THE STORY OF COUM TRANSMISSIONS AN THROBBING GRISTLE
by Simon Ford - Published by: Black Dog 1999 But who was this 'flower girl' and where had she come from? Christine Carol Newby was born on 4 November 1951 in the Hedon Road Maternity Hospital in Hull, just before midnight. She was the second daughter of Dennis Newby and Winifred Magueritte Guard. Dennis, was a fireman who later became a Chief Station Officer. He was a strict disciplinarian whilst Tutti's mother; Winifred, was much more lenient and sympathetic towards her daughter. Winifred later became head of the wages department of a large manufacturing firm in Hull. "I was the second daughter and I was supposed to be a boy (ironically to be called Christopher)," Tutti recalls. "Hence I was brought up more like a boy than a girl. I was very rough, always fighting. I had great times getting into all sorts of trouble and was hedonistic as a child and well aware that childhood only lasts so long. My only problem was my over-strict Victorian father. He put the dampers on anything, even Christmas day. When I was in my teens it was a case of always finding out what my father's shifts were so I could organise my social life. If he was on nights I got to stay out with my friends.
If not I was miserable. My poor mum was stuck in the middle."
Tutti's early interest in music manifested itself when Mike, her father's youngest brother, stayed briefly with the Newby's, bringing his guitar and harmonica. Whilst he was out
Tutti used to sneak into his room for a quick play. Her father, meanwhile, although he played no musical instruments, was an electronics enthusiast and Tutti remembers well the grating, whining, and shrill noises coming from his room as he tuned his radios. Use particular birthday present she remembers was a Grundig tape recorder that she almost wore out taping herself and music from the radio. She also, rather reluctantly, attended piano lessons and passed her exams despite often skipping the hated lessons. Tutti attended Bilton Grange Infants and Junior School in Hull, from 1956 to 1962.
Then, after passing her eleven plus, she went to Estcourt High School for Girls, from
1962 to 1967. She describes Estcourt now as verging on St. Trinian's" but she did well
and passed all her GCEs. Her favourite subject at school was art, but her father persuaded her to concentrate on the sciences. One early art experience she remembers vividly was being greatly affected by paintings of suffering slaves in the William Wilberforce House in Hull. But apart from this there were few opportunities for Tutti to develop her artistic interests further. "I lived a very working-class lifestyle on a working-class estate in one of the toughest towns in the UK," she says. "Art was not a priority so much as survival among my peers." At school her favourite teacher was the art teacher called Miss Kirten. No matter how disruptive or naughty Tutti was, Miss Kirten never gave her detention or reported her. "She valued unorthodox artistic expression and think that had a profound effect on my attitude to both art and music. She wanted me to stay on and do my A level but it wasn't to be." Under pressure from her father; Tutti left school after her exams and went to work as a laboratory assistant in a local school. It was around this time that she started smoking dope and dropping acid which led to her taking a lot of time off work. Eventually she handed in her notice and became unemployed. This was too much for her father who said she should either get a job or get out. Subsequently she left home and stayed with her friend 'Lelli'. "I missed my mother; she was so dear to me and helped me so much through the battles with my father. She called to me from the house one day when she saw me and begged me to come home for Christmas. I did but I'd left before the end of January. My father and I were incompatible, he wanted total control and I wanted none
of it." Tutti had always hated the name Christine and preferred people to call her Carol. After meeting P-Orridge she changed her name again, first to Cosmosis, then to Cosey. The lengthening of the name to Cosey Fanni Tutti took place in 1973, when mail artist Robin Klassnik suggested it via a postcard. The new name came from the title of Mozart's 1790 opera, Cosi fan tutte (which has been variously translated as 'They (women) are all the same', 'Thus do our women', or 'All the Women are at it'). The new name suited her well with its corruption of the high art form of opera into the low art form of the music hall and the burlesque (and even rock 'n' roll with its echoes of Little Richard's 'Tutti-frutti'). It soon became obvious to their friends that P-Orridge and Tutti were a well-matched couple. In particular they both shared rebellious and self-confident personalities. "When you're in your late teens or early twenties," Tutti explains, "you have little sense of responsibility. You're just out to get whatever experiences you can, you don't think of what the consequences are going to be. You don't even think as constructively as that.
We just went out and did it. We were very anti-establishment anything- music and art.
We wanted to destroy anything that had ground rules, that kept everything suffocating
and safe. We were out to break all the rules any way we could." This idealism, though, was not shared by other members of the household. Tutti recalls that within the commune they were regarded as outsiders "because we actually wanted to do things for real and follow them through to a conclusion. We sold Oz and made tie-dye T-shirts and 'loon' pants and also started doing what we called our 'acoustic doo-dahs' and the street theatre. The rest of the commune didn't really appreciate our commitment because they were out of their heads most of the time. Although I'd experimented with drugs I found them just a total waste of time, like getting pissed and doing nothing. You're just numbing your brain and doing nothing with your life and we were ostracised for even thinking like that within the commune. When Tutti joined COUM they were still a predominantly musically orientated group, playing instruments such as broken violins, prepared pianos, guitars, bongos, and talking drums. Tutti began to take part in performances in 1971, before then she would help build props and design costumes. "I became more involved as the direction started to change," Tutti told David Bourgoin, "COUM was musically based and took the form of acoustic improvisations, just anywhere, then more abstract scenarios started creeping in and we made entire environments for enjoyment." Tutti also described some of the happenings they produced, highlighting their often absurd nature: "People had to crawl through a polythene tunnel to get into the hall.
by Simon Ford 1999
For a full biographical account of Cosey’s career please check out her best selling autobiography ART SEX MUSIC - published by Faber & Faber.
2017 Cosey curated the first ‘COUM Transmissions’ retrospective exhibition at Hull City of Culture. UK. | LINK |
2017 Cosey’s acclaimed solo exhibition was held at Cabinet Gallery, London. | LINK |
2017 Faber & Faber published Cosey’s best-selling autobiography ‘Art Sex Music’.
2017 Cosey began her collaboration with Caroline Catz on a Delia Derbyshire film.
2018 Cosey began working on the film adaption of ‘ART SEX MUSIC’ with director Andrew Hulme.
2019 Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes - Film premiered at the BFI London Film Festival | LINK |
2021 Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes - Original Soundtrack LP released.
2021 The film adaption of ‘ART SEX MUSIC’ - begins shooting.
2022 ‘Untitled’ second book to be published by Faber & Faber | LINK |
FOR ALL PRESS ENQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT:
Zoe Miller at Zopf PR:
Tel: (+44) 07808 804204
Dan Papps at Faber & Faber
Tel: (+44) 020 7927 3849
Cosey is represented by Cabinet gallery, London. Cabinet We Site
For a comprehensive unabridged CV / biography please contact: Contact Cabinet gallery
For a full list of exhibitions Cosey has appeared in follow this link
For a full discography of Cosey’s music follow this link
Cosey’s IMDB page is HERE
Photos of Cosey HERE
© 1972 - 2019