Grass does not grow on a volcano

Ivor Cutler died on Friday.

He will be very much missed in this household and I’m sure many people who found something invaluable in Beefheart will also have found something invaluable in Ivor Cutler.

The following obituaries have appeared in the mainstream UK press so far:

I still have some unused tickets for what would have been his last appearance here in Brighton about 4 years ago. The concert was postponed due to Ivor’s poor health, and was never rescheduled. I’d never taken the tickets back in the vain hope that it just might happen one day.

The previous time he played near Brighton (at Sussex University, 4 miles outside of Brighton) around 1994, I did get to see him and he was wonderful. The audience was laughing and grinning throughout and at one point Mr Cutler was doing his best to stifle his own giggles at something particularly absurd that he was trying to recite to us – for a short while he simply could not get the words out. He was not the dour man some may imagine, he took a genuine delight in his own eccentricity and humour.

When he reached the end of the piece he said to us in a light-hearted tone, “It always amazes me that I have maintained a career out of this rubbish.” There was nothing rubbish about his work which was as insightful, moving and funny as anything I’ve encountered.

Although I am definitely not the autograph hunting type, I wandered back into the hall after everyone had left, clutching my copy of Life In A Scotch Sitting Room, to see Mr Cutler standing on the stage, packing away his harmonium. I nervously approached and asked if he would mind signing it for me. He gave me a very warm smile and agreed, asking me if I was a student at the university. Suddenly to my horror my brain melted away from the inside and I had no personality, thoughts or ability to speak left – I was literally wiped blank. I eventually managed to get out the words “No, I came here especially” and he asked me how far I’d travelled. Pause. “Errr I’m from Brighton,” I stammered. “Did you walk?” he asked, still smiling. Long pause. “Errrr… no I cycled,” I replied as he handed me my autograph and I thanked him and ran, terrified to the bone by this gracious, kind and genuinely friendly pensioner-poet, humiliated by my own unforeseen asininity.

I have never asked anyone for an autograph since lest my brain play the same cruel trick on me, but I do treasure my copy of Life In A Scotch Sitting Room. I feel that I earned it.

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Have a good lie down, Mr Cutler, we’ll miss you greatly.


  1. What a damn shame.
    I’d heard a while back on Andy Kershaw’s programme that Ivor wasn’t well.
    My kids still ask me to play Cold Potato and Where the River Bends.
    To say he was a ‘one-off’ is putting it mildly.
    Rest in peace Mr. Cutler.

  2. One of my favourite voices on the planet has been silenced :-(

  3. Another sad loss! Ivor’s voice and pixie-like face were so much part of an era, like Peel, and, of course Don. I do hope Don is well. We can’t lose another one just yet!
    I recall all three one afternoon in a cottage in North Wales, Peel playing tracks from Trout Mask replica for the first time. Ivor’s strange little tales drawing me in to another world.
    The world gets worse by the minute!

  4. Who will treddle the harmonium now! I loved his readings – great humourous inventions. Big loss.

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