The Archive.

A Tribute. 

    Viv Stanshall died in 1995 in a fire at his flat .A great loss for those of us who loved his offbeat, loony, clever humour and time warped music. Apart from his stint as front man of the Bonzo Dog - Doo Dah Band, Viv was none other than the creator of the infamous evil old blimp himself -Sir Henry Rawlinson , of Rawlinson End - the eccentric adventures of whom were frequently featured in a series of inestimably strange episodes on the John Peel show in the 1980s.
    Viv left us far too early, but this transcript from a TV show of the 90s may give you an insight into some reasons as to why he was such a troubled and cantankerous old boot -Viv had heavy drinking  troubles that had persisted for years and which no doubt prevented him from ever becoming more widely known- although I doubt if his strange eccentric persona would have ever appealed to Mr. and Mrs Average- whoever they are. 

The Viv Transcript.
The show consists of a potted autobiography of our hero- narrated by his good self - which is interspersed by songs related to the difficulties Viv had with his parents - and most particularly his father - who had major problems coming to terms with Viv's artistic nature. It certainly sounds like this in turn had a major  affect on Viv and possibly led to his insecurity and problems with Mr Booze . 

Song the first.
Madness, you'll soon grow out of it , my momma told me ,

you'll soon grow up darling and you'll be normal, 

all this violence is just hormonal,

those marks on your arm are only scratches,

why must you make yourself so unattractive,

look at you wasting  away. 

Music, What's that bloody row , you call it music .

Momma its my song and I might lose it- 

only ugly noise is what I call it , to me its everything I ever dreamed of , 

I wont turn it down and be a good boy -wont you look at me wasting away.
Wasting , say I'm wasting, I'm facing an art of my own when will it end .
when will you wake up and understand that I'm a good boy now, look at me . look at you.

    Why me,  why won't it stop ?  I don't know . Are there any clues. ? 
Clues ? . A few years ago a woman  from the Daily mail phoned to inform me that they were doing a piece on Sir John Betjamin and they would like me to companion him in the article, I being representative of a younger English eccentric. She wanted to know  if I was still doing it ? 
Well, damn it , I don't DO it, I'm merely myself as a near as damn it without frightening the housing estates and her question was absurd rather than fatuous as it suggests deliberation - rather as though you woke up and decided- I'm going to be a Ghanaian today- or I'm going to be a giant squid for the weekend -or - I think I'll be a wardrobe for the rest of my well , err my - My word !( Sir Henry voice) "Well , strap me to a tree and call me Brenda ".

I'm what you like but don't expect me to join in, although I do like games though . You see I'm not different for the sake of being different only for the desperate sake of being myself. I can't join your gang as you'd think I was a phony and I'd know it . So , but father would rather.........

I'm right on the edge now , bursting my banks, hard enough, at the end of my tether, if I've heard it once , slipping my moorings, I'm a reasonable man , don't answer back when I ,I've asked you something, you're really pushing it aren't you, don't think you're too big , wipe that grin off your face, who do you think you are , the big I am, I wash my hands of you, I'm telling you this for your own good.
the answer is no, no , no.

 I thought my name was no , the man with no name , normal people are called shut up as I'm sure you know.


If you had the wit to realize, what you could do with your potential, 
if you had the wit to realize that you could be like me ,
you could be a barrister, a surgeon, a pontiff or a politician. 

Yet you chose to be a a parasite and an embarrassment to me .

You horrid little shit, I gave you life and this is the way that you repaid me , oh yes indeed you'll rue the day don't say I didn't tell you so. 

If only you would try , I'd swell with pride.... 
If only you would be like me!


The first two years of my childhood were wonderful. just mum and me and me and my voices, evacuated from the east end to Shillingford Oxford. Idyllic !. I remember everything, bombs whumping and deranged cows budging into the kitchen and mum shooshing them out with a broom.
I was freakishly precocious-first words at four months and I could have a conversation with you at 10 months and that's pretty scary and I was running, running , running .I had to be strapped into my pram and I can still smell that pram and feel the sticky blue leatherette of it. I hated it and the tugging. The Thames at the bottom of the long garden with paddle boats ,sardined they were with dancing battle happy on leave soldiers and their girl friends dancing and shouting back to me and the music was this sort of stuff.

Let a great big grin be your insurance, take out the tee-hee policy today ,
just grin, grin, grin, misfortune flies away , Mr Opportunity takes off his hat and says.
Keep on smiling, the paths are paved with gold , your father grinned on the dotted line and out the barrels rolled,
Let a great big grin be your insurance, take out the tee-hee policy today
Now Mrs Grim lives down our street and a grin would crack her face , she never has a spot of fun , she disapproves about everything about the human race, she wears her hair in a hot cross bun, I wish they'd drop her on the Hun ,so the boys can all come home .......”

Thanks to Count Kryzal for the corrections and a big two fingered saltue to the bastard who called me a cloth eared motherfucker for getting it wrong ( Archive ed )

Sadly for me when the boys did come home they included my demobbed father who now got it into his noddle that he was Officer Class and by the time we moved back to Walthamstow in E17 he spoke like this ( plummy upper class voice  ) Hello, - ( Viv puts on gruff East End voice) -So orn the streets I was speakin like this or I'd get me ead kicked in and at ome it wos ....

Hello papa, shall there be buns for tea ? 

Officer Class he determined to be a chartered accountant and to this end he polished his shoes so shiny that when you looked down you could see all the way up to his suspenders - or up skirts if if you fancied it. Then he covered his shoes in rubber galoshes and with bowler hat rammed on tight and brolly grasped he would every morning roller skate from Walthamstow to the city. It was thus explained to me and with the utmost solemnity that ,common as I was , with polished boots and  effort it was possible to roller skate right to the top of -and out of - your tree. 

