KT Tunstall to lead celebration of surreal Scottish wordsmith Ivor Cutler in new film
He was the eccentric Scottish poet, songwriter and teacher who worked with the Beatles, was championed by John Peel and was label-mates with Oasis, but is now largely forgotten in his home country 14 years after his death.
Now Scottish singer songwriter KT Tunstall has made a new film celebrating the surrealist wordsmith Ivor Cutler and his offbeat observations, which influenced generations of musicians and artists during a career spanning six decades.
The STV film will feature specially recorded cover versions of Cutler songs by Tunstall, as well as appearances from the likes of comic Noel Fielding, comedian Arnold Brown and Creation Records boss Alan McGee.
The hour-long film, which will be shown by the Sky Arts channel, will recall how Glasgow-born Cutler was brought up in a middle-class Jewish family and was forced to leave a job as a Royal Navy navigator “for being too dreamy after being caught sketching clouds in mid-air”.
It features the first-ever glimpses of work Cutler created while he was attending painting classes at Glasgow School of Art and an interview with his long-time partner and collaborator, Phyllis King.
Cutler found success in the 1950s after moving to London when his songs and poems were discovered by the broadcaster Ned Sherrin.
Accompanying himself on the piano or the harmonium, which would become his signature instrument, he began making appearances on the BBC’s Home Service and released his first album in 1959.
Paul McCartney invited Cutler to appear in The Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour in 1967, two years before he recorded the first of many sessions for Radio 1 DJ John Peel, whose long-time championing of Cutler is widely credited for introducing his work to generations of new fans.
Speaking in the film, which will be shown on Tuesday 13 October, Tunstall describes herself as “an Ivor Cutler obsessive”.
She says: “Just like his work, Ivor Cutler was hard to define. He was the sort of eccentric who has been squeezed out of the world today and, I think, the kind of person we should hang onto.
“He didn’t live by the same rules as everybody else. To me, that is a real rock-and-roll star.
"I wanted to make this film because the minority of people I know who know who Ivor Cutler is are mad about him, but the majority of people don’t know who he is.”
Speaking from the United States, where she currently lives, Tunstall said: “I’m not sure Ivor Cutler has ever been celebrated enough.
"There is a beauty in that he is still discoverable. His body of work is a gift in waiting for people.
“But he is a really important figure in Scottish culture and art. He is someone to be extremely proud of. He was almost like a kind of Forrest Gump figure in the way that he was championed by The Beatles and John Peel.
"What’s most impressive about him for me is that, in the same way I felt when I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, is that he has created an entire world that you can enter.
"It is quite rare that someone can create a completely immersive experience and take you somewhere you’ve never been before. The Beatles managed that. Ivor Cutler absolutely managed that.”
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