John Cooper Clarke's moment of fame came in the thick of the punk era, though at the time he said, "My relationship with rock is like Lenny Bruce's with modern jazz - I like the clothes and attitude." While Clarke owed a massive sartorial debt to Bob Dylan (and some attitude debt to Bruce) his oeuvre is pure, amphetamine beat poetry with accompaniment ("I try to talk in tune" he once said), eschewing the vintage folk, blues and gospel which power Dylan's work.
In contrast, Billy Bragg gained little fame during his tenure as leader of '77 punk band Riff Raff but when he returned from driving tanks for the British army to take up arms against Spandau Ballet in the mid eighties he grabbed his nation by the throat. Bragg, to commit an over-simplification, mixed up musical and lyrical elements of the Clash and Bob Dylan till you couldn't tell which was which. Now here, in the midst of his 2009 Canadian tour, he tries that mash-up trick with John Cooper Clarke and Bob Dylan, trying to do Clarke's "Evidently Chickentown" (with the original lyrics) in a Bob Dylan (circa "Desolation Row") style. There's almost four minutes of chit-chatting to begin with but the end result is fascinating.
Fittingly, Bragg praises Clarke as a poet and as Dylan has said, "Everyone admires the poet, no matter if he's a lumberjack, a football player or a car thief. If he's a poet, he'll be admired and respected." Of course this was also the man who said, "I don't call myself a poet because I don't like the word. I'm a trapeze artist." For proof of that statement, here's Dylan working without a net.
P.S Those intrigued by Clarke shouldn't miss his beat-punk cum hip-hop, "Health Fanatic" from Urgh: A Music War.
A big thank you to regular reader/commenter Biopunk without whom this post would never have happened (though he is not to be held responsible for the rambling herein).