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Baker's Dozen

Evidently Chicken Supreme: John Cooper Clarke's Favourite Songs
Alex Burrows , November 18th, 2020 11:32

Performance poet, style icon and broadcaster John Cooper Clarke tells Alex Burrows about his most-loved songs of all time and growing up during the birth of rock & roll. Portrait by Paul Wolfgang Webster.


Sam Cooke – ‘Having A Party’
Again, a quality vocal. Singers are everything to me, you’ll notice there isn’t many instrumentals on here. My favourite instrument of all is the human voice. I’m more impressed with singers than guitar players, to be honest. The subject of the song is a teenage party “The Cokes are in the ice box.” So it’s obviously about young people having a house party: popcorn and Coca-Cola; it’s not booze and drugs and sex. It’s a kids’ party, but even so, when he applies his sincere voice to this, it sounds like it’s the most important event in the whole world. You’ve got to get everything right, y’know. “The Cokes are in the icebox / Popcorn's on the table / Me and my baby / We're out here on the floor.” But just the way he sings it – to an adult mind, it’s a trivial situation – but the way he sings it, he means it from the bottom of the heart. That slight melancholic edge to his voice is never far from the surface. Even when he’s singing about twistin’ the night away. You can see why the world of gospel was devastated to lose this person. That’s a voice that could covert the worst sinner! It was a tragedy for the gospel world to lose Sam Cooke to the secular concerns of pop, ha ha ha! He’s talking at the DJ in it. “Play that one called Soul Twist.” That’s what I mean about the utter conviction of his voice. “Play that one called I Know.” It goes straight into your heart. That’s nothing particularly profound about the song at all, except the tone of his voice.