Friday, 21 March 2014

the last laugh

In 1984 Frank Zappa's live album title asked the question "Does Humor Belong in Music?" We know the answer. These days it would be easier to ask is there any humour in music? Thought of any yet? It's thin pickings.
Was a time when there was quite a bit of humour in rock and roll. But it just faded away over the decades. Maybe humour just became uncool in music for some. A reflection on todays fucked up times.
One of the great humourists in UK music for decades was Viv Stanshall, maybe lesser known overseas, but an ever present wit on UK radio and TV, and you could say a fairley wild eccentric since he first appeared with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band in the 60's. In many ways his madcap impersonations and theatricals summarised as much about "the swinging 60's" as any fashion or trend of the day. It was the unabandoned sense of freedom to do anything different and ask questions later. Stanshall's sense of the absurd was second to none.

    Neil Innes and Bonzo Dog member said of his first meeting with Stanshall: "We first met in a big Irish pub in South London, the New Cross Arms ... he was quite plump in those days, and he was wearing Billy Bunter (schoolboy comic character) check trousers, a Victorian frock coat, black coat tails, horrible little oval, violet-tinted pince-nez glasses, he had a euphonium under his arm, and large rubber false ears. And I thought, well, this is an interesting character." wiki

'The Bonzo's' as they were effectionately called had a one off hit pop record (produced by McCartney under a pseudonym) and their albums 'Gorilla' (67) and 'The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse' (68) were in many a student record collection for many years after their first release.
It was also the Bonzo track "Death Cab for Cutie" written by Stanshall which played a guest role in The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour in 1967 which put them all into video pop history.
The Bonzo's finished in 1970 but Stanshall went solo with his many projects of madcap humour for decades later until in 1995 he fell asleep presumably from a certain amount of intoxication and died in the fire that subsequently broke out in his flat.

Here's the late legendary DJ John Peel, who's BBC radio show often featured a guest spot of Stanshall, explaining why there was... well only one Vivian Stanshall.
And below that the Bonzo's early 45 taken from 'Gorilla', "The Intro and The Outro" which had obviously inspired Mike Oldfield to include Stanshall in the memorable and similar voice over for Tubular Bells.