Prokofiev’s orchestral composition/children’s story Peter and the Wolf is familiar to everyone who had to take music appreciation as a schoolkid: briefly, a young boy named Peter and his animal friends are spending a day by his grandfather’s pond when a wolf attacks. Peter, with his ingenuity and some help from a bird, captures the wolf, beating a group of hunters to the prize, and the story ends with a parade as the wolf is carted off to a zoo. Every character has a distinct musical theme played on a different instrument, and Peter’s theme alone is surely one of the the most recognizable pieces of classical music from the 20th Century.
If you’re feeling like a quick-and-dirty head trip, by all means visit Peter and the Wolf’s Wikipedia page and hit ‘play’ on all the themes at once.
Another highly worthy Prokofiev head trip was released in 1975—an art rock Peter and the Wolf featuring a laundry list of British pysch, blues, and prog luminaries. The narrator was the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s Viv Stanshall, in a remarkably subdued performance. The various themes were performed by Manfred Mann, Chris Spedding, and Stephane Grappelli, among others. Already pretty cool right there, but the wolf was memorably performed by Brian Eno, and the hunters were played by a quartet of prog drummers—Jon Hiseman, Cozy Powell, Bill Bruford and Phil Collins.
Mike Oldfield’s 1973 recording of Tubular Bells is the most famous prog rock “symphony” of them all—and a bit of a “love it or hate it” affair amongst music snobs—but in actual fact, most of the instruments played on the album are played by Oldfield himself, layered during the recording process.
Wikipedia lists Oldfield as playing “acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond, and Lowrey organs; flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, “honky tonk” piano (piano modified to sound more percussive), mandolin, piano, “Piltdown Man” percussion, Spanish guitar, producer, “taped motor drive amplifier organ chord,” timpani, vocals and tubular bells.” He was just a nineteen-year-old when the album was recorded.
Oldfield did bring in a few others—notably his sister, vocalist Sally Oldfield and the Bonzo Dog Band’s Vivian Stanshall as the “Master of Ceremonies”—but it’s fair to say, a few embellishments aside, that Tubular Bells is (almost) the work of a “one man band” or in this case, a one-man orchestra. Initially championed by BBC disc jockey John Peel (who played the entire album on his radio show), Tubular Bells has sold an estimated 16 million copies worldwide and was the first album to be put out on the Virgin Records label, making Sir Richard Branson a very, very rich man. The opening theme was famously used as the title music for The Exorcist.
An “in the round” live-in-studio performance of side one of Tubular Bells was taped for the BBC program Second House on November 30th, 1973 and aired on December 1. Taking part in this performance are Oldfield himself on bass and acoustic guitar, his brother Terry on flute, Fred Frith (and other members of Henry Cow), Gong’s Pierre Moerlen and Steve Hillage, Tubular Bells co-producer Tom Newman, Mike Ratledge and Karl Jenkins of the Soft Machine, Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, David Bedford and others. (Vivian Stanshall, in his role as the MC, is present, reading off the list of instruments at the end of the first movement in his plummy voice, but, sadly is not captured well on camera).
I think it was Liza Minnelli’s bright-eyed character Eliza in Albert Finney’s film Charlie Bubbles who noted that all the pleasure in life when collected together would probably only fill a thimble when compared to all the dull, beige and unhappy moments that weigh-in by the bucketload. Strangely, perhaps, I’ve always found this a reassuring thought as it makes life an adventure to be won. It’s always gladdening, therefore, to find one of those precious little delectations that put a skip in the day. Such a delight, well for me at least and hopefully for you too, is the Bonzo Dog Band’s short film The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage from 1969 or thereabouts. This little vintage piece of Bonzology turns up now and again like some long lost friend, but usually disappears with the speed of a unauthorized clip of Prince getting his groove on.
I have loved the Bonzos since being smitten by their presence on Python-forerunner series Do Not Adjust Your Set when a very young thing, and was genuinely more disappointed by the news of their disbandment than by the break-up of The Beatles, or the retirement of Ziggy Stardust or the demise of The Young Ones after only two series. Why this should be has everything to do with the sheer pleasure to be found in their music—their love of novelty tunes, their ability to pastiche pop and an unruly genius for original and unforgettable songs. It is as if The Goons, Monty Python and The Beatles had formed a band.
The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage is like the Holy Grail of Bonzo clips. It’s their take or version or whatever you want to call it of the Fab Four’s Magical Mystery Tour (which, of course, the Bonzos are in themselves, singing “Death Cab for Cutie” in the strip club scene), where similarly not very much happens, other than a trip out to the country, a visit to a farm, a meeting with some children, a game of football and a performance of the songs—“Rockaliser Baby,” “We are Normal” and “Quiet Walks and Summer Talks.” It’s a bit like the 1960s as a film—indulgent, fun, bubbly and rather messy.
This won’t be to everybody’s taste, but then again, why should it be? If you know it, you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t, why not give it a try?
Bonzos bonus clip at the Plumpton Jazz & Blues Festival, 1969, after the jump…
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.
