1967: Ivor Cutler - “I’m Happy”

Ivor Cutler at his harmonium

When I don’t feel like hearing anything in particular I’ll often resort to the shuffle button on my iPod. Now this can be a bit like playing Russian roulette if you have an eclectic music taste (I’m sure many of our readers can relate); Nas comes on ─ no problem; Fugazi ─ that’s fine; oh wow The Walker Brothers ─ it’s been a while. Then suddenly Kevin Drumm or Sightings comes to the party and there’s a terrible reaction. Questions are asked. “What the hell just came on?” “How can you listen to this?” and I go over to switch it to something else while muttering about how it’s just on shuffle. It can be a bit of a gamble.

But what about the other side of the spectrum? When something comes on that isn’t abrasive or filled with screaming, but is so unabashedly jolly and positive that it garners the exact same reaction and confusion. I take a lot of pleasure in these moments, and it is difficult to get more explosively jubilant than a song like “I’m Happy” by Ivor Cutler. This happened to me recently with a roommate while enjoying some well deserved Mario Kart; one of those new Purity Ring singles ended and was immediately followed by Cutler.

Cutler started releasing records in the 60s after winning the heart of John Lennon (a man rather familiar himself with music that was abrasive and filled with screaming) and one of his finest records, Ludo, was produced by George Martin. “I’m Happy” sums Cutler’s approach up in many ways: 37 seconds of pounding harmonium melodies and this man, who had a way of looking old and wise even when he was young, loudly declaring in his Scottish accent, “I’m happy! I’m happy! I’m happy!” then finally concluding “and I’ll punch the man who says I’m not.” The song abruptly collapses after two rounds of this with a guttural and exhausted sigh.

There are those moments when something comes on that feels too extreme, regardless of which side of the spectrum. Sometimes it works out though, and I find something inspirational, in this case when the shocked roommate had the exact same response to Cutler’s ode to happy that they did when a song from Prurient’s Bermuda Drain unexpectedly played a week earlier: “What the fuck was that? I kinda liked it.”

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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