Sunday, November 27, 2005

Vivian Stanshall


by Jason Ankeny
"Dubbed the "court jester of the underground rock scene in the 1960s" by influential DJ John Peel, Vivian Stanshall earned his greatest notoriety as the original tenor in the absurdist Bonzo Dog Band, although he was also a noted artist and comedian. Stanshall was born on March 21, 1943 in East London, England before World War II forced him and his mother to evacuate to Oxfordshire. While attending art school under the well-known pop artist Peter Blake (the designer of the Beatles' famed Sgt. Pepper album cover), Stanshall formed the Bonzo Dog Dada Band with flatmate Rodney Slater and fellow student Larry Smith in 1962.

Later shortened to simply the Bonzo Dog Band, the satirical group became highly successful before creative differences triggered their break-up in 1970. Stanshall quickly resurfaced with a series of short-lived and diverse projects: the first, the Sean Head Showband, issued the single "Labio Dental Fricative," while his second solo release, under the guise of Vivian Stanshall and His Gargantuan Chums, was a parody cover of Terry Stafford's "Suspicion." "Blind Date" was recorded as biG Grunt, a group also comprised of Bonzo Dog Band auxilliary members Roger Ruskin Spear, Dennis Cowan and "Borneo" Fred Munt; while the group did play a handful of live gigs, they met their premature demise when Stanshall, a heavy drinker and drug user, suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.

In 1974, Stanshall emerged with his debut solo LP Men Opening Umbrellas, recorded with Steve Winwood; Stanshall later returned the favor, collaborating with Winwood on his own self-titled debut and contributing significant lyrical ideas to 1980's Arc of a Diver. After narrating Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, Stanshall was tapped to guest host the BBC Radio 4 program Start the Week, where he developed his monologue Rawlinson End, which later inspired his own 1978 release Sir Henry at Rawlinson End as well as a film of the same title which starred Trevor Howard.

In 1981, Stanshall issued the autobiographical Teddy Boys Don't Knit, followed three years later by the spoken word project Henry at Ndidis Kraal. The Rawlinson saga continued with Rawlinson Dogends, a 1991 play staged at London's Bloomsbury Theatre complete with musical backing from Rodney Slater and Roger Ruskin Spear. Another autobiographical radio play, Essex Teenager to Renaissance Man, followed in 1994, along with film and voiceover work. Vivian Stanshall died in a house fire on the morning of March 5, 1995."

More about Vivian Stanshall HERE.

Vivian Stanshall - Dwarf Succulents

Vivian Stanshall - Bout Of Sobriety

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9 comments:

spice-the-cat said...

If I'm not mistaken his first solo album was, in fact, Teddy Boys Don't Knit, a fantastic and eccentric collection of songs in typical Stanshall style and which was finally re-released on CD last year. Another interesting little nugget is that no less a person than Eric Clapton played guitar on Labio Dental Fricative

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michael said...

Thats' right . Others helping out on the LP are Steve Winwood, Neil Innes, "Bubs" White, Gasper Lawal, Jim Capaldi, Deryk Quinn and Ric Grech etc. I have a tape of "Teddy Boys Don't Knit" which I agree is far superior to this first LP he did in 1974

Big Al said...

Men opening umbrellas ahead was from 1974 and Teddy Boys Don't knit was 1981.

I will be able to play my vinyl again Michael, I have a new deck, I'll help you with my boot sale sounds of weirdness.

Ben our grandson loves Kenny Ball and his jazzmen now, so only a small jump and he'll be a bonzo fan.

michael said...

Good news about the record player Al. I look forward to the Elvis impersonating Sikh! "Don't ~Step On My Blue Suede Turban"? I bet he didn't sing that.
I did actually buy a Kenny Ball single when i was about thirteen- it was the "March Of The Siamese Children"!

Big Al said...

I don't take drugs,
I don't drink Bourbon
all I wanna do is shake my Turban

That is what he sings.

Cocaine Jesus said...

And of course he was an Essex boy and good friend of Ian Durys. Vivian Stanshall lived, for a time, in, or near Southend-on-Sea.
A great shame that he and Dury didn't work together.
Britains own Zappa.

michael said...

I once read or heard that he went to Southend Art School briefly a year or two before i did but not sure if this is true or not. I should think he would have been remembered with that ginger hair and the brothel creepers!

Cocaine Jesus said...

the book i have entitled 'ginger geezer' says that he lived for a brief time in southend but, and my memory may have skipped a bit, says that he used to attend a college in london. walthamstow?

michael said...

Yes, i think it was Walthamstow. I think thats where he met fellow Bonzos ,Neil Innes and others.