean a few names from the past were dragged out, dusted off, held up like trophies brought back from some Arcadian past and this we were told was poetry. Anything else was not poetry and thus was not suitable to be mentioned, let alone allowed out in the clear light of day. Now although I had a love for certain poets, and have since gained a love/admiration for others, as a teenage male growing up at that point in time it was hard to see how they had a relevance to me, to the world I lived in, to anything that could be described as fitting the socio-political climate, or even the emotional turmoil & frustration of 1970s Britain.

This brings me to the title* No More Heroes? This is a song by an English band The Stranglers, in which they declare there is no one filling the role of hero to the youth of the day; they also ask whatever happened to the heroes, this song came out around the height of the punk era & a time where the youth were redefining their role and relationship with the world around them, so although they state there were no heroes, what was happening was people were searching for new heroes - ones that had relevance to them.

Network South East

It’s so insubstantial, it swerves on the curves.
The noise of the upholstery batters the nerves.
If you were a passenger day after day
you’d pay to have somebody blow you away.
As I travel these tracks I cannot forgive
how I lose by degrees the incentive to live
knowing that vengeance will never be mine
that’s what hurts on the misery line.
Hell on Wheels with go-faster stripes.
These passengers here are the tolerant type
I’d like to see them in seven months’ time
when the shatter-proof windows are splattered with slime
and they've sacked all the fellas who did the repairs
and shovelled the cheeseburgers off the chairs
from germ-free services smelling of pine
now its travel no-class on the misery line.

Around this time saw the rise of certain poets who embraced the punk ethos and who also played alongside the bands of this period, now for someone like me this was wonderful. Here was poetry that had humour, had an edge, that wasn't allowed past the school gates, that my English teacher would have a seizure at had they come into contact with it, and so I found a way that sustained my love of poetry and in the process found a new hero.

John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke (born 25 January 1949) in Salford, Lancashire is an English performance poet. He became interested in poetry after being inspired by a teacher whom he described as "a real outdoor guy, an Ernest Hemingway type, red blooded, literary bloke”. His first job was a laboratory technician at Salford Tech. He began his performance career in Manchester folk clubs, where he began working with Rick Goldstraw and his band The Ferrets.  He first became famous during the punk rock era of the late 1970s when he became known as a "punk poet", releasing several albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s.Clarke toured with Linton Kwesi Johnson, and has performed on the same bill as bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Fall, Joy Division, the Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello and New Order (including at their May 1984 Music for Miners benefit concert at London's Royal Festival Hall). His set is characterised by lively, rapid-fire renditions of his poems, usually performed a cappella. Often referred to as "the bard of Salford", he usually refers to himself on stage as "Johnny Clarke, the name behind the hairstyle". 

His recording of the poem “Evidently Chickentown" from his album Snap, Crackle & Bop was also featured prominently in the closing scene of The Sopranos episode Stage 5. This poem uses repeated profanity to express the hopeless despair and futility felt in certain areas of Britain and the anger and frustration with the way the government were taking the nation politically and ideologically.

Evidently Chickentown 

The fucking cops are fucking keen
To fucking keep it fucking clean
The fucking chief’s a fucking swine
Who fucking draws a fucking line
At fucking fun and fucking games
The fucking kids he fucking blames
Are nowhere to be fucking found
Anywhere in Chickentown

 The fucking scene is fucking sad
The fucking news is fucking bad
The fucking weed is fucking turf
The fucking speed is fucking surf
The fucking folks are fucking daft
Don’t make me fucking laugh
It fucking hurts to look around
Everywhere in Chickentown

 The fucking train is fucking late
You fucking wait you fucking wait
You’re fucking lost and fucking found
Stuck in fucking Chickentown

 The fucking view is fucking vile
For fucking miles and fucking miles
The fucking babies fucking cry
The fucking flowers fucking die
The fucking food is fucking muck
The fucking drains are fucking fucked
The colour scheme is fucking brown
Everywhere in Chickentown

The fucking pubs are fucking dull
The fucking clubs are fucking full
Of fucking girls and fucking guys
With fucking murder in Their eyes
A fucking bloke is fucking stabbed
Waiting for a fucking cab
You fucking stay at fucking home
The fucking neighbours fucking moan
Keep The fucking racket down
This is fucking Chickentown

 The fucking train is fucking late
You fucking wait you fucking wait
You’re fucking lost and fucking found
Stuck in fucking Chickentown

 The fucking pies are fucking old
The fucking chips are fucking cold
The fucking beer is fucking flat
The fucking flats have fucking rats
The fucking clocks are fucking wrong
The fucking days are fucking long
It fucking gets you fucking down
Evidently Chickentown

