Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ivor Cutler and his Hollow Doughnut

I flatten my emphasis with some blueband butter and a fistful of lard. The day filters coffee through the bird beak window. A colourless sky harvests tartan curtains to flap about my window. Billowing belly blooms, elephantine and husky like the dragging of nettles across my Grandads knees.

'I could murder a cup of tea.' said Violette nodding at the clock as she waited for the next tick.

'I wasn't born you know,' said Ivor, 'I was baked with a crumpet in a very hot oven in 1923. I landed on the plate on January 15th. It was Scotland you know.'

'What was?' queried Violette

'Where I arrived.'


A harmonium wheezed mournfully. A pair of spoons clattered aggressively cluttering the knife and fork drawer with a dance routine straight out of Carmen.

Cutler the crafty. Cutler the curmudgeon. Cutler the conkers, bonkers by courtesy of the Beat Alls and their Magical Buster Bloodvessel Tour of the provinces, capitals and cities of an academic bent.

'I could sing and you could play the harmonium.' said Ivor to Violette.

'I can't even play the fool,' replied the shady lady, 'play it yourself.' And so he did perform live (performing dead was a skill he hadn't acquired) for Auntie Beeb, writing songs as far back as the late fifties. Teaching by day, and for thrifty years too, and sometimes giving poetry lessons to those you requested it. Potty lessons for the potty as potty he was not.

For sore plenty years he struggled along, writing this, composing that and then with, doughnut by delirium, and  his popularity on the rise he recorded, in 1959, his first fistful of tunes. The E.P., that is an Elongated Player kiddies, was called Ivor Cutler from YHup.  It rankled a few feathers but plucked a good many more. It was a beginning.

Ivor was then seen preceding down a neatly trimmed lane toward a different perspective and much-maligned altitude. His sense of humour, absurd and droll, furnished a room filled with odd little hats, fish hooks (pronounced whoo ks) sticky labels and bashed up banjos. The weight of historical virtue was slipping through his hand like an eel already jellied. His talent crowed and grew as did his cult status. He released his first album. It was 1961 and not yet a Beat All in crossed hairs. The album was called...'Who Tore Your Trousers.' Indeed.

 Oh Yes! Those three brothers, fame, fortune and Fairisle wollen's were mounting the stairs and knocking on Ivor's door. He didn't hear them though as he was playing the piano rather loudly and singing a taut refrain...

"I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat

I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat

The sky is blue, the sun is yellow

I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat

The duck is white, the pond is grey

I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat 

My plough is made of wood

The black earth is soft

I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat

The Share is teak, the handle ash

My plough is made of wood

The black earth is soft

The duck is white, the pond is grey

The sky is blue, the sun is yell - low

I'm walking to a farm to grow wheat

The sun is yellow to grow wheat

Ye - l - l - - ow"

'I think I might have hit,' he said to Violette who 

was polishing one.

'A hit?' said Violette, 'You mean like those Beadles?'

And then Paul in his Macintosh spotted Ivor playing his.

'You can drive my bus.' said the pretty Liverpudlian. And 

Ivor did. Beep, Beep 'n Beep Beep, Yeah.

The Royal Airforce didn't much like him.

'He spends his days dreaming.' they said, 'you'll never get nowhere just dreaming.' 1949 was a fading sandwich of a decade. 

Being a four by two with a sweaty's accent did not bother Ivor one wit for his wit was sharp and having cast himself behind the wheel as Buster Bloodvessel his fame spread like Marmite over crusty bread. John Peel played him ("Thanks to Peel, I gained a whole new audience, to the amazement of my older fans, who find themselves among 16-to-35s in theatres, and wonder where they came from"), Robert Wyatt asked him to contribute, bucket and spade and all, to 'Rock Bottom' which he gladly did adding his own sense of whimsy.

"Life in a Scotch Living Room" is well worth digging out (if you can find it) as is "Jimmy Smears" especially first track "Bicarbonate of Chicken." The latter features Phyllis King. She being the love of his life even if. I find her words on this album, sort of prose poetry, quite wonderful. They sort of compliment Cutler's preposterous songs and words.

Ivor shuffled off in 2006. Signs of him playing the harmonium with Elvis in Glasgow have not been confirmed.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Koni Ramm said...

I find Ivor charming. The circumstances of his birth wouldn't even raise an eyebrow in the Netherworld!

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog