Monday, 14 April 2008
Wyatt, Soft Machine and American Presidents Being Pushed
I was reminded when looking at another blog ( a good one) of the wonderful Robert Wyatt. I heard him play in Matching Mole and Soft Machine before he fell out of that third floor window. I remember all the fuss in the 70’s when the director of Top of the Pops wanted him to sing his bizarre hit cover version of I’m A Believer sitting on a chair rather than in a wheelchair. He apparently felt someone in a wheel chair wasn’t suitable for family viewing. The Roosevelt phenomenon seemed to operate then, disability was not designed for public viewing. The American president was rarely shown in his wheelchair, it would have frightened the voters and diminished respect. If you look at this footage of the Yalta conference during the Second World War, the American President is always carefully placed in an ordinary chair or a jeep. His crutch is cunningly disguised under a long coat when he does stand up (no double entendre here I do mean crutch as in the supportive kind).
The sight of wheelchair handles behind him might have inferred that he was being pushed and a pushed man can not lead, not then. If you couldn’t walk you couldn’t be the head honcho. It is probably still the case, we may soon have the first black president or the first woman president, yet America had their first ‘secret’ disabled president over sixty years ago. I wonder whether a presidential candidate in a wheelchair could be elected now? Somehow I think that would prove difficult.
At least Wyatt can appear on TV now without his disability being disguised He has now become a verb apparently, wyatting, means to play obscure music on a juke box in order to disconcert people in the pub. It must be strange to become a new verb but at least it’s something active, becoming a noun might imply something rather pejorative, ‘a wyatt’, sounds very static and stolid, a slight back hint of plank to it. Although a Wyatter of course is someone who wyatts. It might lend itself to an adjective a wyatt night, a wyatt sea , a wyatt sofa.
I have found myself at times sadly playing the game of making my own surname in to verb, noun and adjective. I can be verbalised in fact my name already exists as a verb and a noun, that’s the trouble with having a solid Anglo Saxon sort of name they tended to base themselves on very prosaic occupations; Smith, Miller, Potter, Farmer, Weaver. They could dispense with the yellow pages in ancient times. I wonder if other musicians would lend themselves to verbs, Costelloing, Presleying, Dylaning, Springsteening. Winehousing has probably already been invented.