For fans of The Bonzo Dog Band, it doesn’t get much better than this outlandish performance shot live at the Jazz Bilzen festival in Belgium on August 22, 1969.
Well, actually had the cameras been pointed at the right place at the right times… Eventually, though, the cameramen do figure it out.
It starts off with an extended interview with Neil Innes.
You Done My Brain In
I’m The Urban Spaceman
Quiet Talks and Summer Walks
I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
In The Canyons of Your Mind
I’ve been conducting an interview over email with Neil Innes about his recently released Le Duck’s Box Set collecting his Innes Book of Records-era output that will be published on Dangerous Minds soon.
In the meantime, enjoy this wild video of the Bonzos in all their glory. Imagine someone doing something like this onstage today.
Just a great photograph of Keith Moon as barman fixing drinks for Ronnie Lane, Vivian Stanshall and music journalist, Chris Welch.
DM reader dogmatique passed on the following message (via a friend of a friend, and the all-connecting power of the internet) in which Mr. Chris Welch explained some of the background to this wonderful photograph by Barrie Wentzell:
“It was a wonderful night at the Crown & Cushion where Keith was ‘mine host’ I only saw this photo by Barrie [Wentzell] fairly recently, years after the event and it brought back many memories. Sad to say I’m the only survivor of this jolly scene. Incidently Keith took his role in running the pub very seriously and was most excited about his latest purchase, a Microwave oven, the first we’d ever seen. An elderly customer demanded to see the manager to complain about the service, prompting Keith to bark ‘I AM the manager’. I now realise this was a ‘set up’ planned with Viv Stanshall for my benefit. Note we are ALL smoking. No ban in those days. Freedom man!”
Many thanks to dogmatique for passing on this info, and to Chris Welch.
Meanwhile…in a garret in the Palace…Vivian Stanshall advises us to ‘Be Realistic. Ask for the impossible,’ as he tells a surreal comic tale that preempts the mash-up and scratch video. Originally broadcast on Up Sunday circa 1972.
Paul posted this clip last year, but it’s worth another airing: After eight years with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, in 1970 Vivian Stanshall formed the short lived BiG GrunT with fellow former Bonzos Dennis Cowan on bass and Roger Ruskin Spear on wind instruments and infernal machines, plus “Borneao” Fred Munt, the ex-Bonzo roadie, on conga drums and saxophone.
The group, seen here in this amazing performance of “11 Mustachioed Daughters” from March 30, 1970, didn’t last long as front-man Stanshall was sadly sidelined with a hospital stay for a nervous breakdown.
And believe it or not that solo was played on spoons - just like these ones, Blue Peter presenter Christopher Trace tells his audience, at the end of this wonderful, little clip of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band performing “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?” on the show in February 1966.
GRIMMS was a like a collision between a busload of musicians, a van full of comics and a mobile library. As Supergroups go, GRIMMS was certainly the most original, literary and possibly hirsute, with their mix of poetry, music, comedy and theater.
“I don’t know what attracted the Scaffold to the Bonzos; we were incredibly anarchic, which was probably something shared by the Scaffold as well. Hence Grimms, this leap in the dark.”
We all know about the genius of The Bonzos, so let’s jump to The Scaffold, that strange hybrid pop band made up from John Gorman (who would go onto star in the children’s show Tiswas, and its adult counterpart OTT with Chris Tarrant and Alexei Sayle in the 1980s), Mike McGear (Paul McCartney’s brother), and poet Roger McGough, who had been one of the 3 Mersey Poets, and was a member of The Liverpool Scene. The Scaffold had chart success with their novelty records “Thank U Very Much”, “Lily the PInk” and “Liverpool Lou”, the last recorded with Paul McCartney and Wings
Liverpool Scene was the Liverpool Poets: McGough (works include Summer With Monika, After The Merrymaking), Brian Patten (works include Little Johnny’s Confession and Notes to the Hurrying Man) and Adrian Henri (The Mersey Sound), and musician Andy Roberts.
GRIMMS changed shape over the years as band members left, moved on or lost hair. These were quickly replaced by hats, wigs and some very special talents, including Keith Moon (The Who), Jon Hiseman (Colosseum), Michael Giles (King Crimson), John Megginson, Gerry Conway, David Richards, Zoot Money, and future Rutles John Halsey and Peter “Ollie” Halsall.
Their first album Grimms was a lucky bag of comedy, poetry and music released in 1973, which included Innes’ songs “Humanoid Boogie”, “Short Blues” and “Twyfords Vitromant”, which was followed later the same year with Rockin’ Duck and in 1975 their final album the 5 star Sleepers.
Unlike most list documentaries today (which miss out on such diamonds as GRIMMS), the seventies was an incredible time of experimentation and risk-taking. In 1975, around the release of Sleepers, the BBC (gawd bless her and all who fail in her) produced a strange series called The Camera and The Song. It was like a collection of early pop promos, with a film-maker interpreting songs by different artists - some good, some bloody awful. Into this mix came GRIMMS, and here are 2 clips from the show (opening titles and songs) featuring the genius talents of Neil Innes and co. Lovely!
