WHO IS HE?
I first met Richard Dripping in a Manchester club where I had been booked to do a two part poetry set. For the first half I was dying. The few people in the audience who were listening were not engaging with anything I was saying and I was in danger of becoming a corpse.
I was saved by the break and was left wondering if I wanted to go back on stage or if I should call it a night go home. If I went home though I was not going to be paid so I wanted to find something which would get the audiences attention. As I had learned that attack is often the best form of defense as I went back on stage it was with Richard in tow.
I had been trying to find a new character for a play for some time and had written some really bad poetry for him, so no change there really, but the idea of using the title from one of the poems as the Character name had not occurred to me, neither had portraying him as part of my poetry stand-up routine, but desperate times made me look for desperate answers and Richard stepped out onto the Manchester stage in the second half. For the next twenty minutes he sneered swore spat at generally harangued the audience and when I ran out of the few Richard Dripping poems I had at that time I started to make them up spontaneously and when the Muse deserted me I asked the audience to give me some topics and carried on. I got paid that night and I found a new act
I was born in Liverpool and it was and still is my home and as a scoucer I gave Richard a strong dialect and accent which created some recognizable traits and a few phrases. It was really strange after a stint in LA where I was going on to shout ďalright la (pro; lar).Ē To get it shouted back with gusts of laugher and derision from the audience half of who thought I was taking the Micky out of LA and the other half thinking I was being stupid.
Over the next seven years RD became my act and stayed pretty much the same as I toured the UK and the USA several times with Punk acts including MC for PIL on a few occasions. I stopped and put the character aside after a stint in the USA when Richard was banned in a few places and I felt no longer able to play him. He was an outrageous confrontational punk and, as things were changing, the time and venues for Richard were running out. He played his last gig in the Basement Club, New York in 1982. And that would have been it except for an artist who dressed and performed Richard Dripping material as a form of confrontational street art. He toured his show to many cities round the US and Europe to appear at art festivals in the late 90ís and as a result Richard was invited to do a series of performances and I do an occasional appearance as him today.
From early 1977 for about eighteen months Richard was a regular at Ericís although I think he only did paid gigs on a couple of occasions. I was occasionally asked to MC and do some interaction with the bands. John Cooper Clarke was another poet who was prominent at the time and who was a major name in performance in the UK and although I didnít see him at Ericís I heard he had been to there great acclaim, and of course he continues as one of the big names in performance poetry to this day.
I suppose I remember Ericís best as a customer watching some of my favorite bands rather than as a performer. It is true that as a poet I performed more at other clubs and venues in Liverpool and Manchester, but Ericís was a place I loved. It had an atmosphere which was unique and attracted some of the very best bands in the country at the time and it also helped promote new bands from Liverpool and the North West.
I am sure it was at Ericís that I first heard Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes both went on to be big name bands as did Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark which was another band broken in at Ericís. The bit about Ericís that I always remember has less to do with the music and more to do with the audience. I thought the audiences at Ericís even on a quiet night, and there were not many of those, was one of the most knowledgeable and individualistic I had ever known. That of course reflects the identity of Liverpool and although it was new wave, punk music it took on scouse credentials and was more real than the ďpunkĒ that I saw being played out in London a year or two later. Mostly I think of Punk as being before and after Sid and although it was Johnny Rotten who was seen as the face of punk it was Sid who lived it to death.
In 1982 after a stormy reading in Boston, which led to a near riot as I read a poem about screwing in a school full of 8 year olds. Okay I didn't know they were there, they slid in at the back of the hall when I wasn't looking. The upshot was, I got banned and became a cause for many right thinking leftward leaning folk. This caused my notoriety to rise but made it almost impossible to get booked to appear anywhere.
I did one last tour in late 1982. Then stopped. I started reading and writing poetry under my own name.
It was twenty years before I came out as Richard to perform again. Or put it another way. It took twenty years for people to forget Boston...