In those later days when Bonzo Dog Band frontman Vivian Stanshall was short of a bark, a pen, a duck, or a round, he would offer his more-than-capable services to advertising companies, suggesting delightfully creative, entertaining and memorable ads, which he would script, voice and occasionally appear in. The results were usually pleasing, though I have to admit sometimes feeling an occasional disquiet over the reworking of a favorite Bonzo/Stanshall song, which often neared musical heresy. But then I’d think, why be a grinch, and really shouldn’t the ginger genius make some well-deserved money from his past work?
And Vivian certainly did make money from these adverts, some of which (the pay for his Ruddles ad, for example) he put towards recording new songs—the inspiration being Orson Welles, who paid for his movies through ads for cheap wine and frozen peas.
Some ads, like the those by film director Tony Kaye, immediately become works of art, and certainly Stanshall’s best commercials deserve to be considered so—his ad for Ruddles beer, for example, is a work of genuine brilliance. It was inspired by Sir Henry at Rawlinson End and features a disguised Dawn French as Sir Henry, and Stanshall as narrator who recites the following poem:
Malcolm the Porcupine went to see if a moon of green cheese would float
He exhaled a spray of ‘will you go away’
To the land where the hoppity oats
He brewed humpty of Ruddles
Which he dumpty in puddles
And licked up whenever it snowed
In final conclusion, ‘twas only illusion,
Malcolm Porcupine said ‘I’LL BE BLOWED’
Commencing his doodles
With oodles of noodles
From soup of a green green hue ,
Sir Cuthbert first faltered ,
Nonplussed, altered ,
Then called for his favourite brew
Rolling an eyeball for kicks
Is somewhere between and betwixt
But feared overbite
Or the gift of hindsight
But not a patch on a Ruddles at six
In some respects making adverts was an ideal earner for Stanshall, as his alcoholism had wreaked havoc with his health, and limited his ability to remain focused and reliable—he wasn’t exactly “reliable” on the Ruddles shoot, either, but the ad agency were so keen on working with the great man that they indulged his occasional lapses.
Stanshall’s other ads usually reworked his songs to differing comic effect—the excellent ”Terry Keeps His Cips On” for Toshiba, and everyone’s favorite “Mister Slater’s Parrot” for Cadbury’s Cream Egg. Though it was Stanshall’s collaboration with Supermarionation genius, Gerry Anderson, the man behind Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds, which used the song “The Big Shot” for Tennent’s Pilsner that captured something of the old Bonzo zaniness.
Ruddles Real Ale: ‘Are you ready for a Ruddles?’
More Vivian Stanshall ads after the jump…