In the beginning of 1971, singer/drummer Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine, the band he'd formed in Canterbury five years earlier with Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge. His first step as a solo artist was in the shape of The End Of An Ear, revisiting the Jazz Rock avenues Soft Machine had pioneered. This was followed up by Matching Mole, a band whose name was a phonetic pun on the French for Soft Machine. In 1972, his next albums, Matching Mole and Matching Mole's Little Red Record again leaned towards avant-Jazz, but featured political content at a time when polemics were deeply unfashionable in Rock.

His return to solo work in 1973 was interrupted when a fall from a window left him paralyzed from the waist down. His old pals in psychedelia Pink Floyd played two benefit gigs and Floyd's Nick Mason produced Wyatt's classic Rock Bottom (1974). Then playing keyboards and percussion, Wyatt sang peculiar, haunting ballads in instantly recongnizable, high-pitched tones. Mason told Mojo: 'It's one of the things I'm most proud of doing in 30 years of music. I still find it very moving to listen to.'

His next album was Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (1975), an odd aggregation of avant-garde nursery rhymes and a cover of The Monkees' 'I'm A Believer', which became a surprise hit.

His subsequent silence ended in the early 80s when the Rough Trade label unleashed a typically idiosyncratic batch of Wyatt singles. These songs- covers of artists like Chic, Billie Holiday and Ivor Cutler, plus several traditional Folk anthems- were compiled as 1982's Nothing Can Stop Us, alongside 'Shipbuilding', another chart entry for Wyatt, written for him by Elvis Costello.

His later work became overtly political (he'd joined the Communist Party in the late 70s) and his soundtrack to The Animals Film- a documentary about animal exploitation- and numerous artistic collaborations continued to highlight struggle and injustice.

After more minimalist albums- 1985's Old Rottenhat and 1991's Dondestan- 1997's Shleep was his first collection for six years. Employing the likes of Brian Eno, Paul Weller and others, it was a brighter, more optimistic Wyatt than had been heard in ages. He announced 'I want to get lost and diffused in the world... That's my idea of freedom and happiness.'



ponder says re Robert Wyatt: In case you haven't heard it, I recommend the double CD compilation "Going Back a Bit".

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