Review: John Cooper Clarke – The Pavilion, Cork, 21.05.14

John Cooper Clarke: 'I don't visit any gymnasia.'

Words: Ralph Mexico

We’ve been mourning the decline (“with some Thunderbird wine”) of song-titles for the last thirty years. Since Duran Duran ceased to bestride the charts like lip-sticked giants and took the likes of ‘New Moon On Monday’ and ‘Union Of The Snake’ with them, pop’s ability to come up with genius names for tunes has hit the skids.
With eight words in The Pavilion last week, John Cooper Clarke revived “The Art of the Great Song Title” in one fell, foul swoop.

Before reciting the song/poem, John Cooper Clarke explained how he’d been a martyr to drugs for too long but was now straight. Any time he returned to Manchester (“where taking drugs is obligatory”) he’d get hassled by his junkie friends about the weight he was putting on now he was off the gear. (For those of you unfamiliar with the stick-insect thinness of John Cooper Clarke, let’s just say that him putting on weight is an impossibility along the lines of “Ming” Flanagan speaking with a posh middle England accent.)

Dr Clarke (so-called as he received an honorary degree from the University of Salford last year) decided to write a piece about what these junkies said when they slagged him off. The title is perfect. Eight words. Twenty-Seven letters. One comma. Maybe an exclamation mark. The song is called…

‘Get Back On The Drugs, You Fat Fuck’.

If you don’t find that funny I’ll slap you upside t’head with a vinyl copy of Seven & The Ragged Tiger.

This fabulous piece arrived half-way through another legendary John Cooper Clarke show. Take a deep breath ‘cos here’s a roll-call in no particular order of some highlights:

‘Hire Car’ (the best kind of car, you can “bang it, prang it, It’s a hire car, baby”); a chat about how band names ending in “ones” are the best; the immortal ‘Beasley Street’, followed by its updated, upmarket cousin ‘Beasley Boulevard’ that mentions hair salons and “urban splash-art”; a limerick about two ugly sisters from Fordham who went for a walk out of boredom (and their meeting with a sex pest who “ignored ‘em”); the brilliantly awful gangster impressions (“I’m a talented impressionist – not the kind that would trouble Paul Gauguin”); a murder of haikus; the short but hilarious ‘Necrophilia’; a full-on row with a guy in the crowd who claimed that parts of Moby Dick was shot in Cork City and not in Youghal as Dr Clarke said; the one from The Sopranos(‘Evidently Chickentown’); the one from Arctic Monkeys (‘I Wanna Be Yours’); a short treatise about why butch lorry drivers shouldn’t have sex change operations (“I mean if you’re a doctor and some guy comes in and says he’s Napoleon you don’t give him a white horse and tell him to invade Russia”); ‘She’s Got A Metal Plate In Her Head’; jokes about Irish people not being anorexic; jokes about Lada cars; tales about Richard Hell; and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on.

Who cares if Dr Clarke was more than a little drunk and tended to ramble? This man is such a star that he gets introduced on-stage every night by Johnny Green, author of one of the forty-four greatest books ever written about punk (A Riot Of Their Own documenting Green’s days as roadie with The Clash), and his support act is a Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, who everyone will know a whole lot more about pretty soon when his paean to Tony Wilson gets placed on the Leaving Certificate curriculum.

It was The Pavilion. It was a Wednesday night in Cork. John Cooper Clarke was brilliant. And he gave us “Get Back On The Drugs, You Fat Fuck”. What more do you want?

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Editors:
Conor O'Toole
Graham Lynch