John Cooper Clarke – i wanna be yours

John Cooper Clarke – i wanna be yours

Now this brings back some happy memories for me, to see this included in one of the latest anthologies. I remember teaching this well over a decade ago and loving the language of this punk performance poet. The likes of Armitage and Duffy may give us the likes of a clown who is a punk and someone called Salome who acts in more disparate ways than her predecessor, but when it comes to performance poetry, as far as this teacher is concerned, JCC is God! Normally, I stress not using the words “I” and “my” in essays, but I am not sure I can do that here because this one is so personal to me.

So, here is his rather simple little poem. Let’s see what you think.

i wanna be yours
let me be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
let me be your ford cortina
i will never rust
if you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
you call the shots
i wanna be yours

let me be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
let me be your dreamboat
when you wanna sail away
let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
i don’t care i wanna be yours

let me be your electric meter
i will not run out
let me be the electric heater
you get cold without
let me be your setting lotion
hold your hair with deep devotion
deep as the deep
atlantic ocean
that’s how deep is my emotion
deep deep deep deep de deep deep
i don’t wanna be hers
i wanna be yours

John Cooper Clarke


Now, when it comes to poems, these are the ones I love; free verse, no punctuation, just loads of enjambement to let you know when to take a pause [at the end of each line]. This is such a wonderful little poem when you look at it more closely because Cooper Clarke is saying to the person he is writing to, the love of his life, that he wants to be the normal things to her [or him] rather than the special, the mundane rather than the extraordinary.

If we think about it, we tend to think about the ones we love in terms of us being the best person for them, offering them the very best in love that we can every day so that they can know the true beauty of real love in their relationship with us, but we do not tend to think in terms of the ordinary things like a “vacuum cleaner” or an ageing “Ford Cortina,” [an old car last made in the 1970s, I believe, although I am no doubt wrong there].

ford-cortina-mk3-1Ford Cortina Mk3

But John Cooper Clarke writes this poem saying that he wants to be like the vacuum cleaner “breathing in your dust” and like the Cortina because, in his words, “i will never rust. Simple rhymes used to great effect are so effective in any poem and here, Cooper Clarke does this so well. The very idea of the normal being used to say he will be the perfect lover is so simple a message that it shows the simplicity of the English language in all its glory. But it also shows just how much this person means to him, or indeed, if he has written it as if someone else was speaking, for that person to the one they love. It is a message that we can all adopt in our relationships, so that we can say “if you like your coffee hot let me be your coffee pot” and mean every vowel and every consonant as we specify that we will be the one thing for that person that she, or he, would want from us.


At the end of the day, the speaker is saying that in this relationship, it is a case of “you call the shots” because in the big scheme of things, all the speaker needs to share with the loved one is the message “i wanna be yours.” What better message can there be for someone whom we love? What better way to stress the importance of their love in the relationship that we have and exist in. In the first verse alone, there is a symmetry to the words that is sublime in its simplicity but also sharing such a powerful emotion, such as love for another.

Then, in the second verse, this style and structure is repeated, offering another item of ordinariness in the idea of something that can protect us from the harshness of the inclement weather we seem to have in the United Kingdom all the time. The speaker says “let me be your raincoat for those frequent rainy days,” offering us the image of the raincoat that covers a multitude of sins and keeps us warm when we are in the face of harsh weather and a driving wind. Sometimes, those driving winds can be more than mere weather. They can be pressure from family that they believe we are entering into the wrong kind of relationship, or from friends because they think they know our heart better than we do. To this, the speaker adds “let me be your dreamboat when you wanna sail away” and the tenderness of “let me be your teddy bear” so that you can “take me with you anywhere.” Once again, the simplicity of the imagery shows how he wants to be all things to this person. The saying being “all things to all persons” is being adopted here because, as he specifies at the end of the verse, “i don’t care i wanna be yours.”

The sense of ownership is one that Cooper Clarke is investigating so well because he sees himself as not being able to live without this person, whoever they are. I love the last verse in particular, because he uses such things as heaters that we use in the home to share his love for this special person in his life. Thus, “let me be your electric meter” is such a fantastic idea because he believes that he will not run out”  and leave his lover in the mire of not being able to lead a normal, healthy life without him. Now some would say here that such a person could be seen as being rather OCD in terms of wanting such a closeness in their relationship, but at the end of all things, he is specifying that he wants to be all things to this person, the perfect partner that he can be.


Then he adds “let me be the electric heater,” because “you get cold without” one in your life. Once again, what a fantastic way to share your love for someone! And I am sure that anyone who uses product in their hair will understand the next one on the list as well, for he says “let me be your setting lotion” so that he can “hold your hair with deep devotion” for as long as needs be, in order to keep this image he has of her [or him] in his mind; the picture of perfection. That is how I see my wife, especially after thirty years of marriage and that is how this speaker sees the person in his life; someone he can offer love to that is as “deep as the deep atlantic ocean.” Such is the extent of his love for this person. The depth of love is thus measured in terms of the mundane and the every day, to show the depth of his “emotion.”


Then we get to the end, which can cause some fun when read out by Year 10 in a classroom setting, for when we try to read the line that goes “deep deep deep deep de deep deep,” we fall into a fit of hysterics, not really thinking or understanding the performance aspect of Cooper Clarke’s poetry. When he does this, it is meant to sound like a song in the middle, where sometimes, the singer sings words like this to keep the melody going. At the end of all things, we want to be the perfect partner to the one we love and it is this message that is then twisted at the end when we see the words “i don’t wanna be hers.” These words suggest that there is a sense of the loved one seeing someone else in the equation and being jealous and the poet simply stressing that he does not wish to be someone else’s love, but instead, he wants to “be yours,” which in essence is a slightly odd ending, thinking that it has been to this point about one person’s thoughts of love to another, but now, there seems to be a sense of him explaining that the third person in the relationship is, in his thinking, irrelevant. On the whole, this is an excellent poem that shares the nature of a loving relationship in the ways that other poets have never done, but one has to consider just how much John Cooper Clarke is able to share these feelings of love and passion in the simplicity of the mundaneness of the English language.

Bravo Mr Clarke. What a poem!