Fresh off the presses to see I Married a Cult Figure from Salford click here
The Q&A after a recent screening in Salford was videoed and can be seen here
If you want to treat yourself to a DVD featuring the audio tracks plus much more and the unmissable Tea Machine
'I Married a Cult Figure from Salford' is a short comedy video produced by renowned local film-maker John Crumpton. A five-minute epic, it's a story of a thwarted love for eighties' punk poet John Cooper Clarke. It's colourful, well acted, has a terrific music track and is almost always entirely in focus.
It was entirely self-funded i.e. from the film-maker's pocket and cost several hundred pounds to make as cast and crew were paid. Some friends worked for nothing and wouldn't accept payment as they like working with John.
So how in the Internet age of 'free content' does one recoup any money invested?
With great difficulty obviously. We didn't want to charge per download as we didn't want people who were involved to have to pay so we tried a PayPal donate button and it seemed a bit too much like begging so 'Cult Figure' may be the last movie to emerge from the remarkable hive of creativity known as 'KBS Productions'.
Alice Darlington has very kindly set up a FaceBook which can be checked out here
John Cooper-Clarke: My Part in his Downfall
Although John Cooper Clarke is five years younger than myself, at the time John Crumpton and I were making plans for the 'I Married A Cult Figure From Salford' record it seemed that he had always been two years or so ahead of me.
I joined the Manchester Anarchists in 1972, two years after Clarkie had left them; I started writing for 'Voices' in 1977, two years after he stopped contributing to the magazine; and by the time ' cult figure' was released, Clarkie had been putting out records for two years or more.
Although Clarkie and I had never been friends, or acquaintances even, our paths had crossed many times and we'd passed a few words at various gigs and social gatherings around Manchester. I had attended a lot of his performances in the early 70s at the Black Lion on Chapel Street and many other jazz / folk venues around the city. He was good, very good: wrote humorous poems, overflowing with intellect and imagination, which his Salfordian nasal-toned delivery did full justice to - and he looked as cool as fuck.
Regular punters at his gigs knew that he would eventually find a wider audience for his stuff; and even when his poetry began to lose its political bite, we still remained enthralled by his humorous word-play and snappy, ironic delivery.
In the mid 70s Clarkie went off the radar for a while; and when he re-appeared his new-found manager Tosh Ryan, co-founder of Rabid Records, had him pointed in the direction of the then burgeoning Punk market. Clarkie's first record, put out by Rabid, 'Psycle Sluts', was set to a fast jazzy background, and was in itself a little gem.
Rumour in the music press had it that Bob Dylan had heard the record and thought it 'very interesting'. But from then on, despite the broadsheet press giving him plenty of coverage and him signing to a major record label, to my mind the quality of the records he put out went steadily downhill. I went to see him at a couple of punk venues before he upped roots and moved south to Stevenage; and although he still looked the same - except that he was now wearing a tight-fitting suit - and his voice sounded the same, he was delivering his back catalogue of poems at 90 miles per hour; gone were all the subtle nuances and post-ironic humour that he had crafted into his earlier stage performances, putting across to this punter that he didn't give a fuck about his poems any more. (It's easy in hindsight to understand why he was rapidly becoming nothing more than a hollow caricature of his former self; but at that time I wasn't privy to what was happening amongst the insiders on the music scene, and little was I to know that Clarkie had recently acquired a dependency on hard drugs)
So, raging at the thought of such a wasted talent, I considered it fair game to have a pop at Clarkie and the perils of getting oneself lost in showbiz. I probably got the idea for 'Cult Figure' after hearing Mancunian railway poet Joe Smythe reading his poem 'A pop poet is never alone' - at least that's what Joe himself always reckoned, and never tired of reminding me.
I remember performing the poem for the first time at the Manchester Film and Video Workshop's 1978 Christmas party. There were a lot of folk there who were to work on 'The Tea Machine' film that John was hoping to get into production in the New Year. Tosh Ryan also was in attendance; he introduced himself to me after my set, and told me he thought my Clarkie poem, and impersonation, was quite good. John had been hoping to put out a record of 'The Tea Machine' music soundtrack, composed and performed by Steve Hopkins, to coincide with the film's release; and we had talked about putting 'Cult Figure' on the flip-side - so when John struck up a deal with Rocksteady Records, it was all systems go.
Clarkie on a stage Cathy in a rage
Photo by kind permission of Paul Hollyer
I had seen Cathy La Creme and her backing band, the Rhum Ba-Bas, at the Russell Club, and told John that she would be ideal for the lead vocal. Luckily, Steve Hopkins knew Cathy, and was able to get her interested in the project. Incidentally, and ironically, he was one of the 'Invisible Girls' (along with Martin Hannett) and co-wrote and musically arranged many of the backing tracks that accompanied Clarkie on his numerous CBS releases.
We went to Graveyard Studio in Prestwich on a Sunday afternoon to do the 'Cult Figure' track. Steve Hopkins, who was producing the music part of the record, laid down the musicians' tracks first, which seemed to take hours and hours. I had only a few lines to record, interjections in my Clarkie impersonation voice; so I kept myself busy rehearsing them in my head, along with putting away a few cans of lager.
Around about 6 o'clock Steve announced that he needed another synthesiser; someone said we could pick one up from a house out in Rawtenstall. To get away from the tedium of take - after - take, John and I drove over to Rawtenstall to fetch it. During the drive John said he thought we could do with having a bit more of the Clarkie impersonation on the record; and it was during the drive back that I composed the line 'Like a sack of old potatoes, the night has a thousand eyes' - it probably came about through me staring at the lights on the Lancashire hillsides as we sped back to Manchester with the synthesiser and a fresh supply of lager. Cathy and I started laying down the vocal tracks at 9 o'clock.
Around about midnight we both were getting knackered and were hoping we'd finally got the vocals down to everyone's satisfaction; but on listening to the latest playback John said he thought we ought to have one more Clarkie interjection. I went back in the studio without any idea whatsoever as to what I was going to throw in; but when I got my cue, I recited Clarkie's own 'As I was walking down Oxford Road' line from 'Salome Maloney', and the following 'Two hundred quid for an old commode?' slipped out spontaneously - and that was a wrap! One other thing I remember about the recording session: during the evening Alan Wise, Manchester's own New Wave entrepreneur, popped in and started asking questions as to what we were up to; but happily to say, John and I blinded him with science - and not a lot of folk can say that.
Michael Rowe c 8/1/2007