The Ladette


If I should pass out, think only this of me;
That there’s some piss-stained corner of a town centre
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a smell of sick and curry;
And a Ladette whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her knickers to lower, her flesh to bare,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the lager, snogged by yobs of home

And think, this girl, all dignity shed away,
Bladdered out of her mind, no less
Pukes up on her shoes the vodkas by bartenders given;
Head swimming, dreams of greasy takeaway,
And laughter, boys giving it large, sirens and broken glass;
On the piss, under an English heaven.

(Apologies to Rupert Brooke)

Download: Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees – Leyton Buzzards (mp3)

This is the Night Mail

Can you imagine there was a time when the Post Office had it’s own film unit and they actually created works of art like this? Back in the days when woolen-socked and scabby-kneed little boys all wanted to be train drivers they produced this classic with poetry and music by those two marvelous old buggers W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. It’s just as hard to imagine a time when such great talents would want to make a movie about the public services and make them seem so glamourous and heroic.

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers’ declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston’s or Crawford’s:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

The Bard of Salford


All revolutionary moments in history inspire great poetry, the French Revolution had Wordsworth, the Easter Rising had Yeats, and punk had a snotty rake from Manchester called John Cooper Clarke.

Looking like Bob Dylan if he’d grown up on a diet of fish fingers and cold baked beans, his spittle-flecked, 100mph delivery had the amphetamine rush of punk with the salty language of a northern working man’s club comedian. Thankfully he wasn’t the sort of poet who wrote tortured odes to the painful beauty of council blocks, instead his muse led him up lurid and surreal paths to psycle sluts, homemade porn, monsters from outer space and teenage werewolves.

I wasn’t a huge fan of his studio albums where he read his poems over a rather avant garde musical backdrop provided by post-punk supergroup The Invisible Girls – maybe if he’d been backed by a funk band or drum machine he’d be seen today as a pioneer of white hip hop 20 years before Eminem and The Streets – but it was live that he really dazzled. His act was a cross between Pam Ayres, Johnny Rotten and Les Dawson, confrontational and full of piss and vinegar but funny as hell. Which is why it’s surprising that he only ever put out the one live album, “Walking Back Happiness” from where these four tracks come. This came out in 1979 on 10″ clear vinyl (another reason not to like CDs, they don’t come in different sizes and colours) but has sadly has long been out of print and never reissued.

I’m not going to go into detail about all these but “Twat” deserves special mention, this is a masterpiece of invective (aimed at Michael Heseltine appparently) which should be taught in a class on how to verbally tear someone a new arsehole:

People mention murder,
the moment you arrive.
I’d consider killing you
if I thought you were alive.
You’ve got this slippery quality,
it makes me think of phlegm.
And a dual personality,
I hate both of them.

Sheer bloody poetry, as they say.

Download: Twat – John Cooper Clarke (mp3)
Download: The Bronze Adonis – John Cooper Clarke (mp3)
Download: Gaberdine Angus – John Cooper Clarke (mp3)
Download: Majorca – John Cooper Clarke (mp3)

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The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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