Never has an artist typified the eccentricities of Glasgow’s music scene as the late great poet, troubadour, and teacher Ivor Cutler. Born in Govan in 1923, Cutler started writing songs and poetry in the 1950s and found a platform for his work through BBC radio. His unconventional songs, which typically involved his deep Glaswegian baritone accompanied by the signature warm sound of his pedal organ, enamoured listeners and he soon developed a cult following. One such listener was Paul McCartney, who invited Cutler to play the role of Buster Bloodvessel in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film.
Cutler’s debut album Ludo (named for the board game) was produced by George Martin, whom he had met through the production of the Beatles film. The album features some of his best loved tracks like the ethereal, blissful ‘I’m Going in a Field’ and the resoundingly daft ‘Shoplifters’.
Cutler went on to further develop his outsider style, releasing solo albums throughout the ’70s and ’80s which mixed together stripped-back, spoken word poetry and eccentric songs with pop sensibilities. A recurring feature of these albums was Cutler’s ode to his childhood in Glasgow in the series ‘Life In A Scotch Sittingroom’, through which he tells absurd silly stories, laced with satirical commentary on the attitudes of certain sections of Scottish society. While Cutler lived most of his adult life in London, this series testifies to the lasting influence that Glasgow had upon his art and his life.
Cutler’s legacy is felt strongly in all kinds of outsider and eccentric art stemming from Glasgow in the present day. Scottish singer-songwriter Katie Tunstall cites Cutler as a great inspiration for her, and pays tribute to his life and art in her 2020 documentary ‘Ivor Cutler By Katie Tunstall’. A recent release from Citizen Bravo and Raymond MacDonald brings together artists from all across the Glasgow scene in a celebration of Cutler’s work, with features from members of Franz Ferdinand, Camera Obscura, Mogwai, and BMX Bandits to name just a few. Cutler’s wacky approach to music and poetry and his dabbles in the mainstream were trailblazing. Through his work he helped to carve out a space for outsiders in music, and he should be considered among Glasgow’s proudest musical sons.