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I've never been more famous, or more broke, says punk poet John

"I've never stopped doing gigs. It's been my only source of income for the last 35 years. But it is a much higher profile now ... " The 'Bard of Salford' is explaining his comeback. It's simple, really. John Cooper Clarke is a poet. And if a poet is good enough, they usually end up on a school curriculum.

"I think a lot of it is to do with being on the GCSE syllabus in England," says John, still sporting skinny jeans, sunglasses and a great big shock of dyed black hair. "It brought me to the notice of a whole new generation of fans, some of whom went on to form successful pop groups – Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys and Ben Drew of Plan B. They started dropping my name around in interviews, and people were interested again."

Many consider John a 'punk poet'. He doesn't care what you call him, just so long as you spell his name right. The 64-year-old Mancunian has been trading in erratic and comic performance poetry since the late Seventies when he would open for the Sex Pistols and Joy Division.

Sometimes, this most influential of performers was accompanied by a band. But he much prefers delivering his poetry sans soundtrack ("I've always thought I was better without music").

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Especially in 2013, when folks still love to hear the likes of Beasley Street, Evidently Chickentown and the hilarious Twat in all their brazen, spoken-word glory. Indeed, these past five years have seen the married father-of-one steadily rebuilding that profile of his to a point where the most rock'n'roll poet in town is now in high demand. Not bad for a former heroin addict who practically chucked away his career in the Eighties.

"That was the era of conspicuous consumption, wasn't it? And yuppies. Well, I can tell you, I certainly wasn't a yuppie! Talk about out of step ...

"I should have more money – there's no doubt about that. I can't understand how you can be as famous as me and still be broke," he says, laughing.

Quite often, John is mistaken for a world-famous rock star. You know the one. "On a daily basis," he chuckles. "The last time I was in Dublin, I was in a restaurant, and there was a Norwegian family at the next table. The father didn't ask if I was Ron Wood but he said 'I saw your gig in Oslo last year – terrific'. I didn't want to ruin his holiday so I just went along with it, and sent him away very happy.

"Now he'll go back to Norway and tell all his mates he's been having the craic with one of the Rolling Stones."

John Cooper Clarke is live at the Button Factory on Friday > CHRIS WASSER


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