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John Cooper Clarke: polymath, renaissance man and true enigma

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As the punk-rock poet releases a single with Hugh Cornwell, Dave Simpson celebrates the Salford Sinatra and social commentator adored by Alex Turner

John Cooper Clarke is most often described as a “punk poet” or the “Bard of Salford”. Both descriptions suit him, but there’s so much more to the man who calls himself “Johnny Clarke, the voice behind the haircut”.

His look – bedraggled Dylan barnet, pipe-cleaner legs and ever-present black suit – has been the same for 40 years and made him as instantly identifiable as his voice, that inimitable Salford burr. Along the way, he’s been an actor, a standup comic, an ad voiceover man and an unlikely pop star – first making the Top 40 with 1979’s Gimmix, on, of all things, orange triangular-shaped vinyl.

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