Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom - Review
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critics' view

The 29-year-old released his second LP in July ’74 – just one year after the terrible accident where a fall from a balcony had left him paralysed from the waist down and reliant on a wheelchair. Brilliantly, in hospital he continued to work on the songs “in a trance.” Philosophically, Wyatt reflected: “I was just relieved that I could do something from a wheelchair. If anything, being a paraplegic helped me with the music because being in hospital left me free to dream, and to really think through the music.”

I can’t say that I cared much for “The End of an Ear” (1970), but I must say “Rock Bottom”, titularly an oblique reference to his paraplegia, represents a complete about-turn in my affections. The work is a complex and hypnotic brand of dream pop, laced with waves of synth, occasionally agitated with bursts of sax and trumpet and a couple of surreal interjections from the incomparable Ivor Cutler. “Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road”, which closes side 1, has little tantalising snippets of Ivor’s prose, buried deeply in a murky haze. Clearly, this spoken-word surrealism is infectious – Robert’s new wife, Alfreda Benge, pipes up with similar japes on the weird and wonderful “Alife”. The talented Alfreda also designed the album’s cover – what is this, a family business?

Mister Cutler gets the last word on the LP, “Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road”, which finds Ivor continuing his story about lying down on the road trying to trip up passing cars while his hedgehog friend tries to burst their tyres! So impressed with this nonsense were Virgin that a 3-album deal was promptly offered to, and accepted by, the ultimate maverick.

Hats off to Robert Wyatt for this artistic triumph in adversity, far, far away from rock bottom.

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