The self made man formula manifest my father was quite normal. I quickly learned to roller skate and to go bald. I was downright terrified of him and still am and he's been dead for more than a year . Everything I did was a disappointment and everything I didn't  - sport , maths -was a disappointment because he could do it and when it became clear to him that I was incorrigibly to become one of them - that is to say, an artist- he disowned me - when he refused to hold my hand after the age of five it was the beginning of the beginning - not surprisingly I became a - Geezer.

Geezer, wot a ginger geezer
I nearly ad a seizure
When I clocked im in the frog 
Spruced up in me piccolo 
Me titfer an me daisies 
Bowling down the rubba with me cherry china Fido. 

Rolled an oily rag 
Me cherry bread and cheesed 
You wont Adam wot I sees
Some geezer, an ooly ginger geezer
A geezer with a hooter I suppose
I really had to rabbit and pork
To this geezer
Itie ice cream freezer 
              Ginger geezer sees y around

Back in the old days champagne ague hurdy gurdy, Mr Slater plays a solo on his bass saxophonio. ( many thanks to       for the cockney translation ) 

I do remember persuading my mother to persuade my father to allow me to have a duffle coat and on the first day of wearing it in the street a little boy crowed to his mother look at that man  and she replied don't look at him, he's a crank.
My fringe was licked and held down with a hair clip and I was wearing my school tie. My mother explained to me cranks , we don't know any of them and what's more they're common. I was 13. I then tried to be a Teddy Boy , hiding my drape jacket and drainpipes behind the coal bunker , but the posh accent that had been literally bashed into my head kept on leaking out so in that particular gang I was tolerated as an amusing mascot. My mum taught me to knit and crochet when I was tiny and Teddy Boys don't knit. 
Meanwhile my father spent the last 20 years of his life vigorously watching television.

Growing up to be like dad, death defying times ahead, telling new stories over days when dad was older than the . 
Now he sits and has ever comfort and sits with a washable cover , but it worries him that his life has gone by .

So he says to his son. I don't want to, I don't pay to, I've retired you see. But it worries me ,how can I convey to , you might turn out to be , armchair like me. 
 But alternately.
( fast )
A fresh faced boy in navy blue, showered shaved and shiny shoes, new o level, five feet eight, the ideal young girl vitiate. 
OOOH , the morning round is lots of fun, especially if its raining , we look real sports in our knee length shorts, its all part of the training. There's badges, .... and lots of swanking 
and the bromide keeps you from thinking about anything at all....
I don't want to , I'm not paid to, I've retired you see, but it worries me that you might turn out to be , an armchair like me.

Possibly, an armchair like me.

About this time  I became disaffected with the Roman Church , it wasn't so much being slapped around the chops in communion  me 14 and naughty kneeling at the alter rail and Canon Bishop - a fierce Irishman and his head carved from  a beet root - bearing down dispensing the host catches me having a crafty butchers at the other communicants , eyes closed , tongues hanging out and I can't keep a straight face , so in the in  nomini patris I copped a spiritus sancti right round the noui and I go back to me pew and Me mum thinks good god he has the state of grace in him . It was the translating of the mass into English so you could understand it -I confessed to my mum that I now didn't understand it at all - without the hallucinatory mumbo jumbo it became for me at best vulgar and far too dull for my kidney. I like my steak heretic and bloody ... 


He's walking on the water spreading his light, spreading his light ,
He raises up a dead man and makes him feel all right, 
I can see him waiting , spreading his light all around.
When your ship is sinking he's the bung in your punt . 
If you cant find your keyhole , hooray for Holman Hunt
He even works on weekends , he is never out to lunch, spreading his light all around.
In the night he's made of poplin , spreading his light,
the shepherd plays Scott Joplin , spreading his light
Squeezing on his organ , spreading his light and clinging to the old rugged cross. 
Get that good mans hair cut,  spreading his light, for you can say he's there but for the grace of god go I .
I can see him waiting for you to say goodbye, spreading his light all around.

   From the squeezable age of three until I went to art school and sipped of the classless grape of meritocracy , even yobbos can sculpt- I can recall almost nothing - the most of it, the horror- has been blanked out, save that I was improper, unfit- unfit  - and a sissy - but rather curiously clever , so therefore I was doing it deliberately and was therefore - A SHOCKING WASTE. My biological childhood was not so much bad, as bewildering and I got through it not so much courageously but rather hopelessly , innocently burdened with the ineducable conviction that I was destined to be AN ARTIST and I really couldn't help that - shocking waste or not.  The trials and astonishments did provide the stuff from which I fashioned my work so the kiddish things I did then in secret I now do in public,

What the hell am I doing this for, 
What the hell am I doing this for
For I'd rather cut my hands than let a stranger play my lead guitar 
For I'd rather cut my hands than let a stranger play my  old piano
For I'd rather cut my hands than let a little stranger blow my saxophones

Sometimes I get so weak willed and crazy, frustrated and angry ,so wired up and weird and lonely ,
So lonely , so lonely , so lonely, so lonely , so lonely , so lonely , so lonely  , so lonely , so I let a complete stranger play around with me.

Why am I so choosy , who do I think I am, why am I so picky, when I know that a quickie ,will come to a sticky end .

Which just about says it all I think ,Viv was a troubled spirit. Whilst he was busy making us laugh, he himself was often deeply unhappy.

More Viv pictures.

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