Oh I did have a good time the other night. It is always good to remind oneself that sobriety may also bring euphoria; that sharing a moment with friends when clarity and understanding prevails is just as good as getting leathered and singing loudly. Though I’m not going to give up the latter, unless one day I have to. As John Cooper Clarke said in the live stream from Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema after a documentary about him shown at Cornerhouse Manchester: “They don’t like you saying it on the telly but drugs are great.”
I had watched the documentary before and so I was really there for the live stream Q&A with JCC. This is one in a list of great live streams organised by Cinema Arts Network (CAN) – but watching the documentary with an audience, something became apparent to me. It was in the way that Donnie Sutherland was laughing at John reading out Twat on After Dark in ’82. Sutherland seemed uncomfortable, a bit scared and embarrassed, but there was also something about the way some of the audience at Cornerhouse were laughing at Plan B talking about working with JCC on his film Ill Manors… like we all understand he was a “fucking rotter”. It got me thinking.
I believe that the young boys and girls who like dubstep/drum ‘n’ base, that crowd- and this has no doubt changed in music definition since I decided on my labelling – are the new punk rockers. No one outside their clan can stand/understand them. They hate their jargon, hate their music and hate their attitude. There is a kind of sneer and fear undercurrent whenever they are regarded by anyone who isn’t into the same things they are. There is a distinct difference between how people regard them and their taste in music than with any other music around. It’s the same way older generations and those who didn’t get it at the time used to regard Punk. Type in Crazy Dubstep Mosh Pit Wall of Death on You Tube and tell me that’s not Punk.
In the documentary, Ben Drew (Plan B) that he was in awe when he heard John’s poems, and was even more made-up when he found out John had heard of him and liked his work. Some audience members at Cornerhouse giggled and tutted at his choice of words and at his arrogance. But when Alex Turner (from the Arctic Monkeys) spoke about how he had been inspired by a JCC poem in GCSE English, and how that had inspired his lyrics, there was no reaction at all.
It’s not a huge leap of the imagination to see JCC and Drew working together, Drew’s film Ill Manors is Beasely Street, surely? Of Drew’s film, JCC said: “would you wanna see it twice?” He added that he calls it the “Strange Fruit Syndrome”. It was clear that JCC has a lot of respect for Drew, calling him “the hardest working man in showbiz now that James Brown’s died, he’s always doing summat”. On the film itself and his contribution JCC commented: “[The film] is written in the street argot of the London estate kid.” JCC knew he could never truly replicate their dialogue or be an expert at that particular language so he decided to veer off and look on the scenes and the characters from a grandiose height of experience and empathy. He underscores the actions with a lament to their lives that is acrimonious but also a dead pan dedication to the day-to-day tribulations of the young men he observes. Pity the Plight is my new favourite of his. But, unlike Strange Fruit, you can listen to it again and again.
I know I’m not down with these kids, I took an online quiz that told me so. Taking a quiz at all is proof. But I can see, like Johnny Clarke does (they say proof of love for a person is how many nicknames they have) in his poem Pity the Plight, their awful situations: “every man jack of them carries a cloud”. The sneering chorus of disapproval and assumptions that follow them around (“no one expects their assistance, people expect them to stink”) and the plea to look closely and understand, to really see them (“will you not will you not take as you found, would you not, could you not keep them around”). Well, just all of it, it’s a brilliant poem. It needs his voice. So listen to it once in Ill Manors. Or loads on You Tube. I’ve not even put the best bits in.
JCC said being being on tour with punk rock bands was a fucksite easier than being on at the Embassy Club. Even the mention of the word terrifies me. We all have a type of crowd we fear. I would rather sky dive off the Hilton than go on a hen do.
These live streams are great and CAN have more planned so do seek them out. I got done for filming JCC saying my favourite poem. I put my phone away and apologised. Rock and roll.
Review by Cathy Crabb
What: CAN’s Cornerhouse event – Evidently… John Cooper Clarke LIVE!
When: National Poetry Day, October 3, 2013
Where: Cornerhouse, Manchester and venues nationwide (live from the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)