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Tuesday, 20 January 2004

From the Monkees to Robert Wyatt thanks to Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond wrote ‘I’m a Believer’ – which was a huge hit for The Monkees in the 60s. This song then became a hit all over again for Robert Wyatt in what must be one of the weirdest examples of Top of the Pops missing the point. I saw a clip of Robert Wyatt, in wheelchair, on ToTP – he looks ill at ease with the whole ‘pop star’ thing. But what a marvellous cover version. He did it again some years later with a cover of the Elvis Costello song ‘Shipbuilding’.

So why am I focusing on The Monkees and Robert Wyatt. Well, over the last few weeks I bought the CD collection ‘The Definitive Monkees’ which is a wonderful reminder of how good they were. The sleeve notes also tell the story of them – how they were thrown together for a TV programme that was aimed at capitalising on the Beatles phenomenon that had come over to the US from the UK. What I didn’t realise was just how quickly the four members of the group re-wrote the rules and took over the music making and song writing.

Of course the link to Robert Wyatt is set out above. But the other reason why I mention him is because I recently bought ‘Cuckooland’ and ‘Solar flares burn for you’ – both of which are excellent albums. They demonstrate the singular talent and vision of Robert Wyatt. Over the years he has quietly projected a marvellously self-effacing personality. It’s easy to get carried away with the modesty he displays and not realise just how ground-breaking his work really is.

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