Tuesday, 16 June 2015

I'm A Believer: Robert Wyatt

  A thrilling and rarely-seen performance from Top of the Pops from 1974 with Nick Mason of Pink Floyd on drums and Fred Frith on guitar. However, as this passage from Wyatt's authorised biography Different Every Time suggests, seventies TOTP was not only a hotbed of tacitly-accepted underage molestation but of outrageous disablism too: there was a "squabble centred on Robert's wheelchair, apparently deemed unsuitable for family viewing. 'The BBC were astonishingly stupid about it'  says Fred Frith, who recalls the disagreement lasting throughout the day. Richard Sinclair even remembers having to prop Wyatt up in his chair at one point, when someone insisted on removing the arms. The BBC  did eventually allow him to perform from his wheelchair...but TOTP was a nasty surprise for Robert: 'It was the first time anyone had made me feel unsightly. And it was a shock. I thought other people must think that, but they don't say it. It did upset me.' "
   As the author of this fascinating biography, Marcus O'Dair, puts it when discussing Wyatt's choice of the Neil Diamond-penned, Monkees pop classic, "whether Robert anticipated it or not, a line about disappointment haunting his dreams had a very different resonance when delivered from a wheelchair".

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