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An Interview with George Melly, jazz singer, Surrealist, zoot suit enthusiast

The first time I see George Melly, at an exhibition of new paintings by Lucian Freud, he is dressed casual: suede cowboy hat, dark jacket, sponge-soled trainers and a black eye-patch, the result of a detached retina. “This,” he declares of the exhibition, “is a collection of bits.”  The second time I meet him, in the daytime gloom of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, he is in full plumage: the hat is joined by a purple zoot suit and a swishy tie. “It’s silk,” he says, flipping the kipper for my inspection. On the rear is a label saying the tie was created by Unilever Research. The old Surrealist likes it because it resembles a painting by Matta. On his fingers, two eyeball rings. “A Surrealist symbol,” Melly booms, making a playful fist. “Andre Breton said ‘the eye exists in a savage state.’”  Clothes have always been important to Melly. In his early days, he wore suits which belonged to “an uncle who was much bigger than I was”. He moved on to “cheap and rather wonderful clothes fro

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