The best of The Bard


JCC book

Punk, poet, pioneer. That is how John Cooper Clarke is known to most of us. You can also call him The Bard of Salford or the name behind the hairstyle. This latest edition of his seminal works Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt has been reprinted over 25 years after it was first published yet it is as relevant today as it was back then.

Accompanied by Steve Maguire’s superb illustrations, the hipster poet’s performance verse still resounds today with his bitingly satirical and funny depictions of people struggling through hard times. He was the voice of the punk generation but he can equally speak on behalf of this one.

As author Roddy Doyle says: “Football is the only sport, Guinness is the only drink and John Cooper Clarke is the only poet.”

Though compact, this book collects together almost fifty John Cooper Clarke hits including; I Wanna be Yours, Evidently Chicken Town and Beesley Street.


Here are some of my favourite verses:

From Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt – “Mother Cyrene was everything rancid to Lenny, her mouth a malignant slit in the murderous mask she called a face, her cheesey breath steaming up his spectacles, her eyes like mobile ball bearings – their colour left a mechanical taste in the mouth.”

“The carpet was monotonous, its pattern gave the impression of a small animal crapping at regular intervals.”

From The Ghost of Al Capone – I call for a cop he said stop I’ll shoot, one or two holes in your three piece suit, I say steady on old fruit, he told me not to be so cute, consider the river and the concrete boots.

From The Day My Pad Went Mad – The day my pad went mad, the kitchen had been ransacked, ski trails in the hall, a chicken had been dansacked, and thrown against the wall, in walks this dumb waiter, with a fountain pen and pad, saying how do you want this alligator, the day my pad went mad.

From A Love Story in Reverse – You give me the horrors, too bad to be true, all of my tomorrows, are lousy cos of you, you put the cunt in Scunthorpe, you put the pain in Spain, happy days are done for and you’re the one to blame.

From Drive She Said – She wore leatherette jeans, airwear shoes, I never yet seen, such a rare hairdo, a natty dread, with a borstal crop, drive she said, I’ll tell you when to stop.

Fantastic performance poetry throughout. Catch him on tour this year


Notes on the author – John Cooper Clarke

  • JCC toured with all the Punk greats in the 70s – The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Buzzcocks included
  • Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt was the bestselling poetry book of the 1980s and is reprinted every few years
  • Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Plan B, Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) and comedian Steve Coogan still name check him as a major influence on their lives and careers. Alex Turner even has a JCC tattoo!

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