|The ISLAND EXPERIMENTAL 7: It’s Just a Name|
by Wills Morgan
“Right, CUTHBERT” said I to the person walking alongside me, sipping his soda on a sunny, Hotter-than-July-is-supposed-to-be Sunday afternoon. “Right, Cuthbert. We can do this one of two ways. You can tell it like it is (and I’ll write it up), or you just do your stuff and I’ll write what I think”. 80 (the number by which Cuthbert the person is also recognized) looked me in the soul and replied: “Write what you think, Wills”.
I say he is modest, and that’s true. The name CUTHBERT 80 is just a name. It says nothing about his fame or reputation. It makes no real reference vis-a-vis the size of his wallet. And it’s no clue as to Cuth’s age, or sex, or colour.
So you may find yourself yackety-yacking back to your columnist in words of this wise: call me an unenlightened so-and-so if you must, but you might as well stick a label on a bag of luggage and call it ‘CUTHBERT 80 don’cha know?’
That’s why this month The Experimental takes a gentle walk with a modest young singer/photographer/gentle-man of my acquaintance. Are you ready, boots?
We go to ROUNDWOOD PARK, a place where sights are heard and sounds are seen. It was here during Brent Council’s annual RESPECT FESTIVAL of dance, food, theatre and music that the voice of Cuthbert 80 was most recently heard (and seen).
The tenor of 80’s voice is so rare: and it is of such range and exquisite beauty that it needs next to nothing in order to hold it up. Mind you, that does not stop mere mortals like myself wanting to get up on stage with the guy. Just to be close to genius.
It’s about two thirty, and there’s a reasonable hum of people in the park. Transportation to here is non-existent; it’s a Sunday and Network Rail doesn’t even work, let alone network. Some of the young dancers scramble to perform within seconds of their arrival backstage. Proud parents help to swell the audience numbers.
Bass player PATRICK LONG, myself and the ever-wonderful WIG stroll on to the stage and plug in. A quorum of ISLAND EXPERIMENT stalwarts cheer us on. Among them is WADESKI - our fearless leader and host - fresh from an early morning swim in Bayliss Lido.
On a clean-ish paper plate I scribble information about the 80 for the guy from BANG 103.6 FM to read.
My script went as follows: “HIS NAME IS CUTHBERT 80. HE WOULD LIKE EVERYBODY TO KNOW THAT HE LIKES ORANGE JUICE”. Obviously I checked with the man himself that this was the announcement to be made. It was.
He steals on to the ARENA STAGE and says he’s here. ‘My name’s Cuthbert’ are his first words. I told you...he’s modest.
Wig’s guitar kicks off the set with the lilting refrain of the number known as FRED. An elegant pick-up of the pace occurs and then...suddenly we find ourselves in the presence of the emotional and physical edge of 80. WHOA! Where did that slim guy in the neat orange shirt go? Wasn’t he just talking to us?
Wig then leads the gang of four into a cover of the DELFONICS smash hit of 1970 Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind). Cuthbert’s delivery is spectacular in its timing. From my drum stool I can see that folks are chilling, nodding in recognition; drawing nearer for the thrill.
THE THINGS YOU DO was next. This is very much a signature tune from the 80’s own back catalogue. After that there was MY GOSH, a mixture of sing-a-long and Cuthbert’s unique rapping language. Both tracks are infected with the chop and charge of Wig’s power chords.
Then he’s gone! Zapped off the edge of the stage with the speed of a TGV and moving, grooving in front of the crowd! The band plays on, with the glitter of Wig’s axe as our only guide.
After a brief pause, we leave the backstage area and join the gang soaking up the atmos created by the next act; the kids of another swarm of proud parents. A world-record attempt for the most people doing the ELECTRIC SLIDE, to the sound of CAMEO’s single ‘Candy’ apparently...Cuthbert stays, but does not slide.
To sum the gig up then: CUTHBERT 80 is creative (and driven) in a way that I know and understand. Give him a label if you have to; but all-purpose tags like ‘entertainer’ won’t cover it. ‘Rap Star’ is one word too many; it’s a catch-all phrase used as a hammer to crack a nut. Rapping is a thing that has been around for a while now; what the 80 does is new...and continually evolving.
Perhaps the clue lies in the fact that the person responsible for enacting Cuthbert was born just after the release of the first hip-hop singles... in 1980. Is that what I think? Possibly.
The man himself was heard to say this: “It’s just a name, Wills”. Right, Cuthbert. Tell it like it is.
EXPERIMENTAL EXTRA: POP-UP returns to the Tabernacle on 31 JULY
We in the gang were very pleased with the love and support we received for our lively little vibe night, which I ‘plugged’ in the last installment of this column.
It was such a good evening (i.e. punch-packed with all sorts of fun and frolics) that the lovely people at Powis Square who run the TABERNACLE have invited us to sock it to ‘em a couple more times. Hooray!
Look out for flyers giving you the word-up on SATURDAY NITE’s line up or check for details via this net magazine and the EXPERIMENT’S many internet hovels.
Meanwhile...one of this month’s pics of 80 gives an idea of what righteous grooves go out. A loudly cry of ‘CUCKOO, CUCKOO’ for guest snapper Oliver Gardiner...wild shots, man.