>   The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band /
       VIVIAN STANSHALL < Collaborator of V          

> Here's a band that truly does deserve
it's cult reputation. Combining comedy, 30's-style music-hall sounds and the wacky, bizarre humour of the band's two major figures Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall, the Bonzo's had their best time in the late 60's, when they filled large-halls and even had a hit single with "I am the Urban Spaceman".

Red-haired as Calvert (discretely hidden on the photo you see on the left), and certainly as eccentric (possibly even more), Vivian Stanshall, famous comedian - musician; front-man of the Bonzos; the "court-jester of the underground scene" as John Peel described him.

"The quintessential art school band, the Bonzos were a chaotic mixture of music hall, rock parody and Dada nonsense. Resolutely English, Stanshall & co. brought an absurdist sense of humour to a scene that was already beginning to take itself too seriously."

Stanshall + Moon as the Adolf-TwinsTo shed some light on his somewhat bizarre and outrageous sense of humour: he obviously took delight in cruising through the pubs of London with his good friend Keith Moon - wearing Nazi uniforms. What fun! (Read more on Stanshall's career in the article below.)

Stanshall made a significant contribution to Calvert's Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters album, performing most of the lead character's in the sketches that appear between the songs, accompanied by Tom Mittledorf, Richard Ealing, Jim Capaldi and Calvert himself.

Vivian alive And Calvert obviously knew that Stanshall was THE man for this: Here you can hear Stanshall in top-form, making full use of the whole range of his famous "posh talk" -
writes Pete Dooley:

"Stanshall was apparently forcibly taught BBC English by his father, who returned from the war "a changed man". It might have worked out well, but the Stanshalls lived in the East End of London, and so Viv's cultured tones set him apart from the norm at an early age."

On Captain Lockheed... Stanshall impersonates all sorts of characters: from the mad-fat German then defense minister Franz Joseph Strauss to a neurotic test-pilot, whose mother crashed while she tried to cross the atlantic single-handedly...and they only found her false eye-lashes, floating on the waves...and that's why he is wearing mascara....for her sacred memory...all clear?

Well, get an audio taste of it here - LISTEN to:
Two Pilots discussing the Starfighter's performance

However, the strange way Calvert and Stanshall got to know each other did not point to a later collaboration - quite on the contrary....: Read the hilarious story of the first meeting of Calvert and Viv Stanshall on the QUOTES pages - told by Arthur Brown who introduced them to each other. <

More on Vivian Stanshall - taken from a -shortened- article by Pete Dooley:

the Bonzo's "Viv's first brush with fame came with the Bonzo Dog Band. Everyone knows 'The Urban Spaceman', but don't be fooled. That was Neil Innes' baby.
Turn the single over, and you'll hear Stanshall's bloated-Presley flavoured 'Canyons Of Your Mind', complete with camp intro and atrocious Innes guitar solo, which actually pre-dated the genuine fat-Vegas-Elvis by a couple of years. Maybe Elvis heard this song and thought it was a good idea.

From 1965 to 1970, over four albums, the Bonzos flirted with a variety of musical styles, beginning with 1920s novelty songs and ending with psychedelic mini-operas, spawning hordes of imitators along the way. What Monty Python didn't steal from Spike Milligan, they stole from the Bonzos. They even eventually stole Neil Innes, in person. The Bonzos were also feted regulars on John Peel's Top Gear show, producing many sessions that were superior to their officially-released versions. I recommend them.

bonzo-scape In 1970, the Bonzos went their separate ways. Viv Stanshall immediately launched Big Grunt, who recorded little more than a session for John Peel (and a damn fine one, at that) before Viv suffered a massive, and much-publicised, nervous breakdown.

As a result, Stanshall became tranquiliser dependent, a condition he wrestled with for the next twenty years.

Stanshall re-emerged a year later, filling in for a few weeks on John Peel's radio show. Vivian Stanshall's Radio Flashes, a mix of sketches and music, ran for four episodes and a Christmas special. It was enormously popular and the BBC asked for more. Viv, still recuperating, had looked upon the enterprise as a favour for Peel, felt he couldn't handle the pressure, and declined. Twenty years later, Victor Lewis-Smith, who'd obviously heard Radio Flashes, was doing much the same thing.

During 1972 a single, Suspicion, an effective demolition of the Presley tune, was a minor hit. Also in 1972 the Bonzos briefly reunited for their contractual obligation album, 'Let's Make Up And Be Friendly'. Less a Bonzos album than a Stanshall/Innes collaboration, it was still surprisingly good. 1974 saw the release of Viv's masterpiece, 'Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead', a both hilarious and chilling work, reflecting Stanshall's own troubled state at the time. Two years and a label change later saw the release of the single 'The Question' (worth searching out for its b-side, a Boris Karloff Frankenstein remake of The Young Ones).

Stanshall was still appearing regularly on Radio 4's Start The Week and producing sessions for John Peel. It was from the latter that Viv's next album originated, released in 1978.

'Sir Henry At Rawlinson End' was the bizarre, sprawling saga of that last bastion of decent English lunacy, Sir Henry Rawlinson, and his various warped relatives and deranged servants. The Rawlinson saga proved to be one of the more popular post-Bonzos projects, spawning a film, a stage play and a book, and it continued to run away with itself on radio right into the early nineties.

1981 saw a return to more musical things with 'Teddy Boys Don't Knit', a collection of wonderfully tasteless tunes, concerning variously senility, sudden death, alcoholism and uncontrollable sneezing.
1983 saw the release of 'Sir Henry At N'Didi's Kraal', a below-par offering of highly-lavatorial hi-jinks, which in Stanshall's own words "should never have been released".

The rest of the 1980s saw Viv's work confined largely to radio, but in 1991 after successfully battling his various demons, Stanshall embarked upon a marathon UK tour to packed houses and rapturous audiences; particularly memorable was a show in Manchester, at which Viv was "adored" by a section of the audience prostrating themselves at his manly feet. Shortly afterwards, his short play Crank was broadcast by the BBC's Late Show.

In 1992 and 1993, Stanshall was plagued by ill-health, the results of his tranquiliser addiction and alcoholism, which saw him spend a couple of lengthy periods in hospital.

By 1994, somewhat rejuvenated, he embarked upon gathering new material for a prospective new album. By his own estimate, he had 90 or songs lying around "waiting for some bugger with the money". He also made an appearance (somewhat the worse for drink) in Pulp's film 'Do You Remember The First Time?', and in the final months of the year Viv completed another nostalgic autobiographical piece for Radio 4, in which he reflected upon his early life and environment. It was almost as if he knew.

By the beginning of 1995, Viv had clinched the album deal that had eluded him for so long, and a new album of Rawlinson End material was on the cards. Whether or not anything had been recorded, and if it'll be released, remains to be seen.

Viv Stanshall died in a fire at his London flat sometime during the early hours of March 6th, 1995."


LINKS - More on Vivian Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog's:

Find out all about Viv Stanshall, the Bonzo's and their
manifold relations to Monty Python and other artists on these pages: