Wednesday, November 30, 2016

John Cooper Clarke and Hugh Cornwell

30 November 2016

Harpo Marx’s autobiography was famously titled ‘Harpo Speaks!’ – a witty play on the one thing you thought you knew about Harpo. (It’s a great book by the way, which taught me much about both croquet and chess.) Saturday’s gig at The Junction in Cambridge might similarly have been billed as ‘John Cooper Clarke Sings!’. The punk poet of Salford (who we saw last year supporting Squeeze – reviewed here in October 2015) has recorded an album of classic rock ‘n’ roll songs (‘This Time It’s Personal’) with Hugh Cornwell (former lead singer of The Stranglers) which they are now touring. I had expected it to be more of a double act but Cornwell, and his excellent band, were clearly backing John Cooper Clarke who was very much the main attraction. His surprisingly strong baritone voice worked well with the punkish interpretation of well-chosen classics including ‘Johnny Remember Me’, ‘Wait Down Yonder in New Orleans’ and ‘It’s Only Make Believe’. And, although, the welcome discovery that John Cooper Clarke really can sing gradually gave way to the realisation that he can’t sing that well, his engaging personality made for a fun evening. He has a very dry sense of humour and a great way with words, dedicating ‘Spanish Harlem’ to that late great ‘Spanianista’, Fidel Castro, and suggesting his version of the Ritchie Valens song ‘Donna’ was being offered as reparations to the Mexican people for the damage done by Marty Wilde’s interpretation. And his rendition of ‘MacArthur Park’ (made famous by that other non-singer, Richard Harris) was a highlight of the evening, see:

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