"In the summer of 1981 Siouxsie and the Banshees were playing at Chelmsford Odeon. Gigs in Essex were sparse, so this was a must see event. I didn't even look at who the support was. When the angular, be-suited John Cooper Clarke wandered out into the spotlight I was elated. This was more than poems, it was comedy, new and arcane words, stories, street wisdom all spewing out of this man and his notebook. It was a direct challenge to the audience to pay attention to something, and bless them, they did. A little over thirty years later I got to support him. It was worth the wait."
Plan B (Ben Drew)
"Weirdly it was American crime drama series The Sopranos that introduced me late to England's alternative poet laureate. Towards the end of the final series, in an inspired bit of music placement in television, I heard John's "Chickentown". It grabbed me, leapt straight out of the TV demanding my attention. Here’s this Northerner with a distinctive Manchester accent making what’s effectively a hip-hop record. It was hard enough to get airplay in London if you didn't have the right accent so I thought to myself regardless of how good it obviously is 'how the hell did a Northern rapper manage to get his song played in The Sopranos?'
I typed the lyrics into Google and found the video on Youtube. It was the one shot from inside of a moving train looking out at a grey and dreary city landscape. I couldn't believe it was recorded in the late 70's... This was like listening to the first grime record ever recorded, yet it still sounded fresh and relevant.
By chance I had the opportunity to do a gig with John at the George Pub in Stepney. I was doing a photo shoot there and the landlady and I were having a conversation and John came up. He was scheduled to perform at the pub and she offered me the chance to perform with him. We done the gig together and swapped numbers afterwards and it transpired that John and my godfather Keef Coggins (aka Kirby from Ill Manors) who was at the gig with me, had met each other many years before. We kept in touch after that and I warned John that I would be calling on his services at some point for a film I was trying to get made. John said he'd be delighted to appear in it and so sometime later, when I finally got the green light to shoot the Ill Manors film, I asked John to write something for the soundtrack. That's when he created Pity The Plight. I gave John the scenes in the film that his music now accompanies and he based what he wrote on them. It was an absolute pleasure filming John. I will always regard us working together as one of the coolest collaborations of my career and one I'm most proud of. When we launched the album and the film John came down to London to play it live with us, which was yet another magic moment for me. For someone like myself to have had the chance to work with a legend such as John is rare and for him to turn out to be a lovely human being on top of that is even rarer.
Whether you're discovering John Cooper Clarke late like I did,or have been a fan from the beginning, this box set is a timeless tribute to a unique uncompromising talent."