Tuesday, April 11, 2006
This one's for Super Robertson—Robert Wyatt singing "I'm a Believer" on Top of the Pops, a performance the BBC didn't air at the time (1974) because the sight of a paraplegic singing on television might have upset sensitive viewers...or something. Too bad about the prat doing the voiceover at the end. Seeing Wyatt blithely singing away while teenagers dance (not to mention Nick Mason on drums) more than makes up for it. Inspiring!
I first heard Wyatt's take on Neil Diamond's Monkees hit last year, after buying Solar Flares Burn For You, an odds and sods collection of Robert Wyatt material on Cuneiform Records. The album comprises two BBC Radio sessions from 1972 and 1974, a soundtrack for a short film (the title track), and three home recordings from 2002–2003, just to stop things from getting too nostalgic. The 1974 session is brilliant—Wyatt alone at a piano playing "Alifib" (shattering), and a more fleshed-out version of "Sea Song" from Rock Bottom, along with "Soup Song" and "I'm a Believer." The rest of the album is pretty inconsistent, from the abstract sounds of the title track to the silly "We Got an Arts Council Grant," to the cloying-yet-heartfelt "Little Child" (a song sung by Wyatt's childhood hero Danny Kaye), to the groovy loop-based jam "Twas Brillig" from 2002–2003. While they're inconsistent in terms of flowing together as a coherent album, each track is as defiantly eccentric and unique as its creator.
My Sunday rhythm-section teammate Christian Scum lent me a few Mojo mags last weekend, including the November 2005 issue which features a lengthy Wyatt interview. The inspiring quotes fly thick and fast: "I do have an intense greediness for stimuli. I get bored quickly. But I'm really scared of breaking the law. Pathetic, isn't it?" Or "I'd love to be a perfectionist. I always think I am until I hear the results, then I realise I'm not."