More from GRIMMS plus bonus track ‘Backbreaker’, after the jump…
For Bonzo Dog fans, this is the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail. The original edit and soundtrack of The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage - the rarely seen Bonzo Dog Band film from 1969. It’s the Bonzo’s own Magical Mystery Tour (yes, I know they were in that), a film with no real story, just a day-in-the-countryside, with some children and a farm. You’d probably get arrested for trying something like that now… Here’s how the BFI database describes it:
The Bonzo Dog Band drive into the country in a truck, unload their equipment in some woods only to find some of it taken away by some children. They eat and play at a party, and the Bonzos play a number of instrumentals in a stable yard, including `Rockaliser Baby’, `We are Normal’ and `Quiet Walks and Summer Talks’. At the end they are driven away in a white car. Note: No words are sung. Featured alongside the Bonzo Dog Band are the children Amanda, Jennifer and Ashley Lees, Edward Roebuck, and Olivia Smith.
Clips from this film have been on YouTube over the years, usually with “words sung”, but this original instrumental soundtrack is fantastic, which as one comment on YouTube says:
‘Not just a funky old time jazz band. They give early Pink Floyd a run for their money here.’
Ah, tis true. So, if you like Vivian, Neil and co. (and why not?), do make yourself some tea and scones, and settle down and enjoy this lovely trip to the delightful world of The Bonzo Dog Band.
Not going out tonight? Then stay in and enjoy over 2 hours worth of compilation footage of the Blizen Jazz Festival, from 1969. The concert includes performances by Deep Purple, The Move, Humble Pie, Shocking Blue, The Moody Blues, Soft Machine, Marsha Hunt, leading up to a joyous set by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
Here’s the listing as posted on YouTube in no particular order:
Shocking Blue - August 22, 1969
“Venus” + interview
Deep Purple - August 22 1969
“Wring That Neck”
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - August 22, 1969
“You Done My Brain In”
“Quiet Talks And Summer Walks”
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
“Canyons Of Your Mind”
Taste - August 22, 1969
“Blister On The Moon”
Moody Blues - August 22, 1969
“Have You Heard” (Part 1)
“Have You Heard” (Part 2)
Soft Machine - August 22, 1969
“Moon In June” + interview
Marsha Hunt & White Trash - August 22, 1969
“My World Is Empty Without You Babe”
Brian Auger & The Trinity - August 22, 1969
“I Just Got Some”
Steve Shorter & Tilly Set - August 22 1969
“Move On Up”
Humble Pie - August 24 1969
“The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake” /” I Walk On Gilded Splinters”
Life - August 24 1969
“Baby Please Don’t Go”
Blossom Toes - August 24 1969
The Move - August 24 1968
“Sunshine Help Me”
Roland and The Bluesworkshop - August 23 1968
Belgian TV - BRT
Various clips from this concert have appeared on the web over the years, but when placed altogether like this, it is a fab 2 hours. Enjoy!
Ian Dury looked like he could have been your Dad. Well, that is if your Dad was cool enough to front a band, and write songs that stuck in the head like a needle in the groove. I suppose it was because he looked like an old geezer and sounded like a cab driver that made him look like your Dad, but in truth Ian Dury was the Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Cor-Blimey Bard of Pop Poetry, whose exuberant lyrical dexterity at writing short memorable couplets, made him one of music’s best loved and most respected writers and performers.
In 1977, it seemed everyone had or had heard a copy of New Boots and Panties!!, the album that gave Punk and New Wave its very own T S Eliot, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edward Lear or W H Auden. We went in-and-out of class rooms reciting “Clevor Trever”:
“Just cos I ain’t never ad, no, nothing worth having
Never ever, never ever
You ain’t got no call not to think I wouldnt fall
Into thinking that I ain’t too clever
And it aint not having one thing nor another
Neither, either is it anything, whatever
And its not not knowing that there ain’t nothing showing
And I answer to the name of Trever, however.”
Or, singing “Billericay Dickie”:
“I had a love affair with Nina
In the back of my Cortina
A seasoned up hyena
could not have been more obscener.”
It made a change from singing “Sha-na-na-na-sha-na-na-bop-de-diddle-de-bop, baby.” And if there had been an O’Level in the lyrics of Ian Dury, then we all would have passed ‘A’ band one. It wasn’t just that The Blockheads’ songs were the bollocks, it was Dury, who was the most literary thing that had happened to music since Ron and Russell told us about “Khaki-colored bombardiers…” over Hiroshima, or, Vivian sang “Sport, Sport, masculine sport. Equips a young man for society.”
Here is Ian Dury and The Blockheads with ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson in the line-up giving it their all and then some in Paris 1981.
01. “Wake Up (And Make Love To Me)”
02. “Sink My Boats”
03 “Delusions of Grandeur”
04. “Dance of the Crackpots”
05. “What a Waste”
06. “Hey! Hey! Take Me Away”
07. “Hit Me (With Your Rhythm Stick)”
08. “Sweet Gene Vincent’