Robert Wyatt is venerable enough to remember the days when rock 'n' roll personnel were pretty much powerless when it came to contracts. The sixty-three-yearold musician has been a solo artist for thirty-five years now, but initially came to prominence in the 1960s with influential prog-rock outfit Soft Machine. Like so many of his contemporaries, he felt a bit shafted by his early deals.
“A lot of stuff I did from the Sixties all belongs to the record company in perpetuity,” complains Wyatt, “which means that they can keep putting stuff out without telling us in any way they like, forever and ever, and that’s depressing really, when it’s your own life’s work.”
Wyatt went solo in the early Seventies and became something of a national treasure, recording numerous willfully leftfield albums, often in collaboration with his wife, lyricist and manager, Alfie Benge. Now those albums are about to be re-released, on CD, vinyl and a rather splendid box set, courtesy of the ever-excellent Domino Records. The London-based label have become a potent force in recent years with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand on their roster, but still have an eye for the rarer fish. Wyatt made it easy for them.
“We sort of own our own records, and finance them ourselves, then we present it to a record company as a fait accompli,” says Wyatt. “We license it to them then we get it back eventually. When we were on Virgin, Alfie had a thing put in the contract. They were amazed when after fifteen years we asked for it back. They huffed and they puffed but they couldn’t argue with the contract. If you’ve got management in the family it toughens the sinews. Paul Weller’s got his dad, I’ve got an Alfie.”
We have a copy of that Wyatt box-set to give away, comprising nine albums from 1974’s ‘Rock Bottom’ to the live album ‘Robert Wyatt and Friends’, also recorded in ’74 but released in 2005. It’s a fine introduction to the great man’s work, so for a chance to win it, answer the question below (click to enter).