I don’t know what was more surprising – the fact that a couple of nights ago I caught myself flat-footedly pounding the streets around my house in a close approximation of what the dog walkers who gave me a wide Covid-mindful berth might’ve called ‘jogging’, or the fact that, mid gasp, John Cooper Clarke‘s Post-War Glamour Girl popped up at random to help soundtrack my wheezy inward journey. Even though I was in sight of my house when the track started, I was sufficiently slow paced that I was able to play it two and a half times before I finally made it to the drive. I stood, catching my breath, sweat pooling out around my neck and upper chest, wondering just what good I’d done myself, as I let it finish for a third time.
It’s a terrific track, a dazzling poem full of measured metre and alliterative imagery, delivered in Clarke’s scattergun Salfordian drawl, shooting from the lip and painting an aural picture of a life less salubrious.
The words – perfect in their own right – are given the chance to shine thanks to the slinky funk bass that bubbles it along like a moonlighting Blockheads in a cocktail bar. The music, played by producer Martin Hannett and Be Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson, is great. There’s a keyboard line stolen from an old Studio One record (the title of which will escape me until 5 minutes after I press ‘publish’) and there’s a textured Talking Heads art-punk guitar line that surfs the wave then dives under the surface, driving the whole thing to its groovy conclusion. If you’re new to the track, prepare to be dazzled…
John Cooper Clarke – Post-War Glamour Girl
JCC came to prominence via the same fertile Manchester punk scene that spewed forth following the Sex Pistols famous Lesser Free Trade Hall show. Instantly recognisable, his image was reflected in his poetry: sharp, cutting and stylish yet rough around the edges, scuffed with asphalt, powered by cheap speed and nicotine, Dylan ’66 drawn in blotchy ink by Ralph Steadman.
Believing – quite rightly, as it turned out – that he could make a living from poetry after seeing Pam Ayres perform on TV, he was the go-to guy for mould-breaking punk and post-punk acts who wanted a different sort of support act.
Fans of Joy Division, Buzzcocks, New Order, The Fall, even Duran Duran’s audience caught JCC in full flight; fag in hand, his battered notebook held out at squinting distance in front of him, all jutting elbows and chiselled chin, Beatle boots on legs rake-thin, a clad-in-black anglepoise lamp, scribbled words through writer’s cramp, with a bird’s nest hairdo, scruffy, entwined, keeping warm his fertile mind, the dark glasses allowing no-one in yet letting all the aura seep out. A true one-of-a-kind. For more on JCC, you could do worse than pay a visit to his Desert Island Discs.
JCC supported The Fall in Irvine in 2004. Did I go? ‘Course not. I have a terrible habit of missing all the interesting gigs in my home town. I did see The Bootleg Beatles though. Totally different songs, but if you’d been able to squint through a spare pair of Clarke’s dark Raybans, I’m sure they’d have looked quite similar.