Wyatt & Friends + Q&A Robert Wyatt - Record Collector
- issue 318 - Christmas 2005
WYATT & FRIENDS + Q&A ROBERT WYATT
In Concert - Theatre Royal, Drury Lane 1974
Hannibal HNCD 1507/ADV (76:07)
Wyatt's first and last
solo gig gets a proper release at last
"And now, for Robert Wyatt of Twickenham...
Opportunity Knocks!" So Robert's old mate John Peel
rounds off his amiable, rambling intro, welcoming onstage
yet more of the headliner's extended family of Canterbury
Scene musos and art-rocking mukkas.
Just a year after Wyatt's fall from a fifth-floor window
left him permanently wheelchair-bound, he bravely took
to the stage for this debut solo gig, understandably surrounding
himself with characters who would offer great support
in every sense. The now-former drummer roped in his 'dream
rhythm section' of Laurie 'Gong' Allen, Hugh 'Soft Machine'
Hopper and Dave 'Hatfield' Stewart, plus an all-stars
cast including Nick Mason, Mike Oldfield, Fred Frith,
Julie Tippetts and Ivor Cutler.
Kicking off with a couple of Soft Machine oldies, Wyatt
feels his way through all of his classic Rock Bottom
LP, heading off into uncharted territory as he warbles,
yodels and breaks in his brandnew heartbreaking voice
of a child over his own piano and tumbling waves of psychprog
jazz. The triumphally shambling party climaxes with I'm
A Believer breaking down into Knees Up Mother brown.
Full minutes of encore calls are captured on the CD. But
there would be no more.
What are your memories of that
night 31 years ago?
All I remember was a euphoric feeling of a whole band who
were just going to play my tunes and help me get my songs
right, instead of being a bit-part player in other people's
This must be one of the most bootlegged gigs ever.
Some of the stuff that went out simply shouldn't have. It's
a bit like Dylan complaining about people rummaging around
in his dustbin! I didn't want mislead people into thinking
that this was a new or perfectly formed recording - I always
think it's unfair when it only says in small print 'oh,
by the way, this was recorded in a club'.
Back in '74, people must have thought you'd be playing
live with this band for years to come.
Yeah, I wish.
Did you know this was the beginning of the end, live-wise?
I can't remember. I don't think ahead like that. I don't
think I even knew how to spell 'career'. I left school at
16 and did washing up jobs, I was just amazed you could
get a job playing drums in a beat group. I was grateful
to string it out for 10 years. After I did Rock Bottom,
I thought 'that's all I've got, the tank is now empty -
I've now got to sign on and I hope there's a good disability
allowance'. But other things cropped up, and other little
tunelets appeared in [my] head. I just kept trundling on
and, fuck me, 30 years later, I'm still trundling on - extraordinary!
Do I sense a note of regret?
Yes, you do. I'm sure I could have done more gigs than that,
and I do wish I had. What I love is that, although it's
no a jazz session, they have that jazz sensibility, and
they're reacting quite spontaneously to me and to each other, and
you can tell every night it would have been different. I
would have enjoyed to hear how they dealt with it, different
nights at different places. I'm pretty hard on myself and
curse the mistakes I've made in my life, but I'm really
happy to hear this gig - that it happened at all. And I
do think 'blimey, that could've been a whole new thing in
Would it have been difficult in reality?
One of the things I do blank out is the difficulties I might
have had getting around the world in a wheelchair. To be
honest, although I don't think it's tragic, it's bloody
inconvenient - going to a place and then finding that you
can't get on and off stage without four people to help you,
and that you can't fit into the toilet. I realised fairly
early on that a regular touring life was out of the question.
I'd done that in the 60s and the result was the disintegration
of my first marriage - I was just on the road all the time,
and that was a plant that collapsed through lack of watering,
really. I was already in my late 20s by the time of that
concert, and the most exciting thing happening at that time
was the fact that Alfie had just married me. My private
life started to become the main event in my life...