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Ivor Cutler

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Ivor Cutler: A Life Outside the Sitting Room is the first biography of one of post-war Britain’s most recognisable authors, poets and performers. Mr Cutler (as he preferred to be known) wrote and recorded some of the most unusual and memorable songs and poems in British popular culture, including the hilarious and unsettling ‘Life in a Scotch Sitting Room’ series. Described by fans and commentators as an outsider because of his eccentric behaviour on and off stage, in many ways he was an insider, working for thirty years as a primary school teacher, gathering a body of fans from the heart of the cultural and social establishment, and regularly appearing on mainstream media. He was one of the first – if not the first – performers to appear on BBC radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 and famously recorded more John Peel sessions than any other act except The Fall.

This book is based on evidence from official documents, print and broadcast media; archive interviews with Ivor Cutler, his close friends and family, fans and collaborators; and new interviews with fans, friends and fellow performers. Contributors include musical and acting collaborators who have never been interviewed about their experiences with Mr Cutler.

Published: Jan 15, 2023


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 1
An Introduction Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 2
Return to Y'Hup Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 3
Early Life Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 4
A Life in the Clouds Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 5
Back to School Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 6
A Life of Whimsical Fantasies Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 7
When Life was Fab Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 8
Life Inside the Sitting Room Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 9
A Life on the Page Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 10
A Life on the Stage Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 11
A Life on Screen Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 12
Quite a Few Lives on the Wireless Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 13
Long Players Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 14
Ivor for Hire Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 15
Covering Ivor Cutler Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 16
A Life Outside the Limelight Bruce Lindsay
Chapter 17
"I Will Become a Hermes" Bruce Lindsay
End Matter
Notes Bruce Lindsay
Discography Bruce Lindsay
Bibliography Bruce Lindsay
Index Bruce Lindsay


This is a really comprehensive and conscientious look at the great man’s life and work. Straight in, we learn something about the family roots of 'Mr Cutler,’ something I was never able to quite work out: it is clear here that my assumption that he emerged from an egg, at the foot of a little known mountain in Y'Hup is highly inaccurate.
Robert Wyatt, musician and composer

Lindsay... assembles his complicated story with the help of a raft of friends and relatives - not least Cutler's two sons, and poet Phyllis April King, who as Cutler's partner for much of his later life did not need to address him as "Mr Cutler," a protocol the artist demanded of anyone meeting him for the first time. Stern and inscrutable but mischievous and at times painfully poignant... Cutler said of himself: "If I am a genius, I'm a genius in a very small way indeed." Here, his tiny light shines bright.

Paul McCartney popping around to his flat to entice him to join the Magical Mystery Tour and his growing acceptance into the rock scene is dealt with in the same erudite, understated fashion as his dealings in the world of poetry publication or his bleak Glasgow upbringing. Social historian Lindsay's treatise researches deep into a post-war character blossoming into a rock 'n' roll universe. Cutler's deadpan utterances the icing on the cake.
Record Collector

Prodigiously researched book.
The Scotsman

Lindsay has researched Cutler well. All in all, it's a good read and gives a fine insight into a man for whom the term "a character" might well have been especially coined.
London Jazz News

Bruce Lindsay, an accomplished music journalist, has produced an incredibly well-researched book. It provides a compulsive and rewarding, if somewhat densely packed read, and is absolutely essential for all Cutler enthusiasts. But even those for whom Ivor Cutler remains an unknown quantity, this would be the ideal opportunity to correct that situation.
A truly excellent biography.
The Ileach Newspaper

It's a credit to Lindsay that he has produced such a meticulously researched and definitive biography because Cutler was such a nebulous mythmaker and entirely unreliable narrator. That Lindsay has not only managed to to root out salient fact from scattergun fiction but also written a thorough and highly readable work that is affectionate yet well short of hagiographic makes this a valuable biography of a man that even those who knew him best found contradictory and hard to pin down.
The New European

This book succeeds in giving Cutler the serious and comprehensive recognition he deserves.
The Wire