Born in 1949 to George, an engineer and Hilda, an unpublished poet, John spent his childhood growing up in Salford, Lancashire.
After teenage years as a Mod, John served a few jobs including an apprentice engineer, a tailors assistant, a lab technician at Salford Tech, where he was interviewed by another Manchester hero Tony Wilson, for Granada TV and also a lead type compositor. After a stint living in Dorset, John returned to Manchester and started properly on the path for which he would become most famous for; his poetry... working at cabaret clubs and tough venues around the city.
His biting, satirical, political and very funny verse delivered in his rapid-fire performance style resonated with the punk movement that had begun to pick up speed in the late 70s. After touring with most of punk’s seminal and ground breaking bands including the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Fall, and Elvis Costello, to name but a few, he began to draw large crowds in his own right. Joy Division were proud to open for JCC on numerous occasions and New Order later supported him on their first joint Australian tour.
In 1978 JCC signed a major a album deal with CBS Records. His records with the Invisible Girls and produced by Martin Hannett have become acknowledged as masterpieces. The unique fusions of JCC’s poems and The Invisible Girls’ highly original music, created influential records still name checked by people as diverse as Bill Bailey, Jarvis Cocker and Steve Coogan.
He also released a massive collection of his poetry and words “Ten years In An Open Necked Shirt" , which became one of the bestselling poetry books of the1980s. This has finally been reprinted and is now available again.
A figurehead for the movement and all that it encompassed, he became the “Punk Poet” or “The Bard of Salford” .He found himself as one of the leading voices of punk and youth culture of the late 70s. Live, he was performing to thousands across the UK, as crowds gathered with open eyes and ears gazing up at his distinctive, and now iconic visual appearance (tall and thin with a mess of black hair, black sunglasses, drainpipe trousers and cuban-heeled boots) all transfixed as he worked through a catalogue of work taken from his four studio albums and numerous singles.
The decline of punk also saw a decline in John the man. He spent most of the 80s with a serious heroin addiction which saw his output wane dramatically. A tough battle, which thankfully saw him kick the habit in the early 90s.
So what of John now? Aside from being a key orator of British society during this time, his mark is indelibly seen in today’s pop culture. Aside from his fashion style spawning copy-cats all over the country, his effect on modern music has been huge.
His influence needs only to be heard in the satirical and keen social observations of the songs of the Arctic Monkeys (Alex Turner cites JCC as a huge inspiration and John’s work appears in the sleeve of one of their singles as well as Turner apparently having a JCC tattoo), as well as platinum selling Plan B (another keen fan, asking John personally to appear in his directional film debut "Ill Manors", which came out in August 2012, as well as appearing on the soundtrack). Clarke's recording of "Evidently Chickentown’ was also used in the penultimate closing scene of one of modern TV’s most famous and respected television shows, "The Sopranos". JCC featured on BBC Radio 4’s Chain Reaction in August 2011 being interviewed by none other than New Order’s Peter Hook. John then interviewed Kevin Eldon a week later, creating classic radio. JCC is a regular presenter on BBC 6 Music and guests frequently on the Radcliffe and Maconie show.
The revival of the 70s punk phenomenon over the last few years has seen a whole new generation clamouring over John’s work and watched his star rocket once again. Continuing to write new work from his Colchester home, He has a plethora of new poems and monologues which he performs solo, alongside his best known works such as Beasley Street and Evidently Chickentown. His shows are always packed and his audience always leave ecstatic.
JCC had his own film "Evidently John Cooper Clarke" on BBC Four TV in the UK in May 2012, and it is now available on DVD. He appeared as his younger self in the award winning Ian Curtis biopic "Control". He has made a multitude of recent UK and Irish festival appearances including Glastonbury, Latitude, The Green Man, Electric Picnic and many others. He also regularly tours throughout Europe and Australasia and will be making his first visit in eons to the USA in 2013.
No bigger accolade and platitude of his work is that three of his poems are now in the GCSE syllabus, including the remarkable Twat. He is studied by many A-level students and his poetry is prolific within UK and Irish University courses, all ensuring that he will be forever ingrained in the psyche of Britain’s new youth.
One of Britain’s best loved and most important poets and performers, John is as vital now as he was then; He’s not going anywhere. Catch him live coming to your town soon...