Robert Wyatt with one of the best covers of all time. Knocks spots of the original by The Monkees, let's face it.
Just last month I read the very excellent David Cavanagh book Good Night and Good Riddance, which looks at how thirty five years of John Peel at Radio 1 helped shape modern life as we know it. Writing about Peel's Sounds of the Seventies show from 10th October 1974 - which featured Wyatt in session - Cavanagh relates a story I'd never heard before and which left me quite shocked. It concerns Wyatt's performance of this on Top of the Pops. On seeing Wyatt arrive in his wheelchair ahead of the performance, the show's producer, Robin Nash asked him if he could possibly sit in an ordinary chair when singing as Top of the Pops is 'a family show' (!) When that request was refused, Nash -according to Wyatt's guitarist Fred Frith - asked if they would 'cover the wheelchair completely' because he thought it 'was in bad taste and might upset viewers' (!!)
Robin 'Mr Equality' Nash
Wyatt stuck to his guns and refused, earning a 'you'll never work in this town again' style comment from Nash (a ban from the show was effectively lifted by the time Wyatt troubled the charts again with Shipbuilding almost a decade later). The performance went out, but Nash ensured the camera operators kept wide shots to a minimum.
Cavanagh concludes this chapter remarking that Britain was clearly and thankfully a very different place in 1974 than it is now, but adding that "It's a curious thing that a disabled singer was frowned upon and a spinal injury taboo, but it was perfectly acceptable to feign psychopathy as long as you looked like Hitler" as in the case of Sparks' Ron Mael. I'd also add that it was perfectly acceptable for Top of the Pops presenters to grope young girls live on air and for cameramen to get as many upskirt shots of said girls as possible too.
Strange days indeed. It goes without saying that Cavanagh's book is heartily, emphatically recommended.