John Cooper Clarke on the Arctic Monkeys-inspiring ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ being streamed a billion times

John Cooper Clarke, and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys

John Cooper Clarke has spoken about his poem, I Wanna Be Yours, becoming a worldwide hit after the Arctic Monkeys‘ song adaptation of it has pushed listening into the billions.

The punk poet’s 1982 creation, which featured on his album ‘Zip Style Method’, was covered by the Monkeys for their 2013 album ‘AM‘. It’s since found a new audience on TikTok and will this week pass a billion streams on Spotify.

Clarke, who most recently released a covers album, ‘This Time It’s Personal’, with ex-The Stranglers member Hugh Cornwell in 2016 and shared his first new book of poetry in decades with 2018’s The Luckiest Guy Alive, spoke about the landmark achievement in a new interview.

He told The Guardian in response to news of its billionth stream: “Is that a lot? An American billion is different to a British billion – and I don’t know what either of them is. But it’s a fuck of a lot of listens.”

Clarke’s poem, which Artic Monkeys singer Alex Turner quotes from on the ‘AM’ song of the same name with a few tweaks here and there, has become a staple of wedding readings thanks to its accessible and colloquial romantic lyricism. “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust/ I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust,” read some of its lines.

The poet added to The Guardian that when he stays in a hotel where there’s a wedding happening, quite often the couple will approach him to say his poem was read. Occasionally he delivers it at weddings himself, for friends: “I get a dinner out of it. It is to weddings what Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is to humanist funerals.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Clarke said that he was in love with Artic Monkeys’ version. Besides the cover making him “a lot of PRS” (in reference to royalties), he credits it with boosting his profile, as he tours sizeable UK venues this month.

“I was never actually on the sausage,” he added, using the rhyming slang for the dole. “This is what I do, this is my job, and sometimes I’m doing better business than others. But thanks to a great extent to the lads sticking me into the pop world again, everything has gone from strength to strength.”

John Cooper Clarke
John Cooper Clarke (Picture: Getty)

Moreover, Clarke said he’s most excited by I Wanna Be Yours helping boost poetry itself. “Any work of art,” says Clarke, “that has any lasting, transcendent value – a painting that haunts you through life – you say it’s ‘poetic’. Unlike all the other arts, poetry is the one everyone gives a go.

“I believe everyone’s written a poem at some point. It’s the easiest, most accessible – a pen and a piece of paper and off you go. You don’t even have to be literate – you could record something. But it’s perceived as a minority of a minority who are interested in poetry. I don’t know why it’s got that reputation. Songs aren’t that far from poetry – as Alex [Turner] has pointed out.”

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