Bard of Salford continues public rehabilitation after celebrity endorsements
When John Cooper Clarke declaimed an epigrammatic ‘why struggle?’ at the opening of his final 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show in his trademark deadpan northern twang, the statement was a typically double-edged mix of the philosophical and the practical. While the be-suited and be-shaded Bard of Salford’s proclamation smacked of existential enquiry, in actual fact the motor-mouthed stick-insect was merely moving a table closer to the microphone in order to rest his bag full of verses on top and within reach.
What followed was a rapid-fire barrage of rhyming vignettes mapping out life’s everyday absurdities with a decidedly surrealist vision. Hire cars, not so wedded bliss with a bug-eyed extra-terrestrial and a verbal picture postcard on the salubrious delights of Greater Manchester’s satellite suburbs were all in the mix, each one punctuated with the driest of one-liners that rounded Cooper Clarke’s act up into the deadliest of routines. All this and slumland grimoir ‘Beasley Street’, a ‘Waste Land’ for the Thatcher generation that was followed by its regenerated sequel, the pithy ‘Beasley Boulevard’. Set in the interior expanse of the inflatable upside down cow that was the Udderbelly, the effect fell somewhere between high-concept Dadaist cabaret and chicken-in-a-basket top light entertainment for grown-ups.
Five months on, and Clarkey’s back, this time in the more bijou subterranean setting of Glasgow’s Arches space to continue a public rehabilitation that has seen him championed by the Arctic Monkeys, while a decade back Christopher Eccleston recited the whole of ‘Evidently Chickentown’ in Danny Boyle’s TV movie, Strumpet. Cooper Clarke was resolutely pragmatic about such praise. ‘It’s good to have Dr Who on your side,’ he had noted, clearly having missed the last two Timelords. ‘It opens up a whole new fanbase among the sci-fi fraternity.’