Ivor Cutler was a poet, humorist, singer/song-writer, and performer, who was, by his own admission, “never knowingly understood.” Born into a Jewish middle-class family, in Glasgow’s south side, Cutler claimed his life was shaped by the birth of younger brother:
“He took my place as the center of the Universe. Without that I would not have been so screwed up as I am and therefore as creative. Without a kid brother I would have been quite dull, I think.”
Being so usurped, the young Cutler attempted to bash his brother’s brains in with a poker. Thankfully, an observant aunt stopped him. As more siblings were born, another brother and two sisters, Cutler’s resentment lessened after he discovered poetry and music. When he was five, he discovered politics after witnessing the bare-foot poverty of his school friends, and aligned himself to the Left thereafter.
After school, he worked at various jobs before he settled as a school teacher, teaching 7-11-year-olds music and poetry. His work with children inspired and reinforced his own unique view of the world:
He recalled how, in an art class, “one boy drew an ass that didn’t have four legs, but 14. I asked him why and he said it looked better that way. I wanted to lift him out of his cage and put my arms around him, but my intellect told me not to, which was lucky, because I probably would have been sent to prison.”
In the 1950s, Cutler started submitting his poetry to magazines and radio, and soon became a favorite on the BBC. His poetry was filled with “childlike wonder of the world”, created through the process of “bypassing the intellect.” He was, by his own account, a “stupid genius,” , as the London Times explained
Such genius derived from his ability to view life from the opposite direction to that taken by society, and his ability to empathise with the implications of that viewpoint, as in his one-sentence poem: “A fly crouching in a sandwich cannot comprehend why it has become more than ordinarily vulnerable.”
Cutler had a cult following of loyal fans, which included John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who cast him in their The Magical Mystery Tour film; DJ John Peel, who devotedly played Cutler’s releases; Morrissey and more recently Alan McGee and Oasis.
Ivor Cutler: Looking for Truth with a Pin was made shortly before Cutler died. The program has contributions from Paul McCartney, Robert Wyatt, Billy Connolly and Alex Kapranos, and is a fitting testament to the great man, who made life so much more fun. More interesting. More mysterious.
Admittedly, he might not be everyones cup of warmth, but as Cutler said himself:
“Those who come to my gigs probably see life as a child would. It’s those who are busy making themselves into grown-ups, avoiding being a child — they’re the ones who don’t enjoy it.”
I hope you enjoy.
More truth from Mr Cutler’s pin, after the jump…