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Faber Radio presents Mick Houghton

Fried and Justified author and music publicist Mick Houghton presents his ‘Great British Eccentrics’ for Faber Radio, featuring Ivor Cutler, Bonzo Dog Band and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

 

“During my time as an independent publicist I looked after a number of artists – particularly Bill Drummond, Julian Cope, Andy Partridge and Felt/Denim architect Lawrence – who all outwardly qualify as eccentrics in most people’s eyes. I never saw them that way, more that they all possessed a determination to do everything the way they wanted.

Like the actor playing a drunk who understands that the drunk is desperately trying to appear sober, true eccentrics don’t go out of their way to seek attention. They don’t affect certain behaviours, wear outlandish clothes and don odd accoutrements, or indulge in particular pursuits in order to be seen as different. They are just trying to be themselves.

Eccentrics are typically blessed with a mischievous sense of humour, charm, whimsy, and wit. They possess a powerful sense of curiosity, commonly fixating on multiple enduring obsessions. These traits can have a downside; battles with depression, anxiety, OCD, and substance dependency issues. They can be socially awkward too.

These are just observations but I used them as a rule of thumb in my game of ‘Great British Eccentrics – Yes, No or Maybe?’ So I wondered who the most eccentric Beatle was and whether any of the original Rolling Stones were eccentric? My answers were ‘Paul McCartney’ and ‘No but possibly Bill Wyman?’ Since I was keeping my list to around 20 names I didn’t even consider Bowie, Elton John, Morrissey or The Fall because I’m not a fan. I deliberated over including Ray Davies, Kate Bush and Jarvis Cocker but the person I pondered over the most was Van Morrison. He may not rank high on charm and whimsicality but he’s possibly the most eccentric of them all.

My playlist reflects that there was a definite spike in eccentricity among British musicians during the later ‘60s, carrying into the ‘70s; a second spike occurred after punk and continued into the ‘80s. Brit Pop came up short of convincingly odd characters for me though. In 1995 I started working with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. They stood out as downright peculiar in that era. On their early albums they covered songs by Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers; journalists drew comparison with the Bonzo Dog Band and the Incredible String Band but in the music press, what confirmed Gorky’s as wilfully unconventional was not their idiosyncratic songs or weird and wonderful musicality but choosing to sing in Welsh, their native language.”

Mick Houghton, August 2020