Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt is an English vocalist and songwriter who rose to prominence as the singer and drummer in Soft Machine. After recording four albums with the band between 1968 and 1971, he left to form Matching Mole, which cut two albums for CBS in 1972. The following year, he was paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from a fourth-floor window.

During the mid-1970s, the now-wheelchair-bound Wyatt released back-to-back solo albums on Virgin and appeared in concert with the label’s avant-rock flagship Henry Cow. As a vocalist, he appeared on the 1976/77 releases by Austrian composer Michael Mantler. The ensuing three decades yielded sporadic solo releases from Wyatt amid appearances on albums by News From Babel, Working Week, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and The Happy End.


Early Life, Career

Wyatt was born Robert Wyatt-Ellidge on January 28, 1945, in Bristol, England, to BBC journalist Honor Wyatt (1910–1998) and industrial psychologist George Ellidge. Each parent had prior marriages that produced Robert’s two older half-brothers: classical actor Julian Glover and press photographer Mark Ellidge (1940–2010).

Wyatt spent his teens in Lydden near Dover and trained with American jazz drummer George Neidorf. In 1962, he befriended Australian expat musician Daevid Allen. They formed the Daevid Allen Trio with bassist Hugh Hopper and (briefly) organist Mike Ratledge. When Allen departed to France, Wyatt and Hopper joined The Wilde Flowers, a Canterbury R&B band with singer Kevin Ayers and (later Caravan) guitarist Richard Sinclair. After Ayers’ departure, Wyatt became the band’s lead vocalist. In 1966, Allen and Ayers roped Ratledge and Wyatt into Soft Machine, a pioneering band on England’s psychedelic scene.

In 1967, Soft Machine cut one single and toured France, where Allen remained (and later formed Gong) after visa issues prevented his reentry into the UK. Soft Machine continued as a three-piece for their 1968 debut album, which followed a US tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. After the tour, Wyatt cut four demos, which surfaced on the 2013 archival CD ’68.

1. “Chelsa” (Daevid Allen, Wyatt) (5:00)
2. “Rivmic Melodies” (18:19)
3. “Slow Walkin’ Talk” (Brian Hopper) (3:02) with Hendrix on bass
4. “Moon in June” (20:36) with Hopper and Ratledge

In late 1968, Ayers left Soft Machine for a solo career. Wyatt and Ratledge welcomed Hopper for the 1969 released Volume Two, an early example of psychedelic jazz-rock. They expanded to a quartet with ex-Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean for the 1970 double-album Third, comprised of four side-long pieces. Meanwhile, Wyatt cut his first solo album.


The End of an Ear

Robert Wyatt released his debut solo album, The End of an Ear, on December 4, 1970, on CBS.

1. “Las Vegas Tango Part 1 (Repeat)” (Gil Evans) (8:13)
2. “To Mark Everywhere” [3] (2:26)
3. “To Saintly Bridget” (2:22)
4. “To Oz Alien Daevyd and Gilly” (2:09)
5. “To Nick Everyone” (9:15)
B
6. “To Caravan and Brother Jim” (5:22)
7. “To the Old World (Thank You For the Use of Your Body, Goodbye)” (3:18)
8. “To Carla, Marsha and Caroline (For Making Everything Beautifuller)” (2:47)
9. “Las Vegas Tango Part 1” (Gil Evans) (11:07)

People referenced in the song titles: Mark Ellidge, Bridget St John, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth, Nick Evans, Caravan and Jimmy Hastings, Kevin Ayers’ The Whole World, Carla Bley, Marsha Hunt and Caroline Coon.

Recorded August 1970
Studio Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London
Producer Robert Wyatt
Vic Gamm – engineer

Robert Wyatt – drums, piano, organ, keyboards, harmonica
Neville Whitehead – bass
Mark Charig – cornet
Elton Dean – alto saxophone, saxello
Mark Ellidge – piano
Cyrille Ayers – assorted percussion
Dave Sinclair – organ


1974–1975

13 Sep 1974
A: “I’m a Believer”
B: “Memories”


Rock Bottom

Robert Wyatt released his second solo album, Rock Bottom, on July 26, 1974, on Virgin Records.

