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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Rock bottom and back: the rough-edged career of Robert Wyatt

Different Every Time: the Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt 
Soul survivor: Robert Wyatt in 2009Marcus O’Dair
Serpent’s Tail, 460pp, £20
Robert Wyatt, with his high, reedy voice, is an acquired taste for some. “Shipbuilding”, a song written for him by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer, was released in 1982 shortly after the Falklands war and questioned the validity of Britain’s conflict with Argentina. Its jazz-inflected piano and other-worldly melancholy were unlike much else committed to vinyl in those post-punk years. Over the half-century of his career as a musician, Wyatt has belonged to no musical coterie; at his home in the market town of Louth in Lincolnshire, he has simply ploughed his own furrow.
In 1973, severely drunk, he fell from a fourth-floor window at a party in London and was left paralysed from the waist down. Confined to a wheelchair, Wyatt might have renounced music altogether but, bravely, he appeared on Top of the Pops to sing Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” the following year. Paraplegia has not often, if ever, been a source of misery or complaint to him (“I’m a sit-down comedian,” he says). His 1974 solo album, Rock Bottom, was a work of rare, shimmering beauty and emotional candour. Rarely has British pop communicated such a hushed intensity of emotion.
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