In my opinion the wayward imagination of Ivor Cutler ought to be a national treasure in the UK. A recent Guardian profile referred to his cult so I gather he's not exactly a household name. His bio mentions being drummed out of the RAF during WWII for "dreaminess" as his navigation reports included descriptions of cloud formations. He's probably best know for his bit part in Magical Mystery Tour, playing Buster Bloodvessel, but he has a sort of career going back to the early 60's as a recording artist, children's book author, poet and frequent John Peel guest. The Beatles tried to hire him to tutor their children as he worked in the London school system and before that at Summerhill teaching music and other sundries. He turned them down because his Socialist loyalties made him question why their kids were any more deserving than anyone else's.
His three mid 70's recordings for Virgin, Dandruff, Velvet Donkey and Jammy Smears have just been reissued which is good news for those of us with battered vinyl copies. At 81, he seems as crotchety and eccentric as ever and only a few weeks ago was performing at Queen Elizabeth Hall. His recordings are compendiums of pithy one liners, warped nursery rhymes, absurd ditties sung in a rich Scottish brogue to the accompaniment of harmonium, and comically existential tales of his Glaswegian chidhood. The latter a series he calls Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, I took to be heartbreaking stories of casual brutality until I heard a live recording of him performing them with the audience in absolute stitches and he sounded quite tickled as well. So I realized I wasn't hearing them in quite the spirit they were intended. I wanted to give a flavor of his work. For some of it the audio component is crucial and there are literally a couple hundred pieces to choose from, but I chose this one from Velvet Donkey.
"Once upon a time there were 500 naked men who had a religion called Love God. One day they decided to show God that they loved him by making a loud kissing sound. They would arise simultaneously from their black polyvinyl couches at a prearranged signal. This was made by an atheist slamming his fist into a plank of 8x1 deal. He did it. So they rose simultaneously making a loud kissing sound. God heard it. It brought him to his feet, surprised but pleased. As a reward he made them parthenogenic, but they were so embarrassed that nothing ever came of it."
And this one from I forget which recording, but it's also in one of his myriad little books, Large et Puffy:
When the land tilts, run north. Leave
the family. You are the important one,
the dreamer. The world needs its
dreamers---heads like creamy pump
kins---quiet skin---eyes that swivel
round like smoke---like turquoise---
like bulby grapes---seeing, where
others face an empty flat wall.
The land tilted and I ran South, for
not only did the land tilt the other
way, but no one tells ME what to do. I
ran through snakes in the mud, boiling
heaps of string screaming like a million
kettles and reached a woman kneeling
on a bush in her nightie, terrified. I
leapt up beside her, but only for a
moment, for she was beside herself
and there was no room.
Some Ivor Cutler links:
|A bit of Cutleriana for your dining and dancing pleasure||1022||Briffits||20-Feb-04 11:56|