1. “Sea Song” (6:31)
2. “A Last Straw” (5:46)
3. “Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road” (7:40)

4. “Alifib” (6:55)
5. “Alifie” (6:31)
6. “Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road” (6:08)

Recorded February 1974 (basic tracks) Studio Delfina’s Farm, Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire
April–May 1974 (overdubs) The Manor Studio, Oxfordshire; CBS, London

Robert Wyatt – vocals, keyboards, percussion, slide guitar (2), James’ drum (1, 3, 5), Delfina’s wineglass (2), Delfina’s tray and a small battery (3)
Mike Oldfield – electric guitar (6)
Gary Windo – bass clarinet, tenor saxophone (5)
Ivor Cutler – voice (3, 6), baritone concertina, harmonium (6)
Alfreda Benge – voice (5)
Mongezi Feza – trumpets (3)
Fred Frith – viola (6)
Hugh Hopper – bass guitar (2, 4, 5)
Richard Sinclair – bass guitar (1, 3,6)
Laurie Allan – drums (2, 6)

Production
Nick Mason – producer
Steve Cox – engineer (at The Manor and on Delfina’s Farm)
Dick Palmer – engineer (at CBS London)
Toby Bird – assistant engineer (at CBS London)


Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard

Robert Wyatt released his third solo album, Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, in May 1975 on Virgin.

Side Ruth (Side A)
1. “Soup Song” Brian Hopper, Robert Wyatt (4:03)
2. “Sonia” Mongezi Feza (4:18)
3. “Team Spirit” Bill MacCormick, Phil Manzanera, Wyatt (8:33)
4. “Song for Che” Charlie Haden (3:42)

Side Richard (Side B)
5. “Muddy Mouse (a)” Fred Frith, Wyatt (0:49)
6. “Solar Flares” Wyatt (5:36)
7. “Muddy Mouse (b)” Frith, Wyatt (0:50)
8. “5 Black Notes and 1 White Note” Jacques Offenbach; arranged by Robert Wyatt (5:00)
9. “Muddy Mouse (c)” which in turn leads to “Muddy Mouth” Frith, Wyatt (6:15)

Recorded October 1974 – March 1975
Studio The Manor Studio, Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire
Producer Robert Wyatt, Nick Mason (“Sonia”)

Robert Wyatt – vocals, piano, imitation electric piano (Ri4), organ (Ri2), drums (Ru2, Ri2)
Brian Eno – guitar (Ri4), synthesizer (Ri4), direct inject anti-jazz ray gun (Ru3)
Gary Windo – bass clarinet (Ri2, Ru2), tenor saxophone (Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4), alto saxophone (Ri4, Ru2, Ru4)
Nisar Ahmad “George” Khan – tenor saxophone (Ri4, Ru4), baritone saxophone (Ru1, Ru4)
Mongezi Feza – trumpet (Ru2)
Fred Frith – piano (Ri1, Ri3, Ri5)
Bill MacCormick – bass guitar (Ri2, Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4)
John Greaves – bass guitar (Ru2)
Laurie Allan – drums (Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4)

Artwork by Wyatt’s wife Alfreda Benge.


1976–1979

22 Apr 1977
A: “Yesterday Man”
B: “Sonia”


1980–1983

14 Mar 1980
A: “Arauco”
B: “Caimanera”

Nov 1980
A: “At Last I Am Free”
B: “Strange Fruit”

20 Feb 1981
A: “Stalin Wasn’t Stalling”
(b/w Peter Blackman “Stalingrad”)

28 Aug 1981
A: “Grass” (b/w Disharhi “Trade Union”)

The Animals Film

May 1982
A: “Shipbuilding”
B: “Memories of You”

Nothing Can Stop Us


1984–1985

The Last Nightingale

Aug 1984
A: “Biko”
B: “Amber and the Amberines”

Oct 1985
Robert Wyatt With The Swapo Singers
A: The Wind Of Change
B: Namibia


Old Rottenhat

Robert Wyatt released his fourth solo album, Old Rottenhat, in November 1985 on Rough Trade.

1. “Alliance” (4:24)
2. “The United States of Amnesia” (5:50)
3. “East Timor” (2:52)
4. “Speechless” (3:37)
5. “The Age of Self” (2:50)
6. “Vandalusia” (2:44)

7. “The British Road” (6:23)
8. “Mass Medium” (4:43)
9. “Gharbzadegi” (7:54)
10. “P.L.A.” (2:31)

Recorded 1984–1985
Studio West 3 Studios, Acton, London; Acre Lane Studios, Brixton, London
Robert Wyatt: vocals, piano, keyboards, bass, percussion

Produced and performed solo by Wyatt, and is dedicated to Michael Bettaney, a UK MI5 intelligence officer who in 1984 was convicted for acting as an agent-in-place for the Soviet Union.
Recorded in 1984 at West 3 Studios, Acton, London, by John McGowan.
Recorded in 1985 at Acre Lane Studios, Brixton, by Bill Gilonis.
“Thanks to Charles Gray and Vicky Aspinall for invaluable help and advice and thanks Duncan”
Artwork by Wyatt’s wife Alfreda Benge. 


Discography:

  • The End of an Ear (1970)
  • Rock Bottom (1974)
  • Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (1975)
  • Old Rottenhat (1985)
  • Dondestan (1991)
  • Shleep (1997)
  • Cuckooland (2003)
  • Comicopera (2007)
  • ’68 (2013, recorded 1968)

Sources:

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