Speakers’ Corner – Obsession, music, and age

Hands up.  I’m obsessing just now with rock band, Artic Monkeys – topical, as they’re headlining at Glastonbury Festival this summer, with other all-male headliners.

My obsession started in January after listening to reams of lyrical Kate Bush, (she was my top play on Spotify for 2022) and listening to John studying poetry on his Creative Writing course.  I had an ear to some of the poetry he was reading and to his own efforts.  I thought that poetry is amazing, and I love the Artic Monkey’s version of John Cooper Clark’s poem, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.

I Wanna Be Yours
I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your raincoat
For those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
When you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
Take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
You’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
Hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
That’s how deep is my devotion

John Cooper Clark

I’ve just been listening to a Guardian podcast and it said that poetry is one of the most accessible forms of expression and they were sure that everyone has had a go at writing poetry once in their lives.  I did once at school. But my sentiment is with a birthday card my sister sent to John earlier in the year, which said: ‘It has always been my desire to write poetry, but I find it incredibly f*@king difficult’

The podcast (25 March) stated that Clark’s poem is approaching 1 billion listens on Spotify.  Part in thanks to the Artic Monkeys rendition, the poem being on the school curriculum, and that it is the poem to recite at weddings.  Its wide appeal now sees it being one of the world’s most popular poems.

Again, it was my sister, texting me to say what a great opening line: ‘Well, oh, they might wear classic Reeboks. Or knackered Converse or tracky bottoms tucked in socks’, is?  I didn’t know what she was talking about?  A Certain Romance, she said, an Artic Monkeys early hit?  No, I didn’t know.  She’s a lot younger than me.  So, I listened to A Certain Romance, a song, Artic Monkey’s lead singer, Alex Turner wrote when he was a teenager.  I loved the opening explosive music, Turner’s dulcet northern tones and, paying close attention to the lyrics, I was smitten.  It’s poetry.

Since then, I’ve been obsessively listening to all Artic Monkeys’ albums and Turner’s arm’s length band, The Last Shadow Puppets, and there isn’t a song I don’t like.  I haven’t been this obsessed with music since…. well, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Adele, and maybe…. Back in the day, The Bay City Rollers. 

If we think that songs aren’t that far from poetry, my thought is that Turner, with his observational lyrics are a form of poetry?     

Turner is a storyteller of human behaviour and early on, of northern youth culture from his home city of Sheffield.  He writes of love, lost relationships, and age, with lots of nostalgia thrown in. Their first album ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’, in 2006 – takes its title from 1960’s gritty northern realism and the book and film by Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, staring Albert Finney and ‘whatever people say I am…,’ is a quote by his angry young man character.   Artic’s debut album was a stunner of tales of pub and club culture over a weekend told from the perspective of young northerners. (Sorry if you already knew this!  I didn’t.)  But youth, hey?

It also helps that the Artic Monkeys – a fab four from Sheffield, are excellent musicians – with lots of nods to influences from previous decades – The Beatles, The Stones, Black Sabbath, The Jam, The Police and Duran Duran.  The beauty of music is that it is pan-generational and no matter one’s age, you can appreciate the work and sentiment of any decade.  Music echoes everyone’s lives. 

In being an exceptional writer, poet or lyricist, I wonder if there is ever an issue in not being able to stop forming words.  Artic Monkeys are on their seventh album, The Car, and it is a relationship wrangler for the 30 somethings.  I can’t wait to hear what Alex Turner will be writing when he’s 64, because love isn’t just the preserve of the young.   

John Cooper Clark, now in his seventies, still delivers his performance poetry and in October 2020 published his autobiography, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.