Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995)

Vivian Stanshall, a.k.a. The Ginger Geezer
If I could give you but one piece of advice this fine September day, ladies and gentlemen, it would be to explore the life and work of Mr. Vivian Stanshall, an eccentric yet brilliant British comedian and musician perhaps best work for his days leading an anarchic 1960s musical collective called the Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band. I heard of the Bonzos through their personal and professional associations with the Beatles and Monty Python, and my curiosity ultimately led me to track down a greatest hits album by the Bonzos. Before buying it, I'd only actually heard one of the ex-Bonzos, Neil Innes, performing a solo version of the group's lone hit single, "I'm the Urban Spaceman," in the film Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl. I'd never heard any of their studio recordings and had not experienced in any way the work of Mr. Stanshall. Friends, I was stunned by what I heard on that greatest hits disc. Here was a man with the wild, surrealist humor of Python but with the dapper, distinguished manner of a true English gentleman. "Finally," I thought, "an old-money aristocrat has started a rock band! It's about time!"

I can't begin to summarize what Vivian did, but I can give a sample of his work. Here's an Elvis-inspired tune from his days wih the Bonzos, entitled "Canyons of Your Mind":