REVIEW: John Shuttleworth at the Plough Arts Centre
GRAHAM Fellows first shot to fame as Jilted John, blasting out the unforgettable refrain Gordon Is A Moron in the 1978 novelty punk hit. However, Fellows jettisoned that John in favour of a far more humdrum alter-ego.
As retired security guard John Shuttleworth, Fellows takes on the guise of a mild mannered, would-be singer-songwriter complete with a portable Yamaha and a line in cult songs. Tony Glynn went to hear him at the Plough.
IF for some reason you'd never heard of John Shuttleworth, on seeing him on stage you would be forgiven for thinking you had taken a wrong turning and wandered into an empty pub, library or perhaps a taxi. Somewhere wherein an odd stranger is likely to bend your ear, without invitation, yet gently.
Hailing from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, Mr Shuttleworth plies his trade as a singer-songwriter and organist extraordinaire. He is managed by Ken Worthington (the "clarinet man" who came last on TV's New Faces in 1973, remember?) and is husband to wife Mary, who to John's chagrin forces him out to the shed. But the shed is a very pleasant place to be apart from the times when, while punching the air in happiness, he scrapes his hand on the lawnmower handle.
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Now in the autumn of his life, John regaled the audience at Torrington's Plough with anecdotes of life in the modern world. Being from a city, he sees the beauty of country village life in being able to say "How do you do" to people on the street, but also laments the lack of self-service tills which sometimes have an automated voice that says "please", "thank you" and "enjoy your day". For a loner who hasn't spoken to a soul for days, this machine may be the only friend they have.
But it's not all talking. Shuttleworth constructs profound songs on his top of the range 1980s Yamaha keyboard. Using chord sequences that arouse the deepest human emotions, he gives practical advice on life or death matters such as how to keep your paintbrush healthy. Smells Like White Spirit, he has been told, has lately been plagiarised by an American band called Near A Varna, or something like that.
Of course, some would say that John Shuttleworth is merely an alter ego of comedian Graham Fellows (aka Jilted John of Gordon Is A Moron fame), but such an accusation does not diminish the quality of his character. He is such a lovely bloke, really, and his non-vitriolic, family-friendly humour is the perfect antidote to the midwinter blues. Catch him if you can next time he takes a day out to your neck of the woods, or look him up on the world wide interweb.
His surreal, slapstick and earthy brand of comedy calls to mind such great forces as Tommy Cooper, Reeves and Mortimer and Tommy Trinder – with a dashing of Del Boy for good measure. All of whom, and John included, will never be outdated.