Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Oliver!: Ivor Cutler - When I Stand on an Open Cart (15 March 1992)
The last time an Ivor Cutler piece turned up on this blog, I blethered on about how, in his nature-centred pieces, Cutler never wrote about animals or landscapes in sentimental ways. To Cutler, the natural world was as full of absurdity and ridiculousness as the human one and his interactions with birds who wanted to break into the Top 40 made perfect sense. However, he pulled a neat subversion of this approach in When I Stand on an Open Cart, a brief spoken word track on his 1976 album, Jammy Smears. Whereas most of the natural world tracks that I've heard of Cutler's either had him directly talking to the animals and insects, or singing about their issues from their perspective, this track presents him as an observer of nature's bounty. If the Countryside Code wanted to add a poem to its list of instructions for the public, it might look to the opening lines of this piece. But typical of Cutler, the appreciation of cows, corn and voles also has room for weeds, bacteria and cowpats. Nature's pitfalls have to be preferable though to what the average cart rider may observe in the towns. The image of "the aged" observed through windows, "lying in bed, wrapped in newspaper" offers a bleakness that must surely have fired the imagination of somebody like Stephen "Babybird" Jones.
You'll hear When I Stand on an Open Cart again tagged on to the end of the next track I write about for this blog, but as that track is a potential choice for my own favourite of 1992, I want it to have the post to itself. And likewise, When I Stand on an Open Cart deserved its own solo spotlight too. Peel was certainly enjoying having the reissues of Cutler's albums for Virgin on CD as it made it easier for him to cue up the individual tracks than it had been on the original vinyl.
Video courtesy of bobsherunkle.