To me, Ivor Cutler was simply the author of the children’s book Meal One, in which a child and his mother find ways of coping as the plum stone the boy has dropped down a crack in the floorboards rapidly grows into a tree and takes over the house. It was charming and yet slightly unsettling at the same time.
By the end of Ivor Cutler by KT Tunstall – Sky Arts’ beautiful, heartfelt love letter from the singer to the poet/singer/humorist/unimpeachable link in the chain of great British eccentrics, and her long-time idol – I knew a lot more. Including that Meal One perhaps contains the essence of what turned out to be a charming and yet slightly unsettling man, whose career grew and flourished for nearly 60 years and which he seems to have at times allowed to take over his house.
Born Isadore Cutler in 1923 into a well-off Jewish family in Govan, Glasgow, he joined the RAF during the second world war until he was found sketching clouds in mid-air and dismissed for being “too dreamy”. Postwar, he became an inspired and inspiring teacher who, informed by the poverty he saw around him and the antisemitic bullying he had suffered growing up, couldn’t bear the then-routine corporal punishment of students.
But his life, he said, didn’t really begin until he moved to London in 1950 and started to find his creative way and voice, and build the career that best suited both, gathering passionate devotees along the way via radio and television appearances and live concerts. They encompassed poetry, prose and songs – daftness and melancholy suffusing the whole – as he accompanied himself on the harmonium and piano. Several books appeared, too. Tunstall reads out parts of Life in a Scotch Sitting Room Vol 2 (there was no Volume 1) through tears of laughter. Her own memories of being dragged out walking with her family give his descriptions of such excursions extra torque as his deadpan, Chic Murrayish tones filled the air. “Mother became descriptive. ‘Look! A patch of grass.’”
Many of the biggest names in Scottish music have gathered to explore the imaginary kingdom where Ivor Cutler’s career began, discovers Sean Guthrie
I asked Paul McCartney,” says Matt Brennan, eyes lighting up. “I found an email for his manager and I thought: you know what? We’d collected so many musicians we’d never thought there would be any chance of getting. Very generously his manager did reply and said: ‘Paul is working on his own projects right now, but he’s a keen supporter of Mr Cutler.’ I thought: good on him.”
Mr Cutler, of course, being Ivor Cutler, the Scottish humorist, poet and songwriter who appeared in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour at McCartney’s behest and whose influence on the Fab Four is indisputable (more of which later). He is also the inspiration behind Return to Y’Hup, a thrillingly picaresque compendium of Cutler’s songs and poetry driven by Brennan and friends, and featuring a lengthy list of the great and good of contemporary Scottish music. Continue reading →
Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie present a feast of great music and chat for weekend breakfast
Ahead of Burns Night later today, this morning’s Radcliffe and Maconie Show celebrates some of the best music to come out of Scotland.
Today’s guest is Stuart Braithwaite of Glasgow post-rock band Mogwai. He joins Mark and Stuart to talk about the Ivor Cutler tribute show he’s involved in, celebrating the Scottish humorist, poet, philosopher and surrealist’s career and legacy.
Part of this year’s Celtic Connections Festival, the tribute show brings together some of Scotland’s top indie, folk, rock and pop artists including Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, Kris Drever, Karine Polwart and Emma Pollock to play an array of Cutler’s compositions.
Also on today’s show… Clare Crane has the latest music and entertainment stories in ‘This Week In Music’.Plus music from The Blue Nile, Teenage Fanclub, Kathryn Joseph and Camera Obscura.
Some of Scotland’s finest musicians step up to interpret the work of the late, great Ivor Cutler, and his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal, writes Fiona Shepherd
Ivor Cutler was a true one-off. The Glasgow-born surrealist, storyteller and sage may have been the epitome of the outsider artist but his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal.
Which is probably why the quartet of musicians at the core of this tribute album – Citizen Bravo’s Matt Brennan, Raymond MacDonald of Glasgow Improvisers’ Orchestra, guitarist Malcolm Benzie and Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan – had no difficulty in attracting a host of mostly Scottish musicians to the project, from practised storytellers such as Kris Drever to idiosyncratic stylists such as Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.
The singular spirit of Cutler is evoked throughout Return to Y’Hup, not least in the use of Cutler’s own harmonium and the love and respect accorded to his writing across the board.
Cutler’s partner Phyllis King gives her implicit blessing with a recitation of Latitude and Longitude, while Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, James Yorkston, BMX Bandits’ frontman Duglas T Stewart and Robert Wyatt apply their distinctive speaking voices to their respective nuggets of wry insight, which never outstay their welcome, only whetting the appetite for more. Continue reading →