(Above): The front-line of Brenda's Boyfriends, with Jeff Nuttall on cornet, playing live in 1980. (Photo by George Perkin)
(Below): A 1990 photo of Jeff in his beloved Volvo ('Celia') with one his hand-made friends ('Auntie') in the passenger seat. Photo taken in Nelson, Lancashire By Claire McNamee.
Purchase 'Jeff Nuttall's Wake on Paper' and 'Jeff Nuttall's Wake on CD'
My 1985 audio interview with Jeff Nuttall is now available for download at the Audio Generalist. Please check it out. The full back story to the interview can be found at this previous post: Jeff Nuttall: Bomb Culture and Beyond
By way of introduction to Mr Nuttall (what a great name for a prankster and animateur), here is the obituary written for The Guardian (12 Jan 2004) by Michael Horovitz and used with his permission. Hear MH on the Audio Generalist
'Jeff Nuttall, who has died aged 70 was a catalyst, perpetrator and champion of rebellion and experiment in the arts and society. Bomb Culture, his 1968 chronicle of the emergence of internationalist counter-culture in
The vision of Jeff's youth was grounded in "a faith that, given liberation, the human spirit would predominate. I imagined some kind of stone age village. People would build their own houses imaginatively and live there sophisticatedly and in a literate way and they would live with their hands and their minds and they would not be dictated to by anybody selling them anything. People would have the opportunity of coming into their true self, which was generous and creative and permissive".
He was born in Clitheroe,
From the late 1970s to 1984 Jeff drove around
From 1956-68 Jeff was a secondary school art master, and for the following 16 years he worked at art colleges, in Bradford, Leeds, and then as
From 1964-67 he edited and circulated My Own Mag, a bran tub of anarchic texts and images, with William Burroughs lavishly featured in most issues. In 1966 International Times, the first London-based "underground" newspaper, was set up. Jeff contributed articles and cartoons to IT and other underground publications which emerged in its wake.
Central to the burgeoning oral verse, jazz poetry, happenings and performance art movements, he also played effervescent jazz piano and scalding cornet in the Red Allen-Roy Eldridge idioms, and sang infectiously genial vocals. The humours of Fats Waller were recreated in Jeff's persona, yet he struck some on a brief encounter as a show-off. For many more he was an outstandingly original artist also possessed of a gift for helping others appreciate their own potential.
Other precursors whose legacies he extended were the dadaists, surrealists and beats, Dylan Thomas, John Bratby and kitchen sink painting, McGill postcards, bebop and northern music hall. In 1967 he co-founded the People Show, an improvising theatre troupe with which Jeff travelled, wrote and acted for five years.
From the mid-1980s he took cameo roles in films and television. Throughout his days he made and exhibited hundreds of lyrical-threatful-polemical artworks.
He was the Guardian's incisive poetry critic (1979-81) and during the last 40 years he published some 40 books. There were poetry, plays, fiction, memoirs, essays, and verbal portraits of kindred spirits like
In 1990 Jeff summarised his artistic approach: "I make a line out of a rhythmic figure. The previous figure suggests the subsequent one. The rhythmic figures owe much to Charlie Parker's saxophone phrasing." Thus a characteristic Nuttall poem opens:
So brightly blisters the great regurgitating ribbon of the
Sculls skim through like springtime swallows.
Keels kiss tidal scum, lancing the stolen sun-boils
or bops to a stop, as in
The bee on wheels has laments on a stick
Wags weepy banners with gypsy ribbons ...
The tiny wheeled bee has the sky on a stick
Idly waves as she buzzes through the afternoon
Kicking the tears around like bean tins.
Two defining moments for Jeff - and for the future he considered crucial for human survival - were the beginnings of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late 1950s, with its anti-H-bomb marches and the first grand scale cosmopolitan poet-meet that filled the Albert Hall in June 1965. Jeff felt confirmed in that "all our separate audiences came to one place at the same time, a frisson for us all to savour as there had been at the first Aldermaston, and the underground was suddenly there on the surface, in open ground with a following of thousands".
Nuttall and John Latham had planned a happening for that gig which encaked them both top-to-toe in blue paint, but this blocked their pores, and Latham passed out. A hot bath was needed fast but the only bath in the building was in Sir Malcolm Sargent's dressing-room. The dazed duo tumbled gratefully in, to be discovered, reviving, by a caretaker, who assumed that unimaginable beatnik outrages were being enacted beneath his eyes.
In Jonathon Green's Days In The Life: Voices From The English Underground (1988), Jeff recalled "a shift between 1966 and 1967 from poetry and art and jazz and anti-nuclear politics to just sex and drugs, the arrival of capitalism. The market saw that these revolutionaries could be put in a safe pen and given their consumer goods. What we misjudged was the power and complexity of the media, which dismantled the whole thing. It bought it up. And this happened in 67, just as it seemed that we'd won".
Nuttall lived to see that spirit rekindled 35 years later, with wise children again marching, speaking, and acting out their hearts and minds against the philistines, profiteers, and warmongers who go on ruling the west.
He died on a Sunday, leaving the Hen and Chicks pub in Abergavenny, where his trad band's lunchtime gig had been the highspot of his week for 10 years. At his soul's incarnation in Elysium it will surely come to pass, as Jeff once dreamed, that "Spifflicate water-buffalo drunk on rainbow fish will snore beside the oval father where he basks". For the rest of us, as long as "global politics" fester in lies and pea-brained Hollywooden mega-violence, it is bollocks to them, and long live Jeff Nuttall.'
· Jeffrey Nuttall, polymath, born July 8 1933; died January 4 2004