Poet, teacher, storyteller, harmonium master, John Peel favourite, inspiration to Franz Ferdinand and bus conductor for The Beatles, Ivor Cutler (1923 – 2006) is a Glasgow legend worth celebrating. Coming up this Sunday, The Glad Community Choir will be doing just that on the southside of the town, performing Cutler’s songs across two performances (a matinee and an evening show), joined by friends including BMX Bandit Duglas T Stewart.
To coincide with the concerts, we asked the writer and journalist Damien Love to root through his archives for us, and he’s unearthed a previously unpublished interview he conducted with the great man, along with another couple of very special Ivor artifacts. Over to Damien…
Back in 1997, having possibly ripped it off from somewhere else first, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a regular feature, and spent a few weeks trying to convince the magazine of a Sunday newspaper to go for it. Email hadn’t kicked in yet and faxes were still standard currency, and the idea was this: I would fax musicians, writers and other artists a list of random questions, then they would respond by writing their answers into the little spaces I’d left on the fax, and faxing it back. Then, we would just print their whole fax as a picture, so, as well as their answers, you’d actually see their handwriting, scribbles and doodles, and it would be an interesting thing to look at.
The paper never went for it, but I sent a few of these things out, anyway, and got faxes back from mixed bag including Joan Baez, Robert Wyatt, a bit of New Order, and a pretty great one from Lemmy from Motörhead. Best of the lot, however, was the fax I received from Ivor Cutler.
Getting anything from Ivor Cutler was pretty special, though. A year or two before I sent him the fax questionnaire, I had tried to interview him for a piece I was writing about The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie, in which Cutler, of course, plays the bus conductor, Buster Bloodvessel (not to be confused with the big ska guy with the tongue trouble).
Can you spot Ivor?
Someone who knew about these things told me that the best, indeed, the only way to approach Mr Cutler was to write him a letter, and so I did that. A few weeks later, the reply came from London, in an envelope adorned with some of Cutler’s personalised stickers.
Q: Is there a particular single memory you retain of the filming of Magical Mystery Tour?
A: When I wiped my specs, but appeared to be masturbating, in Raymond’s Revue Bar
Over the next month or so, I wrote him a couple more times, and more customised mail came back: more stickers; envelopes with cartoon doodles of a Cutler stamp arguing with a Queen stamp; postcards with cheeky scribbles added. Each one a little piece of handmade Ivorian art falling through the letter box. I treasure them still.
The fax interview was the best of the lot, though. In his own spindly, old world handwriting, his answers make up a prime little piece of Cutler. As far as I can remember, it was never published anywhere, and so I’m glad to share it here now. As you can see, faxes are fragile things. They fade fast. So, if it’s a little difficult to read, I’ve included a transcript below the picture.
Here’s to Ivor. There won’t be another.
Where are you?
IVOR CUTLER: On the crust of a ball, along with a bunch of people determined on self-destruction.
Why did you get out of bed this morning?
I had an appointment with a man less than half my age.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever put your name to?
Age 12, I, a practising Jew at the time, was forced by my racist teacher to sign a Church Of Scotland card saying I’d never smoke nor drink.
What are you reading at the moment?
(1) What European Birds Eat, (2) World Aphorisms (written in Chinese), (3) An Ed McBain detective book, (4) A book of quick crosswords
Do you want the window open or closed?
Open, though shut when listening to the radio, to avoid irritating the neighbours
Your childhood in five words:
Dealing with arbitrary petit-bourgeois nonsense.
Pablo Picasso or Vincent Van Gogh?
I respect Picasso, but love Miró.
You’re entitled to one phone call. The operator can connect you with anyone. Who do you call?
My father’s father, to tell him I’ll be along as soon as euthanasia is legal.
Have you anything to declare?
I’m a spore from outer space, landed on the wrong planet. Somewhere, there’s a planet where some spores are waiting for me to turn up, so they can get on with their dinner.
© Damien Love
Damien Love’s book Like Clockwork, a weird adventure for children also being enjoyed by geeks from 30–80, is available to buy here.