As you can imagine to a naturally rebellious teenager, this stuff was rocket fuel. The combination of that punk performance attitude and the visceral and yet comic nature summed up how I saw the world and the way those “Older & Better” individuals were taking it. For me John Cooper Clarke, expressed the anger and fear that was prevalent, and in a way that meant I could also express it, he appeared to live that punk anti-establishment ideology, the idea of a nonconformist attitude, you chose your own values, not rigorously bowing to the mainstream, of thinking for yourself and not what those “Older & Betters” state you should think. His poetry shocks, but that’s just splashing in the shallows; there is more humour than harm in his words and also sometimes it needs a shock to wake you up, to make you aware of what is really out there. There are a lot of singers, songwriters & poets who owe a lot to Johnny Clarke and wisely are happy to credit him.

Beasley Street
 Far from crazy pavements – 
The taste of silver spoons
A clinical arrangement
On a dirty afternoon
Where the faecal germs of Mr Freud
Are rendered obsolete
The legal term is null and void
In the case of Beasley Street

In the cheap seats where murder breeds
Somebody is out of breath
Sleep is a luxury they don’t need
– a sneak preview of death
Belladonna is your flower
Manslaughter your meat
Spend a year in a couple of hours
On the edge of Beasley Street

Where the action isn't
That’s where it is
State your position
Vacancies exist
In an X-certificate exercise
 Ex-servicemen excrete
Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies
In a box on Beasley Street

From the boarding houses and the bedsits
Full of accidents and fleas
somebody gets it
where the missing persons freeze
Wearing dead men’s overcoats
You can’t see their feet
A riff joint shuts – opens up
Right down on Beasley Street

Cars collide, colours clash
Disaster movie stuff
For a man with a Fu Manchu moustache
Revenge is not enough
There’s a dead canary on a swivel seat
There’s a rainbow in the road
Meanwhile on Beasley Street

Silence is the code
Hot beneath the collar
An inspector calls
Where the perishing stink of squalor
Impregnates the walls
The rats have all got rickets
They spit through broken teeth
The name of the game is not cricket
Caught out on Beasley Street

The hipster and his hired hat
Drive a borrowed car
Yellow socks and a pink cravat
Nothing La-di-dah
OAP, mother to be
Watch the three-piece suite
When shit-stoppered drains
And crocodile skis
Are seen on Beasley Street

The kingdom of the blind
A one-eyed man is king
Beauty problems are redefined
The doorbells do not ring
A lightbulb bursts like a blister
The only form of heat
Here a fellow sells his sister
Down the river on Beasley Street

The boys are on the wagon
The girls are on the shelf
Their common problem is
That they’re not someone else
The dirt blows out
The dust blows in
You can’t keep it neat
It’s a fully furnished dustbin,
Sixteen Beasley Street

Vince the ageing savage
Betrays no kind of life
But the smell of yesterday’s cabbage
And the ghost of last year’s wife
Through a constant haze
Of deodorant sprays
He says retreat
Alsations dog the dirty days
Down the middle of Beasley Street

 People turn to poison 
 Quick as lager turns to piss
Sweethearts are physically sick
Every time they kiss.
It’s a sociologist’s paradise
Each day repeats
On easy, cheesy, greasy, queasy
Beastly Beasley Street

Eyes dead as vicious fish
Look around for laughs
If I could have just one wish
I would be a photograph
On a permanent Monday morning
Get lost or fall asleep
When the yellow cats are yawning
Around the back of Beasley Street


Brian Joseph said...

This stuff is great. I had read The Pest before but otherwise I was unfamiliar with John Cooper Clarke. I wish that I had also discovered him in ny youth and connected his work to my own discovery of anti- establishment rebelliousness.

No More Heroes is a great song.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian, It is isn't it. He is still around & will be Djing on my favourite radio station in the near future - BBC 6Music. Check out the list below for a lot more of his poetry.

Violet said...

Greetings from another Sociologist's Paradise!

It's kind of depressing that nothing much has changed, thanks to the fucking conservatives. :)

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Violet, this was just before Margaret Thatcher, came into power & we got the total demolition of anything that didn't spout a right wing agenda, even protesting basic student rights issues got you noticed & the newspapers were full of tales of left wing organisations with secret arms caches. The we got Maggie...................

Violet said...

Maggie Thatcher is our current PM's HEROINE, and his conservative government would love nothing better than to emulate what she did. Politics here is poll-driven though, so when they propose something bad and enough people react negatively, they retreat. But, they're chipping away at it. Labor here isn't much better. There's a widening gap between rich and poor in Oz, and there's a poverty-stricken underclass now. Our society used to be quite egalitarian, but the conservatives wrecked that. Bring on the Revolution, I say! :)